Sat, Nov 24, 2018 - Page 13 News List

A new generation of borough warden: young, female

With young people becoming increasingly active in politics, two women under 30 in Taipei and New Taipei hope to bring energy and fresh ideas to their neighborhood as borough wardens — a position overwhelmingly held by men over 60

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Dora Chou, Hot Springs Borough warden candidate, poses for a photo in front of her campaign headquarters in Beitou.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Dora Chou (周楷茵) is often told that she doesn’t look like a borough warden (里長).

The 29-year-old candidate for Beitou District’s Hot Springs Borough (溫泉) certainly doesn’t look the part — 86 percent of borough wardens in Taiwan are male, with an average age of 61.5.

As a self-described “distant person” who doesn’t warm up to people easily, Chou further deviates from the traditional image of the sociable, friendly and respected patriarch or matriarch who looks after the community. With limited resources and little backing, Chou mostly campaigns alone, but she prefers it that way, saying that she would rather take time to explain her goals to each constituent and understand their needs instead of the usual boisterous canvassing techniques.

“I don’t like to shake hands with people just to ask them to vote for me. This is a democratic process, and elections are not a popularity contest,” she says, adding that she feels that aggressive canvassing is bothersome to the residents.

Across town in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District (三重), Yongan Borough (永安) warden hopeful Huang Li-yu (黃麗伃) is out shaking hands the traditional way, shouting “Give young people a chance!” through a megaphone. But the 27-year-old’s official campaign promises are written in a lively, detailed style that reflects her youth and energetic personality, and includes trendy community building ideas such as recording and promoting the area’s little-known history.

Due to their age and gender, both Chou and Huang have heard their share of disparaging remarks while campaigning. Both alumni of the female borough warden training program put on by the National Alliance of Taiwan Women’s Associations (台灣婦女團體全國聯合會) this summer, the two are part of the association’s push to get more women into neighborhood-level politics.

YOUTH CAMPAIGN

Lin Ching-lin (林京玲), who was elected in 2014 at age 24 as warden of Taichung’s Gongmin Borough (公民), says stereotypes about women make it difficult to be elected to these positions. In her borough’s case, it was because the same family had produced the warden for more than the past 80 years.

Lin says she was elected in the wake of the 2014 Sunflower student movement (太陽花學運) protests at the legislature, which generated considerable political participation by the nation’s youth.

Neither Chou or Huang face the typical elderly male incumbent. Chou is running against 37-year-old Hsu Chih-chuan (許智全), who 12 years ago became the nation’s youngest borough. Women have been elected as the warden of Yongan Borough for the past 16 years, and Huang faces 59-year-old Huang Ling-yu (黃菱鈺), who took over in the last election after the long-serving warden stepped down.

Unlike Chou, Huang Li-yu’s family is one of the largest and oldest in her area, providing her with ample support. However, Huang Li-yu says that as a young person, she is able to perform most of the arduous canvassing tasks personally instead of sending her volunteers to climb stairs and knock on doors. She also runs a Facebook page she set up for the borough and designed all her promotional material. Huang Ling-yu, the incumbent, barely has an Internet presence. When Huang Li-yu cycles around the community, her stereo blares an original Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) rap song about why she should be warden.

Chou is low key by comparison. She didn’t have a campaign headquarters until a local dentist let her use one of his clinics. She livestreamed her campaign promises on Facebook the day after she registered to run, and has partnered with Taipei City Council candidate Wang Yi-kai (王奕凱), a 33-year-old former Sunflower activist who has an active interest in community building and other social issues. She has appeared with him on many advertisements and several political television shows, and at events.

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