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Discussion explores local women’s issues

Madeline Miles | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Students, faculty and members of the South Bend community discussed specific issues affecting women Monday in the Saint Mary’s Student Center, as the Indiana Commission for Women (ICW) hosted a listening session.

Kristin Garvey, executive director of ICW, and Jessica Brannam, staff coordinator of ICW, facilitated a discussion of issues impacting women in the community.

Garvey said the mission of ICW is to understand the needs of women and their families to work strategically within the government and communities to help bring about positive solutions.

“We are committed to women’s full participation and we act as the voice for women to the government,” she said.

The group aims to compile a report of the top issues and develop an action plan statewide, Brannam said.

“We want to engage people to get involved,” she said. “If we don’t address these issues, it’s never going to change.”

Problem areas identified at the listening session included women in poverty, pay equity, childcare, healthcare, violence against women, pregnancy prevention programs, single parenting and the hierarchy of gender roles.

The group of Saint Mary’s staff, students and members of the South Bend community collectively identified the two most prominent issues in today’s society: domestic, sexual and verbal violence and cuts to the federal budget in areas of need specific to women.

Dr. Elaine Meyer-Lee, director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership department, said men and women have to work together to bring about societal change.

“It’s really just the idea of shifting the culture. Men must be vocal and active as well as women,” Meyer-Lee said. “The goal is to challenge ideas and dedicate raising awareness through an education to our students. We have to support each other.”

Junior Catherine Cleary said community members must continue to educate and stimulate conversation on the subject.

“It was nice to have community members, college students and staff recognizing issues that are affecting all of us,” Cleary said. “We can all be a united front in tackling them. We just need concrete ideas for a societal shift for anything to happen.”