5 LA women on a year of political action after the 2017 Women’s March

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It’s been a year since millions of Americans took to the streets during the Women’s March of 2017. The streets were filled with ‘pussy hats and signs advocating for women’s power or admonishing Trump.

During last year’s march, we headed to Washington D.C. to speak with women who traveled to the nation’s capital from Los Angeles to march. Many spoke about how the election sparked a passion to become involved in politics.

We checked back to see if they did become more politically active and found that many attended town hall meetings, called, wrote and met with elected officials, gathered for outreach activities and fundraised for voter registration efforts.  

These women weren’t alone. Emily’s List, a national organization working to elect female candidates, saw a massive increase in interest from women about running for office or providing other assistance. In the election cycle prior to the 2016 election they received about 1,000 inquiries. But since the election they’ve gotten over 20,000.

Data from Rutgers shows increases in the amount of female candidates running for office; in the House of Representatives, there are almost four times as many female candidates as in 2015 and women candidates seeking Senate seats have almost doubled from 2015. However, even with the increase in candidates, only 19 percent of congress is made up of women. It’s relevant to note that California has sent most women to congress: 41 to date.

Arzu Ardakosar and Stephanie Speights, Palos Verdes

Stephanie Speights at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brian Feinzimer)
Arzu Ardakosar at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brian Feinzimer)

Arzu Ardakosar and Stephanie Speights have worked to bring local community members together by organizing a Facebook group, SoCal Voices of Equality, which describes its role as “an informal, self-organized group for people interested in supporting one another and their communities in standing for equality, fairness and political representation.”

Speights opened an online shop selling clothing with protest quotes to raise funds for Project Vote, an organization that focused on increasing voter registration. Ardakosar has met with elected officials to share the stories of personal challenges of immigrants and how they relate to our communities. “There are so many people that reside in Southern California that are undocumented that even if you’re not undocumented, even if your friends and family are not, you end up having to interact with so many people in your daily living,” said Ardakosar. “You work with them or your kids go to school with them, so that was one issue that stuck us very personally.”

Jennifer Yeuroukis, Los Angeles

Jennifer Yeuroukis at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brian Feinzimer)

Jennifer Yeuroukis spoke about keeping up with small daily actions. She has spent time signing petitions, writing to political figures and fostering conversation about women’s health care with her more conservative friends and family from the midwest. She said, “That’s where I feel like as a society we kinda tend to drop the ball. It’s really easy for everybody to get together and do a huge march and make a big show of things but then to try to remember to do something on a daily basis to then keep that the support system underneath that big act is really what I’ve been focusing on.”

Natasha Kingscote, Los Angeles

Natasha Kingscote (top right) with family and friends at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brian Feinzimer)

Natasha Kingscote is traveling with 10 of her family members to this weekend’s Las Vegas rally to support efforts to increase voting in swing states like Nevada. Back home, Kingscote works in human services for the City of Santa Monica, which hosted a number of immigration workshops this past year.

The workshops provided legal aid and assistance for those registering for DACA. City leadership — the mayor, police chief, school superintendent and Santa Monica College president met with the community during the year to ensure the city would be a safe space for immigrants – only cooperating with ICE when required to by law.

The city’s schools pledged financial support for student dreamers who needed assistance when applying for or renewing DACA status. During the early workshops, attendees came from as far as Oxnard for the information. Natasha said, “my job has helped me be able to feel like I’m doing something.”

Hannah Sloan, Los Angeles

Hannah Sloan at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brian Feinzimer)

Hannah Sloan has been working to help women recovering from substance abuse. Instead of raising money, Sloan has taken a more direct approach. “I’ve been very active in organizing groups of women to find people who need free help,” and then helping them take advantage of free public services.”

She also is working to bring diversity into community leadership. “We’re trying to make way for more diverse voices in the communities of women when we gather and when we make decisions on how to approach an issue publicly or how to protest something. It’s really a matter of us getting out of the way and saying it’s your turn to lead now more than anything else.”