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Addressing the Issues that Impact Women Today by Janice Kovach
          Women from throughout the Garden State gather at last year's NJ Governor's Conference for Women. This year the event will be held on May 22.

March brings a new season and is nationally recognized as “National Women’s History Month.” This year’s theme for the National Women’s History Project is “Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet.” In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Department of Community Affairs’ Division on Women and the New Jersey Advisory Commission on the Status of Women will be presenting awards named in honor of the late Connie Woodruff and Senator Wynona M. Lipman. This year, the awards will recognize outstanding women and community organizations that have developed policies, services or programs that benefit the women of New Jersey.

2009 NJ Governor’s Conference for Women Women’s History Month also kicks us into high gear for the 2009 NJ Governor’s Conference for Women on May 12, which will feature noted poet, author and Nobel Prize winner Maya Angelou as keynote speaker. Hosted by the Department of Community Affairs’ NJ Division on Women, the conference is the state’s largest, most dynamic educational and networking event for New Jersey women. It represents Governor Corzine’s deep commitment to improving the quality of life for women in the state and enhancing their opportunities for personal and professional growth.

The self-sustaining conference is funded entirely through sponsorship opportunities and registration fees. This year, the Atlantic City Convention Center will continue to host our conference, which will again include the popular Health Fair and a networking reception the evening before at the adjoining Sheraton Hotel for those spending the night in Atlantic City. New this year, we will have space available for exhibitors at the convention center.

Each year we invite panelists who are experts in their fields to speak with participants on topics such as health and wellness, balanced living, leadership, finance and starting and marketing your own business. This year’s conference promises to be even more enlightening as we add sessions on the economy so that participants can get information important to them and hear from the experts. To learn more about this year’s conference highlights, please visit us online at www.njwomensconference.com.

New Jersey Division on Women The Division on Women will participate in a variety of events during Women’s History Month with local and county Commisions on the Status of Women throughout the state. These local initiatives give much needed exposure to the issues impacting women today.

The Division on Women, established through legislation in 1974, is dedicated to increasing awareness and advocating for the rights, responsibilities and interests of New Jersey women and their families. The division coordinates programs affecting women in order to empower them to lead productive and fullfilling lives. The objectives of DOW are to:

• Ensure that NJ women are offered equal opportunities in education, the workforce and healthcare.
• Identify, implement, measure and coordinate programs that address the needs of NJ women.
• Engage in continuous study and research on issues affecting women.
• Develop policy papers and legislative recommendations on women’s issues.

The division funds many programs that provide assistance to women such as Displaced Homemaker Centers, Urban and Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers and the NJ Women’s Micro-Business Credit Program. Each initiative meets a need within the community to provide training, counseling, job placement help, financial management and continuing education, or assist women in becoming self-sufficient so they can provide for their families.

In 2006, the division allocated money for the Deployed Military Spouses program, in partnership with DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources. This is a direct services grant given to families of deployed military personnel to help them meet urgent needs such as emergency car repairs, mortgage payments and childcare costs. These are families who have or are experiencing financial difficulties because of the deployment and have no where else to turn. The program is run out of our Burlington County Women’s Opportunity Center. With the continued deployment, the need for programs such as this becomes even greater. This initiative is not just about financial assistance, but about referring families of deployed military to other services offered by the state, counties and municipalities.

Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Programs The division also funds many programs that assist women who have been victims of sexual or domestic violence. There are 21 county rape care programs that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist sexual assault survivors. Whether it is hospital examinations, court visits or counseling, these programs provide a significant service to each of the participating communities. The same programs also work throughout the communities to educate students, parents and other organizations on sexual assault prevention. On any given day, a program staff member could be in a middle school teaching students about what they can do to stop sexual assaults and then on to a hospital visit to help someone who survived just such an assault.

Women’s Referral Center Understanding the need for women to have a one-stop shop for information important to them, the division also funds Women’s Referral Central, a toll-free hotline that provides referrals and basic information in areas of concern such as discrimination, housing, divorce and violence. More information can be found at the DOW website listed below where the NJ Resource Guide for Women is posted. Topics range from addiction, adoption, banking and health to legal services, veterans benefits, voter information and employment.

The work of the division doesn’t end with what is listed here. We are working to create partnerships with other state agencies and organizations, as well as leverage existing resources in order to better serve the women of New Jersey, give them the opportunities they so richly deserve, and empower them to advocate for themselves.

The New Jersey Division on Women can be reached at (609) 292-8840 or visit our website at www.nj.gov/dca/dow. To contact the 24-hour Women’s Referral Central hotline please call 1-800-322-8092.

This article was originally published in New Jersey Municipalities magazine. Vol. 86, No. 3, March 2009

 

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