A lunchtime Women’s History Month Forum in Fresno highlighted the accomplishments of four women in the community. A church office closed for the day in support of women. And a late afternoon forum and rally at Fresno City Hall united immigrant women against hate and being labeled a threat to American security.
Erica Belis, an outreach admissions representative for Fresno Pacific University’s Visalia campus, wore red to the women’s history month forum held by SCORE Central Valley, a nonprofit that helps businesses get off the ground.
It’s important to recognize the leaps and bounds that women have made over the past 100 years, Belis said. “I think it’s important to support women around me. It’s important to challenge each other … to give community support and encouragement,” she said.
I think it’s important to support women around me. It’s important to challenge each other
The A Day Without a Woman protest, organized by those who led nationwide women’s marches in January, called for women to skip work, refrain from spending money and wear red in solidarity. Women marched in large cities, and some schools around the country closed Wednesday.
The Valley didn’t have a large strike or protest to demonstrate how vital women are to the economy. Local schools also did not close because of a shortage of teachers. Valley teachers showed up to work with very few out for the day, the area’s large districts reported.
At Fresno State, faculty from the history department manned a booth at the social science quad to take suggestions and answer student questions about possible teaching opportunities or topics related to A Day Without a Woman. Many of the female faculty members canceled classes for the day.
ACT for Women and Girls, a Visalia nonprofit that engages women in leadership opportunities to promote social and personal change, issued a statement Tuesday in support of the protest. No one answered the office phone on Wednesday.
“A Day Without Women is an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of women by getting a taste of life without our services and contributions in our communities and workplaces, as well as at home. Women not only hold up half of the sky; we keep the world spinning,” said Erin Garner-Ford, executive director.
“ACT is committed to supporting the next generation’s female leaders as they develop skills and eventually step into organizing roles like those at the helm of today’s strike. We applaud A Day Without Women for recognizing the importance of all women’s contributions. Lifting up all women and girls is the only way forward.”
This felt like an opportunity for the church to join not just in a national movement, but a worldwide movement, remembering, celebrating the importance of women.
Rev. Tim Kutzmark
The Unitarian Universalist Church in northeast Fresno closed its office for the day after several staff members told the Rev. Tim Kutzmark that they wanted to recognize International Women’s Day and the A Day Without A Woman protest.
“It’s right in alignment with our Unitarian religious values where we recognize and celebrate the inherent worth and dignity of everyone,” Kutzmark said. “This felt like an opportunity for the church to join not just in a national movement, but a worldwide movement, remembering, celebrating the importance of women.”
Women immigrants from diverse backgrounds gathered at Fresno City Hall on International Women’s Day for a forum on immigrant women’s rights.
The speakers came from the Valley’s Middle Eastern, indigenous Mexican and South and Southeast Asian communities.
Dima Kashak, a 14-year-old student at Kastner Intermediate School in northeast Fresno, described her life in Syria before she fled the civil war with her family in 2011. She said she loves her new school and her friends and hopes to be a model of a young Muslim woman immigrant.
Mina Ikeda, a survivor of World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans, detailed how her school’s student body president sat with her on the bus the day after Pearl Harbor so she wouldn’t be alone and would feel safe.
Other speakers shared the reasons they had left their home countries, with war and social unrest being common themes.
After the forum, the speakers planned to rally outside City Hall.
At the women’s history month forum, SCORE celebrated the accomplishments of five women: Elizabeth Casarez, chief executive officer of Grace Foster Family Agency; F. Ndidi Uche Griffin-Myers, director of the school of nursing at Fresno State; Jennifer Hoekstra, owner of The Bar Method; Irma Olguin Jr., co-founder and chief executive officer of Bitwise Industries; and K.C. Rutiaga, president of Fresno Neon Sign Co.
The panelists answered questions about challenges in their careers and were asked to give advice to the public. They encouraged women to accept help from others, to follow their passions and to do the best they can.
Casarez said she was honored to serve on the panel on Women’s Day. “It’s important to share hope, especially in our world, the way it is today.”