Creating a Democracy That Works For All

Beatrice Lors-Rousseau Program Officer
November 2, 2018 News

Women makeup half the population but hold only 22% of the 500,000 total elected offices in the United States. Research suggests that at the rate in which we are electing women to public office in the United States, we will not reach parity with men for at least another 100 years.

Despite the myriad of issues facing our country, political disengagement is rampant.

On a national level, only 50 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted in the 2016 presidential election.

The 2017 New York City mayoral primary election boasted the lowest voter turnout seen here since World War II.

The 2020 Census will determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding are spent on schools, job training, community centers, hospitals and similar institutions, as well as the allocation of Congressional seats. Yet the threat of an undercount in New York and elsewhere grows, while many immigrants, fearful of the tide of nationalist sentiments across the country, go into hiding.

As the political climate becomes more threatening and even less supportive of girls, young women, and LGBQ/TGNC youth of color, they need to impact the power structures that directly control their lives. Given the current political landscape, many communities recognize that now is the time to leverage the historic wave of women’s activism that the Women’s March and Me Too Movement have wrought.

This May, The New York Women’s Foundation awarded over $500,000 in multi-year grants to 10 organizations cultivating the next generation of civic leaders. These recipients share a clear commitment to ensuring that marginalized and silenced communities of immigrants and of color can finally have a say in their lives through civic engagement.

Through education and mobilization, four of these grantee partners are working to dismantle barriers to participation and increase civic participation among the young and the readily disenfranchised.

The New Leaders Council (NLC) trains and equips Millennials, soon to be the largest voting bloc in American history, with the skills needed to run for office, manage campaigns and create start-ups, nonprofits and networks of thought leaders.  Anchored by a six-month training program and alumni commitment, NLC leaders take their activism back into their communities and workplaces to impact progressive change.

VoteRunLead training in action

Meanwhile, VoteRunLead offers in-person and online trainings for women who are interested in running for office and/or participating in the political process, in other capacities. VoteRunLead provides civic literacy training, using its “Run As You Are” curriculum, to educate diverse groups of women to unleash their independent political power, seek public office and transform American democracy. As a training powerhouse, VoteRunLead ensures access to civic literacy with online resources and in-person trainings, by using technology as a medium.

Focused on Generation Z, Generation Citizen’s (GC) ultimate mission is to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective action civics education.  GC pairs college volunteers – “Democracy Coaches” with secondary school teachers to lead its in-school action civics curriculum, using an innovative peer-to-near-peer mentorship model. Its teacher-led model provides direct professional development and implementation and supports teachers in creating a democratic classroom environment conducive to building civic motivation and efficacy.

At the core of civic participation and responsibility lies the decennial Census survey. It’s mandated by the Constitution.  Its impact is enormous, determining the allocation of our country’s federal funding, resources, and representation based on population demographics.  It is a critical opportunity to collect and analyze data on communities and to utilize this data to their benefit.  A leader in New York Counts 2020, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is actively engaged in a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to maximize the participation in the 2020 Census within immigrant communities who may be fearful of government practices and reluctant to respond.

The New York Women’s Foundation is committed to supporting community-based organizations that are increasing women’s leadership in the political process, as well as furthering the democratic process to work for all New Yorkers.  Your voices and your votes are needed to ensure a fair and effective democracy for all.  Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6th.


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