Ambassadors' Forum - Politics Plus
On Friday 23rd June, Politics Plus held its biannual Ambassadors’ Forum. The Ambassadors’ forum brings together participants of Politics Plus programmes, such as Women in Public Life and, Women in Politics, along with Elected Officials, senior public servants and specialist guest speakers. Participants were greeted with lunch upon arrival, giving them the opportunity to network. Paula Bradley MLA opened the event, stating:
“The Ambassadors’ Forum provides a space to recognise the inspiring achievements of women in society, and to ensure that established networks develop further. One of the core aims of Politics Plus is to address the gender imbalance and strengthen the role of women in political and public life through the programmes we deliver. We are proud to hold these Ambassadors’ Forums in order to build on this work and encourage you to mobilise and champion change within your environment. There is no doubt that we have had significant impact on raising awareness of the need to address gender equality and will continue to build on these successes – until we reach 50:50 representation in all aspects of political and public life, then there is still much work to be done.”
Paula went on to introduce and welcome the event speakers, Eileen Mullan, founder of Strictly Boardroom and Yasmin Ratansi, MP from the Canadian parliament.
As founder of Strictly Boardroom, a Governance Practitioner, TEDx Speaker, and experienced Non-Executive Director, including Chair of Age NI, Member of Northern Ireland Committee for the Big Lottery Fund, the Health and Care Professions Council and Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Eileen has applied her expertise as a facilitator across a number of Politics Plus initiatives.
Eileen spoke to participants about the importance of putting yourself ‘out there’ and being willing to take a chance. She stated that without confidence and persistence, women would find it difficult to break down the barriers preventing them from reaching the top. Eileen also spoke about her work with Strictly Boardroom and Politics Plus, on paving the way for a more gender equal world. In particular, she highlighted the great work of the Women in Public Life programme and the ‘Boardroom Apprentice’ Programme. Eileen thanked Politics Plus for its support and for offering an apprentice placement on the Politics Plus Board.
Ms Yasmin Ratansi is a Canadian MP who is a member of the Liberal Party. Yasmin is an Ismaili Muslim, and was the first Muslim woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. During her tenure in Parliament, Yasmin has worked with Parliamentarians around the globe on numerous issues of concern to Canada and its partners. Some of the issues she has addressed include the correlation between poverty and corruption, donor fatigue, environmental degradation, women and human rights.
During her opening remarks, Yasmin focused on the challenges women face in joining a career in Politics. She reflected on her own story, stating:
“I’ve never looked at a challenge as a challenge. I look at it as an opportunity…If we do not rise to the challenge of sitting at the table, we will instead become part of the menu.”
Yasmin highlighted the many ways in which society could tackle the issue of under-representation of women and reassured guests that this was not a woman only issue:
“We must also involve men in this struggle for equality. Without support from both men and women, there will never be true equality. Therefore, we must show our male colleagues, friends and family members, why a more equal society is a better society. We need male advocates to encourage male dominated tables to open their tables to a wider audience…”
Susie Brown, co-founder of Be Seen Be Heard, opened the Q&A segment of the event. This allowed participants to discuss issues with our speakers, such as gender inequality and overcoming barriers to women in leadership.
Delving further into these issues, Participants took part in a round-table workshop. Each table was chaired by an MLA, giving participants the opportunity to discuss issues with their elected representatives. Recommendations from the round-table event will be used to advise the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Parliamentary Caucus on achieving gender equality and to help inform future initiatives within Politics Plus.
Gareth McGrath, Executive Director of Politics Plus, concluded the day by thanking our Speakers, the MLAs who chaired the valuable round-table discussions and our participants for taking part in this outstanding event.