Edmonton women speak about impact of Kamala Harris’ historic election victory: ‘I could be prime minister’

The 2020 U.S. presidential election made history in a number of different ways, including with the election of Kamala Harris as vice-president.

Harris will become the first woman, the first Black person and the first South Asian person to become U.S. vice-president.

Read more: Kamala Harris becomes 1st Black, South Asian female vice-president in U.S. history

Baluchi Okeke, 15, held back tears as she watched Harris’ speech on Saturday. She said the win has made her feel like she can chase her dreams and go into politics herself.

“I had this conversation with one of my friends, and I said, ‘I want to be a politician.’ And she said, ‘But we’re Black.’ And I took a step back and realized, ‘Yeah, I am Black,’” Okeke said. “Am I really going to get that far? And am I really going to do as well as I think?

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“I am a woman of colour, and people usually see my colour before they see me.”

Okeke said to see Harris become vice-president-elect gave her a sense of relief.

“One of us finally got to the top,” she said.

“I don’t usually see teachers that are Black, and to see a vice-president that (is) Black, it (is) so inspiring. I always wanted to veer into politics, and this empowered me.

“Maybe I could be prime minister, or maybe I could move to the (United) States and be a senator.

“I feel like not only me, but many girls my age — many Black girls, many Brown girls, many Hispanic girls — feel exactly how I am… that we could do better and that our colour doesn’t limit us.”

READ MORE: Kamala Harris’s Canadian classmates celebrate after her vice presidential win

Okeke’s mom Ada-obi said it was special to see her daughter get so excited.

“She (can) see herself in a position as high as that — it (is) awesome,” she said.

“Seeing Kamala Harris as a first-time woman that is a vice-president in the United States — and being Black too — it was a lot of inspiration for (Baluchi).”

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Carrying the momentum  

ParityYEG has a goal to have more women run in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

On its Facebook page, the organization says women make up 50 per cent of the population but only represent 15 per cent of Edmonton city council. It hopes Harris’ win will lead to more women campaigning for a spot in the 2021 municipal election.

“The energy behind vice-president elect Kamala Harris is huge. I think it’s global — it’s beyond the United States,” ParityYEG’s Rhiannon Hoyle said.

“I have had friends and family who are thinking of running — and they’re hesitant and they’re women — and this is definitely bringing that decision forward to stepping up and just doing it.”

Hoyle said the mission is to get as many women as possible not just running for office but also elected.

“Our focus in the next year, of course, is the Edmonton municipal election in 2021,” Hoyle said. “We are absolutely sure that women will be inspired and want to run, and believe their values and opinions matter, and that they belong.

“We hope (Harris’) election will normalize that women in general can… (get) into these top leadership positions, as well as women of colour.”

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To help women who are new to politics, the organization has set up campaign kits to help people get familiar with the process.

“(It) will help teach women what is needed to build a campaign and what it takes to run for office,” Hoyle said. “Running for office is a very fun and energetic experience, but it’s also very complex and a very dynamic process.

“We want to make sure women have these resources, and that we… support women, not just by saying, ‘Please run,’ but actually getting them elected and making sure they know what is needed to get elected.”

On a personal level, Hoyle saud she is also thrilled to see Harris’ win.

“It warmed my heart. I can’t really articulate it — what it means to me as a woman, as a daughter of immigrants, as a woman… (of) colour who is also similar to her. I am half-Black, South Asian and white,” Hoyle said.

“It’s just wonderful to see this representation for women in politics.

“I’m so proud that my boys and my family are able to see this moment and what it represents for women in politics.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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