Posted 22 November 2017
Each year the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women (MLAW) get together to prepare for the coming General Assembly Session. The main purpose of the conference is to learn about what legislation will be before the General Assembly for the upcoming session and decide which they would like to support. While there are many bills that look very promising in 2018, MLAW is only so big and can only do so much. Over the next month, their members will be researching the different options, then voting on only six or seven. Then the group will work throughout the 2018 session to ensure the passage of those bill. While you may not be a member of MLAW to vote on the bills, nevertheless, these bills will have an impact in your life and community. You can read about the proposed legislation here.
Another goal of the MLAW conference is to get their members ready to advocate. This year, the panel discussion focused on methods of effective advocacy whether as a group or an individual. While Maryland was the first in the nation of supporting women in legislation just a few decades ago, we have slipped to tenth place now. In fact, there are the same number of women legislators today as there were in 1995. Here’s a summary of some of the tips and tools shared with the members of MLAW to encourage their success in engaging in government.
- The first thing to remember is that you can’t do everything yourself. While you feel strongly about many issues and pieces of legislation, you have to pick what is most important to you and focus your energies there. Trust that your peers and fellow activists will move on other issues while you work on yours. Likewise, you can’t force a movement alone. There are things that happen within a society that create a moment for change. The best thing you can do is be prepared for when that moment comes along.
- Learn how to take a break. It’s so much better to turn off the news for a few days to breathe then come back refreshed and ready, than to burn out and have to give up. You don’t have to say yes to every request or every event. Learn where your limits are and then learn how to work within them.
- Whether you reach out to your legislator in person, by phone, or by email – make it personal. Talk to your legislators about your life. How does this bill or that law effect you personally and how can they work to make it better.
- The best way to influence national issues is to influence local representatives. Whether policy or politics, if you don’t like what is happening in on the national stage, speak to the people who represent you. Similarly, if you are personally interested in a large issue, getting involved locally prepares you to get appointed in a larger position. You have to insert yourself into the “pipeline” to make the contacts you need to make, and build the understanding you need to have in order to be more effective.
- If you like an organization and what they do, the best way to support them is to become a member. When measuring the effectiveness of any organization, membership numbers play a huge role. The larger an organization, the more influence they have.
- And lastly, stay informed. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to get involved in any other way, stay up to date on the issues that matter most to you and talk about them with the people in your life.