Female students in the Social Justice and Peace Studies program at King’s University College, London are learning first-hand what it’s like to be a female politician. The Municipal Government Mentorship Program pairs students with London City Councillors and municipal leaders with an aim to increase the participation of women in elected office. The program, which is also an academic credit, allows the students “to feel confident and build relationships that encourage more women to enter politics,” says Dr. Allyson Larkin, professor in Social Justice and Peace Studies at King’s. Dr. Larkin helped develop the program two years ago which provides King’s students with skills in media relations, committee work, community events and city council procedures.
“The program has given me an incredible insight into the lives of women in the municipal political system, and more of an understanding of what work is yet to be done to increase the representation of women,” says Kayley MacGregor. Her classmate, Emaan Ali, agrees adding “the King’s Municipal Government mentorship was an opportunity for me to gain relevant political experience
and build relationships within the London community. While it was a valuable learning experience on a personal level, it also set precedence for other young women to engage in the political realm.”
City Councillors say they are learning too and are inspired by the young mentees from King’s. “It is great to work with the students, and see them learn and grow through the process. We enjoy getting to know each other, and learning how much we have in common. Additionally, one of my mentees, Natalie Garrison, helped to advance the application of the Gender Lens as outlined in council’s strategic plan which was a huge accomplishment in our time together,” says Virginia Ridley, Councillor for Ward 10.
Mentees are able to adjust their school timetables to fit in City Council meetings and other important learning opportunities. The goal of the program is parity of gender in politics and, to that end, the number of student participants in the mentorship has been expanded and the length of the program has been extended to a full academic year.
For Kelly Cipriani, the City Hall Mentorship Program at King’s has provided her with the confidence to push ahead with a potential career in elected office.
“By being involved with this program, attending Council and committee meetings and seeing the process of decision-making, it has given me the needed push to apply for the London North Centre Youth Council to which I was appointed to last October. The program gave me the confidence to get more involved in my community as I have been partaking in various community events and meeting great professionals. I couldn’t be more thankful for this program for the connections
I’ve made and for the great mentor I have. I will continue to be involved in my community and pursue my passion for a career in politics. My mentor, Kate Graham, Director of Community and Economic Innovation at City Hall, has helped me in many ways to get involved and to be confident about my abilities and what I can provide to London, Ontario,” she says.
To learn more about community-based learning at King’s University College visit http:// www.kings.uwo.ca/academics/ social-justice-and-peace-studies/