By Rama K. Ramaswamy
In the mid-90's, following a UN World Conference on Women, the state of Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women with a goal of giving a state-appointed, non-partisan "voice.” The commission has dedicated itself to "[advancing the state’s] women and girls toward full equity in all areas of life and to promote rights and opportunities for all women and girls … [by providing] a permanent, effective voice for women and girls across Massachusetts. The Commission stands for fundamental freedoms, basic human rights and the full enjoyment of life for all women and girls throughout their lives.”
Since the early 2000’s, the state commission has created eleven regional commissions in an effort to expand its reach and improve its representation. The MetroWest (regional) Commission on the Status of Women (MWCSW) was founded in 2015 and is comprised of nine women commissioners, which represent twenty-six towns and two cities; their mission is “reviewing the status of women in [the MetroWest region] and offering recommendations regarding policy that would improve access to opportunities and equality.” To accomplish this, the commission hosts public hearings, engages in community outreach and networking opportunities, and lobbies for legislation directed at improving the lives of women and girls in all areas of life.
In early September, the commission hosted a public forum in Northborough to educate constituents on the dangers of revenge porn and teen sexting. Featured panelists included former NBC News anchor and activist Darieth Chisholm, State Representative Danielle Gregoire, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts Patti Hallberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Beverly Hugo, and other esteemed members of the region. Most recently, the commission gave testimony at a meeting of the Framingham City Council, in support of a proposed ‘Welcome Immigrants’ Ordinance.
In 2019, Wellesley resident and Dana Hall School faculty member Heather Panahi was appointed to the position of Commission chairwoman. “At the top of my list of goals this year is to boost our commission’s presence in the region,” said Panahi. “In doing so, it is my hope that we will be better able to advocate for the women and girls of the MetroWest and beyond.
“There are also several pieces of legislation that we are currently advocating support for,” she added, before listing some examples: “The Healthy Youth Bill, which would ‘ensure comprehensive and medically accurate curricula are taught in public schools that choose to offer sex education and provide students with the tools to build healthy relationships’; the Safe Communities Bill, which seeks to restore community trust in police by avoiding entanglement in immigration matters and protect due process for all; and House Bill 1208: An Act Requiring Sexual Misconduct Climate Surveys at Institutions of Higher Education.”
On Monday, April 8, the MWCSW will be hosting a legislative breakfast in Wellesley. MetroWest-area legislators and their constituents are invited to attend this free event, where participants will discuss, plan for and prioritize the issues and related legislation most crucial to the women and girls of the region.
The breakfast will take place from 9 to 11 a.m. in Beveridge Hall at Dana Hall School. Seating is limited and registration is encouraged at www.tiny.cc/MWCSWBreakfast.