Oakland IGNITE program aims to get young women to run for public office

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- This upcoming election is historic, with Hillary Clinton as the first ever female nominee of a major political party.

But it's not just at the top where there are few female lawmakers, it's across the board.

RELATED: California Voter's Edge Election Guide

ABC7 News spoke with some local women who are trying to change that.

Juli Adhikari is for the most part a pretty typical student at UC Berkeley.

She's smart and is in a law fraternity, the junior has plenty of friends and even a twin sister. But, it's her political ambitions that make her unique.

"Hi my name is Juli and I currently serve on the commission for the status of women for the city of Berkeley," she said.

She's often at city hall where she was appointed onto a commission by elected official councilwoman Lori Droste.

The two got connected through a program called IGNITE. "What I look for is just, passion, passion and interest in politics and you'll learn everything else," Droste said.

Everything else is where IGNITE National comes in.

Anne Moses founded the non-partisan program for high school and college women in Oakland six years ago. "The reason why we were having such a problem nationally getting women to run is that we weren't reaching them young enough," IGNITE founder Anne Moses said.

Reaching young women like Adhikari is the goal.

IGNITE is now on more than 60 college campuses. "Our goal is to get these young women to get themselves as the next generation of political leaders, to train them to get there," Moses said.

But IGNITE hopes that's changing with a recent strong woman movement and possibility the country will elect its first ever female president.

Although, they say equality of women and men in public office won't happen overnight. "We still have 140,000 offices in the United States that need to be filled by women to get to parity and I think it would be nave to think that one woman at the top of the ticket, that even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, that she's going to inspire parity quickly," Moses said.

Instead, IGNITE believes inspiration will come from a cultural shift. In a political advertisement a young girl stands behind a podium saying: "When I grow up I want to be president, but by 13 I wont anymore because no one will tell me that I can do this."

IGNITE recently launched a social media campaign that's gone viral, encouraging girls to declare your ambition.

So, we may see more young women like Adhikari. "Yes, I really think I would consider holding public office," Adhikari said.

You can't vote for her right now, but take notes because she may be on your local ballot soon.

IGNITE claims women lawmakers on both sides of the aisle create legislation beneficial to women's rights.

Click here if you know a young girl who has an interest in public office.

Click here to fill out an application to become an IGNITE student.

For full coverage on the presidential election, click here.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.