For the first time, women from neighbouring councils in the Western-Midlands-Northern region of Ireland work together to bring about change, creating a safe space for mutual learning, mentorship, and the exchange of ideas.
WOMEN ARE UNDER-REPRESENTED
In the Western-Midlands-Northern region of Ireland, no single council has had sufficient female representation to create a meaningful stand-alone caucus: typically, women councillors comprise between just 5% and 22% of the full council membership. In this traditionally male-dominated sphere, female councillors inherit ways of conducting politics that are neither family-friendly, nor make politics a particularly appealing career choice for women.
ADVANCING AN AGENDA THAT AFFECTS WOMEN
The WoMeN’s Regional Caucus is an association of female councillors from 13 municipal councils in the Western-Midlands-Northern region of Ireland that brings together women councillors, regardless of political affiliation, to work collectively in advancing an agenda of leadership in areas that affect women. The processes adopted by the caucus in the preparation of their programme of work deliberately tested new ways of conducting political business so that members could assess what works best in practice and bring those lessons back to their own councils. Practical examples include; the use of flexible meeting arrangements, recording informational meetings required to aid decision-making and making them available to those unable to attend meetings, and extended, digital voting to allow all caucus members the opportunity to vote. The Caucus has also partnered with a sectoral expert to learn how best to use their collective voice to improve policymaking around particular issues, such as the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness.
A COLLECTIVE VOICE THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
The WoMeN’s caucus uses the power of their collective voice to address issues that affect women, secures training for their precise needs, and works together to increase the number of women in politics. The programme of work also prioritises projects that encourage voters to consider the necessity of diversifying male-dominated councils. Taken together, the innovative activities of the caucus show how female councillors from an entire region working collectively can make a difference for women in local politics, improve policymaking and strengthening local democracy.