Voices of our Community

Mar142016

How Should We Celebrate Women’s History Month? Advocate!

by Helen Robinson, Andrea Swartzendruber and Bee Nguyen

This is a guest blog by Helen Robinson, the Director of Advocacy at the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, with 2016 GWPI Fellows Andrea Swartzendruber and Bee Nguyen.

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research provides a snapshot of the status of women and women of color in the southern states. It finds that women in the South are significantly underrepresented in elected office, holding only 18 percent of seats in state legislatures across the region. Even more shocking, women are not expected to have equal representation in the Georgia state legislature until 2066.

But we also have reason to celebrate. Georgia has one of the largest percentages (12%) of women of color in the state legislatures among southern states, and southern women have higher rates of voter registration and turnout than women nationally.

Why does all of this matter? Because women’s advocacy and engagement in the policy process is essential to ensuring the creation of good public policy.

For example, Georgia ranks among the bottom ten states in the nation for women’s economic security. And women in Georgia, especially women of color, are disproportionately affected by numerous indicators of poor health and well-being, including sexual violence.

In order to change these statistics, we need women’s voices – diverse voices that are representative of ALL women – advocating for legislation and sitting in the seats when decisions are being made.

To encourage women’s participation in state policy, the Georgia Women’s Policy Institute (GWPI) provides intensive training about how to develop and support policies that improve the lives of women and girls in Georgia. The key is to demystify the process, break down barriers to participation, and change the very culture of the State Capitol so that diverse women are expected to participate and be heard. As a current GWPI Fellow said, “The program has pushed me out of my comfort zone and put me in a space that feels intimidating and scary, but has also shown me even more why engagement is critical.”

During the month of March in honor of Women’s History Month – join with the GWPI Fellows and make a commitment to be bold and advocate!

  1. Follow what is happening with state policy during the final month of the 2016 Georgia General Assembly Session (sign up for our e-news).
  2. Ask yourself: does this legislation reflect the realities of the lives of women I know? Will this policy improve the health and safety, or advance the economic empowerment, of women?
  3. Contact your own legislators and speak out on an issue that is important to you! (Find who represents you at www.openstates.org).

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