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It's not always easy to enjoy being a girl
Angela Williams' op-ed on the state of women and girls in the Fredericksburg area.

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Date published: 2/3/2013

Living in a violent home can be a terrifying and traumatic experience that affects every aspect of a person's life.

--Status of Women and Girls

NOT ONLY did I write the above quotation, I spent the first part of my childhood living the experience: violence, addiction, alcoholism, poverty. This chaotic beginning could have tilted my life in many directions, most of them negative, but it did not. Why? Community: A kind, caring, committed community of women. It was these experiences as a young girl that drive my commitment to the work of supporting women and girls.

My vehicle is the Women and Girl's Fund. My contribution is two research reports providing a detailed status of where we stand as women of the Rappahannock River Region in eight key areas. The research includes important local information about the safety, education, employment, child care, and health and wellness. I hoped to uncover some barriers that impact women and girls as well as find some actionable research for grant-making.

Given my early childhood and two decades of working with children of poverty, you think our data would not surprise me. In my mind I imagined that somehow Fredericksburg must be different from Kansas City, Washington, and Miami--better, more compassionate. Here are a few highlights: 86 percent of people who live in poverty are women and children. Tens of thousands of women live somewhere between the federal poverty line and self-sufficiency, meaning they don't qualify for aid of any kind yet can't possibly make ends meet based on the cost of living in this area.

Many women with a bachelor's degree will make roughly the same amount of money as a man with a high school diploma. The wage gap hasn't budged in decades. The violence is still here, too. Women live in the shadow of ominous statistics regarding violence right here at home. Fifty percent of all adult female homicide victims were killed by someone they trusted and shared life with, their intimate partners. We have to wonder, out loud, why? How can this still be the state of affairs for women?


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Angela Williams is a charter member of the Community Foundation's Women and Girls Fund. She lives in Fredericksburg.