Home' LOTL : February 2005 Contents 34
BEHIND THE PARADE, PARTIES, AND
SAUCY SHOWS IS A DYNAMIC GROUP
OF WOMEN VOLUNTEERS INJECTING
FRESH IDEAS AND ENDLESS
ENTHUSIASM INTO NEW MARDI GRAS.
MONA ATTAMIMI MEETS THEM.
Showcasing their talent and creativity these
women share the glory with the boys in
producing the world's most celebrated
GLBTQ celebration. To see what the
women were up to I took a trip down to
Mardi Gras headquarters and spoke to the
movers and shakers behind the awesome
women focussed events this year.
Traditionally, Mardi Gras centred on male
partygoers, male events and male volunteers.
But this year the pendulum is striking a
balance. For the last two years there's been a
strong push from the upper echelon of NMG
to increase female representation. As a result
more women are volunteering and being
involved in every aspect and level of Mardi
Gras as artists, event organisers,
administrators, members of the board and
the working party. Women's active
participation has led to a higher quality of
women centred events as well as an increase
in the numbers of such events.
Just a few responsible for shaping the
success of Mardi Gras season are Steph
Sands, NMG co-chair, Trish Reid and
Somali Cerise, co-chairs of the Launch/Fair
Day committee, and for the past decade
Linda Chalmers is the woman behind the
colourful props and costumes that's made
the Mardi Gras Parade so famous.
The majority of volunteers hold full time
jobs and for many of them, working an
extra 15 to 20 hours a week is not at all
unusual. "90% of meetings are done outside
working hours. And lot of correspondence
work and the co-ordinating of events is done
in our own personal time", says Trish Reid.
"Why do I do it? Because it is challenging.
Initially it was an opportunity to meet like-
minded people and a chance to expand that
network, and to give something back to the
"I was a little bit fearful of the organisation at
first but I really encourage anyone to contact
me directly if you want to participate,
become a member or just have a say," says
Steph Sands. So, if you see Steph enjoying a
beer or two at your local pub "don't be
scared to come up and have a chat."
NMG has become a vehicle that serves the
community through the celebration and
expression of diversity, freedom and choice
and contributions made by volunteers only
reinforces this community spirit. Those new
to the game receive support and guidance
from those at senior level.
As a long time volunteer Janet Parkins
witnessed positive changes to the
organisation where leadership is "free-
flowing and yet more focussed" and new
volunteers are provided with guidance by
board members and staff as they join
working party groups. According to Steph,
volunteers are encouraged to utilise their
skills and talents whereby their participation
in itself empowers them. "Never in my life
have I seen what can be achieved merely by
the power of volunteers. It is uplifting and
motivating for myself personally. And I'd
like to see more women involved."
I was a little bit
fearful of the
organisation at first
but I really
to contact me
directly if you want
become a member
or just have a say
Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna
Mark Orr and Steph Sands
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