This I Believe
I believe in the dreams of girls and the power of women.
That happens to be the motto for the Dallas Women’s Foundation, where I’ve worked for the past ten years.
But it’s more than a slogan. It’s the rallying cry of a global movement. And nowhere is that movement more alive than right here in Dallas.
I wasn’t raised to be a revolutionary. Growing up in Texas, I followed a traditional path. I got my degree in teaching – something to “fall back on” if my husband lost his job or when my children left home.
I married right out of college. At that time, married women in Texas could not own land or hold credit cards in their own name. I remember being glad when the law was changed, but I don’t remember being outraged. It was just the way things were.
What awakened me was not a personal injustice. It came upon me gradually, in my job as a school teacher and – later — in my volunteer work in the community.
I began to see a common thread in the problems here in Dallas – whether it was kids who couldn’t learn, violence in the home, people who couldn’t get off welfare, or teenagers who ended up pregnant or drop-outs – or both.
The common thread? No matter what the problem, women and girls seemed to be disproportionately affected:
• Ninety-seven percent of the people on welfare in Dallas are women.
• Dallas ranks second in the nation in the number of teenage pregnancies.
• The leading cause of homelessness in this city is domestic violence.
The other sad reality I found was this: Despite these statistics, women and girls get less of the dollars and attention available.
A group of 19 women got together back in 1985 and decided to do something. That’s when the Dallas Women’s Foundation was born.
We didn’t know at the time that we were creating one of the first women’s foundations in the country. Today, there are 120, but Dallas remains one of the oldest, largest and most successful women’s foundations in the world.
What keeps us going is a shared belief in this simple equation: When you change the life of a woman, you improve the health of her family. When you strengthen families, you strengthen communities. And pretty soon, you’re on a path to lasting human gain.
Social scientists say that developing countries that show the most promise for economic growth and social justice are those that educate and empower women.
Micro lenders in Third World countries target their loans to women, because they know that helping a woman create a business to feed her family can break the cycle of poverty overall.
So, an investment in the life of a girl is really an investment in the whole community.
What’s truly exciting is that for the first time in human history, women are becoming the major funders of women’s causes. We’ve always volunteered our time and our talents. But now, women are discovering the power of the purse, and aligning our money with our values in greater numbers than ever before.
I believe in the dreams of girls and the power of women. It’s not something I grew up believing. But after two decades of seeing what happens when women join hands to lift other women to their feet, it’s something I now believe has the power to change the world.
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