Women in Politics: Breaking Free

The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service held their annual Women in Politics event Thursday. The event is aimed at encouraging and empowering women to step up and out and join the political world.

This year’s event welcomed three panelists: Nina Barnes, Cedar City resident, former Cedar City councilwoman and current SUU adjunct professor, political activist and director of resource development for the non-profit Cherish Families, Shirlee Draper and Hildale mayoral candidate Donia Jessop, the first ever female candidate to run for an elected position in the Hildale/Colorado City community.

The topic of this year’s event, moderated by Leavitt Center Executive Council member Ayleen Perry, was Breaking Free. The panelists focused on their personal experience with in the political world as well as their activism for women and families.

Ms. Barnes has spent many years in Cedar City serving on numerous boards and committees to ensure that Cedar City of a great place for families, including heading the board that made Park Discovery possible.

Both Jessop and Draper work with Cherish Families, a nonprofit organization. They help women and children leaving fundamentalist communities such as Hildale and Colorado City with the challenges of entering mainstream society. Both Jessop and Draper grew up with a fundamentalist upbringing as members of the FLDS church but are no longer practicing the religion.

All three women said that their involvement in politics and activism came about rather organically; they saw a need for change and decided they were the ones to make it happen.

Balancing home life and their community involvement was a topic all three women spoke on. Ms. Draper stated that she didn’t believe that one person could balance all of those things and at times some things must take priority over others. She also mentioned that everybody is different and that her “balance” would look different than anybody else’s.

Ms. Jessop’s statement echoed that of Ms. Draper’s, saying that when they’re wives and mothers there is no balance. Their jobs are to put out the fire that is in front of them and then move on to the next.

Ms. Barnes added that she doesn’t believe her activity and involvement in the community harmed or put her family at a disadvantage. She felt that it was important that children and community members see all types of people in leadership and elected positions.

Ms. Jessop and Ms. Draper mentioned that one of their biggest priorities is to re-educate the people of the Hildale/Colorado City communities and remind them that they do have choices when it comes to their local government. Ms. Draper was passionate when she spoke about giving women the opportunities to get higher education, which she believes opens the door for limitless opportunities for them and their families.

Ms. Barnes was equally as passionate when she talked about increasing the diversity among elected officials and leadership roles in companies, non-profits and education. She gained support from the other panelists in saying that the diversity in the population should be repeated in the diversity among the leadership.

For more information on this event and others like it visit the Michael O. Leavitt Center located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.

Story By
Lily Shurtleff