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Ending the ‘Disconnect’

Radio Show Aims to Connect Women to Political Issues

Nancy Bauer, chief executive officer of WomenMatter, announced the findings of a study of the connection between women and the political process in America at a press conference on Thursday. Those findings, she said, possess a clear and troubling message:

“What we have seen from our research is that for women, there is a disturbing disconnect from the political process.”

To help bridge that gap, Bauer also announced the start-up of a new Internet talk-radio show, “WomenMatter: Facts & Trade-Offs.”

The show, which can be downloaded to an iPod from the organization’s Web site, features a topic from one of the current issues that WomenMatter will track on a weekly basis, Bauer said. The first is about health care, with the second covering security issues.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) lauded WomenMatter for its efforts in reaching out to women voters, and stated that she would be interested in appearing on the newly launched show. [IMGCAP(1)]

“I’ll get on the radio show and try not to be too partisan,” Jones said. “I want to try to engage women in the political process.”

The lack of engagement for women in the political process uncovered by the study is something Bauer attributed to the sound-bite nature of government, which she said reveals few of the details that women seek from politicians.

“The fact is, for millions of women — Republicans, Democrats and independents — the process of government is an abstraction,” Bauer said. “It is not relevant to their daily reality. Women just don’t see the political system as a tool to improve their lives.”

The study, conducted by WomenMatter in July and August 2004, included interviews of 84 women of varying backgrounds from five battleground states for the then-upcoming 2004 elections — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Arizona and Florida. Its purpose was to discover how large a role government and politics played in the daily lives of these women, Bauer said.

The study found that the women did not connect their personal lives to politics, Bauer said, and that the political process had no influence in their day-to-day activities.

And while women participated in the 2004 elections in large numbers, Bauer said they felt they weren’t properly informed about the messages that drove them to the polls.

It’s a shortcoming that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said stems partly from the structure of the everyday lives of women.

“All the things women juggle every day cause us to look at what needs to be done right now, what’s right in front of us,” Stabenow said. “We focus on results and getting things done.

“As policymakers, the challenge for us is to relate why women need to care about the political process.”

Describing that process as “an extension of what we want for our children,” Stabenow said that WomenMatter has helped focus women on this fact, and believed the continued efforts of the organization were a “tremendous contribution” to female voters.

Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Susan Turnbull also touted WomenMatter as an empowerment tool for women, saying that when women have the information they need, “they will know what to do.”

Turnbull, who spoke briefly about the DNC’s Take Five program — which encourages women voters around the country to take their female friends and neighbors to the polls to register — said there are similar plans in place for 2006.

“We’re trying to organize precincts across the country … We want to get women to take not five, but 25,” Turnbull said. “It’s a slow process, an educational process, but we know it will make a difference.”

Bauer, who described the new Internet radio show as “an additional tool to provide women with nonpartisan information,” said arming women — who make up 52 percent of the American population — with the proper political know-how will help change for the better the way the political process works.

“We welcome the women of this nation to come together to become informed, so they can help shape the agenda” and make politicians “compete for votes,” Bauer said.

Jones echoed the WomenMatter leader’s sentiments.

“We’re the majority, let’s start acting like it,” the fourth-term Representative said. “We’re the majority, let’s stand up and be heard.”