By Kathleen Kiernan, Community Assistant
In the afternoon of Saturday, March 24th, 2018, I stood with friends as I watched 18-year-old activist, Emma González, walk up the #MarchForOurLives stage and captivate an audience of about one million people from all over the country, by standing silent for six minutes and 20 seconds, the amount of time it took a gunman to enter Parkland High School and murder seventeen people.
I was overwhelmed with various emotions, including sadness and awe, but also a feeling of being unsurprised. You see, I am not surprised that she had the ability to command silence from an audience larger than the population of Vermont because Emma demonstrated what young people, specifically young women, have always had: a passion for change and the desire to share that change with the world.
And Emma is not alone. All across America, young women have been rising up and saying, “I want my voice to be heard too.” From Flint, Michigan, where Miss Mari Copeny, only age 10, has been working nonstop to draw attention to the water crisis, to 28-year-old Abby Finkenauer who is running for Congress in Iowa, and would be the youngest woman to serve in Congress if elected in November. From Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, who is working to increase representation of young black girls in literature, to now 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who has been a champion for girls education all over the world. Yara Shahidi, Mallory Hagan, Sophie Cruz, Blair Imani, Gabrielle Anzalone, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ...there's no shortage of inspiring young girls and women who are changing the world.
As young women, we have the power to create change. And we need your voice. I repeat: We need your voice. As a student, you have a unique perspective on education policy because you are one being directly impacted by it at the local, state, and federal levels. As young women entering the workforce, the gender pay gap can start affecting us as early as fourteen. Did you know the average age of a U.S. Representative is 57, and U.S. Senator is 61? As young women, we need to start building the pipeline to public office now. We all see the world in a unique way and it’s important that we share that view, especially for those who cannot. Gone are the days when we have to “wait our turn.” Our democracy will not be truly representative if we don’t have people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and political parties participating in it. If you’re with us in this fight to see equal representation in this lifetime, we need you to step up and speak out.
Here are some ways you can start getting involved and start speaking up in your community:
- Volunteer for an organization in your community. If you are passionate about animal welfare, try volunteering for your local animal shelter or humane society. If you’re passionate about mentoring girls, try volunteering for your local Girl Scouts troop or check out the Boys & Girls Club chapter in your area.
- Lobby your representatives. Start a letter writing campaign or meet with your elected official in person to share why he/she should vote on or work to change something you care about.
- Start your own organization. If you feel that there is an issue in your community not being properly addressed, you can start addressing it yourself.
- Volunteer for a campaign. Joining a campaign is one of the best ways to get yourself plugged in with the political community in your area and you will be working with potentially your future elected official as well as many other bright young minds who are looking to make a change.
- Participate in student government. In many high schools and colleges, the rates of women running for student elected office and participating in student government are on trend with the amount of women serving in elected office across the country. If we want to see women’s equal representation in our own lifetime, we need to start building the pipeline of female leaders earlier. Student government is one of the best ways to be a leader in your own peer community.
- Run for local office! In many cities and local municipalities, you only need to be eighteen or twenty-one to run for local elected office. It’s often at the local level that you can make the greatest impact and your community should have a voice that’s younger to represent a population that’s often underrepresented but greatly impacted by policies.
There’s no better time than now to be a young woman in politics and America is hungry for a new perspective. At She Should Run, we believe in empowering women from of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and political parties to run for office and to envision themselves as leaders. The She Should Run Incubator is full of lessons for carving your own unique leadership journey and a supportive community of women from all walks of life who can provide guidance and wisdom as you start your own path.