Here’s How We Can Get More Young Latinas into Public Office

Lead Photo: Image via Ignite National

Two months ago, pre-teen Jaqueline Zuno declared that she wanted to become the first Latina president of the United States during a school event. In an inspiring speech, she delineated her campaign platform and passionately spoke about seeking public office. Her hopes for the United States’ future are enough to make you feel she has the tenacity to accomplish this dream. But statistically, she may lose interest way before she becomes eligible to run. This is exactly what new initiative IGNITE hopes to counteract – they are working to keep the fire alive in ambitious young women considering public service.

Just last month, IGNITE released a PSA starring a young girl – who much like Jaqueline Zuno – spoke about her political ambitions. “I want to be president,” she said. “But when I’m 13, I won’t anymore, because no one will tell me I can do this. They tell me other things like, ‘Don’t raise your hand so much.’ ‘Wait your turn.’ ‘Let the other kids answer.’ ‘Be a good girl.’ They’ll joke that I’m bossy. Instead of telling me that I’m a leader.”

She then calls on parents, teachers, grandparents, and other adult figures to encourage young women into political careers. IGNITE is doing its part by giving young women the tools to become passionate about their own communities. Through annual conferences and a network made up of elected women, IGNITE wants to guide young women through the world of politics and get them thinking about policy critically. Additionally, its #DeclareYourAmbition campaign, invites others to help young girls and to pay careful attention to the kind of language they use.

IGNITE even recently teamed up with East Los High actress Vannessa Vasquez to further spread its message. On October 21, Vasquez will attend a Latinas in the U.S. Summit at the White House to speak about the importance of IGNITE’s mission. “As a nation it is up to us to empower our young women,” she said in a press release. “Not only for them but for the future of our nation and generations to come. We already tell girls they can raise a family. Let’s tell them they can raise a nation.”

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According to The Atlantic, voters don’t think women have less claim to public office. As a matter of fact, voters generally trust female politicians more, believe they have a better handle on everyday issues, and call them more honest. New York Magazine reports that being called bossy, having to a larger share of housework, and taking care of children contribute to women’s reticence to jump into public office.

But if IGNITE can touch the lives of young girls like Jaqueline, they’ll have a better chance at reaching their childhood dreams. “My goal is to become the first Latina presidente de los Estados Unidos. My focus would be education and immigration,” Jaqueline said. “I choose education, because it’s the only thing that can’t be taken away from you, because it’s in your heart. I want to focus on immigration because I want people to know that las manos that built this country are not all of one race. And the hands that lead this country now shouldn’t be either.”