Want Change? You Have to Do It Yourself.

Want Change? You Have to Do It Yourself.

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“This whole policy thing is very new to me. I have an organizing background. I know how to talk to people, listen to their stories and make them understand that they’re leaders. I know how to help people see the power that they have within themselves."

Olivia Guevara is taking her city’s public policy into her own hands. Photo: Tree Mortality via photopin (license)

After attending city council meetings in Corona, Riverside County and feeling underrepresented, Olivia Guevara decided to apply to our Women’s Policy Institute-Riverside fellowship. She decided to support her community by getting involved in policymaking, implementation and advocacy.

How did you get to where you are today?

I am here because of my parents, who were heavily involved in the labor movement. It’s an understatement to say that I have a long history of involvement with labor organizing: Some of my very first memories are of picket lines.

Early on, my mother, who worked in the public school system, and my father, who still works in the hotel industry, exposed me to what was right and what was wrong and taught me that I must fight for change. I was the first in my family to go to college and now I’m working towards my master’s degree. I am an organizer: I work for UNAC, the United Nurses Association of California.

Why did you join the Women’s Policy Institute?

The city of Corona, where I live, is very conservative. I attended a couple of our City Council meetings and realized that the councilmembers hold all the power but they don’t reflect the community of Corona. I think that’s terribly unfair. And because I’m a firm believer that if you want to see change, you’ve got to do it yourself, I stepped up and am doing something.

What I need are the tools. If you teach a woman how to fish, she won’t be hungry anymore, right?

I joined the Women’s Policy Institute because it will give me the tools and the network that I need. We’re 20 women and we’re all trying to do the same thing and it’s incredible that we’re all trying to do this work in the same county. We’re in this together and we have each other’s backs. It’s incredible.

What issues are you most passionate about?

I’m most passionate about accessible and affordable housing, especially for single mothers. Oftentimes when women divorce, they’re left with the bad end of the deal. And if they are stay-at-home moms, it’s really difficult to start over. They might not have the right credit score. They might have been victims of domestic violence and might not know where to go to find an affordable and safe home.

Why is knowledge of public policy important for women?

We have so many policies in place that are supposed to be helping women, but they’re not. Why? Because they’re deemed too expensive or too difficult to implement at the city or county level. That’s not fair and we women have to do something about. Women are and should be a priority. We have to hold our policymakers accountable.

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