The Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga unites efforts for social change that improve life for women and girls across the region. Through advocacy and philanthropy, they catalyze movement toward a just society that is safe, nurturing, and full of opportunity for women. The Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga is made up of advocates, volunteers, and philanthropists.
Executive Director Erika Burnette says the work of the Women's Fund can be summarized into three key areas: Addressing the root causes of issues with no champions. They focus on issues that have the most significant impact on women and girls in Tennessee, as revealed by research conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The second key area, those in the organization are advocates, not politicians. They take collective action, encouraging individuals to advocate for themselves and each other. The fund also changes laws. They write and support legislation that directly impacts women and girls in our region.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Tennessee ranks 49 out of 50, as one of the worst states for women. One specific area Tennessee is worst in is reproductive rights for women. Burnette says in the years since, the fund has worked to take Tennessee to number one by organizing its work around the seven factors impacting the quality of life for women in our region: Employment and Opportunity, Poverty and Opportunity, Health and Well-being, Violence and Safety, Political Participation, Reproductive Rights, along with Work and Family. She says the organization continues to work to change "this deplorable reality by identifying the root causes of pertinent issues and championing for change through policy change, philanthropy, advocacy and education, and collaboration."
As mentioned, Tennessee is ranked low for reproductive rights for women, and amid the overturning of Roe V. Wade, the state has only gotten worse for women’s freedom. I asked the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga how this has impacted their mission. Executive Director Burnette says the overturning has “facilitated a sense of urgency for us as an organization to educate the community as a whole on the power and impact of legislative decisions and ultimately the power of their voice and advocacy." She says, "the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will place an additional burden on the need for women and children’s health resources across our communities. In a state already ranked low for women’s health and advancement, the Court’s decision creates additional urgency to increase access to services that will be needed by more women and children." Burnette says their advocacy efforts focus on the growing need for maternal and prenatal care, early childhood education, childcare, nutrition and food insecurity, contraception, sex education, and more.
Along with its advocacy work, the Fund does philanthropy work through their Nightingale Network. Burnette says the group works together to create a positive social impact on the community. She says one hundred percent of membership fees and matching gifts are used to fund their annual grant for a community organization chosen by the Nightingale Network. Since 2011 the Nightingale Network grants have awarded more than $98,000 to area nonprofits.
The Fund does not have service volunteer opportunities, but they look to expand representation on their Advocacy Committee and the Nightingale Network. To take action alongside the Women's Fund of Greater Chatt, their primary mission is to get you and others out to vote. Burnette says Tennesseans can sign up for their Advocacy emails to learn more and act to support women and girls in the community and the whole state.
Once the Legislative session begins in the new year, the Fund is hosting a "Day on the Hill" in Nashville this Spring. Burnette says they would love the community's support and attendance alongside them.
My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.