In New Orleans recent primary election, two highly qualified women conquered a large field of candidates to make the runoff in the 2017 mayoral race.

No matter what the outcome, for the first time in three centuries New Orleans will have a female mayor. It is a step forward but not the end of centuries-long struggles to achieve gender equality. As a community we have moved forward but not beyond the dark shadow of past and present discrimination. The defining emblems of gender inequity persist in low educational attainment, limited access to health care and education, glaring wage differentials and a shameful record of gender-based violence, all of which combine to draw a significant part of the female half of the city’s population in a downward spiral of poverty.

The mayoral debates between Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and Judge Desiree Charbonnet could be a galvanizing force for substantive change in the lives of women. The root causes of hot-button issues such as reproductive rights, sexual harassment and minimum wage are cultural, social and economic, but they are inextricably connected to politics. It is essential that women, particularly the disenfranchised, have a voice in society and an opportunity to participate in public debates about reproductive health, domestic violence and the wage gap.

On behalf of Nola4Women, we believe the two mayoral candidates could take an important step by devoting a large part of the debate series to public discussion of the most egregious problems women face today and the rules and policy questions they believe could best fix those problems. In the process of educating one another, our community could forge a new commitment to advance long-term substantive changes to improve the lives of women and children and make our community a better place for everyone.

Sylvia Frey

Kathy Seligman

NOLA4Women

New Orleans