International Women’s Day, and Anaheim’s Civic Leaders


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Anna Drive activist Yesenia Rojas in center with torch; picture courtesy of LA Times Spanish edition.

The International Women’s Day (yesterday) did not get much attention in our local circles.  Recognizing and celebrating women’s roles and issues, especially only one day of the year, could be considered patronizing.  However, taking into account the history of women’s struggle for equality in our predominantly male run societies, it is a valid day to note.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says “…International Women’s Day represents a movement that is for every woman and girl, no matter where they live.  This year, Malala Yousafzai (the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban) became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history by risking her life for the cause of universal girls’ education.”

Adverse conditions affecting women remain in many places of the world.  Sex exploitation and trafficking, poverty and violence, lack of education, gender discrimination, are some of the manifestations.  The recent re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAMA) addresses aspects of the problem here in the USA.

Advances have also been made, and women are participating in all levels of society.  In Anaheim, three out of the five council members are women.  It is said that women can better avoid or manage conflict, and establish a more agreeable environment.  This rule of thumb has failed so far in our city.  The civility in conducting our affairs continues to deteriorate, as other factors such as economic interests prevail after all.

Some of our prominent and courageous civic leaders are women.  Their care and passion for our city is unique and exemplary.  One of them represents the compassionate and inclusive brand of conservatives, who takes on the corporate power better than some liberals.  She is the well-known city historian Cynthia Ward.  Her insightful and hard-hitting pieces have been posted in this blog.

Another less well known lady in the City Hall corridors, but well known in latino neighborhoods is Yesenia Rojas from Anna Drive.  The Spanish edition of the LA Times featured this article on her:

Yesenia Rojas, vibrant purple in her shawl, sang in a voice so powerful that it rose above the rest of the procession as they walked down the wet Anaheim sidewalk.

The wave of protesters demanding change has passed, but Rojas has continued their struggle. The 35-year-old mother of six, with a small body belying her huge willpower, has become the voice of Anna Drive.

Anna Drive is a set of modest apartment complexes near a busy highway. On any given day, it vibrates with life: children are sliding down the sidewalk on scooters and skateboards, boys wrestle while their mothers and fathers and watch everything from folding chairs on their porches,

 She’s very charismatic, very dynamic,” says former assemblyman Jose Solorio.  “And she helps mobilize a commitment to family and community.”

more here…. http://hoylosangeles.com/news/2013/jan/25/hispana-de-anaheim-exige-respeto-para-su-vecindari/?page=3

Yesenia Rojas represents the new type of leaders emerging from neighborhoods long neglected and unrepresented . Hopefully soon we will have  these type of leaders elected to office, bringing a much needed change in our city.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/08/opinion/gates-international-womens-day/

http://hoylosangeles.com/news/2013/jan/25/hispana-de-anaheim-exige-respeto-para-su-vecindari/?page=3


About Ricardo Toro

Chilean native and Anaheim resident for several decades.