2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo courtesy Gillian Hynes

Ask Her YYC program is training women to run for the 2025 municipal election

By Nazeefa Ahmed, August 29 2023—

This fall, Ask Her YYC has opened applications for their third cohort of the Prepare Her program which aims to teach women how to build and manage election campaigns and run for public office. The University of Calgary students are eligible to apply for the program. 

Ask Her YYC is a non-for-profit organization that aims to see gender parity in the City Council by 2025. In a news release to the Gauntlet, Ask Her President Gillian Hynes describes the imbalance of women in office, which is the motivation behind the organization’s mission and programming.

“Despite being half of the population, women hold, on average, only one-third of elected roles in government,” said Hynes. “This reveals clearly a democratic deficit. We need more women, Indigenous women, Black and radicalized women, along with members of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities to reflect the voices and needs of diverse people across our communities. Prepare Her gives women the tools, resources, networks and encouragement to run.”

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Hynes describes how the different modules in the program use experiential learning to give the women spaces to practice skills they learn from speakers. 

“When women run, they win. This is why we break down the myths and the uncertainties of what it is to run a campaign,” said Hynes. “We bring in leaders, community members and political experts to run learning sessions. We give students programming and sessions on media training, fundraising and campaigning to help build a network of women experts and leaders in the political realm.“

The 10-week program is designed to give women the skills to either run for public office, become campaign managers, or even advocate for their community needs. There are two meeting times per week through a mixture of virtual and online mediums. 

“The program is not as intensive as doing a full-time class in a semester. We run sessions about two times a week, usually in the evening and then a weekend,” said Hynes. “So, it does take a little bit of time commitment and we try as much as we can to make it accessible for folks because we know that people are busy and have other commitments.”

As the organization hopes to reach gender parity, Hynes describes many of the limitations that women face when pursuing public office, covering barriers posed by household responsibilities as well as the lived experiences of a political leader. 

“A lot of women still carry the mental load or the household load and so that creates a time and resource barrier. It’s hard to knock on doors if you have to think about who’s gonna watch your kids,” said Hynes. “We know that women approach fundraising differently than men and that’s a combination of the networks that women hold and how we ask for money.” 

“We can’t have a body of people making decisions about our communities without us,” said Hynes. “We need diverse perspectives that come from lived experience and these folks have the expertise and the capabilities to do so. When you bring that together, you have a municipal council or municipal leadership that represents a wide group of people who are impacted in this city. It means that we’re making public policy from people who’ve experienced the impacts, not somebody making policy for you.”

The program costs 250 dollars but Hynes does not want finances to block access to the program — the organization is willing to cover the cost for participants who are unable to afford tuition. 

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier. If you have students, or readers that might find the commitment fee to be a burden, we have an option for you to let us know that and then we will cover that fee for you,” said Hynes. 

Hynes explains how Prepare Her is not only for women who want to run for office, as the skills taught in the program can apply to community advocacy and background careers in the political sphere. 

“You should consider Prepare Her if you are interested in any public office or passionate about civic engagement,” she said. “Maybe you want to run for the Calgary election in 2025 — or, maybe it is a future campaign you are thinking about. Maybe you want to volunteer on a campaign or maybe you are committed to make your community better.”

“Consider Prepare Her not only if you want to run. Consider it because you care about civic engagement, you care about your community and you want to come together with a group of folks who have those same interests.”

Registration for Prepare Her closes on September 1 and can be found on their website.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet