Seattle Foundation Blog

Women's History Month

Leaders reflect on Women’s History Month and the advancement of gender equity


March 30, 2018

By Alice Ito, Director of Community Programs and Michele Frix, Chief of Staff

Since 1987, March has been known as Women’s History Month in the United States, with March 8 recognized as International Women’s Day. These dates provide an important opportunity to recognize the amazing contributions women have made in our country and around the world.

As we reflected on this month, we were compelled to learn more about what it actually means to women leaders across the Seattle community. We asked eight accomplished and committed leaders working in nonprofits across Seattle Foundation’s Healthy Community Framework, to share their thoughts.

We offer these words of inspiration from Seattle-area leaders working tirelessly to fight for gender equity– from from honoring and serving Native women in need, to rebuilding schools for girls in Afghanistan, to elevating feminist leaders protecting our environment.

Basic Needs

Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director Chief Seattle Club

“I see International Women’s Day as an opportunity to sing the praises of beautiful indigenous women who work every day to ensure the wellbeing of their community. I am inspired to think of my grandmothers who taught me how to sustain joy and love despite painful situations around me. I recognize the women who have gone ahead of me and who experienced tremendous suffering. I sing their praises and with each note, I hear them singing back to me to keep going, to fight harder, work more effectively, strategize more deeply and to SING LOUDER. The women who I work for deserve this and it’s their names that I sing and  their stories and songs that sustain me.”

The Chief Seattle Club supports Native women who are experiencing homelessness, providing “sacred space,” and a place of security, comfort and home. Our center in Pioneer Square offers food, medical support, housing assistance, a legal clinic, art program and much more. 

Arts & Culture

Nancy Ward, Executive Director of Reel Grrls

"International Women’s Day means that we have a lot of work to do before womxn can live in a world that values our contributions every day, not just one day of the month. For those that are not at the forefront of gender equity work, it is important to recognize the contributions of womxn in history and our society during Women’s History Month because it reminds us that many people still don’t fully understand and value womxn year-round… As we celebrate this month, I would like to challenge more people to share stories of all womxn, especially stories that have not been heard."

Reel Grrls supports young people to explore, critique and create media through a feminist lens. We provide programs that prepare young people for the modern media-saturated world through career training tracks in filmmaking, web and social media and immersive technology.

Global Giving

Mahsheed Mahjor, Fellow with Sahar

“It is extremely important to recognize the contributions of women during Women’s History Month because it is crucial to remember how women have attained their current achievements. And as we move toward a more equitable world, it is a reminder that change does not happen within our comfort zones. It is essential to live our boldest selves every day and use our privileges to advocate for the voiceless. Additionally, this month emphasizes that we should remember to keep our feminism intersectional at all times."

Sahar works to close gaps and increase Afghan girls' access to education in their worn-torn country. Since the removal of the Taliban, millions of children have entered the school system, many for the first time. Girls are still substantially underrepresented among the students flooding the Afghanistan education system. 

Environment

Aiko Schaefer, Director of Front & Centered

“Through the work of Front & Centered to bring together communities of color from across Washington state for environmental justice, we share a connection with Mother Earth, the feminine embodiment of nature, nurture, sustainability, abundance and unconditional love. As a woman, and a mother, this is an important moment to fight for her and to elevate feminist leaders who fought and are fighting to protect her. We are here and around the world, although far too often overlooked and overshadowed. This month go find out who these women are!”

Front & Centered engages communities of color to bring their lived experiences, expertise and knowledge to environmental solutions and justice. It is committed to building women/girls/non-conforming individuals into leading the movement.

Education

Lupita Torrez, Executive Director of Para Los Niños

“[This is] a time to intentionally reflect and to be grateful for the sacrifices that thousands of women around the world have made to advance gender equity and many other areas in society. It is a time to be thankful for the privileges we enjoy today that many of them did not… It is important to spotlight contributions by women in economics, politics, science, education and the arts, and to empower young girls to find role models in the many women who have made the world a better place. Young girls need to see that by taking action, they can make a difference in their field of choice.”

Para Los Niños organizes Latino families to transform communities and create academic and life success for every Latino student. We recognize the specific challenges girls and women face in these times and tailor programs to support them in a holistic way.

Economic Opportunity

Nicole Buchanan, Executive Director of Ada Developers Academy

“…My belief is that every day should be a celebration of women. We are an incredible force in our communities, countries, families and industries. We are visionaries, scientists, astronauts and inventors ... I hope that every year this day sparks a fierce dedication for us to do more to honor and support each other as women. I hope we recognize the sacrifices other women have made to make this a better environment for us. It’s also a great opportunity to promote the joy, activism and paradigm shift necessary for women to experience equality and fair treatment. Everyone can commit themselves to change, whether it’s a corporation shifting hiring practices or an individual ensuring inclusive behaviors. In my perfect world, Women’s History Month would inspire everyone toward action — big and small. I hope we hold on to this powerful spirit and carry it for the rest of the year."

Ada Developers Academy works to open the tech sector to diverse candidates who have not historically had access to traditional technical education and hiring. We provide women and gender-diverse people the skills, experience, and community support to become professional software developers who contribute to changing the world with software

Health & Wellness

Dila Perera, Executive Director of Open Arms

“International Women’s Day reminds us of what binds us together all around the world. Many countries mark the occasion with a national holiday. We are all here because of the women who birthed us and nurtured us … Women are often so engaged in being the rock of their families and their communities, that there isn’t often time to celebrate the enormity of what they do every day. Their work is undervalued and underpaid. This is especially true when it comes to motherhood and parenting. When you celebrate women’s history, you are celebrating centuries and generations of unsung heroes.”

Open Arms Perinatal services supports women and pregnant people during the critical period of pregnancy, birth and early parenting, some of the most pivotal and defining periods of a woman’s life. We provide services at no cost to families, all of whom are low-income, and a majority people of color.

Vibrant Communities

Jamie-Rose Edwards, Co-Director of Young Women Empowered (Y-WE)

“At Y-WE, every day is International Women’s Day, and every month is Women’s History month. Women make up more than half the population, and have made incredible contributions to our history and our present. Because Y-WE focuses on supporting women who are often at the margins of our society -- women of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA people, etc., we believe it’s especially important to highlight the stories of women who are forgotten, silenced or marginalized. Women’s leadership has been systematically erased, devalued and diminished in our history and public conversations. And yet, virtually every major, world-changing movement was led by strong, powerful women of color… Our newest video highlights six diverse young women in the Northwest who are determined to utilize their power to dream big and change our world for the better.”

About Y-WE: Y-WE empowers girls, young women, and gender non-conforming youth from diverse backgrounds to step up as leaders in their schools, communities and the world. We offer 12 programs in the greater Seattle region—including school-year programs, summer camps and educational events.



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