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By Daneya Esgar

As a lesbian, I’ve always worked hard to serve my community and fight for protections for all of us, in Pueblo and across all of Colorado. I know I want to do more. I want to serve in an elected office someday to help make value-based decisions that will positively impact our all of our communities.

It’s important to me as a woman to know that the people that are making decisions on laws that affect me, share my Democratic values. Only 36 women in the U.S. have been a governor. Women make up just 18 percent of the U.S. Congress and 24 percent of state legislatures, and thirteen states have no women representing them in the U.S. Senate or Congress. When we look at the number of these women who are LGBT or women of color, the numbers dive even lower.

Having been born and raised in Colorado, I’ve seen the progress we, the LGBT community, have made when it comes to protections that we need and deserve; employment nondiscrimination, housing and public accommodation, hate crimes, second-parent adoptions, designated beneficiaries, and most recently civil unions. All of these wins started as grassroots movements and were eventually turned over to the votes of those elected to serve us at the state capitol, and we are far from done here in Colorado. We’re still fighting for full marriage equality, racial, economic and immigration status equality within our LGBT community, and protections for our youth. I know we can and will do more great work at the grassroots level to protect our community, but it’s important that the grass tops represent our community as well.

Women make up around half of the population, yet we don’t hold half of the elected offices. This is dangerous and unfair for women and girls across the country. Women, especially LGBT women and women of color, need to be represented as elected officials in our communities, in our state and across our county when decisions are being made about our lives. We can’t depend on people who haven’t lived our experiences to make the best decisions for us, or trust that they will always protect us. We as women need to be sure that the fight continues for “women’s issues” and who knows more of what women need than us?

I was inspired by the Emerge Colorado program to run for and serve as an elected official someday. And although I haven’t decided what office to run for yet, I know that I am better equipped than ever to make a difference. In seven months, one weekend a month, I learned more about public speaking, communications, fundraising, the media, campaign strategy, field operations, ethical leadership and most
important, networking.

It’s been said that women need to be asked at least three times to run for an elected office before they decide to make a go at it. Men don’t even need to be asked, they aspire to it. I’m here today to ask you to run for an office, and if you aren’t up for it, ask a woman you know and trust to run for an office. Women are our best allies as women, not our competition. We are all in this together.

The girls of today are watching our every move, much as we did our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts. We have a responsibility to inspire, motivate and protect the next generation of women.

Pueblo community activist Daneya Esgar was an honoree at Out Front’s 2013 Power Party for her successful push to obtain same-gender employee benefits for Pueblo city workers, and the Colorado Springs Pride Center’s 2012 Activist of the Year. She is a recent graduate of Emerge Colorado, a program to prepare women for public leadership. Learn more about Emerge here or email its
executive director Faith Winter at faith@emergeco.org.