Sarah Davies, former World YWCA Staff (2007-2009) in Geneva, Switzerland, works as the Strategic Development Manager for the YWCA of Aotearoa New Zealand. Sarah is currently seeking selection for the Northland National Party seat in her country.
By: Sarah Davies
Anybody who believes in something without reservation believes that this thing is right and should be; has the stamina to meet the obstacles and overcome them – Golda Meir
As a little girl, I remember dreaming of doing something different with my life. As much as I enjoyed dress ups and tea
parties with my fellow six year old friends, I could feel a fire in the belly even back then to aim for a position where I could make a contribution to society.
And now I find myself, aged 29, seeking selection for public office in New Zealand. The most common questions I am asked are, “Are you crazy”? which is actually cover up for “ I don’t think you can do it” and “ Do you think now is the right time”?… also cover up for “ I don’t think you can do it.” Yet it is those comment that push you along more determined, more focussed and more passionate about understanding and influencing the issues of the day.
I have been asked to reflect on what I have learnt on the journey so far and share some advice with other young women that may be running for public office.
Believe in yourself otherwise no one else will..(other than your Mum) Yes. It’s an oldie but a goodie and never a truer word spoken. If you don’t believe that you can represent other peoples interests with knowledge and integrity, don’t expect others to support or vote for you.
Work hard. At the end of the very long working day, being voted into public office will boil down to whether you did the research and know the issues. This means every day is a working day and every second counts. Remain focused and plan your time. The truth is that the human body and mind can be pushed even further than it was the day before.
Talk to anyone – and everyone – who can help you with your cause. This means reaching out to people who understand what is going on in your community. Most people are very willing to talk to you and share what they know. Remember that everybody has bits and bobs of information that you don’t – find out as much as you can and help it formulate your position on the issues.
Understand there are going to be low days. There are people who will be very quick to write you off and say nasty and discouraging remarks about you. Don’t react to it. It says more about them than you. Make you have a good support team around you. Maybe someone you can call at the end of the day to chat with or drive with you to various places. You don’t have to do this alone even though there are days it feels that way.
You will find support in the strangest places. One of the most exciting and refreshing aspects of the process so far is when I meet people who I thought would not support me, but do. You will be surprised. There are a lot of older people who are very receptive to younger people running for public office. There are a lot of men equally supportive of women running for leadership positions. If you don’t stereotype and alienate people they won’t stereotype and alienate you. (Except for the few narrow-minded people amongst us)
Don’t lose yourself and your point of difference. It’s ok to be yourself. Really. Don’t stress if you don’t fit the traditional stereotypes of a certain political party or you don’t conform to what people think you should be. Use what you have.
Our choices are unlimited on how we can make a difference in the world around us. As I head into 2011, I know I am seeking selection for a very competitive seat in a tough electorate. I am under no illusion as to what a challenge it is, but I am also under no illusion that this is what I want to do. As young women of the world, me must believe and demonstrate that we can lead change. Good Luck to you all.