Fueling a Movement That’s Working
Transformational. That’s the word most people use when describing our Women’s Policy Institute. Over the last 15 years, this leadership and public policy training program has transformed the lives of over 400 transgender and cisgender women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and transgender men. And those people have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands more. How? During their training our fellows helped pass 32 laws that have had far-reaching results. One law, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, extended legal labor protections to 100,000 low-wage workers in California, the majority of them women. These women can finally earn overtime pay. Why public policy? Because public policy is a powerful means to solving social problems. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Morality can’t be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” By participating in shaping our laws, regulations and ordinances, we can help direct the course of our democracy, economy and shared future. In essence, public policy can help us achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Why women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and trans men? Because the voices of people impacted by gender-based oppression, violence, and discrimination are often missing in Sacramento and at the local levels of policymaking. We are missing both as policymakers and as policy inﬂuencers. That means that our lives, bodies and futures are being legislated on in our absence. Because we believe that community leaders need to have a greater impact on the fundamental conditions that affect their lives, families and communities, we are striving to increase the number of them who are actively engaged in public policy. We want to give community leaders the tools, resources, relationships and coalitions they need to powerfully speak for themselves and their communities. Because if they do not speak for themselves, somebody else will. For more information on how to apply to the WPI, email the WPI team.
Our unique model
The Women’s Policy Institute model is unique because we’re not just investing in individual leaders. We’re investing in established and rising leaders as well as their organizations. By training fellows to become public policy experts, we are building the capacity of their organizations to find viable, community-specific solutions to injustice. Most of the fellows we train go back to their organizations and educate their colleagues as well as lead public policy and advocacy initiatives in their local communities throughout the state. As a result, we’re fueling the larger gender justice movement, not just individual leaders.
All of our teams work on public policies that support historically oppressed communities across California, including low-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color. All of these policies further justice and equity in our state, but each team works within a particular issue area and develops its own legislative approach and strategy. While each team has a specific focus, their projects are intersectional. A reproductive justice team may work on access to contraception and abortion on college campuses understanding the relationship of that issue to education and health equity. An environmental justice team may work on bringing solar power to low-income communities while also improving health outcomes and workforce development.
The WPI-State Class of 2018 consists of six teams working in the areas of criminal justice, economic justice, health, reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and trauma justice. This year’s class is one of the most diverse in WPI history: 80% of fellows are people of color and a third are queer or identify as something other than heterosexual. Fellows range in age from 21 to 53.
In 2015, we expanded our groundbreaking WPI-State program to the local level. The training focuses on building strong policy and budget advocates at the local level because local governments carry out mandates from the federal and state government and create their own budgets and policy agendas. WPI-Local is made up of pre-formed teams from Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Monterey counties. This year’s class is composed of 20 fellows in five teams, with 80% who identify as women of color. WPI-Local is open to both English and Spanish speakers.