Empowering Change: YWCA CEOs Forge Partnerships at Pennsylvania State Capitol

April marked a pivotal month as four esteemed YWCA CEOs journeyed to the Capitol in Harrisburg, united by a shared vision of empowerment and social justice.

Leading the path of PA YWs were CEOs Angela Reynolds of YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, Kim Bracey of YWCA York, Stacie Blake of YWCA Lancaster, and Stacey Woodland of YWCA Tri-County Area. Together, they brought with them a wealth of experience, passion, and determination to effect meaningful change. Their mission was clear: to amplify the important voices of PA YWCAs, build important relationships, and bridge the gap between activism and state-level policymaking. They share a commitment to fostering mutual education and exploring potential partnerships between YWCAs and state legislators.

They created a great opportunity to advocate for policies that uplifted marginalized communities, to champion initiatives that promoted gender equity and racial justice, and to amplify the voices of those often overlooked.

Pennsylvania currently hosts 18 YWCAs, with an average length of service in each community of over 100 years. A priority for the CEOs was growth and expansion throughout the state to work toward eliminating racism and empowering women in Pennsylvania.

Some goals of the day included:

  • Advancing racial justice and gender equity
  • Women’s Economic Security
  • Affordable Childcare
  • Reproductive justice and healthcare access
  • Strengthening the YWCA’s Impact throughout the state

Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus 

Senator Schwank & Senator Cappelletti – Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus

The CEOs met with Senator Judith L. Schwank (D-Berks County) and Senator Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware & Montgomery Counties), co-chairs of the  Women’s Health Caucus. With the common ground of their commitment to empowering women, meeting with the co-chairs was a fantastic opportunity to discuss enhanced access to reproductive healthcare, mental health support, and comprehensive care for women across Pennsylvania.

A partnership could help to tackle issues related to housing security, economic barriers faced by women and closing education disparities among women and girls. By focusing on these areas, the YWCA and the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus can establish a powerful partnership that not only aligns with the shared missions but also amplifies their impact of promoting the health, well-being, and empowerment of women across Pennsylvania.

 

Representative Daley – Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus 

In a meeting with Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery County),  co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus, the YWCAs were able to identify their shared goals and missions to effect positive change. This is especially important in areas where their interests intersect.

YWCAs shared their priorities with Daley such as women’s access to health care and declaring healthcare a public health crisis. They discussed black mortality rates in Pennsylvania and the need for support in areas of the state where “OBGYN deserts” exist. With their shared mission of empowering women, these two entities could unite and use their voices to expand healthcare services for women across the state.

 

Senator Haywood – State of Black Pennsylvania Report & YWCA Mission

Next, the YWCAs met with Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery & Philadelphia Counties). The goal of meeting with Senator Haywood was to build a relationship and begin an open dialogue about how the State of Black Pennsylvania report and its recommendations might overlay with the mission of YWCAs.

The State of Black Pennsylvania Report was released by Senator Haywood in February 2023 and provides a comprehensive analysis of the socio-economic mobility of Black Pennsylvanians from 2010 to 2021. The report’s recommendations include establishing equitable school funding, supporting Black entrepreneurship, improving access to healthcare, and replacing the school-to-prison pipeline with opportunity pathways.

YWCAs have a great opportunity to work with Senator Haywood on initiatives aimed at many facets of positive change within the Black community. With the YWCA focus on eliminating racism and empowering women, there are shared goals of creating and supporting educational programs and opportunities, economic empowerment, Black heath and wellbeing, and housing and community support. With studies conducted throughout the state, such as the Equity Profile of Lancaster County, YWCAs could use their unique perspectives and collective voices to support and advocate for legislation and policies that benefit the Black community in Pennsylvania.

 

Executive Director Hathaway – Governor’s Advisory Commission on Women

In the final meeting of the day, YWCA CEOs met with Moriah Hathaway, Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Women. Hathaway and the Governor’s Advisory Commission serve as an extension of the Governor’s office in their respective communities. YWCAs discussed ways to strengthen their ties to state government and enhance their abilities to help shape policy recommendations on issues affecting Pennsylvania women such as issues related to gender-based violence, economic empowerment, healthcare access, and more.

By connecting to Hathaway, YWCA CEOs can amplify their advocacy efforts and ensure that the unique perspectives and needs of women and girls, particularly those served by YWCAs, are heard and prioritized in state policymaking decisions.

 

Building Bridges

Through their collective wisdom and varying points of view, these CEOs displayed the true power of collaboration. This meeting of regional YWCAs was only the beginning of a broader movement, a call to action for all who believe in the power of unity, compassion, and progress. Across party lines and organizational boundaries, they made connections that would lay the groundwork for future partnerships, building a foundation for a more just and equitable society.

 

 

Special thanks to Christian Muniz, YWCA Lancaster supporter and friend, always ready to help with relationship building!

Click here to learn more about YWCA’s Advocacy Agenda and ways to take social action and advocate for the advancement of our mission!