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Campaigning for women in politics: #LiftHerUp strives for issue-focused municipal elections

By Asha Sara, October 18 2021—

The municipal election polls close today at 8 p.m., and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) have teamed up with Equal Voice Alberta in the second iteration of the #LiftHerUp campaign. The non-partisan campaign focuses on ending misogynist attacks and sexist language towards women, while encouraging issue-focused discussion during the democratic process. The Gauntlet spoke with Jan Reimer, director of the ACWS, on the meaning behind #LiftHerUp. 

During a ACWS Shelter Directors meeting in early December 2016, a crowd of roughly 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. The mostly male group as Reimer mentioned, chanted “lock her up,” aimed at the then-Premier Rachel Notley, and leader of the Alberta provincial New Democratic Party. 

“The group was there to protest an environmental tax but the gathering quickly shifted into a personal attack on the then-premier. Hearing the chants of “lock her up,” from the protesters, ACWS members immediately noticed the parallels between that verbal violence and the violence that is perpetrated by abusers,” Reimer said.

Reimer described how the parallel messaging in the chant “lock her up” led to ACWS members creating the idea for the campaign with the counter messaging “lift her up.”

“People often brush off these types of attacks on women in politics as part of ‘playing the game,’ but politics — like many other public and private spaces — remains an unsafe place for women, who experience threats of violence, online harassment and personal attacks at much higher rates than men,” Reimer said.

The campaign encourages candidates of all genders running for municipal office to sign a public commitment to promote equality, and to run an issue-based and violence-free campaign. Both as a candidate during the election process and should they take office, Reimer stated how as leaders in the community candidates “have a role to play in shaping the tone of the election.” 

“We also want to see them pursue policies which eradicate all forms of societal violence,” Reimer said about candidates who signed the commitment to be elected..  

With 232 candidates throughout Alberta running for municipal offices signed during the 2017 elections, Reimer states how the campaign’s goal is to see even more signatories this year, starting more conversations around this issue.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see a greater number of women in elected roles,” said Reimer. “Women are vastly underrepresented in political office.” 

The ACWS released a research report on Oct. 13 detailing the violence against women in politics. Reimer described the need for the #Liftherup campaign in accordance with the research.

“Women were four times more likely than men to report that the nature of the criticisms they received was always or almost always focused on themselves —– things like choices of clothing, pregnancy or decision to have children, racial identity, religion, sexuality, as opposed to their political platform,” said Reimer. 

“They also reported that the level of violence has been getting worse since previous elections. The nature of violence against women in the political sphere is part of a bigger picture of societal violence against women —– culturally accepted gendered norms and stereotypes play out in both the political sphere and at home.”

For women and girls who wish to get into politics, Reimer shares some uplifting advice. 

“Persevere. All elected bodies should reflect the individuals they represent. Edmonton and Calgary have a long way to go in this regard as do most municipalities across this province.” 

Voting polls for the municipal elections close today at 8 p.m. For more information on the candidates and where to vote, visit Elections Calgary. For more information on the ACWS and the #LiftHerUp campaign, check out their website.  

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