New Calgary store promotes gender equality in politics

·2 min read
Sarah Elder-Chamanara is the founder and owner of Madame Premier, which opens its storefront in Inglewood on July 17. (Sheena Zilinski - image credit)
Sarah Elder-Chamanara is the founder and owner of Madame Premier, which opens its storefront in Inglewood on July 17. (Sheena Zilinski - image credit)

A new storefront in Calgary is using satirical, political and feminist-inspired clothing to bring awareness to the lack of women in politics and other traditionally male-dominated spaces.

Activist brand Madame Premier launched online just before the federal election in 2019. As of Saturday, it will have a physical store in Inglewood for people to connect.

The founder and owner of the company, Sarah Elder-Chamanara, is a former political staffer for the Liberal Party in B.C. She worked as an executive assistant to various ministers from 2007 to 2012.

"Politics to this day in all its forms is still a very typically male-dominated environment," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday. "And there needs to be the creation of space for other people with other voices … so that any decisions that are made are made with better voices and better opinions that reflect everyone they're being made for."

Madame Premier started when Elder-Chamanara sat on the board of Ask Her YYC and pitched the idea as a fundraiser in 2018. When the non-profit wasn't interested, she turned it into a business instead.

Sheena Zilinski
Sheena Zilinski

Women underrepresented in politics

Women face a lack of representation on the provincial political stage. There have been 12 "madame premiers" in Canada. In Alberta, just two out of 18 premiers have been women, Alison Redford and Rachel Notley, since the province was created in 1905.

But Madame Premier doesn't just advocate for women in elected roles, said Elder-Chamanara. It also pushes for "women in the back rooms, women working in the prime minister's office, working in premiers' offices and communication."

"Let's not pretend that being a woman in politics at any level is easy," she said. "There are some very difficult things that happen. And we also need to talk about those."

Though Madame Premier is a Calgary brand, Elder-Chamanara said its message applies to anyone across the country, and it's not tied to a specific political party.

"The most important belief that underlies everything is that there has to be that commitment and … the societal change that allows women and marginalized voices the ability to have those spaces at the table," she said.

Extending to other spaces

Other clothing sold by the brand promotes girls and women to have a place in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) fields.

"It has extended beyond politics because there is also still an overwhelming need to encourage women and girls to be in so many different spaces that traditionally haven't been [open to them]," said Elder-Chamanara.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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