It’s the start of a new year – actually, the first week in, and the world rests, recuperates from holiday activities, makes ambitious plans for personal change, and gears up for a return to work.
Here at the YWCA Union County, we anticipate a year filled with commitment to our mission, continued energy and passion for our work with survivors of domestic violence, and the excitement of celebrating 40 years of domestic violence work. As with other years, we begin with reflecting and reporting on our goals and objectives for the prior year, looking at goals for the year just beginning, and also reflecting on prior challenges and anticipating those that will confront us as we move forward.
2017 certainly had no shortage of challenges. From the perspective of the YWCA, and looking at the world around us, it often seemed as if every public policy proposal, funding change, legislative issue, and more, was in direct opposition to YWCA priorities and values. Our historic commitment to social justice, embodied by advocacy around issues such as women’s health, gender-based violence, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, sexual assault, workers’ rights, and more – was challenged virtually daily. As advocates and activists, we YWCA members – staff, volunteers, community members – stepped up to the plate and made our voices heard. Through letters, emails, tweets, phone calls, and personal meetings – YWCA did not shy away from our commitment to social and racial justice, and to carrying our message forward. Our commitment to our mission – eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all – has never been more important to promote and protect.
As we begin 2018, while the challenges continue unabated, there may be small signs of hope. Women’s voices are rising and being heard at an increasing level, in corporate board rooms, in political circles, and in media, particularly around the issue of sexual harassment but also around leadership and governance. Awareness about racial disparities and the intersection with criminal justice, domestic violence, corporate leadership and more are being discussed more publicly. The #MeToo movement has increased awareness and sensitivity to sexual assault and harassment, and there is hope that with the recognition that the blame rests with the perpetrator, not the victim, this sensitivity will begin to extend to domestic violence as well – still very much in the shadows.
At the 2017 YWCA National Meeting, one of the speakers stated “the question is not whether or not you win, the question is whether or not you stay in the struggle.” As we begin 2018, let us all commit to staying in the struggle, to ensure that our mission and our values remain alive!
Janice C. Lilien, CEOBack