In 2016, a year when the United States saw the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, the number of women in Alabama participating in local and state politics continues to lag behind other areas of the country.
According to the Centers for American Women and Politics, Alabama ranks 46th when it comes to female participation in the state legislature. Only four women occupy Alabama’s 35 Senate seats, and only 16 women hold seats in the state’s 105 House districts.
In total, women comprise just 14 percent of Alabama’s elected representation despite making up more than 50 percent of its total population.“I was looking at a picture of the state senate recently, and of its 35 members, we have four women,” Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood said. “I know in our legislative delegation we have Rep. Adline Clarke and Barbara Drummond, but we still feel that women have not made the kind of impact in government nationally they should have based on the number of us in the population.”
Next month, the commission is hosting an event aimed at exposing more young women to the ins and outs of the U.S. political system as well as more local political bodies.
The Girls in Politics Initiative’s “Camp Congress” will be hosted by the commission Nov. 21 at Mobile Marriott Hotel. Open to young women, ages 15-18, the event is said to “introduce girls to politics through a series of girl-friendly lessons” that allow students to mount their own campaign for office and convene and vote in a mock session of Congress.
Camp Congress participants will also have the chance to meet a number of local elected officials and political consultants who will be serving as honorary counselors during the one-day event.
“The whole idea of Camp Congress is to help young women who may be interested in politics to understand more about the process,” Ludgood said. “I think with this particular presidential campaign season and (Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton), they certainly see the possibilities, just as they saw with Sarah Palin’s campaign for vice president in 2008.”
Even though Ludgood said “more and more role models” for young women with an interest in politics are making a name for themselves in today’s political landscape, she also said there “still aren’t nearly enough.”
According to Ludgood, that can be especially true when it comes to the representation of females in local politics.
With a female majority, Ludgood said the Mobile County Commission is a bit of an anomaly in the area — compared to a school board that has no female representation and the Mobile City Council, which only has two elected female members.
Ludgood said she’s hopeful that by shedding some light on the everyday process of local politics, Camp Congress might “fuel the interest” girls already have and possibly encourage more young women to get involved in the decisions that are made at the local and state level.
“I’m one who believes that all politics is local, and some of the most important representation we can provide is at the local level,” Ludgood said. “Seeing how it works from the inside can really show them how local politics can affect their livelihood and their families because all those decisions are based in politics, whether we like it or not.”
Ludgood said Women in Politics initiatives like Camp Congress give young women an opportunity to get involved in the U.S. political system and “perhaps even see themselves as players” in that system later in life.
Camp Congress is open to girls ages 15 to 18 who live in Mobile County. Applications, as well as additional information, are available online at mobilecountyal.gov.
All applications must be accompanied by a 300-word, typewritten essay, and class size will be limited. The deadline to submit an application is Nov 7.