Black women in politics: Claiming our seat at the table

 

Women of color ran for congressional office in record numbers in 2020 following the successful 2018 “Year of the Women” midterm elections. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, Black women set a record with 117 candidates entering House primaries, demonstrating that Black women are leading change in our communities on every issue from the environment, to health care, to the concerns that disproportionately impact communities of color. With 27 Black women expected to lead in the 117th Congress, the legislative branch moves one step closer to representing the makeup of our nation. Although we have made progress in political representation, our work is far from over. 

In the same year that we commemorated the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 15th Amendment, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOn The Money: 12 million to lose federal unemployment benefits after Christmas | Warren urges Biden to cancel student debt | Stocks close with losses as states, cities reimpose COVID-19 restrictions OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight US is far from gender balance in politics despite record year for women candidates MORE (D-Calif.) became the first Black and South Asian woman to ascend to the vice presidency, making her the highest-ranking woman in politics. In her first remarks as vice president-elect, Harris emphatically proclaimed, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” For Black women and girls everywhere, Vice President-elect Harris’s rise to the highest levels of government redefines the possibilities for women of color and broadens their horizons for political ambitions. 

When Black women are at the table, the conversation changes on policies that impact our communities. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, women of color, particularly Black women and Latinas, are disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis brought on by this pandemic, making it a “she-cession.” Furthermore, the spread of COVID-19 continues to exacerbate existing racial and economic inequalities impacting our most vulnerable communities. As the only Black woman in Michigan’s congressional delegation, I can tell you that representation matters when we are working to address this pandemic’s impact on our marginalized communities and how government can work for all of us.

Black women delivered the most significant victory in presidential politics, showing up and showing out for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenManufacturers association calls on GSA to begin transition process Biden vote tally getting close to 80 million AOC, progressive Dems attack corporate greed during health care discussion MORE and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Yet, despite this, Black women remain underrepresented in elected office around the country. Black women make up nearly 7.6 percent of the U.S. population,

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Liberian Women Claiming Their Place

Naomi Tulay-Solanke is the Founder and Executive Director of Community Health Initiative (CHI) working at the intersection of women’s health and women’s rights in Liberia. Zeynep Meydanoglu who leads Ashoka’s gender justice work spoke with Ashoka Fellow Naomi Tulay-Solanke in the lead up to her participation in Changemakers United Africa, a collective effort to support social innovators at the forefront of the Covid-19 crisis.

Zeynep Meydanoglu: How has your work shifted since Covid-19 started?

Naomi Tulay-Solanke: Over the last 6 months, due to the pandemic, there has been a 50 percent rise in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). More than 600 rape cases have been documented, and nothing was being done. The justice system wasn’t working. The police wasn’t working. The court wasn’t adjudicating. Seeing this national emergency we had to shift the focus of our work to fight this culture of impunity, which has been normalized in Liberia.

Despite the pandemic, we staged a 3-day protest in August to put more pressure on our government, demanding that the criminals be held accountable, and the victims be given support. During the protest, we were beaten by the police, but it didn’t stop us. The government deliberately refused to show up and we drew attention to that. The media publicity created outrage – and the government’s knee jerk reaction was to hold a 2-day summit on gender-based violence, to which we weren’t invited because they saw us as troublemakers.

We didn’t let that stop us though. We were able to work with other women’s groups to carry our petition in the room. We don’t have to be physically in the room, but we need the change to be in the room. After the 2-day national conference, the government declared rape a national emergency and developed a roadmap – all our demands were included. But implementation is not there yet. So we are engaging with them. Asking them: ‘Where are you one month later?’ We are creating a pressure group to hold them to account.

Meydanoglu: What about your work making reusable sanitary pads to keep girls from dropping out of school? Is the Liberian government supportive of these efforts?

Tulay-Solanke: We have always invited the government into our work and we need their political will to make sure every woman and girl has access to affordable sanitary pads. But they have their own priorities, and they are a patriarchal structure. Issues that affect women aren’t a major concern for them right now.

A few years ago we elected West Africa’s first female president in Liberia. She put gender on the national agenda and appointed several women to high-level decision-making posts. Now we are back to the status quo and pushing women in leadership and decision-making positions is no longer a priority. We are fighting against that.

Meydanoglu: What opportunities do you

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Woman crashes wedding claiming groom is her husband and children’s father

A wedding ceremony in Zambia came to a halt after the groom’s real wife turned up at the church. Abraham Muyunda was about to get married when Caroline Mubita barged in with the couple’s three children on Monday, October 12. The woman claimed that the husband had left the family home in the morning, telling her that he was going out of town for work. The woman’s arrival at the church was caught on video by a wedding guest. Since the video became viral, the man reportedly spoke out about the incident. He claimed that the woman had left him years ago when he faced financial troubles. She only returned as he was doing better. He also said that his family and the family of the bride-to-be supported their marriage even after knowing about his previous marriage.

Muyunda’s wedding guests were shocked when a woman with a child strapped to her back turned up at a catholic church in Chainda. A wedding guest started recording the incident as the woman started saying that the groom was already married to her. She was accompanied by three children who were reportedly fathered by the groom.

In the video, the guest seemed as bewildered as Mubita. Some of the guests were seen trying to talk to her but she kept talking to the priest who was officiating the marriage. The video went viral on social media.

According to Zambian Observer, the man who works for the Zambia Revenue Authority lived with Mubita. On the day of his second wedding, he told the woman that he was going out of town on official work. She was alerted of what was going on behind her back by a neighbour so she rushed to stop the wedding.

The man was reportedly held by the police. It is unknown if he has been charged with bigamy which has a seven-year sentence in Zambia.

Since the video went viral, the Face of Malawi reported the man’s side of the story. Muyunda claimed that he and his estranged wife had separated in 2013. She supposedly left him when he lost his job. He believes she barged in on the wedding as she wanted to be a part of his life since he was financially stable again. He also said that his family and his new bride’s family knew about his past. They were supportive of the new relationship.

couple silhouette
Woman crashes husband’s wedding to another woman. (representational image)
Getty

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