This Thursday, WREN, the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, launches with a massive party at Senate’s End Hall in Columbia to celebrate a new day in the fight for women’s rights in South Carolina. Everyone is invited to meet and talk shop with local activists, academics, concerned folks, and political allies like Sen. Katrina Shealy and Rep. James Smith. But if you’re still wondering about the details of WREN’s mission, strategies, and future plans, I’ve got you covered. The organization’s Director of Communications and Learning, Eme Crawford, took some time out from her busy pre-launch schedule to fill me in. Full disclosure: I’ve known and loved Eme for years (so I’ll just call her Eme), and I’m a big fan of the previous work she’s done with Tell Them (so I may be a bit biased).
As to WREN’s mission, Eme told me the goal is “to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being, and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and their families.” In a state where we struggle to adequately address entrenched poverty, domestic violence, LGBTQ discrimination, sexism, horrifying sex education mandates, a dearth of women’s health care initiatives, and a sustained attack on abortion rights, WREN has the potential to foster awareness and speak truth to power. The South is changing, and we all need to get on board.
Now, something I was confused about was why we needed WREN when we already have Tell Them. The response was that Tell Them, along with South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, would now operate as the action wing of WREN (do you like what I did there?). According to Eme, “When you think of WREN think of issue education, events, fundraising, advocacy trainings; when you think of Tell Them think of taking action and connecting with decision makers.” If you’ve ever met the powerhouse/women’s rights tornado, otherwise known as, Ashley Crary who storms the SC statehouse daily to protect women from some very bad legislation, you’ll know that WREN and Tell Them together will take “action” seriously. If you haven’t met her, you’re in luck, she’ll be there Thursday. So, let the convincing commence. But, that’s not all. Their goals are now much more ambitious. Broadening their focus from sex education and reproductive health to advancing the lives of women and girls on all fronts will mean expanding their network, cultivating deep roots in communities, taking on local and state politicians across the state, and creating the safe spaces for tomorrow’s feminist leaders to learn and grow.
So, all of this notwithstanding, why do we need another women’s organization anyway? I’m not this cynical, but some of you may be. I’m going to include Eme’s entire response here because you should take it all in:
“In South Carolina, we stand out for being a statewide voice for women’s rights and empowerment on a range of issues, and we work closely and collaboratively with many other groups across the state that serve women, girls, and families. Rather than providing direct services like the Center for Women (financial and business skills training) or Planned Parenthood (health services), we focus on advocacy and civic engagement. We also are a convener, build capacity, and catalyze diverse groups. We elevate the voices of women and girls across the state who are otherwise not represented at the Statehouse. And we focus on changing systems, structures, and norms, using evidence and experience. We work from grassroots to systems level to solve problems and effect social change for the long-term.”
What more could you want? Well, I also wanted to know about plans and strategies. To that end, Eme tells me that expanding the network means taking their message on the road to “facilitate meetings with a combination of listening to the concerns of women and girls, training constituents on advocacy practices, educating community members and lawmakers on the persistent gender inequities in our state, and when applicable, let community members know about bills that are moving (or need to move) at the Statehouse.” Policy-wise, they’re looking to introduce legislation for equal pay, gender equality, and maternal health care and paid leave for pregnant women and their partners. But they also need to be sustainable, so open your hearts AND your wallets, if you have the means.
This brings me, at long last, to the ways in which you can help WREN achieve their goals to close the gender gaps in health, safety, economic opportunities, political participation, and leadership. And in Eme’s own words, in supporting WREN, you will be “advocating for laws and policies to enhance the status of women and the well-being of families; educating policymakers and the public about issues that affect women, girls and their families; and empowering South Carolinians to speak up and speak out for a better state.” Here’s how to do that:
Sign up now!
Over 20,000 South Carolinians already have, so just add your name to the email network, but also like the Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Keep up with all of their hard work, share with others, and answer their calls for action.
Share your knowledge!
If you’re a policy expert on women’s health, domestic violence, education, or any of the other issues connected to WREN’s mission, they may need your help. Remember the powerhouse I mentioned earlier? She’s in charge of this. You can contact her here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just do it. We all know that the number one way to help any organization is to give them the money to get the work done. So, if you have it, fork it over. All donations to WREN also support Tell Them and South Carolina Healthy Family.
See you on Thursday!