Oppression of women is the Civil Rights movement of the 21st century. A new organiza-tion at Woodland Regional High School focuses on not only spreading the awareness of this problem, but also broadening the movement.
The hopes of this new organization, Woodland for Women Worldwide, are to raise awareness of women liv-ing in oppression and give those women the opportunity to overcome through fund raising for multiple foundations.
The organization, established by Lisa Olivere and Deb Flaherty, teachers at Woodland Regional High School, was inspired by many things. First, Olivere and Flaherty’s fundamental belief in the spirit and strength of students from Woodland High School sprouted the idea for a course devoted to current problems in the world.
Then Contemporary World Issues (CWI), taught by Fla-herty, served as a catalyst for the organization. The class exposed students to conflicts taking place in the world such as human trafficking and the oppression of women. After students showed interest in taking action towards change, Flaherty knew that there needed to be an outlet.
Flaherty also found a poignant book called The Road of Lost Innocence. It is the true story of a Cambodian heroine, Somaly Mam, who is a survi-vor of human trafficking and is now the cofounder and president of the AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) and the Somaly Mam foundations, which have res-cued more than 3,400 women and children throughout Southeast Asia. Flaherty has exposed her CWI class to this book.
Then Olivere, cofounder of Woodland for Women World-wide, discovered the book Half the Sky. Nicholas Kristof, a journalist for the New York Times, was featured on Oprah to discuss his book. Olivere was instantly intrigued and read the book straight through. The book does three things: it paints a picture of things going on in the world that one might never think of, tells women’s stories of success and opportunity to overcome adversity, and finally it has a call to action. Kristof points out that to solve the world’s problems, society needs to invest in women; when women are em-powered they in turn invest in their sons and daughters and the community. “It will tear you apart and inspire you at the same time,” says Olivere.
Since reading the book, Olivere has passed it on to Flaherty, other teachers, and students. She has asked anyone who reads it to make their mark in it: write comments to the side, underline or highlight things, draw pictures, any-thing. There are 15 copies currently circulating.
The inspiration does not stop there. “It was like the perfect storm of ideas, energy, and inspiration,” says Olivere. Between the passion CWI brought to students, books and true stories, and the innate desire to make things right, Woodland for Women Worldwide was formed.
“We want to be a collection of people who care about what’s happening in the world and are interested in changing the world,” says Olivere at their third meeting.
Changing the world is a big task for a small school to take on. But just from the three meetings Woodland for Women Worldwide has had, so many ideas are being formed. Flaherty says, “There are so many things a buzz and afire I can barely keep my head straight.”
First and foremost, the group plans to host the first annual Woodland for Women Worldwide 5k Walk and Fun Run. The fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, May 22, at Wood-land. They hope to attract hundreds of people from all over the state. There will be entertainment and guest speakers but the logistics have not yet been determined.
Besides this one event, a few independent affairs have been formed. Olivia Zlamany, Woodland senior, plans to host an art auction to raise money for the group. Theresa Gillette, also a senior, will be creating a magazine featuring articles, columns, poems, stories, and artwork concerning the oppression of women around the world. These magazines will be sold at the 5k Walk and Fun Run and proceeds will go to Woodland for Women Worldwide’s charitable cause.
Every year the cause of the group will be different. This year, Women for Woodland Worldwide has decided to concentrate on the oppression of women. They have chosen two foundations to contribute to: The Somaly Mam Foundation and CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education). The Somaly Mam Foundation was started by the author of The Road of Lost Innocence, previously mentioned, and works to free women from sexual slavery. CAMFED fights poverty and AIDS by educating girls and empowering young women. This was an easy choice seeing as Flaherty and Olivere understand the importance of education and literacy for women.
Still, there is more. Woodland for Women Worldwide also plans on forming two community scholarships. One will be for WRHS students who have graduated or are attending and are interested in traveling abroad to help and volunteer at developing nations. Secondly, Women for Woodland Worldwide want to help girls seeking leadership opportunities. So they have also established a scholarship for Juniors and Seniors at Woodland who want to attend leadership conferences and/or workshops.
The group has merely begun and it is already growing at an alarming rate. There are close to 650 members on Facebook from all over the world. “We haven’t even began to market the organization yet and it’s already taking off like wild-fire,” says Flaherty.
The meetings are held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 2:15 in room 208 at Woodland. Woodland for Women Worldwide welcomes anyone who is interested to join them, even the gentlemen out there hoping to make a difference in the world.