A Message from Sarah Chamberlain about Women2Women
Washington, D.C. is a man’s town. Eighty percent of the Congress is male, even though women are 53 percent of the electorate. Men dominate the capital’s political and policy establishments. Republican women like myself have an even tougher time in Washington because there are fewer of us; women make up nearly a third of Democrats in Congress, but only a tenth of Republicans.
I’ve seen a lot of pointless arguments and gridlock in Washington since I moved here in 1997. The more I’ve seen of it, the more I’ve come to believe that we need more women in politics and government. Every country in the world that has brought a critical mass of women into their legislatures has experienced better and less adversarial government.
But in order for that to happen, both Republicans and Democrats need to do a better job of recruiting women candidates, encouraging them to run, and connecting them with the mentors and fundraisers they need to win. And both parties need to emphasize to women that what happens in Washington really affects their lives.
That’s why I started the Women2Women Conversations Tour last year. I wanted to bring Congresswomen together with bipartisan gatherings of women around the country, so that we could spark a dialogue about how women are personally affected by what happens in government.
The aim of the tour is to inspire women to get engaged in the political process, and to get motivated and connected. I’d love for more women to get directly involved in politics by voting, taking part in local and national campaigns, advocating for specific causes and legislation, and even running for office themselves. We can convince our officeholders that women want to hear about solutions, not squabbles. When Main Street Advocacy started the Women2Women Tour, we envisioned it as an outreach and education effort. We wanted to let women know that, contrary to what they hear in the media all the time, our political system isn’t completely irrelevant, broken, and out-of-touch. There are big problems in Washington, no question! But no one in this country is unaffected by what happens in politics, and Republicans are just as eager as Democrats to come up with policies that can help our citizens and our nation.
As it turned out, the educational aspect of the Women2Women Tour has been a two-way street. Our Congresswomen may have been telling the audiences some things they didn’t know, but they also learned many things from the audiences. So did I. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t hear much talk about social issues. Instead I found that the women we talked to tended to care most about how to restore the middle class and achieve a sustainable future for their children and grandchildren. They were interested in issues that cross party lines.
What I heard reinforced my belief that all issues are women’s issues. Women are interested in and affected by everything that Main Street stands for. But our audiences are particularly concerned about issues that have a disproportionate impact on women and families — and they want Main Street’s Congresswomen to address them. I’m proud to say that Main Street’s members listened to those concerns and brought them back to Washington. These concerns and legislative responses form the Women2Women Policy Agenda that we are proud to advocate here.
I want to thank the thousands of women who have participated in the Women2Women Conversations Tour since its launch in late 2014. If you’re a veteran of that tour, please know that we could not have done this without you. If you’re just joining us now, welcome to the movement! We hope you will follow our progress in fighting for your priorities in the coming year. Please check in with us at http://www.mainstreetadvocacy.org or follow me on Twitter at @MainStreetSarah and on Women2WomenConversationsTour@Facebook.com. I believe that if we work together we will all move the country forward in 2016. Thank you and God bless you —
President, Main Street Advocacy