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domestic violence, Elections, women

Challenge at Women’s Policy Leadership Summit 2019

Supervisor Cindy Chavez: Change the World

Hundreds of women and their allies gathered recently to bone up on what they’ll need to know as leaders to further efforts to curb domestic violence, protect workers from sexual assault, and advance other parts of the County’s women’s agenda.

County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez called this year’s Women’s Leadership Policy Summit to provide women and their allies an opportunity to attend practical workshops and to network. The goal was to draw strength from one another and learn how they might further combine their talents for the betterment of women and families.

“Changing the world: that’s really what today is all about,” Chavez said, kicking off the summit on a stormy Saturday in a full, spacious hall at West Valley Community College on Feb. 2. “I know you would not be here today, in the rain, if you were not a rabble-rouser.”

Chavez’s women’s agenda grew out hearings she and Supervisor Dave Cortese held in the immediate wake of President Donald Trump’s election. The hearing on women’s issues stuck with Chavez after a campaign that left many local women angry, fearful and confused — and determined to fight back.

Women taking the wheel

“We learned that women wanted to be in charge of their own destiny,” Chavez said. “And we saw that in the number of women who ran for office and the number of women who applied for boards and commissions. Women were essentially saying, ‘Mmm, you’re not driving the bus anymore. You’re not doing a good job.’”

And so she called the first women’s policy summit to build on the local energy. What emerged was a women’s policy agenda of about 20 issues. Significant progress has been made on a number of them, Chavez said, but there’s still a long way to go.

She noted for instance, that since that first summit, the County has increased funding to support domestic violence victims from $700,000 a year to $6 million. That’s good, she said, but not good enough.

“I have a goal: My goal is $20 million. I’m going to need your help,” she said to rousing applause.

Another of Chavez’s policy goals would require the testing of all rape kits in the County within 30 days.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the County crime lab back the plan. In some parts of California, these kits take 700 days to be processed.

Why is it so important to speed up the process?

Aside from the “obvious” point that such crimes should be investigated in a timely manner, she said, “It also demonstrates that we value women and girls and children, who are primarily the victims.”

Hitting the 30-day target would please traumatized local rape victims. But it would also signal that all communities can do the same. “Our goal is to make change across the country,” Chavez said.

Not just talk, but action

Personal commitment is key, the supervisor said. Proclaiming support for all races, women, children and education, and then moving on with life is not enough.

“Blah, blah, blah, blah,” she said, and then issued a challenge. “What I want to ask people is: What have you done? And did you invest money toward having the policies come to fruition?”

“Be impatient for change,” she continued. “And demand that changes be accompanied with resources that meaningfully impact the lives of women and girls in our society.”

The summit drew a full house at West Valley Community College on a stormy Saturday.

Next steps

What’s next? To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Women’s Equality 2020 Leadership Council will meet for the third time on March 13 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Evergreen Valley College, Gullo II, 3095 Yerba Buena Ave., San Jose.

The council’s mission is to advance women’s equality and plan for the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage.

The March event focuses on how women can help ensure an accurate count in the 2020 census. The importance of voter registration ahead of California’s important March 2020 presidential primary will be stressed, too.

February 27, 2019

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