Tag Archives: policy

More than an Internship

The following is the first in a series highlighting members of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

When Lauren Fisher accepted an internship with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, her interests in women’s studies and politics were just beginning to develop. The League provided her with an opportunity to combine all of her interests and expand her knowledge even further. Throughout her time at the League, Lauren was exposed to many different aspects of nonprofit work. Speaking about her experiences at the League, Lauren says:

“I got to know the New Jersey political scene, and for the first time, I actually felt knowledgeable about policies that were being introduced in the State House. Initially I was unsure as to how that type of internship would relate to my career goals, but the experience has actually helped to shape my endeavors.”

Through her internship with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Lauren was able to gain a unique experience that contributed greatly to her life. Her background in women’s studies and politics allowed her to give back to the League through various projects including improving and working to expand the League’s Running & Winning Workshop, a popular program that encourages young women to consider a political career.  When asked why others should get involved with the League, Lauren says:

“The LWVNJ is a mobilizing organization.  Not only does it get its members, along with others, to participate in protests or advocacy events, but it also promotes female involvement in politics.  The values of the LWVNJ are not geared toward a certain political party, which is refreshing since party loyalty does not interfere with what the League advocates for.”

Along with the League’s nonpartisan stance, educating and encouraging the public to actively participate are important aspects of its mission. On voting, Lauren says:

“It is one of the main ways one can actively participate in government.  It demands that the voter be—at the very least—somewhat in touch with what the candidates stand for, and how they will handle issues currently facing the US.  I think for women, voting is especially important because it’s a right we did not always have.  We weren’t a part of the segment of society that had a say in who would be in charge.  Actively participating in government also gives people a chance to voice disapproval, advocate, and to stand up for what they believe in.”

As Lauren notes, women were not always able to freely vote for who would govern over them. Women’s history is a valuable piece of the League and it continues to encourage their right to actively participate in government. Younger generations of women and men are included in this population and therefore should seek opportunities that will enhance their education, just as Lauren has done. Speaking of the importance of young men and women to become involved with the League, Lauren says:

“I think it is definitely important for women and men to become involved with the LWVNJ and organizations like it.  Men’s involvement in organizations that promote women in politics is important for developing a vital partnership and mutual respect.  Also, as more people get involved in organizations that are politically active, then there is a stronger force against bad policies or rather, for good policies.  Younger generations need to get involved so as not to turn into complacent voters who side with whoever their friends are voting for, and also to promote political action to people they know, people younger than them and even people older than them.”

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Don’t Play Politics with Women’s Health

The following is an op-ed written by LWVNJ President, Anne Maiese.

For 90 years, the non-partisan League of Women Voters of New Jersey has been fighting for women’s equality. Frankly, we are disgusted with the need for this fight. It is shameful and disparaging that in 2010, we are still debating the economic and social benefits of family planning and basic preventative health care for women.

You would think that women wouldn’t continue to be treated as second class citizens 90 years after winning the right to vote. But even as we prepare to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we are forcefully reminded that women are not considered equal – at least not where our health is concerned. The fact that our governor vetoed legislation to provide funding for women’s health services makes us acutely aware that the fight for equality is not over. And the prospect of our legislature not overriding that veto makes this disparity even clearer.

In the book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn point out that after 1920, America’s maternal mortality rate began to decrease dramatically. They write, “A society that gave women the right to vote also gave their lives more weight and directed more resources to women’s health. When women could vote, suddenly their lives became more important, and enfranchising women ended up providing a huge and unanticipated boost to women’s health.” Apparently in the 1920s, our lives and health had more worth than in 2010.

The politicians who say they will not vote to override Governor Christie’s veto claim that this is about money.  Funny, the legislature had no problem finding the $65 million required to keep Bergen County blue laws. But they can’t find the $7.5 million required for the budget-neutral women’s health bill? Shouldn’t be very hard since the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services has already found available funds for them. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey isn’t buying it – this isn’t about the money. These politicians know that family planning services save taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent and bring in additional federal dollars. They know that cancer screenings and blood pressure checks help save lives and money long-term. They are aware that women who have access to family planning typically have smaller, healthier families. Overriding this veto is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

This is not about the money – it is about our elected representatives playing politics with our health and rights. Not supporting family planning is about politicians who are not willing to stand up for the 136,000 women and men who relied on these services last year because it means standing up to one very powerful man.

Take Action Today – Stand up for Women’s Health!

League of Women Voters Convention

The following entry is written by LWVNJ Board Member, Ed Gracely.

I just returned from an exhilarating experience at the League of Women Voters of the US Convention in Atlanta. I am always impressed by the breadth of interests League members have! For example, during this convention members proposed, discussed, and adopted statements on marriage equality for same sex couples (we support it!), the travel ban to Cuba (we oppose it), the Senate filibuster (we’d like a lot less of it), and “improved Medicare for all” (we support it). In addition, we will be busy over the next two years working on the studies adopted (one on privatization, the other on the federal role in education).

Some of the New Jersey delegates with past LWVUS President, Susan Lederman (from NJ), seen here in the red jacket in the center of the photo.

These activities illustrate the processes by which the League of Women Voters reaches decisions. Our members choose the issues that we will study and our members decide the positions that we will take –  a very grassroots process! Potential issues to study are proposed at convention and debated, often with informative caucuses, and speakers. After debating, members vote on whether or not to undertake the study. Now that we have two new studies, committees will be formed, materials distributed, and local Leagues will hold meetings to provide their input to the national League. The conclusions reached from local League members will determine our future position on the issues studied. This process of proposal, debate, study, and consensus is at the heart of the League’s approach to public policy issues, and represents a significant part of why the League’s views are respected on so many topics. Every member of the League of Women Voters has a voice within our respected organization, which translates to a powerful voice in government on important legislation — a great reason to be a member of the League!

We didn’t spend quite all of our time debating positions and adopting studies (see more pictures from Convention)! Among other things, there were numerous interesting workshops and caucuses to attend. For example, proponents of marriage equality, Medicare for all, and the education study all held caucus meetings to promote their views.  Workshops offered training on how to advocate at the federal level, issues in redistricting, creating a League web site, and many other topics. League of Women Voters of New Jersey members participated in panels on using online tools in the community, encouraging women to run for office, and election integrity.  We also heard from notables like Kathleen Sebelius (Health and Human Services Secretary) and John Lewis (civil rights leader and inspiring congressman from the Atlanta area). We had a speaker on women’s suffrage at the banquet, and we got to watch a movie all about gerrymandering (creating election districts to achieve political goals).

I love conventions. I always learn a lot, plus I enjoy the give and take of the debates on the floor, and even the nit picky challenges to procedures (which I’ve been known to make!) The best part about conventions is the same thing I love about the League of Women Voters — both provide an opportunity to be personally, hands-on,  involved in a wide variety of decisions and activities that are part of the League’s mission of making democracy work.