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National NOW Times >> Summer, 2000 >> Article

The Joy of Joining Your Local NOW Chapter

by Barbara Hays, State and Chapter Development Director

Each of the 500 chapters of the National Organization for Women dreams great dreams. NOW's grassroots strength is, and always has been, its secret weapon. Many also feel it is the key to NOW's longevity as an organization.

While Congress can pass all the laws it wants, and the Supreme Court can hand down decisions on cases it hears, the everyday lives of women have been changed over the past 34 years by women and men working in their local communities, enforcing those laws, changing the culture and heightening awareness on issues of concern to women and their families

In addition, chapters often find themselves in the role of their community's conscience, on the cutting edge of issues like sexual harassment and lesbian rights.

On top of changing the world, chapters have to exist day-to-day - pick up the mail, welcome new members, send out newsletters, plan and hold meetings, raise money, and organize actions and projects that will bring about progress in their community. It's easy to understand why chapter activists may sometimes feel discouraged when they pick up the newspaper and learn of yet another threat to women's rights that needs attention.

However, chapter activism can be the most empowering thing a woman can do for herself. Involvement in chapter or state leadership builds new, transferable skills and also affords activists the opportunity to make a difference, to know that something good happened because of their efforts.

Some try to dismiss local activism as unimportant, irrelevant or perhaps trivial in a world where only mass media and money matter. However, while conservative organizations are sometimes more noisy about their activities, community groups are clearly emerging as a driving force behind progressive change.

The struggle for equal rights cannot be waged without the work of women and men at the local level-and don't think this applies only to someone else. Not everyone has the time to be a chapter organizer or leader, but everyone can do something. For the name or contact for a local chapter near you, call the Chapter and State Development Director at 202-628-8669, ext. 127 or 128, or check out our web site (www.now.org/chapters/state.html) for more information about chapter affiliation and involvement.

Don't let the challenges of the next century be lost because of you or won without you. Nothing on earth is more empowering than knowing you are making a difference!

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