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Currents: what women want now

N.H. Women's Caucus Seeks to Improve Women's Lives and Status through Education and Leadership Training; Keynote Speaker Sheryl WuDunn

In early 2009, three professors of Humanities and feminist scholars, Margaret Wiley, Ann Page Stecker and Melissa Meade, began meeting to discuss women's status in the world. While women in the United States have made enormous strides in achieving social and economic parity, the professors know women still lag behind men in critical areas – and that in the developing world, women's status is far more tenuous.

The professors considered ways to inspire women to see themselves as agents of change and to marshal their collective power to improve the quality of life for all women. They determined that Colby-Sawyer College, with its history as a former women's college and its location in the first-in-the-nation primary state, has an extraordinary and timely opportunity to create a forum focused on critical women's issues.

Two years later, this group has grown into a Steering Committee and an Advisory Board with an ambitious plan of action. The Steering Committee is now announcing “What Women Want Now: The New Hampshire Women's Caucus,” a one-day non-partisan convention to be held at Colby-Sawyer College on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. The caucus will provide a lively forum for discussion of the issues most critical to women in the state, nation and world, and equip participants with education, resources and tools to work toward improving women's lives. To learn more visit the New Hampshire Women's Caucus web site.

Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, will deliver the keynote address. In Half the Sky, a New York Times best-selling book, she and co-author/husband Nicholas Kristof maintain that slavery, sex-trafficking and abuse of women are the greatest moral outrages of the century. View WuDunn's “TED GLOBAL” presentation on the three major issues that face women in the developing world which she and Kristof describe as the "greatest moral outrage of our century."

The caucus date coincides with the 195th birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early leader of women's rights and suffrage movements in the United States and an organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Like the convention, the caucus will bring women of all ages and political persuasions together who share a desire to advance the status of women. The participants will caucus to discuss and identify which issues are most vital and the likely areas in which to effect change. Just as Elizabeth Cady Stanton issued the “Declaration of Sentiments” in the wake of the 1848 convention, a Caucus Platform will be delivered near the end of the day that reflects the participants' priorities. View the Declaration of Sentiments from the Seneca Fall Convention of 1848.

Professors Wiley, Meade and Stecker, as well as the other members of the Steering Committee and the Advisory Board, believe women's time has come. “The New Hampshire Women's Caucus seeks to bring women of all ages and political persuasions together to focus on critical issues where profound changes are needed to improve the lives of women,” says Professor Wiley. “We want the women who attend to see themselves, both individually and collectively, as agents of change in the world, armed with the education, resources and tools they will need to bring about the change we seek. We know that when women work together, we truly have the power to improve the lives of women and their families. As the Chinese saying goes, 'Women hold up half the sky.' I would say it's at least half!”

The Benefit to Colby-Sawyer College

The planners of the New Hampshire Women's Caucus believe the event will benefit the Colby-Sawyer community in a number of ways. They hope to raise the college's visibility and profile, as well engage faculty, staff and students in many aspects of the event. The Steering Committee sees many opportunities for community members to take part in the planning and promotion of the event, and most importantly, to get involved in the issue of women's education and empowerment, which is the heart of the caucus.

“Many of our goals are related to the college's academic mission,” says Professor Stecker. “We seek to educate and empower women – and men – through this event, as well as highlight the college's commitment to equal education and the integration of gender analysis within the liberal arts curriculum. We also wish to create academic and co-curricular opportunities for the students, faculty and staff, such as readings and discussions of Half the Sky and other works related to women's rights and issues.”

Colby-Sawyer College is excited to present the New Hampshire Women's Caucus, which is aimed at educating women and preparing them as potential leaders who contribute to their communities in significant ways and make a difference in the world, according to President Tom Galligan.

“With our history as a former women's college, we at Colby-Sawyer have always been especially concerned with educating women and preparing them to be successful in their careers and lives,” President Galligan says. “The New Hampshire Women's Caucus gives the college a wonderful opportunity to provide a forum for women from around the region and across the political spectrum to focus on the critical issues they face today and empower them to individually and collectively find ways to address them effectively.”

Technology Specialist Amy Millios, a member of the Steering Committee, says that community members's involvement is needed. “We've been busy getting the event up and running, but there's still much left to do and many great opportunities for people to participate in this important effort.”

Those who wish to get involved should contact Event Coordinator Deborah Merrill at to let her know your areas of interest and expertise. The Steering Committee would welcome assistance with publicity, research and writing before the event, and with registration, parking and other duties on the event day.

As Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof wrote in Half the Sky, “Women are not the problem; they are the solution, along with men.”

-Kimberly Swick Slover