Fri., Mar. 18, 2011 4:30 AM EDT
Women who influence legislation and political processes need to be applauded. Women who brave the high stakes of running for a public office deserve even higher accolades. There’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia; President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as president; and locally we have a host of women who are advocating women’s rights. Each of these women deserves a standing ovation.
There are women who are making a difference who don’t necessarily hold a public office. We volunteer our time and talent for causes and issues that we strongly support.
There’s one public service organization that’s making a huge difference in the legislative process, and that’s Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (DST), the public service organization founded on Howard University’s campus by 22 collegiate women. Its members have been standing up for the rights of women and those without a voice for the past 98 years.
Here are five reasons lawmakers can’t ignore the dedication and perseverance of the organization that is 200,000 members strong.
- Six weeks after the sorority was founded on January 13, 1913, the 22 founders of DST marched with activist and honorary member Mary Church Terrell in the March 1913 Women Suffrage March in Washington, D.C., protesting the disenfranchisement of women.
- In 1989, the sorority’s National Social Action Commission instituted Delta Days at the Nation’s Capital, which is an annual legislative conference to increase its members’ involvement in the legislative process. To further increase visibility of members on a local level, alumnae and collegiate chapters host Delta Days in their respective states and present lawmakers with Delta’s perspective.
- In March 2003, DST was granted Special Consultative Status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) by United Nations administrator Hanifa Mezoui for their global humanitarian and volunteer efforts. Delta Days at the United Nations is held annually and representatives of the sorority attend regular briefings to collect information on issues about women and children for dissemination to its members to take action.
- DST is the largest African American sorority with 950-plus alumnae and collegiate chapters located in the United States, England, Japan, Germany, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti and Jamaica.
- DST is committed to voting rights and continues to advocate:
- The reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
- The repeal of voter disenfranchisement laws.
- The full restoration of voting rights for individuals who have paid their debt to society.
- The full implementation of the Help America Vote Act.