Happy International Women’s Day

I did my part to commemorate International Women’s Day today by being sworn in as the newest member of Alameda’s Housing Commission.  Wait, you didn’t know today was International Women’s Day, or what it’s about?  I am here to help.  International Women’s Day occurs each year on March 8.  Originally called International Working Women’s Day, it started as a Socialist political event, and the day borrowed from the culture of many countries, primarily the former Soviet Bloc and Eastern Europe.  By 1975, the United Nations gave official sanction to, and began sponsoring, International Women’s Day, and even the Google doodle got in on the celebration today:

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is Empower Women – End Hunger and Poverty, and this relates to the Housing Commission because the percentage of people without access to decent, stable housing is rising.  As my good friends at my former employer Habitat for Humanity note, the fight against poverty must include the expansion of housing in both policy and practice.

I never considered getting involved in local government until I had the good fortune to meet former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini in Chicago last fall, when I was attending the Vision 2020 Congress for women’s equality and joined friends and delegates for dinner.  Mayor Corradini is a true trailblazer, having served as mayor with distinction for eight years from 1992-2000, where she played a lead role in bringing the 2002 Winter Olympic Games to Salt Lake City.  Since then she’s gone on to become President of Women’s Ski Jumping – USA,  and in April 2011, succeeded in having the International Olympic Committee add a women’s ski jumping event to the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  Did you know that ski jumping was the only event in the Winter Olympic Games that did not allow women to compete?  Deedee’s advoacacy helped change that.

Getting back once again to the Housing Commission, Deedee is one of Utah’s two delegates to Vision 2020, and each delegate is charged with implementing initiatives to raise awareness for women’s equality, developing shared leadership in their workplaces and lives, and creating opportunities for success for future generations of girls and women.  As the delegates went around the table sharing their initiatives, Deedee talked about the importance of having more women engage in the important business of politics, and implored each of us to consider going home and getting involved at the most basic levels, like joining a town board or commission.  You knew I would eventually get to the point here.

Inspired by Deedee’s call to action, I came home, studied the city of Alameda’s web site, saw that the Housing Commission had a vacancy, and filled out the form to apply for the position.  I have always been interested in giving back to my community, and finding ways to provide more safe, affordable housing to people in need, and thought the Housing Commission might be a nice fit for my interests and talents.  While I have no aspirations to elected office, I took Mayor Corradini’s words to heart, but eventually forgot about it when I heard nothing further.  But then I got a call from the Executive Director of Alameda’s Housing Department in January asking if I was still interested.  I was, and after the City Council approved my appointment at Tuesday night’s Council meeting, and I took the oath today, I am proud to be the newest member of my town’s Housing Commission.  I look forward to doing my best to fulfill my duties as a commissioner, and appreciate Deedee’s initial encouragement to get involved.  Happy International Women’s Day!

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