Joining a public board or commission can be the first step in running for office and it’s easier than you may think. For this month’s Q&A, IGNITE paired up two young women who currently hold positions.
IGNITE Alumna Saira Guzman is a Commissioner on Hayward’s Community Services Commission where she advises the City Council on the most effective means of allocating available resources for community services. Guzman first joined IGNITE in 2013 and was pivotal in launching San Francisco State University College Chapter. She went on to join IGNITE’s College Council Advisory Board and is now helping design the alumni program.
Karla Raiz-Anaya, a senior at Mt. Eden HIgh School and IGNITE’s California High School Intern for Fall 2017, is in her second term on the Hayward Youth Commision, which advises the Mayor and City Council, and the elected boards of the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District and Hayward Unified School District about issues that affect young people in the Hayward community.
Q&A with Saira and Karla
KARLA RAIZ-ANAYA: At any moment have you felt a barrier in being a woman in your political position? And how did you overcome those obstacles?
SAIRA GUZMA: Being a young Latina woman and the first in my family to hold a very important leadership role is a major transition for me and I’m gradually learning how to adapt to this. I’ve been behind the scenes before in politics (campaigning, volunteering etc) and so now that I’m front row center, I’m learning what “sitting at the table” is like and I have to remind myself that I too have a voice, I too love my community, and I can work and do anything my mind and heart is set on.
KARLA: What ignited your drive to want to become appointed?
SAIRA: I'd say being part of IGNITE had to do a lot of why I wanted to seek a seat in the Community Services Commission. I learned that women are underrepresented in politics and this made me realize that we needed to change this, which is why I became interested in becoming a Commissioner and give back to my community. IGNITE has helped me develop my political leadership skills, and even helped build a network of women that supports our work, ambition and passion. Through social media, I get to see the advocacy work of other IGNITE members, and in turn, this makes me inspired to continue to pursue my goals and dreams.
KARLA: What role did networking help you get to where you are today?
SAIRA: Networking played a big role in my life. It opened the door to an array of opportunities. For example, through IGNITE, I met a lot of inspiring women of color who shared their stories of how they broke the glass ceiling to get where they are today and these women at one point of their life also faced similar obstacles and barriers just like me and this helped me realized that I too have the power to be who I want to be, and shoot for the stars and continue to evolve. It inspired me to continue moving forward no matter what life challenges I face.
There’s a saying that comes to mind with this question and it is, “surround yourself with women who will lift you higher” and no doubt has IGNITE promoted and advocated for women empowerment.
KARLA: What does it mean to you to be able to serve your community?
SAIRA: I love volunteering whenever I have the opportunity, but due to recent overwhelming events, I had to take a step back and take care of myself because compassion fatigue was too real. Self-care was much needed. I will make a stronger come back!
KARLA: What are some general recommendations for women who want to become appointed or even become a political leader?
SAIRA: I recommend that women get involved in their communities; go out and volunteer, meet and get to know your local elected officials, intern for a political leader you find inspiring because you will gain valuable experience; attend City Council meetings to learn what policies/work they are working on, volunteer on campaigns to get the first-hand experience what it is to run for office p.s. this is no easy work.
KARLA: What type of impact and message would you have for young girls that would have never thought of politics before as a career?
SAIRA: Women are underrepresented in politics. Politics is dominated by men who are the ones holding the majority of power to make laws and policies that will ultimately benefit or hurt us - keep this in mind. We need young women to step up and break this cycle of men dominating the political field; we need our voices to be heard. I never thought of politics before as a career, but I’ve learned over the years that politics places a major role in our society; just look at our History. Laws and policies have been formed in such way, that those at the top benefit, while women and minorities have and are continued to be placed at a great disadvantaged --- our current Presidential administration is an example of this.
In short, take a look at our History and who was in power then. It will tell you a lot of how our society has been shaped, and it falls back to politics. Find out what you’re passionate about, get involved, stay engaged, and be the change. Help your community thrive.
KARLA: Thank you, Saira, for your candor in answering my questions!
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