by Olivia Bayer
The “Elect Her” event made its way to Central Connecticut late last week with the mission to empower young women and help them gain leadership skills that are likely to last a lifetime.
The event, which is a national program that encourages and trains college women to run for higher office, was put on by CCSU Women’s Center with the main priority to “educate, plan programs and advocate on behalf of women’s issues for the university.”
President Dr. Zulma Toro and New Britain’s mayor, Erin Stewart, were in attendance. Both delivered cultivated and empowering speeches which encouraged and inspired the young women in the audience to let them have their voices heard.
Dr. Toro encouraged everyone there to take advantage of this unique event, as she said it offered tools and tactics to help CCSU women gain leadership skills for future political positions.
Stewart also reminded the group how beneficial this event could be for the students, sharing experiences as a young woman in politics.
Stewart was first elected mayor of New Britain in 2013 at the age of 26, making her the country’s youngest mayor and the city’s second female mayor. Since then, Stewart has been re-elected twice and is now in the running for governor of Connecticut.
As a young female in politics, Stewart shared with the group of young women how she has overcome obstacles, such as sexism, that have come her way.
“I proved them wrong not once, not twice, but three times and I’m going to do it again,” she said.
Stewart also mentioned how, in order to make a difference, one needs to take risks. She acknowledged that it’s because of the countless risks she has taken throughout her political career that she said has been able to excel and obtain great success.
Members of the audience described Mayor Stewart’s speech as “beautiful” and “refreshing,” as it encouraged young women to step out of their comfort zone and go after what they want.
Aside from guest speakers, the event also hosted multiple interactive exercises that gave young women a chance to network and meet new people.
The executive director at Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, Kate Farrar, was the event’s facilitator who directed the exercises.
“[The event is] helping them build leadership because it’s helping them understand their own strengths, their own passions and then connecting them with a network that can support them to reach their goals,” Farrar said.
Teresa Carlos, a CCSU “super senior,” felt that the event was a great learning and growing experience as Central seemed to be lacking events such as this one.
“A lot of us don’t have anyone to look up to or any experience in leadership,” Carlos said. “We don’t get this opportunity often so I think [it is important] to actually get out there and converse with people who can talk to us about it and teach us about it.”
“The whole point of the event is to encourage young women to see themselves as leaders. And as they see themselves as leaders, use their voice to get involved and affect change in their community,” Jacqueline Cobbina-Boivin, the director of CCSU’s Women’s Center, said. “This is giving young women the tools to navigate the political system and then beat the men at their own game.”
For many, the “Elect Her” event shined a light on women in politics and how they have the power to accomplish anything and everything men can do. More than anything, the audience believed it gave young women there a chance to see a future in politics and want to make a difference.
“I think women are natural-born leaders. They have it. What is needed is for them to decide whether or not they’re going to utilize that skill that has been given to them or ignore it,” Cobbina-Boivin ended.