“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”– Dolly Parton
This month we are featuring womxn working towards purpose in their own way. We have compiled a group of women that we have not only ‘rubbed shoulders’ with, but are also diligently working to create change in their various fields. We posed a simple question and wanted to hear their various perspectives.
Women have played a significant role in driving social change and making a positive impact on our communities through (insert your field of work). As a female identifying nonprofit leader, can you share a project or initiative that you or your organization has undertaken to empower women and the impact it has had?
Co-CEO, Essential Access Health
Like many who work in mission-driven spaces, my lived experience has led me to where I am and the work I do. Envisioning and helping to create a future where everyone is free to make personal decisions about their health and families, and can access the essential health care they want and need—with dignity and respect—is not only a professional journey, it’s personal commitment and my life’s purpose.
From an early age, I understood the fundamental impact that our reproductive health and reproductive choices—or lack thereof—have on our health, economic security and overall well-being.
My paternal grandparents immigrated from China to New York City. As immigrants with lower-incomes and being of reproductive age from the 1940s-1960s, their health care options were limited. Without access to contraception, my grandmother had 12 children. My maternal grandparents were unable to have children on their own, and adopted my mother, their only child. Fast forward to a generation later, when I was in college, I had the ability to make a personal decision about my reproductive health that allowed me to continue my education and sparked my career path. My family and personal herstory deeply inspired me to dedicate my career to helping to make sure that the decision to become and continue a pregnancy, and if and when to have children is an actual choice, that every individual is free to make.
Today I am proud to serve as Co-CEO at Essential Access Health (Essential Access). Our work is centered on advancing health and reproductive equity for all and supporting equitable and affordable access to high quality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.The federal Title X family planning program was established by Congress in 1970 to provide a pathway for patients with low-incomes to access contraceptive care. Although this was a tremendous step forward, many remained without access to affordable birth control and contraceptive choice due to systemic and structural barriers and racist policies. For more than fifty years, as an original Title X program grantee, Essential Access has helped expand access to sexual and reproductive health services and information for millions of patients – and in turn, improve individual and community health, and increase educational, career, and economic opportunities for people who can get pregnant—regardless of race, gender, income, zip code, insurance coverage or documentation status.
In a post-Roe landscape, Essential Access is also working with a broad range of partners and stakeholders to advance public policies and administer newly established state-funded grant programs to make the right to abortion a reality for anyone seeking abortion care in California.
We believe that sexual and reproductive health play a critical role in individual and community health. Reproductive rights and justice is intricately connected to gender, racial, LGBTQ+, and economic justice. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Executive Director, Action Council & Building Healthy Communities Monterey County
Action Council/Building Healthy Communities is an organization that is proudly womxn-led.
Many organizing efforts within the organization have a strong base of womxn leaders that are addressing issues within education, neighborhoods, health and racial justice.
Our organization is supporting leadership pathways for residents to increase their capacity to use their voice and power on issues that affect their lives.
Director of Donor Relations, Habitat For Humanity of Washington, D.C. & Virginia
I’ve been lucky enough in my career to work with many wonderful women leaders in the non-profit field. I’ve been inspired by their passion and commitment to creating more equitable communities by ensuring people have access to basic needs like food and housing while looking at how to make the process dignified and empowering for those we serve.
We host an event called Women Build at Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. & Northern Virginia. The goal of Women Build is to bring together women and gender non-conforming folks together to fundraise, build, and network. Women Build provides a way to make building on a construction site more inclusive and welcoming. While we work to create this environment every day on our sites, Women Build may attract someone nervous about coming on site because of preconceptions. After our teams have their build day, they are often ready to take on their projects at home and keep volunteering.
We also have many women homeowners, and we want to ensure they feel empowered to feel comfortable managing their homes once they purchase them. We are currently building a single-family home for a woman and her family, and she is so excited about the stability that this home can provide and the growth for future generations. Having our current and future women homeowners at Women Build inspires them with all the wonderful volunteers and staff who are behind them as they start their journey. At Habitat DC-NOVA, we are lucky enough to have two amazing women on our construction team who are both leaders in their areas of expertise. We also have a lot of amazing women crew leaders and volunteers who join us in ensuring more families in our communities have equitable access to affordable homeownership.
Nakeyshia Kendall Williams
Founder & CEO, MindCatcher
MindCatcher envisions a world where all young people are designers of their own future and all educators are equipped to support youth in their journey. Our mission is to disrupt the cycle of hopelessness in learning spaces by fostering the social-emotional growth and decision-making power of educators and youth of color. Because the education sector is mostly women, our work often centers this group and seeks to bolster their leadership capacity.
This past October, we hosted a retreat for participants in Collective Support, a cohort experience for systems and site leaders of color. As we believe in creating space for the genius of those actively engaged in leading school communities, we invited Collective Support members to share a session at the retreat. A female K-8 school leader hosted a session on Psychological Safety, which was a deep dive into what it means to experience freedom and support to take healthy risks. Under her skillful facilitation, we all came to the collective aha that professional environments where we supported to do our best work were few and far between. Those who had the positional authority to enact changes to create more psychologically safe environments accepted the charge to do so. Their decision-making will positively impact the learning environments of 4,500+ educators and 66,000+ youth. And the female school leader who led the workshop has gone on to share her thought leadership with education powerhouses such as Charter School Growth Fund and the Goldman Sachs x New Leaders One Million Black Women initiative.
As Elaine Welteroth shares, “When women affirm women, it unlocks our power. It gives us permission to shine brighter.” As the Founder and CEO of MindCatcher and a woman social entrepreneur, I have accepted the charge to create more spaces for women to realize their genius. Onwards!