A World of Possibilities
Back when I was young, if you were to ask a teenage girl what she wanted to be, the answer would inevitably involve one of the “helping” professions like nursing, social work or teaching, or maybe she wanted “to get married.” I spent years teaching high school mathematics from which I received both enjoyment and great reward, and I’ve been married to a remarkable man for decades.
When I was in high school, girls did not aspire to be political leaders. But, I am also happy to say that I felt comfortable as the Speaker of the largest statehouse chamber in the country.
All girls should have, and should fully believe they have, a world of possibilities open to them!
What happened between then and now that changed me from simply going along with the status quo to actively advocating on behalf of women and girls began with an incident that, unfortunately, is still too common. During my early 20’s, I worked down the hall from a single mom in Charleston, SC. One night she was sexually assaulted when a man broke into her apartment. I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact it had on her life. I saw how it crippled her. I felt helpless – and angry, and I wanted to do something about it!
Enter People Against Rape. PAR is a sexual advocacy program offering support and services for survivors of sexual assault. They offered the survivor comfort and helped her to take back control of her life. They offered me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about sexual violence, to advocate on behalf of survivors, to write and speak about this issue, and to work for systemic cultural change. In short, I became an activist.
And so began a lifetime of advocating for women’s economic, social and political equality. In the process I honed my skills and increased my knowledge.
After moving to New Hampshire, I put these skills to use at SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services), SHARPP at UNH (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program), and NARAL Pro-Choice NH. After all, how can a woman feel powerful if she feels the constant threat of violence? How can a woman feel powerful if she can’t even make decisions about her own body and healthcare? How can a woman feel economically powerful if she’s taught from an early age that there are certain fields of study that “girls don’t do”?
Almost two decades ago, I was convinced to turn my efforts to the political realm, essentially to change the venue for my activism. I worked not only on sexual violence and reproductive choice, but also on issues of social and economic justice, including increasing the minimum wage, pay equity, and expanding the availability of affordable early childhood education. Ultimately, I was elected by my colleagues as the speaker of the house. In that role I was ever conscious that I would be judged not just as myself, but as a woman speaker. I felt the extra weight of gender as my actions were scrutinized. I hope I represented women well.
Today I have the honor to be the first to lead The NH Women’s Foundation, a newly merged organization whose mission has been my life’s work. Fortunately, a lot has changed since I was a teenager – and even since Beijing in 1995 – but there’s so much more to do.
I hope you’re as ready as I am to roll up your sleeves and work and to raise your voice. It will take a very large chorus, but the result will be a better world not just for women and girls, but for families, communities and businesses as well. There’s no better time than now for you to get engaged with the Women’s Foundation.
With over 100 years of shared history in this newly merged organization, we are moving forward with a shared mission to promote opportunity and equality for women and girls in the Granite State. Join us, in whatever way is most comfortable for you…join a committee, make a donation, participate in one of our upcoming Listening Sessions. I will be traveling across the state over the next few months and look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones! In the meantime, feel free call me to discuss ways that you can work with us to help drive our mission forward.
The documentary film ‘A Path Appears’ was shown at the Red River Theater in Concord last night. It was an incredible opportunity for the New Hampshire community to come together and learn about a topic that may be unexplored by many: human trafficking.
The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation was able to host Jasmine Marino, who is a survivor of human trafficking, after the film showing and the audience had the chance to hear about her experience first-hand and how this impacted her life. She even championed changing the law in New Hampshire to help prevent human trafficking in the state and we are grateful for her efforts.
You can see a Letter to the Editor from State Representative Suzanne Harvey in the Concord Monitor in this link here. This film and event fully follows the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation’s “Supporting Women and Girls at Risk” agenda item. Make sure you let us know what you think of the film!
The Eagle Tribune just released an article that shows the progress that women in New Hampshire made during this past legislative session. Below is a short quote from the article that summarizes the new laws:
“The laws, adopted by the Legislature last session, do everything from bolstering domestic violence regulations to making sure women receive equal pay.
