Thank you to all who attended the First ever Westchester Women’s Summit in March of 2013! Please feel free to review the summit report by clicking the link below.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SUMMIT:
At a sold-out Westchester Women’s Summit on Saturday, March 2, 2013 women from all over Westchester County gathered to confront and take action on issues of concern to women. The goals of this first-ever Westchester Women’s Summit, sponsored by the Westchester Women’s Agenda and funded by grants from Eileen Fisher and others, were: “to change the cultural climate and the conversation around issues of concern to women in Westchester County, to engage women from all over the County to connect on issues that limit our opportunities and the contribution we can make to a stronger, more egalitarian Westchester; and to challenge, motivate and inspire ourselves to use the political system at the County level to create systemic social change.”
By all accounts, the Summit was a rousing success. Three hundred people registered for the event, held at the Yonkers Riverfront Library. In a moving keynote speech, the Reverend Noelle Damico offered a vision of “ONE Westchester,” “where we understand how our lives are intertwined and commit ourselves to realizing our common good” and invited the group to “move forward to create a Westchester County that upholds the dignity and equality of everyone.”
She characterized the concept of cutting vital services in the name of “fiscal responsibility” as “profound irresponsibility,” referring to policies which force a mother “to choose between keeping her job which is putting food on the table or putting her child in a precarious situation because of skyrocketing costs.” Citing statistics on inequalities such as the fact that in 2011 the 4-year college readiness rate in Bronxville was 99%, while in Yonkers it was 14%, she exhorted the group to let the affirmation that we are “ONE Westchester” “give us the courage and the tenacity to sit face to face and talk not only about our dreams but about our nightmares as well.”
In the breakout sessions which followed, participants took a first step towards realizing that vision of “ONE Westchester” by sitting face to face in small groups, sharing their personal stories and the concerns which brought them to this first-ever Westchester Women’s Summit. Breakout sessions focused on seven major areas of concern, including: financial wellbeing, housing and homeless prevention, violence against women, women’s access to health care, children’s services, civil legal services and immigration.
In small groups participants took the first steps to talk about their dreams and their nightmares by identifying the challenges and obstacles that limit their opportunities and arriving at a list of priorities for action in each of the areas of concern. In the reconvened session of the entire gathering which followed, participants made effective use of interactive voting technology, the financial support for which was generously donated by the Elias Foundation, to rank the priorities for action within each area. Top priorities for participants included: education at all ages for personal economic development, and the achievement of pay equity for women; the creation of more affordable housing and redefinition of affordable housing with revised criteria for eligibility for support services; affordable health care and the elimination of disparities in health care by race and ethnicity; transitional housing for victims of violence against women which allows them to keep non-offending family members together; access to affordable child care for all ages; affordable preventative legal clinics for education and advice; and access to health care for immigrants regardless of legal status.
These priorities and others raised at the Summit will become the basis for further planning and action by self-identified volunteers who acknowledge the interdependence of all our lives in Westchester, who care to commit to our mutual well-being and who desire to take part in efforts to reclaim the dignity and equality of everyone in Westchester County. Individuals interested in participating in these efforts should contact the Westchester Women’s Agenda.