Last week, I was invited to speak at a master’s level social work class. They wanted me to talk about getting involved in government. When I told the class that anyone can lobby, their reactions ranged from skeptical to incredulous.
Many people imagine lobbyists as sleazy men who take money from large corporations and bribe elected officials to pass policies that make corporations richer and average people poorer.
But this isn’t true! A lobbyist is anyone who brings information to elected officials to ensure they have the knowledge they need to make educated decisions on behalf of their electorate. While professional lobbyists get paid to advocate on behalf of corporations or causes, everyone has the right to talk to — and in other words lobby — their legislators.
Don’t let the suits and fat pockets scare you, anyone can lobby! And tomorrow, hundreds of women are gathering in Raleigh to do exactly that. NC Women United is hosting a Women’s Advocacy Day to connect women directly with their representatives.
Here’s are some FAQ I hear from women considering their first trip to lobby in Raleigh:
Q: Where and when do women at Women’s Advocacy Day meet?
A: We meet tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24th at 16 West Jones Street at 8:30 am. You won’t be able to miss us, so walk up to our table, get registered, and get ready to make a difference.
Q: How do I talk to my important and busy representatives?
A: Talking to your representative is similar to talking to your peers, because they are your peers. They are people, just like us, invested in making a difference in their communities. In fact, women like us, living our everyday lives, know more about what we need than most legislators do. We have to let them know what’s happening in our world to ensure that they are serving us to the best of their ability.
Q: What can I expect to happen at Women’s Advocacy Day?
A: Two amazing and experienced women, Sarah Preston and Alison Kiser, will meet you in the morning, and give you the low-down on nuts and bolts of lobbying. Yes, there is a method to this madness, and they’ll be happy to share it.
Q: Will I have to talk to my representative by myself?
A: No. You’ll be paired up with folks from your district or who share your interests. If you want a buddy, someone will be there with you!
Q: Is it only about lobbying?
A: Lobbying is important, but we also want you to feel connected to your peers, statewide. We’ll hear a word from North Carolina Women United President, Tara Romano, about the importance of women getting involved in government. After that, we’ll meet writer and musician, dream hampton (the lowercase letters are intentional).
dream hampton is an award winning filmmaker and social justice activist. hampton was a contributor to Vibe Magazine, and currently contributes to The Village Voice, Spin, The Detroit News, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, The Source, Essence, and Ebony. hampton works closely with MomsRising, an organization with a chapter in North Carolina.
Don’t worry! If you’ve never lobbied before, you won’t be the only newbie lobbyist on Women’s Advocacy Day. It’s going to be a great day. Women’s Advocacy Day always fills me with a sense of connection and purpose, as I join with like-minded women who are energized by social change.
I hope to see you tomorrow!
Emma Akpan works for Women AdvaNCe and Blueprint North Carolina, where she helps build coalitions of charitable organizations. In her free time, Emma likes running and starting book clubs. She doesn’t believe a nice day should be wasted inside, and that time shouldn’t be wasted eating bad food.