Organizations that serve women and fight for progressive issues around Charleston have reported a higher than normal interest in their services and initiatives since the election. Many have held meetings, only to find them swamped with newcomers eager to connect with others and engage civically. The last Charleston Democratic Party business meeting had more people than they'd had in a long time according to chair Brady Quirk-Garvan. Here's a list of a few organizations that are already hard at work on advocacy and action.
Center for Women
This Charleston nonprofit has been dedicated to advancing women in this state since 1990. From eating disorder support groups to financial workshops, the range of issues that Center for Women addresses is as varied as women themselves. A new initiative for awareness and advocacy led by Ali Titus will educate people on civic engagement and train women for leadership positions.
Gathering For Goodgatheringforgoodusa.org
This social movement is being organized by GM Whitley, Jessica Maginsky, Meghan Alexander Trezies, and Jessica Boylston-Fagonde. Their idea is simple. Grab your friends or a group of people, whether it's for your regular happy hour get together or a full-blown party, elevate the conversation to discuss an issue that you're passionate about, ask everyone to kick in some money to donate to an organization involved in that issue, and then take a picture and share on social media with the hashtag #gatheringforgood.
League of Women Voters
On November 29, a mere 20 days after the election, the Charleston chapter of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters hosted a meeting entitled "Sips and Civility." The goal was to move past the bitterness and take productive action on important issues. An over-capacity crowd showed up to the event, which was held at the round Holiday Inn. The League's mission is to make democracy work, and it does that by educating voters on candidates and issues, working on legislative priorities (like ethics reform), and fighting to ensure voters' rights. One issue discussed at the last meeting was helping women run for office locally by providing a support network. This is a great organization for learning the nuts and bolts of civic engagement. They also host the best candidate forums during the run up to elections.
The Women's Rights and Empowerment Network is a new entity that grew out of the S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families. Executive Director Ann Warner says, "WREN is really tapping into a need and desire women and men have in the state to connect and work actively and intentionally to increase opportunities for women in the state."
WREN released its policy agenda last week and will focus in the 2017 legislative session on the issues of equal pay, workplace accommodations for pregnant employees, high quality reproductive health education, and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Advocacy is a large component of WREN's mission and it is planning to hold advocacy workshops designed to teach civic engagement. WREN will host an event Monday, Jan. 30 from 9:30-11 a.m. on ways to take action. For more information, visit eventbrite.com and search Charleston WREN.
LaVanda Brown, executive director, has seen an upswing in interest at the YWCA since the election in people wanting to get involved, wanting to protect the rights of women, and particularly working in the area of advocacy.
"We're developiong an advocacy agenda," she says. "After the election one of the things that we are really focused on is promoting and encouraging all voters, particularly women, not only to get involved during presidential elections but local elections. We want to mobilize the folks to register to vote and to get out and vote and to understand what local and state legislators positions are that are important."