We are thrilled to be able to introduce a series of amazing and powerful young women, poised to become the next generation of political leaders. IGNITE offers a premier fellowship program for civically engaged and politically ambitious young women. This diverse cohort of passionate women are trained to act as IGNITE ambassadors, organize college women to create regional college councils to support the launch of local college chapters on the ground, and help build political ambition in thousands of their peers. IGNITE fellows will change the face of leadership in their communities, and ultimately, across the United States. We are honored to share their stories with you, and hope you join them in changing the political landscape.
What got you initially interested in politics and social justice? Was there a turning point?
TB: I was not very politically engaged growing and did not have an interest in politics. In my upbringing politics and “Politician” had a negative connotation to it. It wasn’t until I got involved in student government that I saw the benefit of having a seat of the table and being able to influence the system. At the board meetings I saw firsthand the difference that one voice (my own voice) could make to change/influence the approach or way we look at particular issues.
Throughout college I also saw how powerful it is to have knowledge and access to information and what transformative affects both can have on communities. Gaining the necessary knowledge or access comes in the form of politics. The saying goes “if you are not at the table you’re on the menu” and so knowing that even if I don’t take an interest in politics, it takes an interest in me and my community. I feel a responsibility to make sure decision makers aren’t mis/uninformed about different issues that affect the people around me and myself.
What recommendations would you make to a young woman who has not been politically active before, but would like to start exposing themselves to politics and social justice issues? What should be the next step?
TB: My first recommendation would be for young women to really consider what affinity groups they belong to, People should ask themselves what they care about or what has affected or shaped their lives and then get involved with those organizations that are addressing their interests. Getting involved is the most important part. Even if you don’t know if you care about a certain issue, the more you learn the more you can gauge your interest.
Clarity comes from engaging and not merely thinking. Many nonprofits and clubs/organizations have social justice and civic engagement opportunities that will spark your interest eventually fuel passion. Also, join the IGNITE community! We are constantly hosting webinars, council meeting and events to help expose and plug young women into a community.
— Tiffaney Boyd (@Tiffaneytyler) January 15, 2017
How can one be involved in politics and social justice without really being in the forefront? Running for office may be beyond some young women’s scope presently.
TB: There are many SO many roles that you can play to lead a political active life without being the “candidate” or the person in front of the cameras. Every good candidate needs a team of individuals; consider finding a great candidate and volunteering for them and especially donate to their campaign! I would also encourage you to go and talk with a current female (or male) elected official who represents your area and ask what are some behind the scenes support systems you can get involved in that fit you interest.
Even going to the city clerk and asking for the requirements and deadlines to get appointed on a local board or commission can be a great start. But if you are a young women who don’t want to be at the forefront I would ask why you shy away? Is it because you don’t think you deserve to be #1 or because your skills and talents are the guided force behind your decision to not be at the forefront? Too often we, as women, are socialized to serve others, when really we are the people that need to lead from the front.
What is the process for women to venture into politics? Does it require a certain age, education or background?
TB: It varies from city to city county to county and state to state depending on what positions you are interested in. The best way to find out is to visit or call your city clerk and do a little research.
What can be done to encourage women from the marginalized areas to embrace politics? What is the best way of helping them get jobs and be involved in public service
TB: Mentors! Reaching young women where they are, giving them the tools to understand WHY their issues matter and why they deserve to be (and need to be) at the forefront of their community. If women don’t see why they need to care then it is hard. We are our own best advocates, although we always welcome our allies to fight with us.
Cover image via Cougar Chronicle.