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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 26th, 2023

Dear Readers,

We're almost to Memorial Day weekend! We have a variety of stories to share with you all this week, from tragic losses and continual barriers to gender-balanced representation to new court confirmations and inspiring women's leadership.

Tina Turner's Passes Away at 83

On Wednesday evening, Tina Turner's social media accounts announced she had sadly passed away. The New York Times reported on her death and shared the story of her life, her career, and of course, her incredible music.

Tina Turner, the earthshaking singer whose rasping vocals, sexual magnetism and explosive energy made her an unforgettable live performer and one of the most successful recording artists of all time, died on Wednesday at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich. She was 83...

“In the context of today’s show business, Tina Turner must be the most sensational professional onstage,” Ralph J. Gleason, the influential jazz and pop critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote in a review of a Rolling Stones concert in Oakland in November 1969. “She comes on like a hurricane. She dances and twists and shakes and sings and the impact is instant and total...”

After she walked out on her marriage, encumbered with debt, Ms. Turner struggled to build a solo career, appearing in ill-conceived cabaret acts, before signing with Roger Davies, the manager of Olivia Newton-John, in 1979. Guided by Mr. Davies, she returned to the gritty, hard-rocking style that had made her a crossover star and would propel her through the coming decades as one of the most durable performers on the concert stage...

Through it all, Ms. Turner’s music endured.

Nancy Abudu Confirmed To The US Court of Appeals

Nancy Abudu, a civil rights lawyer, was confirmed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit with a 49-47 Senate Vote. Abudu will be the first Black woman to sit on this court. 

She waited over a year for a confirmation vote, and was delayed in recent months by the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for health reasons. Abudu was opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), in a rare Democratic defection against one of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.

Abudu, 48, has litigated voting rights cases across the Deep South and at the national level for the SPLC and the American Civil Liberties Union. She’s challenged felon disenfranchisement, voter ID and proof of citizenship laws, and pushed for greater enforcement of federal voting-related laws in federal and state courts...

The civil rights lawyer will “bring a much needed perspective” to the Deep South bench “as the child of immigrants, as a Black woman, and as someone who has been knee-deep in complex issues of justice,” said Jennifer Ramo, who attended Tulane Law School with Abudu.

The Slow Progress Of Women's Representation: The Case Of Denver

In an opinion piece for WestwordSusan Casey discussed Kelly Brough’s run for mayor in Denver and the nuances that come with it. While there has been progress regarding women’s representation, it is still slow going. Denver, for example, has never had a woman mayor. Casey shared barriers women face when running for office, like dismissive attitudes and the societal assumption that men are automatically qualified for leadership positions. The outcome of this election could be historic for Denver. It is undoubtedly something RepresentWomen will have a close eye on. 

Even if her name isn't Ken, I was always going to vote for Kelly Brough. Because she is more prepared to be mayor than any person I know. Because she has more leadership experience, more expertise, more knowledge of city government, and more appreciation for how communities, neighborhoods, and businesses contribute to the health of our city. I am voting for her, too, because she is a woman, which means she has had to take that unequal road to this election day, that she has had to overcome more hurdles, climb bigger mountains, and been buffeted by stronger winds and storms along the way, and has come out stronger for it.

APC Party Fails to Finally Bolster Women's Political Leadership in Nigeria

The All Progressive Congress (APC), of which Miriam Onuoha is a member, has governed Nigeria since 2015. However, despite their claims of "inclusivity," the party has not produced any woman as the leader of the Executive or Legislative branch of government. In fact, women's representation in Nigeria's parliament has worsened since the party came into power.

President-elect Mr. Tinubu and the (APC) have failed women in Nigeria by revoking promises made in his manifesto to increase women's representation by improving social inclusion and political empowerment. This decision looms over Tinubu's other unrealized campaign promises to women and girls, like fighting domestic gender-based violence and abuse, achieving educational parity, facilitating educational empowerment, and implementing social policies and programs. 

The International Republican Institute has more on the barriers to women's representation in Nigeria.

The Premium Times, Nigeria described how Onuoha's dreams of becoming the next Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives have been cut short because she is a woman.

“In almost 90 positions of this country, the men have dominated it. Ceding this one position to me will be a way of proving that we are running an inclusive government,” she said when she made her ambition public. “I use this opportunity to call on my co-contestants — my male contestants to consider the love and the care Nigerian voters have shown to them and, as a matter of honour, step down to support this woman.”

Her party had other plans for the principal offices and it did not include having a woman as a candidate. The National Working Committee of the APC ratified the zoning formula proposed by President-elect Bola Tinubu, to exclude her and any other woman.

If the APC gets its way in parliament as expected, it would mean that all the top leadership positions in Nigeria (heads and deputies of the three arms of government including the two chambers of the parliament) will be occupied by men.

Women in the U.S. Island Territories Working to Achieve Food Sovereignty

Jessica Kutz from The 19th wrote a great piece on women in the U.S. Island Territories and their efforts to bolster food sovereignty in these territories. This story is an important reminder how these territories don’t have voting power, yet their citizens are expected to pay taxes and serve in military despite the lack of representation.

In 2012, Sibilly-Brown was working as  an elementary school teacher in St. Croix, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, when her students presented an idea at an agriculture fair to bring locally grown food to their schools…

But the network didn’t reach the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Sibilly-Brown remembers one of her students asking: If the program was national, why didn’t it reach their territory? 

“That question has been the question that has driven my work,” Sibilly-Brown said. “If we are the United States, why not here?...” 

“I realized that there was this big gap of knowledge between all of these different actors in the system,” she said...

“Because we’re isolated geographic areas, there are limits on our representation,” she said. The U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, has one nonvoting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives but no counterpart in the Senate. Other territories also send someone to the House to represent their voices, but they cannot cast votes on legislation.

“What I want people to understand is we’re not asking for exceptions because we’re territories; we’re asking for inclusion in what should be afforded to every producer who’s producing in this nation,” she said.

Top left, Deb Otis; top right, Kelleen Potter; bottom left, Victoria Pelletier; bottom right, Johana Bencomo.

On Thursday, our terrific National Partnerships Manager, Victoria Pelletier, spoke at FairVote’s “Women Win with Ranked Choice Voting” webinar! She shared, as an elected official herself, the barriers women face both while campaigning and while in office, especially women of color. She also went into depth on the benefits of ranked choice voting, how it helped to engage voters, how it ensured that candidates with a true majority of support are elected, and the value of the twin-track approach, a term coined by RepresentWomen in our 2021 RCV in NYC Report. It was wonderful to hear from these different women on the importance of women’s representation in order to ensure diverse perspectives are reflected in policy.

Adventures In New York City

On Wednesday a few of the RepresentWomen team and I gathered in New York City for a briefing on the state of women's representation hosted by the Rockefeller Brother's Fund. We convened a group of leaders across the democracy reform and women's representation space; it was nice to connect with each other in person, the energy in the room was vibrant! As always, we are grateful to the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund for hosting us and all our participants and attendees for joining us!

My husband and I also enjoyed some great theater including The Thanksgiving Play - the first play on Broadway written by a Native American, and A Doll's House starring Jessica Chastain. I got to catch up with Jessica super briefly at the stage door to chat about women's equality and ranked-choice voting!

That's all for this week. Have a wonderful long weekend!

Cynthia Richie Terrell


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