By Arabel Alva Rosales, AAR Tech
This year marked the 100th year anniversary of women achieving the right to vote through the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1920, on election day, millions of women exercised, for the very first time, their right to vote in the U.S. It took almost 100 years to achieve that victory, women having fought in for women’s suffrage, and some of the men that contributed by supporting them. It took so many years of marches, speeches, petitions for women to be able to take on the responsibilities and rights of citizenship. Having just had this momentous occasion, and the fact that we are so close to a Presidential election, I find myself asking many of my female friends, “Why is it important to vote?”
I myself grew up in a household where we had to be well informed politically, it was that or bare the rath of my father, and once old enough, we voted. I couldn’t wait to be old enough. It was ingrained in me that it was a privilege and an honor. I always felt empowered by voting. Whether or not my choice of candidate won or lost, I felt as though I had made my voice heard. My mother later became a naturalized citizen (both my parents were from Mexico; my dad has since passed away.) I remember my mother feeling so much pride the first time she voted, and how she always, to this day, wants to be well informed about all the candidates on the ballot. I also remember how proud my parents were when there was a Latino on a ballot.
When considering why one should vote, I have gained another perspective. Working my way through school I ended up working for an Illinois Governor named Jim Edgar. I am proud to say that he is still considered one of the best Governors Illinois has had. I dare say he became a mentor to me, and I learned a lot about good governance. However, to have the opportunity to govern, as a Mayor, Governor, or President, you have to be elected. And people have to VOTE for you in order to get elected, so votes are important.
I became an adviser to the Governor, and it soon became obvious that I was well suited for governance and I understood politics. I was recruited to get involved in several campaigns, some for the Governor, some for other politicians. I also learned about policy and how bills become law. The analogy of laws and sausages is a good one. The truth is you really don’t want to know all that goes into getting the right language in the bill, the votes you need, and assuring it becomes law. In addition, I got the opportunity to understand how budgets get decided, and how those budgets affect major programs, many of which are needed by our community, by normal people like you and me.
One thing is for sure, I began to understand how strong the power of The Vote is. I know there are many, a few people that I know personally, that think their vote does not count. That their vote is irrelevant. I want to say that from the perspective of someone who has worked a few campaigns, has helped to compile relevant briefings, influential in negotiating some pretty important bills, or argued for the funding of projects that greatly benefitted communities, I can tell you you’re wrong.
A vote is powerful. It allows you to express how you feel about issues that are important to you. And when you don’t like something, the same holds true. You research the candidate, vote for the one that most meets your values, or stand up for what you care for. Each one of our votes, accumulated with others, can make a huge difference in the lives of many. I know that when politicians are looking at the communities that carry power, a major part of that power is considering the number of votes that the community represents. How strong is the conviction of that community toward a particular issue, for or against? Well, that community shows it by voting. That is a language that politicians, policymakers understand. Think about it, if you don’t show you care, why should anyone else care. And yes, you show you care by voting. Your vote is the most powerful way to exercise your rights.
In the long run, policy changes are critical to the success of our community, most especially to us as Latinas. The best way to assure that laws are changed, that policies are accurately representing what we want, is by voting. Think about some of the major issues that affect us as women, as Latinas. Let’s look at some of the issues:
Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights; the Wage Gap, yes Latinas are in the worst position here, Where Latinas are only making 54 cents for every dollar that their white, male counterparts make. COVID 19 has disproportionally affected us. In addition to being disproportionally affected by our health due to COVID 19, Latina workers have also experienced the largest increase in unemployment during this pandemic with an increase of 15.3 percentage points from February to April! And with regards to Human Trafficking, one of the fastest going crimes in the country, 99% of the buyers are men. Think about it, do we really want only men sitting at the table, in Congress or the Senate making decisions on these very important issues? We need to elect more women, and also elect men that understand and support what we need, what we want. 100 years ago, we were given that opportunity, the opportunity to make a difference, to have our voice heard, acknowledged. To create a legacy through our actions, one that affects our families, or communities, our nation. Let’s not waste it.
She se puede!
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