Cross-posted on HuffPo
Today marks the 5th annual International Day of the Girl – a day hosted by the United Nations to promote gender equity and empower girls to show leadership and reach their full potential. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face across the world and spur global attention and action.
In the United States, there are major steps we can take in criminal justice, campaign finance and healthcare to ensure that our society is providing all girls with the tools they need to succeed.
1. Sentencing Reform for the Hidden Bearers of Mass Incarceration: Women
“It’s long past time to acknowledge the threat prison poses to women and families. Since 1980, the number of women in prison has grown by 730 percent, twice the rate of the total prison population (363 percent).
Today, there are 1.2 million women behind bars, or on probation or parole. Worse, many women are caregivers, meaning others suffer due to their incarceration. Approximately 60 percent of women in prison are mothers of a child under the age of 18. Three-quarters of those mothers were the primary or sole caretaker.
So how can we help these women and children? First, we need to acknowledge that incarceration is very much a women’s issue. And through sentencing reform, we need to stop needlessly sending so many women to prison. Mass incarceration is a problem that touches all aspects of our society.”
–Inimai Chettiar, Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice
2. Increase the Number of Women Holding Public Office
“In today’s political system, women, people of color, and others who are not independently wealthy or do not have access to wealthy donors face exceptionally high barriers to running for office. In 2015, 158 families provided nearly half of the early contributions to the presidential race. In contrast to the broader electorate, these families “are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters.”
We want a truly representative government, one that looks like and benefits from the incredible strength and diversity of our citizens. Supporters of public financing have long argued that it helps break down some of those walls that prevent us from meeting that goal. Public financing systems can help elevate diverse voices and eliminate obstacles that female candidates face when running for office.”
–Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice
3. Promote Menstrual Equity
“Over the last two years, periods have made headlines around the globe — from Kiran Gandhi’s tampon-free run to the president’s angry accusation that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had ‘blood coming out of her wherever’ during the campaign. The topic that has stirred up the most high-profile political debate is the call to make feminine-hygiene products more obtainable by eliminating sales tax on tampons, pads and menstrual cups, and piloting programs to offer these items for free to women in need.
There are 36 U.S. states that currently collect sales tax on menstrual products. And while those states understandably exempt necessities, such as most food and medical items, there is a host of other tax-free items sold that hardly qualify as essentials — fruit roll-ups, barbecue sunflower seeds and garter belts among them. Treating feminine hygiene products as a necessity will not only lessen a small financial burden for women, it will go a long way in providing gender equity in our society.”
–Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Director of Development at the Brennan Center for Justice; Author of ‘feminist bible’ Periods Gone Public.
(Photos: Flickr; Thinkstock)