The Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus is an organization that advocates women’s education to prepare and train them for future leadership positions. The Women’s Political Caucus in New Jersey at Rutgers has successfully organized political internship and campaigning workshops for Rutgers women. This organization holds meetings every other week for their general members and also hosts different events on campus. Last year, the Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus held a sex, media, and politics talk where women from different areas of the political sphere came in to discuss how gender affects several jobs.
They also held networking events in which local women leaders came in and spoke about their experiences in politics. Lisa Kaado, the founder of the WPCNJ at Rutgers University, took a group of women from the organization down to Washington D.C. for the One Billion Rising Campaign. The One Billion Rising Campaign deals with gender-based violence against women and consists of one billion women around the world standing up to stop gender-based violence. While women from the organization were there, they we were able to meet Eve Ensler, the writer of the Vagina Monologues, and different women who are in the forefront of politics. They also had the chance to meet women in Congress that are pushing forward agendas to stop gender-based and domestic violence.
I Am Rutgers sat down with the President of this organization, Toni Gingerelli, and discussed the importance of women’s representation in the political sphere. We asked Toni what initially sparked her interest in joining this organization:
I was always very interested in women’s involvement in the political sphere, from getting women elected into office, to the difficulties they face while they are in office or involved in the political sphere. I was really interested in getting involved with an organization that would promote the importance of having women representation in government. Being with the Women’s Political Caucus has been an absolutely amazing experience, from working with the New Jersey chapter, as well as the national chapter, on different initiatives as a non-partisan organization that is able to meet women from both sides of the spectrum.”
Toni’s passion for politics is reflected in her personal career plans for the future. As a third year student, Toni is double majoring in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies. Many young women may have the belief that they do not hold any importance in the political sphere solely because they do not have the future career plans that Toni has. This, however, is not the case. Since there are many young women that may not be interested in pursuing a career in politics, we found it important to shed light on the idea that all women at Rutgers can be as involved with politics as they choose to be:
For everyone, it is extremely important to have knowledge of what’s going on in regards to politics and policy because it affects our everyday lives. With any group, whether it’s people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, or different socio-economic statuses, policy and politics affects you so I think it is important for women to have a voice in that as well. In terms of representation, I know it’s really important to just have people interested in politics in general.”
As Toni mentioned, policy and politics can affect anyone regardless of who they are. For this reason, it is very important to have young women educated about the power that they hold. When a woman is educated in all of the different decisions she can make and on the dynamics of politics, she has the ability to make informed choices. Toni is driven by a phrase used by Janice Kovach that essentially sums up why young women should take the opportunity to involve themselves in the political sphere:
Janice Kovach, who is the program director and also a mayor in New Jersey, says you are either at the table or on the menu. I think that’s really interesting and it’s important to have those voices that are at the table. A lot of times people don’t realize, it is not that they are purposely ignoring certain issues or passing policies that don’t help a certain group of people, sometimes it’s just not in the forefront of their mind because they don’t have those experiences.”
It is important to create future women leaders who will have their voice at the table. The confidence to claim one’s spot at the table stems from having assurance in one’s skills. These skills are acquired through education and experience — experience that the Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus aims to provide for young women. A big part of that experience can come from any efforts made to immerse oneself in politics or simply to learn more about the political sphere that we are all part of. As the president of this organization, who is evidently gaining a lot of experience, we asked Toni what it was like to serve on the executive board for the Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus:
It is a big responsibility, especially with a pretty new executive board, but the members are extremely dedicated with what they do and are passionate about the subject; in that sense we all work together as a team and I think that’s one thing that’s really important. We really work on the model of women supporting women. Even though I serve as president of the organization, all of our executive board members and general members have an equally important part in seeing this group succeed and grow. When you love something and you know it’s important, it doesn’t seem like work.”
Being involved in an organization can be time consuming and has proven to be a great responsibility for a student. Toni Gingerelli is extremely passionate about being part of the Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus and devotes her time to the organization’s success regardless of the time it demands.
As a strong and influential student, we asked Toni what would be one piece of advice she would give to Rutgers women:
For young women, I would tell them that their voice matters and I think that’s something young women don’t hear enough. In society we need to encourage young women to speak and to know that their voices matter and they can make a difference. Even though there will be difficulties in the process of doing that, it’s important that their voices are there in the forefront. Like I said before, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu and that’s what it comes down to.”
Every woman’s voice matters and can surely make a big difference. The Rutgers Women’s Political Caucus is open to women of all majors and years, and can serve as a strong platform for women who want to learn more about politics and want to become future leaders. Visit their page on Facebook page to stay updated on general interest meetings and upcoming events.