Tuesday, September 02, 2014

IWHHR: Engage Your Community, Part One

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.


In your town or region, locate an organization that is working on one (or more) of the issues highlighted in our class. Interview the people at this organization and write four to five thoughtful paragraphs about this group.
Please be sure to address the following:
What is the name of the group? What is its mission or goal?  How does it carry out its work? What is your general sense of the effectiveness of the group?

Organization: YWCA Utah (www.ywca.com)
Mission: The YWCA Utah is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Interview with:  Cory (last name withheld for privacy)

I selected the YWCA Utah as the organization to learn more for this assignment because I have had brief conversations with my friend, Cory, who has worked there, about its mission and work. Since its inception in 1906, the YWCA Utah "has worked to meet the needs of underserved populations," its website states. Over the years, it has focused on employment, fair working conditions, racial discrimination, family violence, homelessness, and teen pregnancy. The YWCA Utah assisted women migrating west to find work during the Depression, servicemen during World War I and World War II, and relocated Japanese-Americans after World War II. According to its website, the YWCA offered Utah’s first African-American and Japanese-American girls clubs, women’s boarding house, public cafeteria, women’s employment bureau, and local traveler’s aid society.

The organization is dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. In 1976, they opened Utah's first domestic violence crisis shelter. Currently, they provide emergency services for women and children experiencing domestic violence, transitional housing, case management, wrap around services through the Center for Families, and community education. It carries out this work by not only providing a safe place for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence, but by using a strength based model to empower women. There is a strong emphasis on economic empowerment and education.

As all with all organizations, Cory feels like there is room for improvement, but that they do an amazing job with the resources they have. "Everyone works hard and is focused on the mission," she believes. Their most recent published annual report (Fiscal Year 2012-2012) states that they served 777 women and children in the crisis shelter. However, it also states that they were unable to meet 801 requests for shelter, involving 1,569 adults and children. Clearly this brings to light that though they do an amazing job at providing services, they are limited in the resources they have. Luckily, these other 801 requests were often able to be met through other area partnerships, providing temporary space until they were able to be housed at YWCA Utah. YWCA also reaches thousands more through their Family Justice Center and comprehensive children's services.

The leaders and workers at YWCA Utah are proud of their legacy, stating on its website, "Since 1906 the YWCA Utah has been a voice for women, a force for change, and a place for hope. Our enduring belief is that better lives for women – all women – will lead to stronger families and communities. Throughout the years the YWCA’s underlying purpose has remained the same but we have changed as women have changed, as the needs of our families have changed, and as our world has changed. Since our earliest years we have responded to the needs and aspirations of local women with innovative programs, promoted the rights and interests of women, and advocated for positive social change that creates better lives for all."

The statement, "better lives for women – all women – will lead to stronger families and communities," resonated with me and my belief that empowering women is really about empowering families, empowering human beings to change for the better and live better and more enriched lives. This focus on families is an important aspect of YWCA Utah and one that I believe in and can wholeheartedly support.

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