As we embark on Women’s History Month this year, I can’t help but look at the annual commemoration through the lens of the March 20th New York State Assembly special election campaign that I embarked upon just five weeks ago.
As a longtime activist and advocate on behalf of girls, women and families, I was motivated to step up and run this time in large part to encourage young women to think about public service as a noble calling and running for office as a good thing, a way to have a greater impact on the things we care about. “More women need to make the transition from helping people one-on-one in the non-profit sector — vital as that is — to creating change on a grand scale in the public sector,” said Madeleine Kunin, the first woman governor of Vermont.
The appalling attacks on women’s autonomy, bodies and health being played out right now in 2012 — in Congress, in the Republican Presidential campaign and in state houses across the country — make this powerfully clear. Women are not at the table. As we all now know, there were quite literally no women at the table in that astonishing picture of last month’s birth control hearings in Congress. Indeed, I truly can’t believe we are still fighting for birth control. Equally mind boggling is how birth control has become a topic between a woman and her employer?
And, there are not enough women at the table in our state legislatures, either, where critical decisions are being made on more and more issues impacting all our lives. In fact, in America today, women make up fewer than 25% of the members of state legislatures across the country and only 72 women hold statewide elected executive offices which is just over 22% of the 317 available positions. When our daughters look to see who the decision makers are in their state they don’t see many people that look like them. We tell them they can grow up to be anything they want to be, but we need to back that up with more real life examples.
In running for the 103rd Assembly District in the Hudson Valley, I am focusing on the best interests of our middle class families to change an Albany culture that has for too long been dominated by influence and money. I am committed to being a full-time legislator who will work with our local municipalities to attract jobs that stay local, bring relief from unfunded mandates and cut state taxes for our families and small businesses. I am proud to have received the endorsements of a number of terrific organizations that are at the forefront of recruiting, endorsing and supporting women candidates of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds. They encourage women to run at the local, state and federal level because they want our daughters, granddaughters, sisters and nieces to dream about how they, too, can bring their leadership skills to the public arena and fight for the things they care about.
I am honored to be supported by these pioneering groups who are all about women making history in the political arena: Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus, Eleanor’s Legacy, Emily’s List, NARAL Pro‑Choice New York, Women’s Campaign Fund/She Should Run, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York (PPANY), Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley Action Fund (PPMHVAF) and the PPANY Upper Hudson Chapter.
For more information about our campaign please visit www.didibarrett.com.