There are only 104 women in the whole of the Congress, making up only 19.4% of the 535 combined members of both houses.
That dizzying gender-gap in politics was what inspired Dr. Anne Moses to create IGNITE, a non-profit organization that helps empower young women who want to run for public office.
Moses, the founder and president of IGNITE has been determined to fight for women’s equal political representation from a young age.
When she was 23 years old Moses watched as Anita Hill got attacked by scores of Senators on national television after she claimed that future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. All the while, Moses noticed that there was not a single woman on the Senate Judiciary committee.
Moses realized that to reach political equity, young women had to be trained to be leaders who are ready to run for office.
She started IGNITE in 2009 with the purpose of training young women to think critically about policy and to become civically engaged.
“Young women deserve the most amount of support and mentorship to walk the path to politics,” Sara Guillermo, the Chief Program Officer for IGNITE said in an interview with RISE NEWS.
The founding states of IGNITE are California, Texas and Colorado but the organization has been expanding over the years.
Young women from high schools, colleges and universities receive training via high school curriculum, college chapters, annual conferences, and elected officials events.
Guillermo is thankful to these pioneering young women who have taken the opportunity to develop professionally and digest policy topics that they care about.
IGNITE trains young women between the ages of 14 and 22.
“When we get them younger, we get them to stay with us and the impact we create for them is incredible and valuable,” Guillermo said.
The issue of gender equality has been present in the world for several decades and yet the rate of progress has been painfully slow.
Thus, the question still remains, why do we have so few women running for elected office?
Guillermo’s answer to this is that they are not asked to, “they [women] are not socialized enough” in the idea of running for office.
IGNITE is an outlet were young women can see that they have the capacity to lead and make a change.
The response so far has been extremely positive as the organization has trained over 5,000 young women in their own communities from various backgrounds.
Over the years of teaching the curriculum, Guillermo has had some beautiful success stories.
One of them is of an undocumented young woman that had the leadership and drive to get involved in politics, but also had many other barriers in her life.
As an undocumented person she was prevented from studying abroad or when applying to college she had limited opportunities. She could not apply for FAFSA for example.
Thanks to IGNITE she had the opportunity to take her first plane ride and what a ride it was.
She flew to Washington D.C. and met with some of President Obama’s advisors.
According to Guillermo, she is currently attending college and starting an IGNITE chapter there.
In the future the founders of the group are thinking of expanding.
They will host seven conferences in seven cities and will launch fellowships programs to lead national college work.
Guillermo has advice for young people who have a passion for making a change in their communities or for being involved in politics.
“Try everything at least once, find a mentor to talk to, don’t be scared to try something different, we walk around with fear and not wanting to do certain things, just do it,” Guillermo said.
To learn more you can visit the group’s website: http://www.IGNITEnational.org
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: IGNITE/ Submitted