Valley Voices

Mike Fuller: Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by empowering women and girls

Wow, what a different world it is for women since my mom was born. Women could vote for less than 20 years in 1937. Women’s life expectancy in the U.S. was 62.4 years back then, it is now 81.3. And a woman is running for president.

In 1960, when I was born, 22 percent of women worked outside the home, 57 percent work now. Congress passed Title IX in 1972, dramatically increasing the number of girls and women participating in high school and college sports.

The Buffalo Bills recently hired the first full-time woman coach in National Football League history. Among many other achievements, women are now CEOs, astronauts and Army Rangers.

Though never athletic, my mom started to exercise later in life and is now the star of her senior set. This is in part because of the impact Jazzercise, Aquacise, Pilates, Zumba, step, yoga and cardio-kickboxing have had on fitness – moms’ and my own.

I’m one of few men who try to keep up with many energetic moms, married and single women in exercise classes at the facilities in Madera where we keep fit. Our instructors are strong and professional women whom I also admire.

My incredibly fit and admirable mother, along with my father, is an essential role model in my family. Though my mom is intelligent and a lifelong learner, she’s not a college graduate. Yet, almost all her kids and grandkids are.

My mom’s youngest granddaughter was valedictorian of Santa Barbara High School in 2014 and is an honor student at UC Berkeley, as is my mom’s youngest grandson.

However, my kin are white and grew up in Goleta or Santa Barbara County, whereas I now live in Madera where it looks like residents don’t have equal opportunities.

The percentage of Santa Barbara County residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 31.5 percent; in Madera County, 13.6 percent. The unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County is 4.6 percent; in Madera County, 10.4 percent as of April. The percentage of residents below poverty level in Santa Barbara County is 16 percent; in Madera County, 22.8 percent.

Like much of the U.S., the San Joaquin Valley has been pioneered and sustained by wave after wave of hardworking immigrants, many of them women and girls. However, comparisons with California’s Golden Coast suggest obstinate obstacles to upward mobility persist in every Central Valley community.

As a result, working together to encourage women and girls to take advantage of the wider range of career and other choices available to women, nowadays, makes sense. For not only will women and girls become more motivated to strive and thrive, their efforts and achievements will positively impact them, their families and our Central Valley communities.

There is a group of women who are working together to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by empowering women and girls. This will be the seventh year of their efforts, and I couldn’t be happier to share their work.

The theme of the seventh annual Celebration of International Women’s Day is empowering women and girls by showing them a wide range of careers now accessible to women. This event will also emphasize the perseverance necessary to achieve success in life, and one’s career, especially for women.

The main event occurs at Sierra Vista Elementary School in Madera on March 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As part of Women’s History Month, there are other events in Madera throughout the month of March, all of which are geared toward empowering women and girls.

“Money Management Basics” at the Madera County Library is March 3, 5 to 6:30 p.m., presented by the Fresno County Credit Union.

“My Body, Myself” is at Madera United Methodist Church on March 10, 5:30 to 7 p.m. This event will encourage women and girls to take good care of their health and develop positive body images by providing interesting and useful information about nutrition, natural beauty, safety and fitness.

“Widowed, Alone, in a Strange Land … and It Is 1870! The Abby West Minturn Story” will be presented by local historian Bill Coate at 5:30 p.m. on March 17 in the Madera County Museum.

Wow, what a different world it is since your mom was born. So, please join us as we empower women and girls to thrive in their lives and careers, right here in the Central Valley.

Mike Fuller is a resident of Madera. Call him at 559-416-9656 or go to or