We build women’s collective power in the U.S.

June 2, 2023

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Ohio Women’s Alliance

by Myia Rucker

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Myia Rucker, Director of Membership of Ohio Women’s Alliance

Ohio Women’s Alliance believes that adequately resourced leaders require a supportive community, access to tailored leadership development opportunities, financial support to do their work, and a culture of community care that prioritizes their wellbeing. They believe that by resourcing, connecting, and holistically investing in grassroots leaders across Ohio, they can create a cultural narrative shift that champions a better Ohio for all. Ohio Women’s Alliance is an Activist Collaboration & Care Fund grantee partner.

What brought you to this work? 

I come from a family who values community and service. Growing up I spent a large part of my life in service to others, I knew I would carry that into my career. For the majority of my career, I worked in direct service, working with the youth of Greater Columbus. I have worked in our public school system, for City Year Columbus, shelter homes for youth in foster care, and more. I noticed that many of the hardships the youth and families faced were outside of their locus of control, and were systematic by design due to racism, classism, and generational poverty. I knew that if these barriers did not exist, their well-being would increase exponentially, which is why I decided to tackle the root cause and work to dismantle these harmful systems by becoming a social worker and organizer.  

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Who are your key partners?

I am so fortunate to be in the Reproductive Justice community in Ohio. We have such strong Black women and gender nonconforming leaders, many of whom I have the privilege of working with every single day. Reproductive Justice as a framework is grounded in relationship-building and community. Our key partners in this work are Abortion Fund of Ohio (AFO), Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Motherful, Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality (OFUAPB), and many more. I am so thankful that the organizations we choose to partner with are values-aligned and engage in a mutual and reciprocal relationship with OWA.  

What are you learning or what are you teaching? 

Currently at OWA, we are in the midst of launching our Member Assistance Program (MAP). This program is designed to break down barriers to support folks seeking access to abortion care, reproductive health care, and practical support services, like assisting folks in their search for identity-affirming doctors or therapists. In October, we finished our first round of training for MAP volunteers, equipping them with a deeper understanding of the MAP program, Reproductive Justice, advocacy, civic engagement, and anti-oppressive practices. 

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

I am very proud of the OWA team for launching MAP, which has been in development since our founding in 2019. OWA Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Rhiannon Carnes had the vision for the MAP program from the inception of OWA, and I am happy to have been an integral part of executing her vision.  

What can philanthropy do better and/or how can individuals be helpful allies?

Because we live in a capitalist society, organizations require funds in order to do the work. The most important thing philanthropists can do is listen to the stories of those most marginalized, Black women, young people, and gender nonconforming folks. It is important to not only listen to these communities but to center their stories and — in turn — provide the funds needed to execute the work. People ultimately know what they need.  

What gives you hope?

What gives me hope is the thought of one day achieving Black liberation. All of my work at OWA and in the community revolves around working toward this goal because as Audre Lorde states, “Until Black women are free, none of us will be free.” I am a firm believer that this is applicable to other intersecting oppressed folks, i.e. those who are both Black and young or Black and LGBTQ+. The vision to know what is possible—a world where Black people can live and be free to seek joy and abundance—is what gives me hope.