Women's Policy Institute Highlights: Maria Cadenas and Clarissa Douthered

Representation matters, especially in politics. In a system constructed and dominated by white men, it’s clear we need more women, especially women of color and gender non conforming people, in elected office.

Maria Cadenas

We are proud to highlight Women’s Policy Institute alum, Maria Cadenas who ran for California State Senate District 17 this month. While she didn’t win the seat, we know real change doesn’t come quickly, but we know she deserves to be celebrated.

As the only immigrant, only Latina, and only candidate who will not accept corporate money running, Maria ran to serve families on the Central Coast, putting people and planet first.

As Executive Director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures, she focuses on creating community building with a focus on building compassionate and equitable local economies that contribute to Santa Cruz and beyond. At the Women’s Foundation of California, we know those closest to the problem are in the best position to find a solution. As part of WPI-Local Santa Cruz County, Economic Justice Team, Maria worked to increase access to affordable housing for Latinas working in low-wage jobs in Santa Cruz County.

Many established communities across California are experiencing displacement due to the cost of housing. With her team, Maria worked to establish policies for their own community focusing on the Latinx population. Latinx women and gender nonconforming people make up a large percentage of those at risk of displacement. Whether it’s discrimination, language barriers, understanding their legal rights, trauma, structural racism, sexism, and immigration status, there are many barriers to safe and affordable housing.

Her work with WPI is embedded in why she decided to run this year:
“Every day around the Central Coast, people are being priced out of their homes and struggling with basic needs like childcare, healthcare, and food. In fact, more than 27% of children in Santa Cruz live in poverty and Latina women are still earning 43 cents to the dollar.”

For over two decades Maria has been a fearless advocate for families to ensure they can thrive where they live and work. Whether it’s an initiative to create college savings funds for all newborns in Santa Cruz County or working to increase economic mobility for farmworkers, Maria’s story gives us hope that real change is not far away.

Clarissa Douthered

Our Women’s Policy Institute alum and grant partner Clarissa Douthered led the charge to Care For Our Kids. She is behind the Measure C ballot initiative that was passed this March to expand affordable child care and give child care workers a living wage.

We’re proud to support Clarissa in her role as executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, part of a statewide group that lobbies for affordable child care and the coalition advocating for Measure C. The overall goal of the measure is to promote wellness, kindergarten readiness, and school success.

Currently, only 31% of Alameda County children with working parents have access to a space in a licensed child care, preschool, or early education setting.

Measure C will impose a half cent sales tax increase to generate an estimated $150 million annually. This money will be used to create more childcare slots and subsidies for low to middle income families and increase minimum wage to $15 an hour for educators and child care providers. An investment of this magnitude, Clarissa says will yield millions of dollars for generations of kids.

We are tremendously proud of the work Clarissa is doing here in Alameda County to take care of our kids.

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