The 2016 presidential election marked a significant historical achievement for women’s rights in the United States: a major political party selected a woman to be its candidate for the presidency. Due in part to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, women’s issues became an important part of the national political discussion, inspiring conversations from the dinner table to all levels of government. In order to see how local governments across the country recently tackled similar issues, we perused the Voterheads database for some interesting stories. Here are three from the past couple of months!
Local governments often seek ways to improve the local economy by providing new opportunities to individuals or businesses that are underrepresented. The Eugene, Oregon City Council held a meeting in November regarding a special program to increase the number of women and minority-owned businesses in the area. The city’s Equity in Contracting Program first implemented in June, uses a variety of methods to encourage contracts between women-owned businesses and the city. The city government currently works and plans to identify and remove barriers to contract opportunities, engage with contracting-related project managers and city staff, participate in targeted outreach to the desired businesses, and align with other state and local governments which have already carried out similar efforts. With continued efforts, the city hopes the program will help to realize part of the city’s vision to: “Encourage a strong, sustainable and vibrant economy, fully utilizing our educational and cultural assets, so that every person has an opportunity to achieve financial security.”
City governments can also adopt national and international initiatives for the benefit of minority groups, including women. The city of Pittsburgh, PA held meetings and hearings in November to discuss the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international rights treaty first passed by the United Nations in 1979. While President Carter signed the document for the United States at the time, the Senate never actually ratified the treaty. As a consequence, local governments have since taken it upon themselves to take action by adopting the same goals and vision put forth by CEDAW, including Pittsburgh. The city council recently considered an addition to the CEDAW for Cities Initiative, which would allow Pittsburgh to create a Gender Equity Commission to research and advise the city on discrimination and gender issues. They plan to focus especially on problems occurring in four key areas: economic development, violence against women and girls, education, and the delivery of services. The City Council approved the Gender Equity Commission in a meeting on December 6th by a unanimous vote of 9-0.
Another way in which local governments can have an impact upon women’s issues is how they decide to spend the money they receive from different taxes. By investing these funds into programs, cities and counties show their commitment to the advancement of different demographic groups. For example, the Wichita City Council in Kansas considered the allocation of funds from its Liquor Tax Coalition during a recent meeting. Part of the City Manager’s recommendations to the council included a Girls Empowerment Program run by the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas. The program targets young women and girls at the middle and high school grade level who are particularly at risk for alcohol and drug problems, academic failure, and participation in delinquent activity. The program applies the Girl Circle approach which seeks to counter negative social and relational forces that may hamper positive development. The Council voted 7-0 to approve the recommended funds, thus allowing the Girl Empowerment Program to continue in Wichita.
City and county governments often face questions surrounding women’s issues in their districts. Efforts like the stories above show just three of the ways they confront these matters. If you ever wonder what your local government is doing in terms of gender discrimination or empowerment, keep an eye on your Voterheads account for the next public meeting in your area!