Women's Commission Conquers Barriers

Activities Serve Vital Need In Community

February 17, 1991|By Peggy Rightnour

In response to your Jan. 29 article about the Anne Arundel County Commission for Women and its relationship with County Executive RobertNeall ("Women's Commission goes after power, legislature"), I think it is important for your readers to have a complete and unbiased account of the accomplishments of the commission over the past 15 years.

The commission is composed of 16 volunteer members from all walks and areas of county life appointed by the County Executive.

Our sole paid staff position is invaluable in ensuring our visibility and viability.

The AACCW's goal is to expand opportunities for women in the county and to work to eliminate the barriers that keepwomen from realizing their full potential. To meet this responsibility, the commission is active in a variety of areas:

* Administer and monitor money for the Battered Spouse Shelter and Counseling Program. In 1990, more than 400 Anne Arundel County women and children were assisted by this program.

We also provide full funding for legalservices for victims of domestic violence at the shelter. An advisory board monitors this program.

* In cooperation with then-County Executive O. James Lighthizer, then-Councilwoman Carole Baker and the Department of Social Services, we ensure obstetric care for indigent women at the Anne Arundel County Medical Center, the only facility inthe county providing this care. Without this agreement, these women would have to go to Baltimore for care. Since its inception, 1,050 babies have been delivered through this program.

* Initiate and sponsor the Anne Arundel County Women's Fair, in its fourth year and scheduled for April 13 at the Anne Arundel Community College. The commission has organized a coalition of 15 organizations, advocating the empowerment of women, to offer this education and informational event on an annual basis.

* Support the spirit of entrepreneurship evident in the number and variety of businesses and services in the county owned and operated by women. The commission publishes the Anne Arundel County Women's Yellow Page Directory, promoting businesses owned and operated by women. This non-profit publication also serves as a resource directory. More than 300 businesses and 100 resources can be found in it, and it continues to grow every year. This publication is in its fourth edition and plans are under way for a fifth edition next winter.

* In celebration of Women's History Month every March, the commission hosts a reception at which we honor women who havemade contributions to the county. This year, we're planning to honor the women from Anne Arundel County who are serving in the Persian Gulf.

* Developed a survey of the Anne Arundel County School System to measure the effectiveness of the before- and after-school programs. Thissurvey is being considered by the school board. Additionally, the commission is an active member of the Anne Arundel County Child Care Advisory Board.

* On a daily basis, we act as an information and referral resource for women in the county to the agency or organization that will best assist their situation or problem. More than 400 people were helped last year, and that number increases yearly.

* Continually monitor legislation of particular concern to women in the county, including reproductive rights, domestic violence, family leave, child care and money for women's programs. Work in this area includes meeting with legislators, letter-writing, phone calls and testifying at hearings. The commission hosts an annual Legislative Breakfast, where it presents its legislative agenda to the county delegation, theCounty Council and the County Executive.

It is important to note that the commission was involved with the reproductive rights issue before the 1990 General Assembly session. In fall 1988 and in the 1989session of the General Assembly, it actively advocated for Medicaid funding of abortion. At that time it formulated a statement to further clarity its position on the reproductive rights issue.

"The commission supports the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which madechoice an option for all women. Therefore, we support this right forwomen regardless of their economic circumstances and endorse Medicaid funding for abortion," the statement says.

The commission looks forward to its relationship with County Executive Neall and knows that it will be a productive and positive relationship.

As members ofthe Commission for Women, we serve as their primary advocate, advising the County Executive and the County Council on the critical issuesaffecting women in the county. Our commitment is to the women of Anne Arundel County. We believe it is this commitment that will improve opportunities for women and ensure a better future for everyone.

Peggy Rightnour is the chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Commission For Women.

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