In Your Neighborhood/Opinion

A toast to tenacity and equity

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing the right of women to vote, a celebration will be held on Monday, Aug. 26, at the State House

Image courtesy of WFRI website

The banner photo from the Women's Fund of Rhode Island website.

By Kelly Nevins
Posted 8/26/19
With the 2020 election soon approaching, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is ramping up activities to promote more women candidates running for elected office. A “toast to tenacity” at the State House will kick of the yearlong commemoration of a woman’s right to vote.
How will the concerns of women about the issues they care about most shape electoral politics in 2020? What is the intergenerational learning curve for women running for office? How will the metrics of success be quantified? How will polling by news media outlets reflect questions related to gender in 2020? How is an engaged community being defined?
On issues of gun violence, access to health care, and domestic violence, there seems to be a tipping point regarding women’s political activity in running for elected office and winning, both here in Rhode Island and in the nation. Will the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island invite elected officials from the current U.S. Congress to Rhode Island to share their stories, such as Rep. Susan Wild from Pennsylvania and Rep. Lucy McBath from Georgia?

PROVIDENCE – Monday, Aug. 26, is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment. A century ago, women in this country were not allowed to vote. Yet today, many Americans take that right for granted, with one out of three eligible women failing to exercise her right.

Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, they are not proportionately represented at the decision-making tables in business and government where priorities are set and resources are allocated that affect all of our lives.

In 2019, women hold 23.7 percent of U.S. Congressional seats and 27.6 percent of statewide elective executive offices. Even in Rhode Island, where we have a record 37 percent of women in our state legislature, we still have a way to go before achieving equity in office.

As the executive director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island delegate to Vision 2020, a national women’s equity coalition, I speak about the need for civic engagement every day.

A healthy democracy

Civic engagement means taking an active role in your community, and it is a critical component to a healthy democracy. Issues like pay equity, affordable family leave and family care, and gender discrimination are directly impacted by the work of government leaders. The beauty of living in a democracy is that each of us has the power to shape our communities, using our voices, our votes and our actions.

To that end, we recently trained 55 women to run for office, using a non-partisan training curriculum. We are currently interviewing candidates for our Women’s Policy Institute this fall, which will train women to advocate for the change they would like to see in our community.

On Monday, in collaboration with Vision 2020, the League of Women Voters, RI NOW and many other women’s groups, we will be training volunteers to register voters for the next election. Our goal is to increase the number of women voters and women elected into office in 2020.

Women’s suffrage

While we will mark the 99th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. on Monday, it is critical that we recognize that we have not yet achieved our goal of gender equity in this country.

At 4 p.m. on the steps of State House, we will be raising a “toast to tenacity” to celebrate where we have come from, while acknowledging how much further we need to go to attain that goal.

The program will include remarks from Gov Gina Raimondo, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee and Deputy Secretary of State Melissa Husband.

This fun, inclusive event is meant to kick off a yearlong campaign to increase women’s civic engagement in Rhode Island. [All are welcome and non-alcoholic supplies will be on hand.]

We invite the community to join us at the event on the State House steps. If you cannot join us, take a selfie of you “toasting” from your location on social media, using #womensfundri or #vision2020.

Kelly Nevins is the executive director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.

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