YW Boston Joins Mass NOW and Ignite for Advocacy Day

Shreya Partha

On Thursday, February 8, YW Boston joined forces with Mass NOW and IGNITE to “IGNITE the Capitol” on Beacon Hill and promote our legislative priorities. Alongside over 100 participants from various organizations, YW Boston members met with Representatives and Senators of Massachusetts to uplift four bills. The bills include YW Boston’s primary legislative priority: An Act to Promote Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions in Massachusetts.  
YW Boston Advocacy Intern Shreya Partha, who is studying Political Communications at Emerson College, shares her experience at “IGNITE the Capitol.” 

Thursday, February 8 was my first time inside the Massachusetts State House, and hopefully, the first of many.  I was nervous going into the day, as speaking directly with legislators was like nothing I have ever experienced before. 

YW Boston joined alongside the other organizations at Carrie Nation Cocktail Club. We networked over lunch and sat according to our represented legislator. It was inspiring to see all ages, experiences, and backgrounds gathered for the same goal. Leaders from IGNITE started the speaking portion followed by Mass NOW director Sasha Goodfriend’s overview of all four bills. As my first-ever advocacy day, it was enlightening to see such influential speeches being given about the different legislative priorities of the day.  

On that day, advocates were focusing on four main priorities: The I AM Bill (H.534/S.2491) to Increase Access to Menstrual Products, The Healthy Youth Act (H.544/S.268) to provide comprehensive and inclusive sex ed in all public schools, The Parents Running for Office Bill (H.668/S.422) to enable campaign funds for childcare, and The Parity on Boards Bill (H.3095/S.2029) to Promote Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions. All four of these bills have the consequential ability to shape the lives of marginalized communities in the Commonwealth. Bill sponsors and advocacy leaders spoke about the importance of these bills and emphasized the impact that advocates — like organizations, constituents, and anyone interested in pushing bills they are passionate about — can have on the bill-making process. Among these speakers were Senator Jason Lewis, Representative Dawn Shand, and Shaplaie Brooks from the Massachusetts Commission of LGBTQ+ Youth, who spoke in support of Parity on Board.  

To be in the room, just feet away from the speakers, was exciting and powerful but also made them feel more accessible to me as I was able to relate to them as regular people and not as an advocate to legislator. Before attending Advocacy Day, the thought of talking to elected officials was daunting. Hearing them talk about their own experiences both running for office and hearing about their personal connection to these bills made the thought of talking to them about my own personal connections to bills less intimidating. This sentiment was further solidified as the day progressed.  

Following the speeches, we were provided folders that briefed us on which representative we would be talking to, including their position on each bill and talking points. We then marched to the State House. Standing prominently on a raised hill and adorned with a beautiful gold dome, the historic building was mystifying and inviting.  

I felt supported by the sheer strength in how many people were around me, advocating for the same bills. Looking around, my confidence soared as I took in my part in being a part of a cause bigger than myself. Upon entering, we went through a standard security screening, and we were on our way to our first meeting. I was accompanied by Brianna Savage, YW Boston’s Associate Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, to Representative Adrian Madaro’s office, where I observed Brianna skillfully tackling the conversation. As this was my first time, when we met with Senator Lydia Edwards’ staff, I chose to observe here as well, so I would be better equipped to handle it on my own the next time.  

Upon reflecting, my main takeaways are as follows: familiarize yourself with what stance your Representative/Senator holds on the bill you want to discuss: are they a co-sponsor, are they in favor, or are they against it? Share your own personal ties to the bill or why it is important to your organization and the impact it could have for our community – they represent you! With this knowledge, either thank them for being a co-sponsor, ask them to sponsor the bill, or learn more about their office’s priorities. In the first two cases, it’s also a good idea to inquire about any internal opposition.  

Talking to Representative Madaro was especially enlightening as it showed me how willing Representatives are to not only talk to you, but also hear about your story and experience in their district.  They are elected by their constituents, and so they should be hearing about the issues we care about and that impact our lives. The Representative also shared about his family and his experience growing up in the same neighborhood as Brianna, and now raising his kids down the street from where Brianna and her family currently live. This made me realize that while legislators are advocating for or against bills, this is their work and they are, like us, leading lives outside of their 9:00-5:00 in the same neighborhoods where we are building our lives.  

Advocacy Day was informative as a first-time State House goer, but more importantly, it provided a greater sense of community and importance. Visiting the State House and talking to state legislators gave me insight into how much power I hold as a constituent, that my vote is not “wasted”, and how bringing issues I care about to the forefront isn’t as hard or as frightening as I thought it would be.

Thumbnail Photo Credit: Charlotte Tuminelli

About YW Boston’s Advocacy Work: 

YW Boston works to eliminate racism and empower women through DEI services and advocacy. Our advocacy work is included under our 501(c)3, which means we do not endorse candidates, and we are non-partisan in the policies that we take on. Our advocacy work is planned and executed by a dedicated group of volunteers who apply and serve on our YW Boston Advocacy Committee