This election season has been about women and yet, not about women. But, women have shown their collective voices through their votes. According to the Reuters Center for American Women and Politics, every presidential election since 1980 has seen the number of female voters surpass that of males by between four to seven million votes. The 2012 presidential election was proof; women comprised 53 percent of the total national vote. Women are a force to be reckoned with!
Women won in a big way in the 2012 election. The 113th Congress will have some new additions: a record-breaking 20 female senators, including the first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin. New Hampshire also had a historic 2012 election; they elected the first all-women delegation in the House, the Senate and the governor's office. Talk about victory!
Now we must hold their feet to the fire. In January, the new terms for our elected officials will begin, and I want them to consider a basic blueprint as they approach their work:
Health Care and Health Access
Let us take the next few years to continue addressing reproductive justice and not go backward. We need to appoint Supreme Court justices who withhold Roe v. Wade. It is also imperative that we see increased protections for women. The Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized, and it must include all victims of violence.
Nearly two years ago, the government enacted the Affordable Care Act. A portion of this Act addresses women's health care needs and improves women's health access. But, this is just the beginning. Let's encourage our politicians to make comprehensive health care access for women, girls and families a continued priority.
The economy and unemployment will continue to be a focus for the next four years. Let us not forget 51 percent of the population.
We should pay attention to single-mothers and their economic security. Single mothers must have additional support of programs like Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), child care and other income supports. Without these services, many mothers face more difficulty providing for their families, in spite of working two or more jobs. According to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, nearly 40 percent of single mothers earn less than $22,314 per year. In Illinois, 28.5 percent of female heads of households with no husbands present live in poverty. These women are not only the caregivers but also the only breadwinners for their families. They are the backbone of our communities. Politicians must make single mothers a focus.
Education is connected to job opportunity and economic security. Encourage politicians to support programs that close achievement gaps and provide better opportunities to girls. Studies show that better education for girls leads to lower poverty rates and improved health outcomes for the whole family. If girls are given a fair shot at success, imagine the possibilities of their futures.
There are many more issues that need consideration, the ideas listed here are just a starter. As we prepare for the next few years, we must hold those whom we elected into public office accountable for their campaign promises. We have demonstrated our power in this election, let us continue to make sure that women and girls' rights move forward.