Participants in a #VoteRunLead training in Durham, North Carolina (via #VoteRunLead Facebook page)

For the hundreds of women gathered at the Rural Women’s Summit in Greenville, South Carolina, October 27-29, taking the first step toward elected office will be as simple as watching a live-streamed workshop session.

One of the sessions during the three-day event focusing on issues facing rural communities will be facilitated by #VoteRunLead – a non-partisan group dedicated to getting more women elected to office.

“We have a track record of moving thousands of women through a leadership pipeline,” Erin Vilardi, president of #VoteRunLead said. “There are over 1,000 women sitting in elected office through our program. We have rates over 50 percent for first-time candidates winning their races… #VoteRunLead is working at a massive scale to reach women in every corner of America and to give them the skills and tools that we know they already have to ignite those skills and tools so they can run as they are. That’s the non-partisan nature of our commitment to under-represented communities…to make sure they have what they need to deliver on their goals and vice versa.”

Vilardi said the organization would be focusing on Native Americans at the summit, but that their program is for any rural woman who hopes to run for office.

“One in five of our alumni are from rural communities,” Vilardi said. “We have great partnerships with local farmers’ unions, with women in food and agriculture networks. We have a program called Plate to Politics where we work with women to help figure out how we can move folks to consider themselves for elected positions, from co-op boards on up.”

The session will be live-streamed so that even those who don’t attend the Rural Women’s Summit will be able to use the information to prepare themselves to run, she said.

The session will focus on the group’s “90-Day Challenge,” a curriculum that provides women interested in running for office with 30 actions that they can accomplish in 90 days to propel them toward an elected position.

“It’s been tailored specifically for rural communities and especially for a Native indigenous women,” Vilardi said.

The session will be facilitated by two Native indigenous women – Prairie Rose Seminole, American Indian Alaska Native program irector with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Nevada Littlewolf,  political director with Women Winning. Both are alumni of the VoteRunLead program and certified trainers.

After the day’s sessions,  #VoteRunLead will partner with Justice for Migrant Women to host a reception featuring a brief presentation to give attendees an opportunity to get involved further.

“More than 19 million women live in rural America. The perception is that rural America is white, but the reality is that rural America is comprised of individuals of many diverse backgrounds, including many Latina, Native and Black women. Despite this reality, very few women, especially women of color, have held positions of political power,” said Mónica Ramírez, the Founder and President of Justice for Migrant Women. “In addition, many of these women do not seek political appointments, resulting in an overall lack of civic participation of women in rural America. We are really excited to be partnering with #VoteRunLead to work on creating this first of its kind, multi-ethnic coalition and training program that focuses on building a network of informed, empowered and equipped women to lead in rural communities to help close some of the biggest gaps and contend with some of the most pressing problems facing rural Americans today.”

Getting more women from diverse backgrounds is key to making a real impact on having women’s voices at the table in politics, Vilardi said. The reception will be a place where women can begin the process.

“We have a tentative date right now… to hold a convention for the groups that want to come together to work on harnessing women of color and white women’s voting power… and to get those women running for elected office,” Vilardi said. “We’ll have concrete actions for folks to get connected to this coalition and figure out how we can really move the needle in the 2020 election and set some real foundations for a wave of women running for office.”

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