Op-Ed: What I celebrated on March 8th

Thursday, March 8, 2018 - 7:18pm

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Two years ago, I was sitting in the headquarters of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign calling as many people as I could: assisting people in finding their polling locations, trying to galvanize as many votes as possible.

Like so many other Americans, Democrats and women, it still pains me to remember Nov. 8, 2016. But just because we had a set back in the fight for women’s equality, does not mean all hope or all progress is lost. “I hope one day we don’t have to be female leaders, we can just be leaders.” Clinton’s words still ring true and present a guiding mantra to me in my work on campus, in my motivation in empowering women and in my hope to assist in the progress for women’s equality around the world.

Just last week, I was able to pass a resolution in the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government that provides funding for an event to promote women in public service. My hope is this event will not just be an opportunity to learn from exceptional women but can also be about mentorship, inspiration and hope. Despite making up half of the population, women make up less than 20 percent of the United States House of Representatives, putting the U.S. 100th in representation in legislative bodies across the globe. While I am immensely proud to have begun to work towards gender equality, now more than ever, this work is more urgently needed. I am deeply humbled by the work yet to be done, and the opportunity to take on this task.

We are living in a critical time for women’s equality across the globe. There has been unprecedented progress in women’s rights around the world over the past century, and the activism and sacrifice of generations of women have led to durable progress and everlasting change. There are more women getting an education than ever before, and more women hold leadership roles in industries spanning the private sector, politics, academia and international organizations.

Amid all this progress, there are still women lacking fundamental rights and freedoms. We must eliminate child marriages and female mutilation. We must ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care. We need protection against domestic abuse and sexual violence, and we must address the epidemic of sexual harassment in all facets of life. As our society is finally opening its ears to the plight of women around the world, now is the time to not only create better laws, but to ensure the enforcement of policies meant to protect women.

According to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”

In the U.S., a new wave of women’s issues has come to the forefront. The power of the #MeToo movement and movements like it have illuminated the longstanding and harmful power that men hold over women in the workplace that allows for exploitation and abuse. Sexual assault, in its many forms, is being brought into the public discourse in meaningful and actionable ways. Women and allies must come together in order to bring about lasting change.

We also cannot forget that the women’s equality movement should champion all women. Discrimination, exploitation and harassment disproportionately affect women of color and transgender women. Intersectionality and inclusivity in this movement are crucial to its survival. Historically, feminist movements have come at the expense of other marginalized groups and benefited primarily the most privileged women. Moving forward, women’s equality must work alongside other underrepresented populations in order to be successful.

March 8 was International Women’s Day, an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and take stock of where we are. For myself, I will remember the activism of my late grandmother and I will reach out to the women in my life. I will thank my mother, sisters and other incredible women for inspiring me. I will be continuing to fight for equal opportunity for every woman on our campus and beyond. My goal is for every woman and every student to feel protected, supported and empowered.

Next year, I hope to serve as your Central Student Government Vice President. Our party, MVision, is bringing together the perspectives and insights of a diverse group of women and we pride ourselves on being a majority female campaign. This is something I am extremely proud of, and hope to build on in future years. For now, I hope my fellow women, as well as every Wolverine at Michigan, is able to take a moment on March 8 to recognize how far women have come, and how much further women will go.