For my last No Time For Fear column of 2017, I decided to end on a somewhat happier note, even though we all know there are heaps of not-so-positive things happening all over the world, at this very moment, concerning girls and politics. Think of this column as a call to action, if you will.
Over the last year, I’ve written implicitly and explicitly about the need to see more girls and women involved in local, state/county and national politics worldwide. For example, I am American, and I think that until we see women make up at least 50 percent of Congress (and 25 state governorships), Capitol Hill, and Congress, will continue to be viewed as an “old boys’ club,” and we will still be debating issues like reproductive rights, access to affordable birth control and paid family leave.
One of my favorite quotes from United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is when she was asked when she thinks there would be enough women on the Supreme Court. There are currently three women on the Supreme Court — Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg answered: “People ask me sometimes, ‘when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court?’ And my answer is when there are nine.” Because, honestly, there have been all-male Supreme Courts since it was established in 1789, and no one has batted an eye. But I digress.
How do we get more girls interested in politics? How do we sustain that interest and encourage more young women to run for office? As said in my previous column, political representation matters. It is absolutely vital. When young girls and women grow up seeing themselves reflected in the political landscape via the media and so on, it makes them more likely to become actively interested in politics, and that interest is just a start. We as a global society need to encourage more women to become politically involved; studies have shown that women are vital in reducing global conflict, contributing to peace keeping efforts, aiding in humanitarian efforts and rebuilding societies post-conflict. When more women run for office and become elected officials, this helps change the political culture and builds a more effective, representative government that is more equipped for unique 21st century challenges.
If you are a girl or young woman who is interested in politics, I’ve compiled a list of resources to help inspire you, and help you to succeed and lead in the political world.
Girls & Co is a new line of dolls with smart, ambitious, modern characters for “tiny trailblazers,” as their website calls it. The company is creating political and career-focused books and dolls for kids who want to change the world. Personally, I would have loved these as a kid, not that I didn’t read many (many) books featuring feminist heroines. I’m excited that these dolls and books exist.
Moving on, the Girls in Politics Initiative is a program founded and run by the Political Institute for Women, an educational organization that offers non-partisan courses to political candidates and advocates, and political and advocacy organizations. Based in Washington D.C., GIP programs introduce girls aged 8 to 17 to politics, policy and the work of the United States Congress, parliamentary governments and the United Nations. GIP programs have been hosted in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom thus far.
In that same vein, the Running Start organization also helps to get girls and young women passionate about politics. The organization works to inspire and train the next generation of women political leaders. Check out this NPR interview with some of the girls and women involved.
For young women, there are a variety of organizations ready and willing to help them in their political journeys. Resources include: Off the Sidelines, She Should Run, Run For Something and Emily’s List,among others.
Now that I’ve thrown all of that information at you (seriously, go do some research, people. Do it!), I’d like to close with two of my favorite political stories of 2017 — that’s not really a high bar considering how rollercoaster-like 2017 politics have been worldwide (and I don’t mean that in a good way).
In September 2017, 12-year-old Alexis Bortell and four other plaintiffs sued the United States federal government arguing that the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, which classifies cannabis as illegal, infringes upon the constitutional rights of Americans. Alexis uses a cannabis oil twice a day in order to manage her seizures, and her family moved from Texas to Colorado in order to access the life-saving medical marijuana — access that means that Alexis hasn’t had a seizure in two years. In Texas, Alexis only went three days without having a seizure, and lawyers for the case argue that the case is about civil rights, and about the “rights of individuals using life-saving medication to preserve their lives and health.” Read more about Alexis and her fight to make medical marijuana legal in the U.S. at Rolling Stone and NBC News.
The other story is about an 11-year-old girl, Avery McRae, who along with 20 other plaintiffs aged 9 to 20, is suing the United States federal government over climate change. The government has moved to dismiss the case, but a lower federal court has set a trial date for the case, February 5, 2018. The group of young people is arguing that their rights to life, liberty and property are being violated by uncontrollable climate change, and that even though most of them aren’t of voting age, they will have to live with the impact of climate change for far longer than the adults in power today.
Both of those stories show the need for girls and young people to become actively involved in politics, and decision making that will affect them. Even if they’re too young to vote, they can still make their voices heard and have an impact on their communities.
It seems fitting to close out this column, and 2017 (if a bit early), with a call to action. Get involved in your local communities, your local and national politics and try and make positive change. Girls and young women must have greater representation in all walks of life, but especially in politics and government. Decisions are being made by a majority of older men that directly impact girls and young women, and we need to start to fight back. You can start with researching and becoming familiar with who your elected officials are, if you don’t know already. And if you’re already fighting and involved or aware of local and/or national politics, good for you. Keep fighting, stay informed, and together, we can make a difference for our generation and in the future.
Girl Museum Inc.