Wednesday, September 10, 2014
After advocating for issues related to women’s rights and immigrants on the national level, Elizabeth Barajas-Román has switched to promoting change and creating partnerships locally as the new chief executive officer of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.
An experienced leader in policy and advocacy, Barajas-Román will now lead one of the top social change philanthropic organizations dedicated to women’s rights and equality in western Massachusetts.
In her first four weeks at the Easthampton-based organization, Barajas-Román’s time has been focused on a $240,000 grant dedicated to collaborative projects that address women’s issues in Hampshire, Franklin, Berkshire and Hampden counties.
“We know by working together there is the possibility we can reach a solution,” Barajas-Román said. “We wanted organizations to work together and work collaboratively to move the needle on issues they care about.”
Among the recipients of money awarded by the Women’s Fund is the Franklin County Women’s Growing Agricultural Resiliency and Developing Economic (GARDEN) Project designed to provide educational access and address economic concerns for women.
That is a partnership among Greenfield Community College, the Montague Catholic Social Ministries, the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition and Seeds of Solidarity Education Center in Orange to teach low-income women in transition how to grow their own food and sell it through a food co-op business.
There will be a reception with Barajas-Román and GCC President Robert L. Pura from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the GCC Downtown Center in Greenfield as they announce details of the project.
Each partner organization will recommend women for the project. About 42 women will participate in the program over three years, taking courses at GCC in organic gardening, permaculture landscape installation and food preservation. The Women’s Fund will pay for instructor costs, allowing the students to take the classes for free.
GCC will also arrange for instructors to attend a training at NELCWIT and Montague Catholic Social Ministries to learn about the triggers of trauma and to recognize the signs of physical and emotional domestic violence.
Another grant is awarded to the Prison Birth Project to address economic justice and educational access issues for all four counties. The project works to provide support, education and advocacy to women and girls who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.
Barajas-Román brings a wealth of experience to the Women’s Fund.
She most recently worked for Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., where she managed a program that campaigned for state and federal policy change on issues impacting children’s health. While working there, Barajas-Román commuted between western Massachusetts and Washington.
Before that, Barajas-Román served as director of policy at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she directed the organization’s Washington-based office.
“When this position came up it spoke to me. I could do the work I love here in the community I love,” Barajas-Román said.