‘Women of color like myself have historically been marginalized from politics and public discourse. When local politicians don’t share any aspect of my identity with me, it can feel like girls like me aren’t meant to be a part of public life.’
The preliminary results of the New York City general election represent an enormous milestone: for the first time, women comprise the majority of the New York City Council. This is particularly meaningful to me as a young woman who is passionate about civic engagement.
Women of color like myself have historically been marginalized from politics and public discourse. When local politicians don’t share any aspect of my identity with me, it can feel like girls like me aren’t meant to be a part of public life.
Representation is a crucial step to creating a more equitable society: not only does it ensure that everyone in our society is represented by a leader who understands their background and needs, but it also allows people from marginalized groups to see that their dreams are attainable. As a Girl Scout, I have advocated for social justice with my troop, built skills through the Girl Scouts Leadership Institute, and earned my Bronze and Silver Award for projects with an impact on my community. I am lucky to have role models in leadership, but the lack of women to look up to in government has been disappointing.
Women constitute the majority of New York City’s population, and having a City Council with a majority of women means that our Council will look more like our city. A Council with members from many different backgrounds (including diversity across gender, race, economic status, and sexual orientation) means that our Council will have different personal connections to issues that will create a more well-rounded dialogue, ultimately better addressing the needs of New York City’s diverse population.
This representation is especially exciting for me on a personal level: my soon-to-be Council member, Shahana Hanif, is a South Asian woman like me! My South Asian heritage is so important to me, so to know that someone with a similar background to me will represent my district on the City Council makes me feel like my voice matters.
In the past year, we’ve shattered a lot of glass ceilings: we elected our first woman vice president and New York’s first woman governor took office. Now, our city is joining this wave of progress by welcoming a fresh and diverse set of perspectives onto the City Council.
Seeing women serve in these powerful roles is so inspiring to me and shows girls we also can aspire to public leadership—I hope to see even more women in government across the state and country soon.
Kamala Gururaja is a 14-year-old Girl Scout from Brooklyn.