Headlines: October 23rd, 2009

The first national mentoring scheme designed to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic women becoming local councillors has been launched. To reflect society fully there would need to be almost a thousand women councillors from minority backgrounds.

Maria Eagle, the Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, said the group was starkly under-represented in politics at every level. Local politics, she added, was often a first step to national politics but they currently represented less than one per cent of all local councillors in England.

The mentoring programme has been commissioned by the Government Equalities Office and will be run by Operation Black Vote. It will provide development and training to 60 women in up to 30 local authority areas with the aim of helping them take the next steps in public life. They will be mentored by members of the BAME Women Councillors Taskforce and a wider network of women councillors and they will spend at least four days shadowing a local councillor in their local authority. A further 50 women will join a community leadership course to learn more about a councillor’s role.

Maria Eagle said: “Democracy is most effective when its representation reflects the community it serves. Black and Asian women are under-represented in local government. The first step towards addressing this is to engage and interest more women in running for these roles.”