As executive director of the Women's Fund Miami-Dade, life coach and author Kathy Andersen has made a career of tackling issues that affect the quality of life of women and girls in South Florida. Andersen grew up in Australia, but her life experience bonds her to women in the local community and across the globe in at least one all-too-familiar way.
In her writing, Andersen has been forthcoming about her experience with childhood abuse. Now she's using her experience to uplift women who have endured similar trauma. Wednesday, August 28, government leaders and community advocates will join her on that mission when the Women's Fund hosts the Women's Reproductive Rights Town Hall at CIC Miami. Panelists will include Congresswomen Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast president Lillian Tamayo, and Samantha Daley, a reproductive justice organizer from Power U's Center for Social Change.
"The town hall is intended as a positive and constructive forum where the elected officials will share their perspectives and positions on issues that may prove to be a key deciding issue in the 2020 elections," Andersen says.
The town hall is one of a monthly series hosted by the Women's Fund to address issues relating to women and their well-being, and reproductive rights are a crucial part of those discussions. "We want the community to be able to identify what individual women can do to protect and advance women's rights," Andersen says. "If we generate awareness and understanding, women can take the action that they want to take."
The Women's Fund town halls are part of a multipronged approach to improve the lives of women and girls in South Florida. Since its founding in 1993, the organization has provided nearly $4 million in grants to 485 organizations and programs making a difference in the lives of 60,000 women and girls in the region. Andersen has been at the helm since 2018, and she says the organization's goal is to create change for women and girls through advocacy, investment, and impact.
Among the projects the Women's Fund has recently undertaken is its anti-sex-trafficking campaign. Sex trafficking is an acute problem in South Florida, and the organization has taken out ads on billboards and county buses to inform the public on the issue and provide resources for women who've been affected.
It's one issue Andersen is particularly passionate about because of her past experience with abuse. "Sexual abuse just messes up your whole sense of right and wrong and guilt and shame," she says. "My overall sense of my childhood was really one of being constantly on the watch. It becomes just surviving and getting through the next day, not being able to say anything to anyone because you're afraid. That really leads to a downward spiral. For me, it led to wanting to end my life."
Andersen hopes to provide women in the community with the resources to avoid such a fate, and she believes informative community events such as the town halls are the way to provide resources to women in need.
"There is no problem that can be solved when you only service one part of the community," she says. "We will only advance women's rights across all groups if we come together as a community, understand each other, and work together to advance policy and practice... People want to be a part of a community of people who are working toward a solution."
Women's Reproductive Rights Town Hall. 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 28, at CIC Miami, 1951 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. womensfundmiami.salsalabs.org. Admission is free.
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