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WEF hosts forum on economic empowerment for women

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Woman sketching on wall mural
Artistic graphic recording during WEF's 2019 forum.

On Sept. 19, the Women's Endowment Fund convened a group of nearly 100 community members at the Hilton Garden Inn Akron to discuss Collaborative Solutions for the Economic Empowerment of Women during our biennial forum on women and girls.

The forum began with a community assessment discussion amongst panelists representing industries including education, criminal justice, health care, housing and transportation.

Panelists participating in the forum were Carla Chapman, director of community relations, Akron Public Schools; Dawn Distler, executive director, Akron METRO RTA; Judi Hill, president, NAACP Akron; Dr. Jennifer L. Savitski, obstetrics and gynecology, Cleveland Clinic Akron General; Megan Scheck, director of programs & services/quality improvement, Humility of Mary Housing; and Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, Summit County Probate Court.

"Women face unique issues when it comes to seeking housing," said Megan Scheck, speaking to housing related obstacles for women in poverty. "Often, single mothers must think about the affordability of their housing as well as opportunities for their children to learn, grow, and thrive in the communities where they live. For single moms, housing is often unaffordable in 'opportunity neighborhoods' that help families thrive, causing single moms to continue to live in high-poverty areas without access to quality food sources, schools, and health centers."

Following the panelist discussion, attendees participated in three rounds of breakout discussions in community cafe style. During these conversations, participants identified bold ideas and actions to economically empower women in Summit County.

"We need continued services for women transitioning out of poverty," said a forum participant. "This is a vulnerable time for women, and as a result many return to poverty to regain the services they've lost. We need to re-examine our eligibility requirements to break this cycle."

Discussions during the forum were recorded and used to create a comprehensive report to help guide the fund's 2020 grantmaking decisions. This winter, the Women's Endowment Fund will also meet with a group of community leaders and key stakeholders to discuss actionable next steps based on findings from the forum report. Outcomes from this meeting will be announced next spring.

"We're committed to finding the most effective way to use the information we've gathered during the forum to better our community," said Lashawrida Fellows, forum co-chair. "Our initial meeting to review the forum report will hopefully lay the groundwork for addressing economic issues for women in our community."

The WEF Forum Report was developed by Dr. Peg L. McCann.

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