BY WILLIAM ROLLER
Coinciding with the second annual Women’s March in Washington, D.C., Imperial County women assembled in Tito Huerta Park on Jan. 20 to protect their rights, safety, health and families by affirming diverse communities are the strength of the country.
Several dozen women, joined by men and children, converged in Heber on the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inaugural to say all is not well with the state of the union. They took pride knowing tens of thousands were marching not only in the nation’s capital, but in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego and multiple other locales, noted Margaret Sauza, executive director of Sure Helpline Crisis Center and local march organizer.
“We’re taking a stand about all the ugly things happening in our nation,” said Sauza. “One of the things that hits my heart is those poor girls molested by that Dr. Nassar (ex-U.S. Olympics gymnastics team physician convicted of sexual assault). People say they asked for it. Nobody asks for it. Women must speak up. But show compassion in your daily life and demand accountability.”
Dolores Provencio, a Holtville women’s advocate, called on more women to run for public office as she had done with a lengthy political career as the elected Imperial County Clerk-Recorder.
“Use your power and your power is your vote,” said Provencio. “Your place is not in the home, it’s wherever your children and family are. You are strong women; make your voices heard.”
Holding a placard reading: “Run (for office) like a girl,” Juanita Salas, Imperial Irrigation District Division 1 director criticized the lack of female representation in regulatory and political assemblies. There are no women on the Board of Supervisors, and there has been none since 1981, she reminded the audience.
“If you’re not at the table of decision making, then you’re on the menu,” said Salas. “We need money for transportation, veterans’ affairs and the environment. These are not women’s issues, but everyone’s. Yet in Sacramento and Washington these issues are the lowest priority.”
Salas was elected to the IID board in June 2017 to complete the term of a director who resigned. She is running for a full term this year.
The last woman on the county board was Jeanne Vogel, who lost a reelection bid in 1990.
Imperial Valley advocate Maribel Padilla remarked this year’s march focused on women’s rights that are being repealed by the Trump Administration. Among other aspects, she highlighted the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, a critical women’s-healthcare resource for many Valley residents.
“We want to get people to the polls,” said Padilla. “We got to get the word out by November. We got to get Democrats back in and get the country back. They (Congressional leaders) are not just taking rights away from women but blacks, the homeless and everybody.”
The November election will include all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Democrats are seeking to overcome Republican majorities in both.
Also encouraging women political candidates was Sylvia Bernal, board member and board secretary of the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District in Calexico. She noted there are two seats on the Heffernan board open in this fall’s election.
“It’s a lot of issues and hard work but at the end of the rainbow, a lot of satisfaction,” said Bernal. “Urge young women to take a position. Get involved with public life. It is very rewarding.”
Championing the women was Brawley resident Mario Aguirre.
“Today I’m supporting my mother, sisters, grandmother and my community for equality and what I believe in,” said Aguirre. “I believe there needs to be action and change, and I’m here in support.”