7:20 a.m. PDT April 14, 2016
Oregon women and girls are contributing tremendously to the state, more so than many other states. Women in Oregon have high voter turn out, they are a large part of the state’s workforce, many are firefighters and police officers, and more.
“They are giving a ton, but they are experiencing some of the most gender inequality in the country,” said EmilyEvans, executive director of Women’s Foundation of Oregon.
“Women and girls are showing up for Oregon; it’s time Oregon shows up for women and girls.”
On a statewide tour that landed at Chemeketa Community College this week, the foundation welcomed Salem-area women and girls to participate in an interactive event covering health, leadership, education, wages and assets, discrimination, and child care and care-giving.
To address the issues facing woman and girls, the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, a statewide nonprofit, began compiling “mountains and mountains” of data last year, analyzing the status of women and girls in the state.
But now, the organization wants to hear from the women themselves and gain stories that represent the data on a personal level.
Input from the event will be compiled into a comprehensive statewide review that will be released in September.
The Chemeketa event was stop No. 4 of the 12 town halls being held across the state, from March through May.
Women discussed what issues they are facing with the large group before breaking into smaller groups to get at the deeper issues.
They asked questions such as, “What are the root causes?” and “Why is that happening?” They then discussed potential solutions.
Attendees said some of the most important challenges facing women and girls in the local community are education, poverty and mental health.
“This is our chance to make sure leaders across the state know what matters to women and girls in our community,” said Lynn Irvin, administrative coordinator for college support services at Chemeketa Community College.
Many of the town halls have been held at community colleges, where 14 out of 17 presidents are women. Evans said there has been a lot of support and action coming from these schools.
In addition to the town halls, there will be panels of local leaders held on the mornings after each one to process through the results of the town halls and come up with tangible solutions they can enact in the local community.
Attendees said the most important contributions women and girls make to their community are leadership, empowerment, support and “amor,” or love.
Kari Ramseyer-Ouska, 39, works in home healthcare. She is also taking classes for her masters in social work at Chemeketa.
She heard about the event in her “women and chemical dependency” course.
“I have a 17-year-old daughter,” she said. “She is a girl in the community, in the world. I wanted her to see something that is bigger than just (her world).”
Ramseyer-Ouska discussed mental health with other attendees, saying she thinks mental health is one of the first things that needs to be addressed to tackle other issues.
“If we focused more on mental health, some other problems may be less of (an issue),” she said.
Ramseyer-Ouska said she really liked the enthusiasm of the organizers and the interactive elements of the event.
“I am glad they weren’t just speaking at me,” she said.
For more information on the Women’s Foundation of Oregon or upcoming town halls, go to womensfoundationoforegon.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 971-230-1294.
Upcoming town halls:
- April 14, Medford
- April 20, Forest Grove (Spanish-speaking only)
- April 23, Portland
- April 26, Umatilla Reservation
- April 27, Pendleton
- April 28, Ontario
- May 2, Burns