Our four Weavers Way Dining for Women chapters continue to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, moving from in-person dinners to Zoom meetings. We know that during crises, economic stress and health woes impact women and girls even more.
Our national DFW model is to support a vetted, dynamic, grassroots women’s empowerment initiative each month. The Co-op’s chapters, now going on nine years old, have cumulatively raised more than $225,000.
Beth Ellen Holimon, DFW’s head, has long reasoned we could do even more for women and girls by becoming focused policy advocates. With over 500 chapters covering most every state, it gives us expansive potential to lobby legislators.
So a committee researched potential advocacy partners, and concluded that Results.org could be an excellent match. According to their website, Results, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, is “ a movement of passionate, committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.”
Our missions align so well that we’ve formed a Dining For Women/Results chapter. Our monthly virtual meetings feature training in how to write letters to the editor and to legislators, focusing on a specific issue. At present, we are advocating for the United States to set aside $12 billion of the fifth COVID-19 Relief Bill for international aid. (In the first four bills, no funds were allocated for this purpose.)
In June, DFW advocates teamed up with Results volunteers from our respective home states to schedule meetings with our senators and designated staff members of congressional representatives in Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
As a newbie, I was really nervous; it’s daunting to speak on behalf of billions of people and ask for billions of dollars. The aides were courteous and well-informed as we reviewed strategies to strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) the earned income tax credit and child tax credit, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and the Global Fund.
We specifically requested that legislators sign on to the bipartisan letter introduced by two Florida representatives, Democrat Loise Frankel and Republican Francis Rooney, requesting robust U.S funding for the international response to COVID-19. We were elated when, one by one, most of the Pennsylvania representatives whom we lobbied signed on to this initiative, some of them in direct response to our meetings.
Dr. Leslye Heilig, chair of DFW’s new Advocacy Committee, has steadily built a relationship with her local congressional representative’s staff. When she started a year ago, she had never done anything like this. During the Results/DFW week of lobbying, she was elated to sit down and talk about global health and poverty issues with her rep via Zoom. Not too shabby: her rep is Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Results.org knows that direct constituent lobbying has the highest impact of any citizen engagement. Targeted, consistent relationship building with our legislators, letting them know what we think they need to do, is a slow process that requires patience.
Would you like to join us? You don’t need to be a member of DFW; anyone interested is welcome. We have a lot of work to do to repair the havoc wreaked upon our country. Many of us are worn out and despairing; advocacy for the voiceless is a great antidote!