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HALE: Championing the ‘little things’ matters, too

January 14, 2017

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Not many people in politics make time for the little things. Things that won’t get you re-elected or retweeted. Things you wouldn’t normally think about unless some insightful, empathetic person points them out to you.

As our Indiana General Assembly prepares for this long session, there’s a story that won’t get much attention, but it features some real champions—champions of the little things that go unnoticed but might make a big difference in the lives of young women around our state.

Particularly during these fractious times, a time when many women have expressed feelings of disenfranchisement with politics and their political parties, paying attention to an issue raised by a young, female high school student takes on special significance. Showing that young women count, that their issues matter, too, sends a powerful message they need to hear right now.

Not long ago, just such a person reached out to me. It was one of those little things.

Allison had done her research and knew I might be interested in her idea. Determined and with a professional demeanor beyond her years, she arranged to meet me for coffee to discuss her idea.

She was concerned because there was no feminine hygiene product dispenser in any of the bathrooms at her school. She described the embarrassing situation of young women in sudden need having the excruciating experience of walking from the restroom to the school office to get the appropriate supplies.

This can be humiliating at any age, but certainly for a high school student trying to maintain her cool, it is nothing short of awful.

Allison was fired up to get something done, not for herself but for the thousands of girls around the state who could find themselves in just such a situation.

She wants to ensure that Indiana high schools provide a feminine hygiene product dispenser in at least one of their restrooms accessible to students. She wasn’t asking for free products but merely the opportunity to buy them where and when they are truly needed.

A simple idea, but one that offers an immediate, positive result for girls around the state.

In my lifetime, I have had the very good fortune to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Listening to others with an open mind and an attitude to drive positive change has served me well over the years, but as I was no longer a member of the General Assembly, I was not well positioned to help her myself.

Still, I did know whom to call: a champion of little and big things, Rep. Cindy Ziemke of Batesville.

Ziemke is honest and a plain-spoken, hard worker. She and I are not members of the same party, and her first instinct was to get more women involved from the other side of the aisle. Soon, she invited Reps. Terri Austin and Linda Lawson to join her.

They have some creative ideas regarding how to get this done without having to bog down government. They are also willing to set party aside to get something practical accomplished for girls in Indiana.

This is leadership on a personal but human scale.

As these women prepare to get to work on the bigger issues we will hear about in the coming months, they serve as an inspiration that this time, the little guy (or in this case, girl) won’t be ignored, and the little-but-important ideas might get worked on as well. And that is a big deal.•

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