With political activism constantly on the rise these days and Women’s History Month coming to a close, the Los Angeles County’s Women and Girls Initiative explains its focus in improving the lives of women, how people can become a part of the movement towards equality, and why they should.
The Women and Girl’s Initiative is a group with research-based tasks, created by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. According to the group’s website they exist to “make recommendations to the Board about how the County can improve the lives of women and girls.” With a focus on the County’s services, programs, and policies, the WGI is interested in looking at the systematic disadvantages faced by women and girls, and finding solutions. The Community Engagement Director, Imelda Padilla, places a heavy importance on the idea that feminism and women’s issues are for everyone. “Feminism is about equalizing the playing field between the sexes” she said. She continued, saying people need to listen to women as they speak out and, “elevate women’s issues/perspectives [to the same level of men’s].”
Sarah Yaple, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Math) student at Santa Monica College who grew up just blocks from the Main Campus, mirrored Padilla’s concern about women’s opinions being heard. Yaple said, “The most important thing we need to address is making it completely standard for women to be taken seriously, regardless of their position or authority.” This idea is personal to her, she went on to say, “Women in STEM fields are notoriously overlooked and undervalued…once we can get that [issue] fixed we can start to move forward with the other issues.” However, she remained grateful to the privilege of living in the Santa Monica community: “I know I had a lot of opportunities that other people don’t, just because my parents could afford to live and raise me here, so I could attend the great public schools.”
In Community Conversations, the WGI visits different areas to get the stories, experiences, ideas, and recommendations of members of the community. Padilla hears from these meetings that, ”childcare, jobs, transport, housing, and rising cost of living [are specific problems women talk about]; and young ladies at our community convening mention the need for mentors”.
According to the Onboard Informatics via the real estate website Point2Homes.com, on average, Santa Monica’s population is educated and middle class, containing 51.8% women. Despite making up over half the population, Santa Monica city council shows the opposite, containing only three out of seven female council members. In regards to Santa Monica’s politics Yaple felt that, “Santa Monica is a hub for progressive, privileged, and open-minded people, but we still need to care about these issues because we may be in a bubble, but we are still part of the United States and the country’s politics still affect us”. Padilla says you, as an individual, can help by, “Talk[ing] to people about these issues—have the difficult conversations. Create and encourage ally support. Keep your hands to yourself. Remember that existence is powerful.”
Written for the Santa Monica Daily Press.