Meet Lauren Atkins of #YesAllDaughters and Lauren’s Law, 2018 Youth PowHer Microgrant Project Winner

Lauren Atkins

Meet our Youth PowHer Microgrant project recipient: Lauren Atkins. She is working on passing state legislation that would teach students about healthy relationships and consent education in schools. Her project is related to Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality.

She lives in Norman, Oklahoma. As of right now, she is a senior at Norman High School but plans to attend The University of Oklahoma in the fall for political science. Growing up, she would have never guessed that she would become a political junkie.

During May of last year, she was sexually assaulted by one of her classmates. The day after when she was explaining to him what he did to her, he seemed to have no idea that what he did was a violation of her body. Though she went through with everything she thought she was supposed to do such as getting a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exam, filing a police report, reliving it by retelling it, etc., she felt as if it were for nothing when the District Attorney decided not to continue on with the case. The saddest part was when she realized that this happens to so many women every day. The point of publicly sharing her story was to shine a light on the unfairness of rape and what comes along with it. No one should have to go through that pain.

When Stacey Wright of Yes All Daughters contacted her about my story, she had a feeling big things were to come. Stacey told her about a bill she previously introduced that had been shot down and thought that if they teamed up and changed up the language that they could get it somewhere. After changing up the language, the bill is now concerning the implementation of consent and healthy relationship classes in middle and high schools. After releasing it to the media and gaining supporters, all of the hard work put forward proved to be worth it. As of February 26th, 2018, HB2734 (Lauren’s Law) unanimously made it through the Common Education committee and now has a Senate author and ten bi-partisan co-authors from the House and Senate. (See the bill here)

Her hopes for the implementation of Lauren’s Law is to educate people on what’s right and wrong so no one else has to go through what she did. The reason she was raped was that her assailant didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. It could have been prevented if he was educated on what he is and isn’t allowed to do to regarding someone else’s body. No one deserves to go through trauma, especially because of someone else’s ignorance.  In Lauren’s words, “Education is powerful and deserves to be spread like wildfire!”

Thank you  for your dedication to making your community brighter and we look forward to updates about your project to share with our members.

Come and meet Lauren at our International Women’s Day Program scheduled for March 10, 2018 from 2-4 p.m. at the Raindrop Turkish House Oklahoma City. You can find tickets here.

 

 

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Meet Vanessa Morrison and Gina Sofola of Black Space Oklahoma, 2018 Adult PowHer Microgrant Project Winner

Meet our Adult PowHer Microgrant project recipients: Vanessa Morrison and Gina Sofola. These two ladies have launched a great initiative called Black Space Oklahoma that addresses four of the Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals include: good health and well-being, industry, innovation,  and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, and sustainable cities and communities.

Historically, communities of color have been left out of spaces of influence when it comes to how communities are physically design and planned for. The consequences due to the lack of diversity in these decision-making spaces have been contributing factors to how poverty, access to resources, inequalities, health disparities, violence, and the overall erasure of culture heavily impacts our most vulnerable communities. At Black Space Oklahoma, they envision communities in which social and spatial change is encouraged, hope is fostered, and the pipeline for Black professionals to the formal fields of city planning, architecture, and design is broadened. Through their founding principles they plan to both strategically and tangibly extend the world of planning, architecture, design, and community organizing work to Black communities in OKC to contribute solution-focused strategies and positive change. Their objectives include:

1. Developing a multidisciplinary support network for Black community professionals and their allies;
2. Creating access to quality education centric to city planning, architecture, and design through mentoring programs, community discussions, and more;
3. Providing tangible and holistic resources to consult, support, and create opportunities for Black voices and informed action to be taken in local OKC neighborhoods, and;
4. Starting a repository for the collective celebration and preservation of the historic, present, and future community/design contributions of Black Oklahomans.

Without more diversity in these decision-making positions that are in control of the design of their communities, local residents will continue to suffer from both the intended and unintended consequences of not having Black voices at the table. They are committed to being an actionable, solution-focused collective to change the design trajectories of Oklahoma communities through creating and celebrating Black Space in Oklahoma.

Meet the women behind the project

Vanessa Morrison

Vanessa Morrison is a Certified Domestic Sexual Violence Response Professional (CDSVRP) and social planner who is dedicated to empowering and supporting communities. After receiving her master’s degree in Regional City Planning from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture, Vanessa’s professional and academic opportunities have allowed her to facilitate and design crisis intervention approaches to address violence in communities, coordinate engagement opportunities for marginalized groups, domestically and internationally consult projects, collaborate on community planning initiatives, and activate both spatial and social environments. She’s experienced in developing and implementing strategies that reach into multi-faceted groups – including victims of interpersonal violence, advocacy initiatives, state and local governments, and religious sectors. Her robust and diverse experience in community engagement and crisis intervention, along with her advocacy and crisis intervention experience, give her unique insights into how the built environment impacts vulnerable, micro-communities.

