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Central Valley Women Leaders
The Women’s Foundation of California has been investing in California’s Central Valley since early in our history, with increasing emphasis beginning in 2001. We've seen that the health and well-being of the Valley has an impact on the health and well-being of the country.
And we know that there are courageous women leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes to challenge long-standing inequities. We believe that the challenges in the Valley need to be addressed at a systemic level in Sacramento.
Over the past nine years, we have invested more than $3 million in grants and capacity building resources to women leaders and their organizations in the Central Valley.
Many of these efforts are led by immigrant women in communities who are particularly affected by the economic, environmental, political and social challenges of the region. They have innovative and effective solutions to ensure the health, safety and economic prosperity of all who live, work and play in the Central Valley.
Teresa deAnda is a Foundation grant partner. In May 2001 Teresa started El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart, an organization of local residents dedicated to protecting the health of their families and neighbors from the harmful effects of pesticide exposure. For their first event, they brought together more than 100 people to tell their pesticide stories to local, state and federal governmental officials.
After years of pesticide accidents and lobbying by victims and advocates, the California legislature finally passed the Pesticide Drift Exposure Prevention and Response Act in 2004, a direct result of Teresa’s advocacy.
Since 2001, we have made more than 70 grants totaling $1.8 million to organizations based in and serving the Central Valley.
Some of our recent grant partners include:
- Advocacy Coalition of Tulare County for Women and Girls (ACT for Women and Girls) to support a leadership development academy for young women and girls in the Central Valley, which helps them connect with groups across the state and nation working on reproductive justice and freedom.
- Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) to support a collaborative project led by CPR with partners Grayson Neighborhood Council, El Quinto Sol de América and Pesticide Action Network North America that will continue public education and policy advocacy in order to prevent pesticide drift in agricultural communities
- Community Water Center to support policy advocacy activities concerning clean drinking water and environmental justice in southern San Joaquin Valley.
- Dolores Huerta Foundation, whose Youth Leadership Program trains participants as reproductive and general health educators to conduct broader community outreach and education efforts that challenge existing cultural and social norms and encourage dialogue about reproductive health and teen pregnancy prevention.
- El Pueblo Para El Aire Y Agua Limpia/People for Clean Air and Water for leadership development for monolingual Spanish-speaking mothers in the Central Valley addressing the link between toxic chemicals and a high incidence of babies with cleft palates and underdeveloped brains.
We provide capacity building grants and trainings for our grant partners working in the Central Valley, including our statewide grant partner convenings in 2005, 2007 and 2010 and fundraising and campaign trainings in 2006. Grant partners use our capacity building resources to strengthen their organizations, such as creating strategic and fundraising plans, and developing sophisticated analyses and actions, such as advocating around health care reform.
Since its launch in 2003, we have trained 27 grassroots women leaders from the Central Valley to be policy advocates through our nine-month Women’s Policy Institute. Some of these remarkable leaders include:
- Caroline Farrell and Daniela Simunovic, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Delano
- Robyn Flores, ACT for Women and Girls, Visalia
- Lucia Gonzalez-Schlosser, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Fresno
- Lindsay Phoebe Seaton, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Fresno
- MaiKa Yang, Stone Soup, Fresno
We have hosted numerous community gatherings over the past five years on a wide range of issues. The goal of our convenings is to create opportunities for peer learning and networking among leaders from multiple sectors.
Examples of our recent efforts include:
- Road to Equity Tour – community listening sessions in Fresno and Bakersfield (2005)
- Grants Review Committee training and community reception in Fresno (2005)
- Young women and media research project – three focus groups and a community listening session in Fresno (2006)
- Environmental Justice/Reproductive Justice roundtable luncheon in Bakersfield (2007)
- Prison visits for criminal justice leaders and donor partners – to the California Institution for Women (2008) and the Central California Women’s Facility (2010)
- Elder Women’s Speak Out in Fresno (2008)
- Sowing Change Funders’ Tour (March 2009 & September 2010)
Many Central Valley women have served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors since 2001, including our current member Geri Yang and the following:
- Daphne Harley, Bakersfield
- Debbie Ikeda, Fresno
- Angie Rios, Fresno
- Claudia Soria-Delgado, Pinedale
- Herma Williams, Fresno