Kamala Harris, an inspirational figure to many, is a leading progressive voice and one of the most influential power players of the United States Senate. The daughter of immigrants and a formidable attorney at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, she is now the first African-American woman and the first South Asian American elected as the Vice President of the U.S. Her story is inspiring for many women who aspire to enter public offices and become changemakers.
Her roots come from India. Her mother is an Indian cancer researcher and her father, a Jamaican economics professor. She rose from the position of an attorney to post a credible candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. president after running a successful campaign for the progressive cause with the people’s support. She has worked to reform the American criminal justice system, raise minimum wages, protect the legal rights of immigrants and refugees, and make higher education tuition-free. She stood up for folks who can’t defend themselves and to serve as a voice and hope in the civil rights movement.
Like her, many women leaders have emerged as important players in the modern political transformation of the U.S. Here are a few who deserve a shout-out:
Born in India, came to the United States as a first-generation American student. A published author and financial analyst by profession, her passion for serving those in need, providing healthcare for communities, defending civil liberties following the 9/11 attacks, and advocating for immigrants’ rights inspired her to advocate for her community in politics. She was elected to the Washington State Senate in 2014.
Pramila was the first South Asian American elected to the Washington State Legislature and then won a Congressional election. She made a difference in everything right from reducing student debt to stressing the impact of climate change to fighting for a woman’s right to choose.
Lathika Mary Thomas
An attorney by profession, Lathika ran her impressive campaign on tax cuts, fighting terrorism, promoting education, and illegal immigration. She stood by her sensational declaration of calling gay marriage “an abomination” though it was not construed as impartial to the general public by many. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants and was raised in Pinellas County.
A law graduate from Florida State University, she provided legal advice to the Governor. Lathika was the Republican candidate who ran for the 2nd Congressional District of Florida in 2016 after working as the general counsel for the State Department of Elder Affairs in Tallahassee. Later, she became the Director of Policy for the U.S. Department of Justice Office that provides community grants. She represented the Republican Party for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District but withdrew later.
Tulsi, a representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, has been elected for the fourth term as a member of the U.S. House. In 2012, she was the first Hindu member elected to Congress. Prior to her election, she served in the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Honolulu City Council. She was born and brought up in Hawaii and was the youngest person elected to public office in the State’s history. She has also been a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard and served as the field medical unit specialist in Iraq. With a B.S. in Business Administration from the Hawaii Pacific University, she has also served as a legislative aide. Her campaign themes included affordable housing, protecting the economy and jobs, the environment, and gun control.
Women-led campaigns in the history of U.S. politics are closely related to solving problems in their communities. At the same time, their male counterparts usually run for office as part of their career. For the women in charge, the personal was political. Women’s entry into politics can change both the political culture and the laws of the country. Women leaders effectively put forward issues concerning the position of women in society when such matters are debated in parliaments and local councils.
Women empowerment implies growth in influence and power which might contribute to changing politics. Women empowerment should aid in developing self-confidence to change the political culture instead of just adapting to traditional political standards. When a larger group of women enter politics, the stereotyping of women diminishes, and new role models in public life are created.
(Edited by Neha Baid)