Gina Sofola

Ms. Sofola is the President and Principal Consultant for Sofola and Associates, Inc., a project management and planning consulting firm started in 1999. She has managed projects around the country and worked as a Project Engineer for Fortune 500 Companies in NYC; with the City of Kansas City Missouri on multiple municipal projects including the rehabilitation of the historic Robert J. Mohart Building, the renovation of Historic Bartle Hall Convention Center and new State of the Art Fire Station 35; City and County of Denver where her company currently provides project management and planning support to Denver International Airport’s Airport Infrastructure Management Group; and she is currently developer’s agent/project manager for the Page Woodson Restoration Project a multi-phase, mixed income, mixed use development that will consist of Affordable and Market Rate Housing along with dynamic public spaces. In addition to Page Woodson she has recently collaborated on the Women of Northeast Oklahoma City which won the 2017 Oklahoma APA Award for Outstanding Public Outreach.

Her training gives her an eye towards how humans interact with the built and work
environments. She is interested in environmental, transportation, and international
planning issues and has a great passion for urban design that seeks to optimize the human experience for under served communities.

Thank you ladies for your dedication to making your community brighter and we look forward to updates about your project to share with our members.

Come and meet Vanessa and Gina at our International Women’s Day Program scheduled for March 10, 2018 from 2-4 p.m. at the Raindrop Turkish House Oklahoma City. You can find tickets here.

 

Meet Enedina Banks, panelist at our International Women’s Day Event

Enedina Banks Photo

This year’s theme for the Commission on the Status of Women 62 is Empowering Rural Women and Girls. UNA-OKC took this to heart when we chose our panelists and the topics we would be covering. We looked at what issues Oklahoma women and girls, both urban and rural, face in this state. We kept coming back to one unfortunately, often overlooked group: the Indigenous women and girls of Oklahoma. It is important to acknowledge that we are on stolen land and the effects that it has had on Indigenous maternal health and well being. We found just the person to talk about just that.

Meet Enedina Banks. Enedina Banks is a proud member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation. She was born and raised here in Oklahoma until she was 15 when she moved to Kansas where her Potawatomi roots are. She completed high school at Kickapoo Nation School on the Kickapoo reservation in Kansas. She later attended St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, where she now resides and received an AA in Business Administration. Enedina has been married to Vincil Banks for 12 years and is the proud mother of four children Skupkonkot, Zawzeequa, Wahpunose and Wahweya. Mrs. Banks is working diligently to raise her children in both the modern and the traditional world. Mrs. Banks has presented on the importance of breastfeeding as a very natural and key part of a traditional upbringing. Enedina Banks has been an advocate and activist for Indigenous women’s health issues for over a decade and has spoken on behalf of these causes at numerous conferences such as the National Indian and Native America Coalition WIC Conference. The Huffington Post has published and shared her story further ensuring her hope of empowering women and educating the world about motherhood in her culture. She currently uses her passion for preserving and teaching Native culture in her position as a Language Instructor for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In her role with the CPN Language Department, she particularly enjoys teaching the Potawatomi language to children in the tribal day care.

To hear more about Enedina and her work come and join us at this year’s International Women’s Day Program. Buy tickets here.

 

Meet Leslie Ross, panelist at our International Women’s Day Event

Leslie Ross Photo

This year’s theme for the Commission on the Status of Women 62 is Empowering Rural Women and Girls. UNA-OKC took this to heart when we chose our panelists and the topics we would be covering. We looked at what issues Oklahoma women and girls, both urban and rural, face in this state. Access to mental health care is often a barrier to address underlying trauma that women and girls often face. We found just the person to tell you about their work.

Meet Leslie Ross. Leslie Ross is a daughter, sister, auntee and LPC. Leslie began working in underage drinking prevention which led to her receiving her M.S in Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a LPC supervisor. Leslie’s personal experiences led her to specialize in trauma focused therapy with all ages and is trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (used with children 3-21); Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); CPT: Trauma Focused Narrative Therapy; Motivational Interviewing and other cognitive behavior interventions. She is currently the Project Director of the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services that goes with the Mark Costello Act. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, her dog Elvis and traveling.

To hear more about Leslie and her work come and join us at this year’s International Women’s Day Program. Buy tickets here.