Last Thursday afternoon, the Women's Legislative Caucus was joined by constituents, community organizers, military representatives, and a special guest to announce its legislative package for the session. This year's legislation is dedicated to women veterans and a disabled female veteran, Chelsea Ann K. E. Fernandez, attended the press conference, where she was recognized for her service.
|Chelsea Ann K. E. Fernandez|
Supporting women veterans begins with ensuring women can serve our nation proudly, in an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, but it does not stop there. Female veterans need help transitioning into the civilian workforce when they return home, medical coverage for service-related injuries, and to be made aware of what benefits are available.
In addition to championing female veterans, this year's package proposes legislation dealing with issues that affect all women in Hawai'i. While we may be ahead of the rest of the nation when it comes to women's rights, we are certainly not where we need to be. Women represent 34% of our legislature, which is well above the national average of 23%, but still falls woefully short of reflecting the fact that half of our population is female.
Rep. Marilyn Lee served as the master of ceremonies, with Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Linda Ichiyama, and Rep. Cynthia Thielen sharing personal stories and explaining the proposed legislation. The comprehensive legislative package, which includes bills ranging from funding for cervical and breast cancer screenings to prohibiting medical personnel from performing a pelvic examination on an anesthetized or unconscious patient (yes, it's currently allowed), can be viewed in its entirety at the Capitol website.
As progressive as the state may be when it comes to women's rights, the war is far from over. The Women's Caucus press conference allowed us to look at how far we have come, yet still make us aware of how much work is left to be done in the name of equality for all of the people of Hawai'i, regardless of gender.