Women’s participation in civic duty is discussed on campus


Guest speaker, Helena Youssef, at the Women, Work and Civic Duty presentation organized by the Women and Gender Studies Department Chair Ana Torres-Bower and Mariam Youssef, adjunct professor. Helena Youssef explains the importance of knowledge, respect and understanding to be successful in achieving political goals. Photo credit: Carmelita Islas Mendez

Carmelita Islas Mendez

The women and gender studies department organized a presentation to advocate for women’s participation in civic duties.

Helena Youssef, guest speaker at the presentation, was invited by Professor Ana Torres-Bower, chair of the women and gender studies department and professor Mariam Youssef, adjunct professor.

Youssef is a clinical social worker who has worked with policy makers to create laws that better serve people in need, such as people who face homelessness, alcohol or drug addictions or mental illnesses.

Youssef explained that being the daughter of immigrants who left their home country to pursue a “better life” encouraged her to become involved in improving the lives of others as a clinical social worker and policy maker.

“I remember my mom saying ‘We left Egypt so that you do not have to [be exposed to violence]’, but I really wanted to [volunteer at a women’s shelter],” said Youssef of her initial experiences with wanting to help others.

She explained that she became increasingly political at the time of the Bush administration and vigorously began to pursue her congressmen and legislators calling to demand explanations and changes.

“You know what I realized? They are paid to hear me bitch,” said Youssef.

Youssef said that she did not know that she was lobbying, but only knew that she “was very angry.”

Later she realized that to effect change, she wanted to attend public policy school.

“I needed to go to a policy school to teach me to be the best possible debater I can be,” said Youssef when she recognized that one had to understand the opposing view to bring about changes she wanted.

“I saw a lot of young people wanting to be involved and actually enact change through our political system,” Youssef said about her motivation to organize the presentation.

Youssef invited her sister-in-law, Helena Youssef, because she considers her to be highly experienced as a past policy maker and social worker.

“Anyone who knows Helena will say that it is not an exaggeration to say that she is not a woman, she is a powerhouse. Helena knows more about politics than any other person on the planet,” Youssef said.

Lorena Campos, political science major, attended the presentation to hear about how she could become more involved as a political actor and to understand more about political processes.

“As a woman I loved her character and how she is not afraid to speak up and voice her opinion and take action,” said Campos who heard of the presentation from a political science professor.

Helena Youssef concluded by saying that the key to being politically active today was “learning to work with people,” to be respectful and understand that opposing views are “not coming from an evil place.”