August 26, 2014 at 1:00 am

Getting women a seat at the political table

Warren (David Olds / Michigan Legislature)

Today is Women’s Equality Day, a day to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment. When this amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was finally adopted, it was the product of a struggle that began more than 50 years earlier in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention in our country’s history.

These activists, like the hundreds who attended that protest and the thousands more who advocated for women’s suffrage in the decades to follow, knew they had a critical role to play in the political, social and economic spheres of society.

Similar movements are still alive today, as women continue to raise their voices and bring attention to the critical issues facing both themselves and our world at large.

The Michigan Breastfeeding Network, for example, has long promoted state and community support of breastfeeding, a healthy and economical practice that protects the health of both mother and child, and helped advocate for the passage of my Breastfeeding Antidiscrimination Act, which now protects nursing mothers from harassment.

Without those women and their determination, this legislation may not have passed.

At the national and international levels, we know that women play a crucial role in creating and implementing sustainable solutions to conflict. It is for these reasons that the Women, Peace and Security Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year — to ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in diplomatic, development, and defense efforts at home and abroad.

Although we have made great strides, the struggle for full equality is far from over. Women are still paid less than men for the same work — 28 fewer cents per dollar in Michigan — and, across the globe, mothers and daughters are forced to take extra precautions to protect themselves from gender-based violence. Here in Michigan, almost 50 bills were introduced in just one legislative session that sought to limit access to basic birth control and reproductive healthcare.

Furthermore, women are not adequately represented at the state, federal, or international levels; I am one of just four females serving in the Michigan Senate.

From diplomacy and defense to children’s health and education, we offer invaluable input when we have a seat at the table, and we know that progress is made when women’s voices are included.

This year, in recognition of Women’s Equality Day, join with me to promote the inclusion of women in our government and decision making. Write your member of Congress to ask them to support the Women, Peace and Security Act.

Urge a female friend to run for office, or better yet, run yourself.

Volunteer to campaign for any of the talented, passionate women currently running.

On the 94th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, let’s make sure that women’s voices are heard.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, represents the 18th Senate district.

Dozens of Rosie the Riveters gather for a 2013 event. Advances since World ... (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)