If the YWCA of Southern Arizona could blow out 100 candles and make a birthday wish come true, it would ask for one thing: To level the playing field for women at work and in business.
“In 1917, the women who started the YWCA understood that empowering women and supporting women means all women,” said Kelly Fryer, CEO of YWCA of Southern Arizona. “There has been a commitment to racial justice that has intersected gender equity from the beginning, and now we are stepping up our advocacy and doubling down on the work we have been doing in terms of economic justice to make sure that women and minorities in our community have access to training, resources, tools and the funding they need to be successful.”
At its 100th birthday celebration May 4, the YWCA will launch the public phase of the Second Century Campaign, which seeks $1 million for the Women’s Impact Fund and $500,000 for the Stand Together Arizona Training & Advocacy Center.
Fryer said the impact fund will offer loans to women and minority entrepreneurs and invest in business ventures and projects that drive economic development, such as the YWCA’s Kitchen Business Incubator in South Tucson. The training center will support voter education and engagement, grassroots activism and development of legislative strategies.
“This is a two-pronged strategy that puts tools in the hands of women and changes the systems that are unfair and make life so much more difficult than it needs to be for women and other marginalized folks,” Fryer said.
Fryer hopes to raise awareness about the fact the YWCA does more than help women get back on their feet. She is trying to promote outreach about opportunities such as the Women’s Leadership Conference, the Latino Leadership Institute and other workforce development programs that have become cornerstones in the community over the past three decades.
Fryer also emphasized that through the Second Century Campaign, the YWCA is carrying on a historic tradition of championing justice. She said many people are unaware that during the 1930s, the YWCA offered Tucson’s only swimming lessons for children of color as well as integrated housing for women who attended the University of Arizona; in 1974, it opened Tucson’s first state-certified infant-care center and in 1981 opened the first local housing program for survivors of domestic violence and their children.