Calgary students take over city hall for ‘She Governs’ event

Calgary’s city council chambers were filled with young voices Friday for the fifth annual ‘She Governs’ event. Jillian Code reports.

Calgary’s council chambers looked a little bit different Friday morning as 30 high schoolers got the chance to run a council meeting.

In partnership with the City of Calgary and Equal Voice Calgary, the She Governs event is for showing young women that they don’t just have a seat at the table, but that they can run the whole thing.

“Politics for us is like a whole new different world, a very complicated world,” said Saanvi Kapoor, a grade 11 student who acted as the mayor in the meeting.

“I was really nervous in the beginning but as we started getting comfortable in the chambers, it was just coming naturally.”

She Governs not only encourages young women to be more involved, but it shows them Calgary’s political process and familiarizes them with political institutions and those serving them locally.

“It’s such a big responsibility being mayor and we are often quick to criticize,” said fellow mayor and grade 11 student Erleen Sandhu. “But through this experience, you’re able to see how much responsibility there is and all the different parts and how nothing can come easily.”

The topic of housing and transit safety strategies saw the students passing amendments to double the housing budget and deciding how to use AI to make transit stops safer.

It’s a mock council, but that doesn’t mean the city isn’t listening to their perspectives.

“I actually do think administration truly listens and myself as a councillor, I listen, and we take back those ideas towards creating more inclusive spaces,” said Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner.

“Understanding the systemic barriers that exist in politics is a part of it and I can tell you that the young people that I see that apply for our programs, that come to our events are really aware of those and want to combat those barriers,” said Dhuha Nader, chair for Equal Voice Calgary.

The students say their generation can connect to the entire world, but being mayor for a day helped them recognize the opportunities for change locally.

“I believe that this generation is getting distant, but with this program, we 30 councillors — who were elected — had the opportunity to connect back and to see how city hall works and how the future is looking for us,” Kapoor said.

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