Girl power is not a force to be reckoned with. Here in Chester County, and around the nation, we recognize that our mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, friends and neighbors can affect change in their very own communities. As a non-profit committed to improving the lives of women and girls, Chester County Fund for Women and Girls strives to empower organizations like Unite for HER, a West Chester-based non-profit that connects women diagnosed with breast cancer to complementary therapies. They too understand that “when you empower women and give them the opportunities and resources they need, they return that help many times over, bringing greater health and wellness to their family, friends and the whole community.” We also support La Comunidad Hispana in southern Chester County in its mission to provide quality, integrated care to immigrants and low-income women to bring about significant health changes. After all, they know that healthy women are essential in leading their families to better health. They get it.
Yet, as we unpack the consequences of the American Health Care Act and the Better Care Reconciliation Act, we can’t help but worry that our lawmakers don’t quite get it. Penning a bill that is “especially disastrous for women” does not respect girl power. CCFWG is entering our 20th year of recognizing the challenges facing women and girls in Chester County. In response, we engage and convene the community with educational programs like our recent Panel Discussion about Women’s Healthcare, as well as invest in local non-profit organizations addressing those needs and challenges. Throughout our history and now, we continue to witness the tides of change that are brought about by empowering women and girls in our communities. We know the positive influence that a healthy and thriving woman can have on her world.
Monica, a beneficiary of the services provided by one of our grantees, Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County (MCHC), knows exactly what it means to help herself in order to support her family. After the loss of her husband to cancer, Monica, a single mother to two boys with a third on the way, felt like she was rebuilding her life from the ground up. Suddenly faced with a high-risk pregnancy, no employment opportunities or health benefits – and struggling without the support of her husband – she turned to MCHC. Once approved for Medicaid, Monica received the care she needed to successfully deliver her third son. With MCHC’s support, Monica and her boys could lead healthy, productive lives. She could finally start again.
These bills not only disregard the “power of she,” and women like Monica, but also misinterpret the health-based needs of all women in our country. By eviscerating Medicaid, rolling back requirements for coverage of essential health benefits like maternity care, and cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, they also try to prevent women and girls nationwide from acting as the influential and powerful forces we know them to be.
As we learned at our Women’s Healthcare program, we have the power to change the conversation by adding our stories to the larger healthcare landscape.
“Any personal anecdote you have, that’s the most powerful message you can bring. It helps break the stigma.”
By raising our voices together, in solidarity, we can wield our collective powers as citizens to ensure that our elected officials understand the consequences of threatening our health and well-being. Pay a visit to your senator or call up your representative. Tell your friends – women AND men – and your grandparents and grocers that an assault on women’s health is really an assault on community health. Explain to your neighbors that healthy women are the foundation of a healthy society. Stand up, shout out and make your voice heard. Remind our country to never mess with girl power.
Michelle Legaspi Sanchez
Chester County Fund for Women and Girls