On the same day this edition of The SUN is published, the dream of a group of local women will be realized.
The Pagosa Springs Women’s Resource Center will open its doors for the first time today, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. This week, and each week hereafter, the Resource Center, housed in the former Mary Fisher Clinic building at Pagosa Mountain Hospital, will be open during these hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to offer assistance to Pagosa women in a variety of ways.
Moreover, on the first Wednesday of every month the center will host a guest who will speak on an important women’s issue.
But the advent of a new support organization is just one way that Pagosa is celebrating women in March, the month when countries around the world observe International Women’s Day.
“We know there are already a number of other agencies helping women in Pagosa. Our goal is to work with all those organizations and help connect women with the help they need,” said Nancy Grovhoug, one of the co-founders — along with a number of other community volunteers — of the Women’s Resource Center.
“We’ve talked with people at the San Juan Basin Health Department, and the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program and other organizations about how we can work together to reach women in Pagosa who are in need of something and can’t figure out where to go for help,” Grovhoug said.
The Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP), for its part, is looking forward to collaborating with the new Women’s Resource Center beginning this month, in honor of International Women’s Day, and every month from now on.
“Some women must fight silent battles daily against the violence that has altered their lives and the lives of the children. And the rebuilding that must take place for these women requires the support of caring supportive institutions and individuals. The strongest ally in this rebuilding is a community who chooses to unconditionally support victims, even with their flaws and insecurities,” said Karen Hatfield, assistant director of the ACVAP.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, according to the holiday’s official Web site. In 1910, a woman named Clara Zetkin (leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day. The very first IWD was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on March 19, though now the official date of observance is March 8 of each year.
During International Women’s Year in 1975, IWD was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments. According to their Web site, International Women’s Day is marked by a national holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Locally, the goal of organizations like the Victim Assistance Program, the Women’s Resource Center and others is to celebrate achievements and advocate for women in March, but more importantly to do so every single day of the year.
This month, for example, will see women gathering to make merry and raise funds for women’s assistance at Bedazzle and Bling — a women-only auction and soirée to be held at Nello’s Bistro on March 19. Attendees and auction items are still being welcomed, contact the Victim Assistance Program for more information.
In April, Pagosa men and women alike will gather for the fourth annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, a community walk through downtown to raise awareness about sexual violence and honor victims of sexual abuse. Everyone is welcome; meet at the Parish Hall at 11:30 a.m. on April 23.
This summer, let the awareness-raising continue by “Doing-the-Du” at the third annual Pagosa Duathlon, a yearly event to bring the community together for a running and mountain bike race in the beautiful San Juan National Forest and to raise funds for the Victim Assistance Program.
In addition to special events like these, the ACVAP and other advocacy groups work everyday to shed light on issues that affect women and families, and to help create movements for positive chance in Archuleta County.
“We train professionals in social services, law enforcement and other fields about the effects of domestic violence on families,” said Carmen Hubbs, director of the Victim Assistance Program. “We also teach police officers about effective predominate aggressor analysis, which is an evidence-based investigation that helps ensure that the officers are equipped to make the right response to a domestic violence call. Ultimately our goal is always to get the violence to stop. We just revised our mission statement this year, to reflect that goal as the most important thing.”
The mission statement now reads: “ACVAP promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence by providing support and advocacy services for victims and education for youth and our community.”
“Living free from violence is important for both the present and the future. For example, we now know that, in addition to being extremely detrimental to the woman, domestic violence when children live in the home has farther-reaching effects than anybody used to imagine,” explained Hubbs. “When children witness domestic violence it stunts the growth of their brain, and consequently has extreme and lasting developmental consequences for the child.”
To reiterate, while preventing violence in the present is always a goal of outreach agencies in Pagosa, it is also vital to think about the choices that younger generations will be making someday. School programs such as Girl Talk, a peer-mentoring program that female Pagosa Springs High School students facilitate for junior high girls is another example of the way that the rights and responsibilities of girls and women are discussed every day in our area.
Additionally, in April, eighth-grade girls in Pagosa will have a chance to participate in the annual Girls2Women conference, co-organized by the Durango Women’s Resource Center, as a forum for young girls to learn about making healthy decisions as they move through adolescence and into adulthood. As well, a number of other educational programs about healthy relationships, violence prevention and human rights are emphasized throughout the year to boys and girls, as well as adults in the area.
At the heart of International Women’s Day, as well as the daily efforts Pagosa organizations make to better the lives of women is this idea: “Supporting women is not about being women being ‘lesser than,’” Hatfield said. “It is about seeing the best in those around us — male and female alike — and bringing that forward. Why should one half of the world not use their talents to the maximum? We can only benefit when oppression is a thing of the past.”
For more information about the new Women’s Resource Center call 731-3700 (currently the center does not have an answering machine, but they will be getting one, so just keep trying with your call).
For more information about any of the upcoming events mentioned in this article, call the Victim Assistance Program at 264-9075 or visit their Web site at www.acvap.org.