New group wants to speak for women Network sees strength in numbers

November 22, 1992|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Organizers of Harford County's newest advocacy group say they want to be the voice of women of the '90s.

"There are times when a collective body speaks louder than a single voice," said Barbara Gleason, program developer for the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, which sponsors the new Women's Action Network.

Whether it's affordable health care, adequate child support payments or just a decent place to live, said Ms. Gleason, a woman is more likely to find help today if she's connected to a group.

The Women's Action Network began last summer as an informal group that met over breakfast monthly to talk about women's concerns in Harford County.

The group included representatives of county government, neighborhood organizations, support groups such as the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center and Open Doors, the Girl Scouts and the public library.

"We only had a mandate from the international YWCA to do more community outreach and to investigate the needs of women in Harford County," said Mary Lou Teel, director of Harford County Community Outreach Programs for the YWCA.

As the women talked, the subjects of health care, the job market, housing and child care kept resurfacing, as did more subtle concerns about teen-agers' poor self-esteem and family violence.

"They were issues that affected women in all economic groups," said Ms. Gleason.

"The needs of women are constantly changing," said Ms. Teel. "Historically, the Y offered programs in painting, cooking, even bridge. Then, in the '80s, child care became a big concern," she said.

In the mid-1980s, the YWCA moved its base of operations to its Bel Air Day Care Center, which it has operated on the Harford Community College campus since 1982.

"Now, the climate in Harford County is changing again," said Ms. Teel. "It's not only a growth in the population, but the economic situation is creating the need for women to have support in other parts of their lives, too."

The Women's Action Network began focusing on getting information out to women in the county.

"One of the first things we decided we would have to do is to set up a referral service," said Ms. Gleason. "People need answers to questions ranging from 'Where can I stay in an emergency?' to 'How can I find a good local gynecologist?' "

That's where the YWCA's new office in Bel Air's Terlyn Square comes in, she says. The office, which opened last week, serves as the non-profit agency's new headquarters in Harford County and houses a Women's Resource Center offering one-stop shopping for information.

"We'd also like to offer support groups in the county some help," said Ms. Gleason. The new office, which occupies over 800 square feet in the building on Churchville Road, could double as meeting space for women's interest groups.

The Women's Action Network wants to monitor court proceedings that involve women and keep a close watch on women's health care.

The court-watching program would focus on cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and non-support, said Ms. Gleason. The health watch might investigate possibilities for more comprehensive and less expensive health services.

Whatever its efforts, the network will rely almost entirely on the services of volunteers, Ms. Gleason said. "We need people who are interested in these topics and in volunteering. They don't have to have professional experience."

The Women's Action Network plans three meetings in December on health, the resource center and domestic violence at the YWCA office in Terlyn Square.

, To volunteer, call 893-2561.

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