They include the establishment of domestic violence as a crime and the termination of parental rights for men who rape and impregnate women.
The state’s new equal pay law targets employers who discriminate by paying women less than men doing the same job.
The law also cracks down on employers who retaliate against workers who discuss their wages while on the job.
Other laws that took effect New Year’s Day no longer consider adultery a crime in the state and make it illegal to financially exploit someone who is elderly, disabled or not able to care for themselves.”
For more information on each issue, click here.
Bob and Sue Thoresen create the Leave a Legacy Thoresen Challenge
*As seen in the NHWF Winter 2014 Newsletter
Bob and Sue Thoresen have dedicated themselves to helping the future of women and girls in New Hampshire by creating the foundation for NHWF’s Endowment fund. This way, all NH citizens can help support the progress of our state and those that reside in it. We appreciate Bob and Sue’s generous gift, and now we need your help!
“We’d like to see the Endowment grow to be $5,000,000, which would then provide the operating support to allow the NHWF to address the 21st century needs of NH women, girls and boys in perpetuity. We are offering a $50,000 challenge to grow the Endowment held at the NHCF by matching all gifts of $1,000 and above designated to this endowment before the end of 2015.”
To designate your gift, please contact Marianne or Ellen at the NHWF office, 603-226-3355.
October 16th, 2014
A New Organization Born From 100 Years of Shared History
The announcement was made to a sold-out audience of 600 leaders from across NH who attended the 10th annual Women Building Community Luncheon (see photos page 3) at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, featuring keynote speaker and filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
According to Marianne Jones, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of NH, “After nearly two years of exploring the opportunities for a partnership, it was a unanimous decision across both the boards of the Women’s Fund and the NH Women’s Initiative to join forces to create the NH Women’s Foundation.” Jones added, “The collaboration to create the NH Women’s Foundation combines nearly 100 years of shared history focused on advocating for women and girls in NH.” She explained that the NH Women’s Initiative was created in 2012 with the consolidation of three NH organizations that included the Commission on the Status of Women (1969), the Women’s Lobby and Alliance (1980), and the Women’s Policy Institute (2002).
The mission of the NH Women’s Foundation is to promote opportunity and equality for women and girls in NH through research, education, philanthropy, and advocacy. The vision of the organization is to seek social, political, and economic gender equality in the state of New Hampshire. Robin Pollard, Immediate Past Chair of the NH Women’s Foundation and Women’s Fund of NH, explained the rationale for the need to create a single organization to focus on advancing gender equality in the Granite State. She said, “We are at a critical juncture with the status of women and girls in our state, the country and across the globe. Time, change, and progress have all led to the advancement of gender equality, yet we find that there is still more work that needs to be done.
“Despite the progress that we have made, there are still many obstacles to overcome. In New Hampshire, the income of women still lags significantly behind that of their male counterparts. Additionally, a ‘granite ceiling’ prevents representation of women in key leadership areas, even with recent high-profile accomplishments such as New Hampshire having the first all-female delegation in the US Congress in 2012,” Pollard added.
Representatives of these organizations expressed optimism about the merger between their organizations to build a single, statewide organization focused on women and girls. Focusing on the theme of “better together,” the creation of the NH Women’s Foundation will build the leadership required to meet the challenges faced in the state, providing a bold, empowered vision for the future.
“Combining the organizational strengths of the Women’s Fund and NH Women’s Initiative will create greater efficiency, enable progress on an ambitious, yet focused agenda, and establish a new path for gender equality for future generations,” noted Barb Zeckhausen, founder and member of several prior organizations.
“The response at the Women Building Community Luncheon to the merger was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic,” said Mary Rauh, founder and current Board member
An important part of the announcement at the event included the immediate commitment from businesses and individuals from across the state with gifts to the Fund the Future Challenge. Thank you!
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