News / Edmonton

'For young girls, who are their role models?' Campaign pushes for more female faces in public spaces

Campaign encourages citizens to post public areas lacking female representation to social media with the tag #CompletingTheStory

Paula Kirman is leading a campaign to encourage more representation of women in public spaces, via statues, murals, street names and more.

Kevin Tuong/Metro

Paula Kirman is leading a campaign to encourage more representation of women in public spaces, via statues, murals, street names and more.

Looking up at the statues as she walks through downtown Edmonton, Paula Kirman finds herself surrounded by men.

“In places like the Legislature and city hall, it’s a lot more male dominated in terms of representation of leaders,” Kirman said. “Where women do exist, it’s often in a stereotypical role such as wives or mothers.”

It's something Kirman hopes to change with her new campaign, ‘Completing the Story.'

Kirman organized the Edmonton Women’s March and is spearheaded the new campaign to continue the push for equality by highlighting the need for more representation of women in public spaces.

“It’s pretty well a fairly common issue that women are underrepresented, visually, in public places,” Kirman said. “What we’d like to encourage people to do is get involved with their municipalities and try and work for change.”

The campaign asks people to post photos of statues, plaques, murals, memorials, schools and street names that lack female representation with the hashtag #CompletingTheStory.

"It’s 2017 and it’s time for women to be represented equally in all of society,” Kirman said. “When people are underrepresented, when they’re invisible, that’s a form of marginalization.”

Not only would more representation of historical women cast a brighter light on issues that affect women, such as domestic violence, it would also provide an encouraging message, she added.

“For these young girls, who are their role models when they go to the legislature or city hall … and how does that shape the views of themselves and society?”

She noted that Winston Churchill is presented as a powerful, imposing figure at Churchill Square,  and Ghandi’s bust is portrayed prominently. Meanwhile,  the only woman statue is of a Ukrainian pioneer posing gracefully, who also happens to be barefoot.

“To me she doesn’t look powerful at all, she looks almost otherworldly,” Kirman said.  

Sitting next to a construction worker taking a break, she recognizes the role men played in history, especially because women didn’t have as many opportunities then. But there’s more to tell.

“We're not trying to replace the story, we're completing the story … Where is the hard-working woman taking a break?”

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