Most of my childhood memories are of my mom standing up to the school administrators for her daughters. When I was fifteen and bullied every day, my mom made her way up the steps of the school to tell the principal that this was an issue that needed to be addressed. When my sister wasn’t being given her accommodations for her dyslexia, my mom fought for her right to stay in the same grade as her classmates. Growing up, I always admired my mother’s determination to help children and as I became a young adult, I always wondered why my mom didn’t run for office.
Looking back at my teenage years, I now understand the obstacles she faced and the decisions she made are clearer to me now than they were at the time. My mother is a first-generation Mexican American immigrant who became a single mom of three girls at 30. After my parents separated, my mom had to work three jobs with long hours to make ends meet. Oftentimes, she would skip meals by leaving before breakfast or come home after dinner just to make sure my sisters and I had enough. My mom’s work ethic and passion for helping others has always shown and she embodies the leadership characteristics that many of my political icons seem to possess. Although she has never run for office, I know that she’s the kind of person we should be electing – a mother who has lived through many challenges and can share those unique experiences to create policies that help uplift children, women, and men alike.
I see now that the biggest obstacles she faced were financial insecurity and lack of strong support systems to encourage her to seek out elected leadership roles. In my work today, I always think about what could make a difference for the many working-class women like my mom. This is the reason why I am so proud to announce the one-of-a-kind “It Begins Here” Fellowship Program that ReflectUS North Texas is launching this Winter 2021.
The It Begins Here Fellowship Program will address the myriad of barriers women face when seeking elected and appointed positions. Just as importantly, it will also focus on the unique challenges facing working-class women, including the financial obstacles that keep them from running. By combining campaign training with financial empowerment and financial literacy workshops, we hope to empower and propel working-class women towards political success. Each fellow will participate in workshops ranging from campaign fundraising and financing, public speaking and storytelling, campaign staff and volunteer selection, and much more.
The goal of our work with this 12-month cohort is to provide a support system while simultaneously addressing the barriers that working-class women face.
We’ve seen that when women are elected, they often make decisions that are best for everyone in their community. We at ReflectUS believe that it’s time to start looking out for women and providing them with the support they need. Together, we can create a more reflective government that works for all the people, and it begins here.
Cecilia Silva is the North Texas Program Manager for ReflectUS, a national, nonpartisan coalition working to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the racial, ideological, ethnic, and geographic spectrum