WomenNC Celebration Highlights Coalition Work and Research – 3/8/18

Raleigh, Durham and NC NOW had the chance to participate in WomenNC’s Annual Local to Global Celebration honoring Juanita Bryant and celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. Over 150 people attended the event at the Hunt Library at NC State University in Raleigh. Special guests included NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, WRAL anchor Debra Morgan as Emcee, Dr. Jo Allen, President of Meredith College, and Zion Tankard, Chair of the Durham County Women’s Commission among many others.

Presentation of award to Juanita Bryant Also pictured: Beth Dehghan, Elaine Marshall Photo Credit: Lori Bunton

Attendees were serenaded by 4 young men playing instruments while they viewed the items for the Silent Auction or participated in the 50/50 raffle. During dinner, Beth Dehghan, Founder & President of WomenNC, talked about the work that WomenNC has been doing – on their own and in coalition with other organizations. Since its inception, WomenNC has worked with 44 university students from NC in the local to global fellowship program. They’ve spent over 500 hours doing public speaking and advocacy work preparing those students. This year’s group of students are going to New York to attend and to present their research at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Women’s Summit on March 10, 2018. This year’s class of fellow university students from UNC-Chapel Hill and Meredith College did original research on “Counteracting Gendered Impacts of Gentrification: Improving Affordable Housing Access for women of Color in Durham County” and “Rebranding Feminism to the Rural Audience and Promoting CEDAW in Rural NC.”

The research done by the students serves as a first step in the gender analysis and policy recommendations regarding the status of women in Durham County. Our 2018 fellows shared their reports with all at this event. We hope that our work in Durham County can serve as a launching point to continue work for the support and passing of CEDAW across the state of North Carolina.

Dehghan introduced all of the Coalition for Cities For CEDAW members, including NC NOW. We have made great progress concerning CEDAW in Durham County over the last year. Through a successful partnership with the Durham County Women’s Commission, we were able to pass a CEDAW Resolution in Durham County. This resolution supports the major tenets of CEDAW, including the conducting of gender analyses. Durham County is the first county/city in the South to pass a CEDAW resolution, a result of the Cities for CEDAW Coalition work. The goal now is to replicate the success in Durham in other counties.

Dr. Jo Allen introduced Caitlyn Grimes, one of the 2018 WomenNC CSW fellows, and her research in how to rebrand feminism in rural America. Grimes interviewed a list of prominent North Carolinians and interviewed women and men in rural NC. 

WomenNC Fellow, Caitlyn Grimes, speaking about her research. Photo Credit: Lori Bunton

The research pointed to several key recommendations, as follows.

  • Make the movement relevant to the needs of rural women
  • Find ways to directly solve women’s relevant problems
  • Identify and celebrate traditions important to rural America
  • Be mindful of how you communicate and use the language focused more on persuasion and not attaching
  • Expand the movement to include men and children

When Grimes was finished, the rest of the Fellows came up and discussed their research project “The impact of gentrification in Durham on women”. Their research was fascinating. Here are a few of the points they shared.

  • 49.8% of women are over burdened by the cost of rent and are spending over 30% of their pay on rent.
  • Even though black women had college education rates higher than white men in the Durham area, the women’s wage gap is still significant as black women earn only 64% of white men’s salaries while Latina women earn only 48%.
  • White women fared somewhat better at 86%.
  • Over 72% of renters are single mothers.

The Fellows made several suggestions including increasing the number of affordable housing options, improving regulations to incentives private developers and gain more representation of low income members at the table.

Kathe Rauch and Lori Bunton at the NOW table. Photo Credit: Lori Bunton

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall spoke about the need to bring more women into politics and fighting an agenda that keeps pushing women back. As she said, “We haven’t come this far just to come this far.” Finally, Juanita Bryant was brought on stage by Elaine Marshall and presented with the award by the Fellows for a new Fellowship program to be named for her (see first picture). Ms. Bryant has been fighting for injustice against women and girls locally and globally including being International President of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, State President of GFWC-NC and the Development Director of the YWCA of Wake County. Her accomplishments could fill another page.

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