CT Women's Alliance seeks to expand its mission

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Region - posted Fri., Jan. 18, 2013
Connecticut Women's Alliance President and co-founder Wendy Leahy and Vice President Elaine AbouAkar at a CWA wine-tasting fundraiser in Glastonbury. Photos by Lauri Voter.
Connecticut Women's Alliance President and co-founder Wendy Leahy and Vice President Elaine AbouAkar at a CWA wine-tasting fundraiser in Glastonbury. Photos by Lauri Voter.

In Connecticut, a driven group of women has created the Connecticut Women's Alliance, an organization with a mission to support the advancement of women and girls. The CWA was established in 2010 by a core group of eight women who have since moved on, said CWA Vice President Elaine AbouAkar. “I got involved with it because I'm a single mom with four kids, three girls, and I wanted to give back,” she said. “Our official mission is to support the advancement of women and girls through programming.”

“We initially started as a group that just pulled together a women's conference,” added CWA President and co-founder Wendy Leahy. Those conferences were held in South Windsor, and at the time were called the Greater Hartford Women's Conference, explained Leahy. “But, we wanted to get bigger. We wanted to do something to branch out more and help more women and support more charities that mimic our mission,” she said.

This goal, commonly shared by the founders, led the group to create the CWA board and obtain their state of Connecticut 501(3)(c) status. The organization's main event is its annual women's conference. Held each spring, the conference, now called the Connecticut Women's Conference, has relocated to Farmington, a more central location.

“That will always be the main event, because it's big,” said Leahy. The conference is an opportunity to combine all aspects of CWA's mission by featuring educational, financial and business or personal development workshops for women. “We try to touch, pretty much, any piece of a woman's life that she would want to develop,” said Leahy.

For now, CWA helps women and girls by supporting charities that reflect its mission. CWA's process is to select a charity and support that organization for a year. “There's so many charities that need our help, that mimic our mission,” said Leahy.

CWA holds events, such as wine-tastings, to raise funds. Who benefits? “Primarily our chosen charity,” explained AbouAkar, who said that eventually, the CWA's goal is to support educational opportunities for women.

Leahy echoed this, adding, “Our vision is to eventually get to the point where we can have a scholarship fund, so we can support women educationally, as well.”

As part of its endeavor to grow its organization and develop a statewide appeal, the CWA is concentrating on aligning itself with similar groups, such as the Connecticut Women's Educational and Legal Fund (CWEALF) and Women's Mentoring Network, Inc. “We're starting to be able to work with other women's groups across the state. Building the alliances within the different women's groups is where we see the strengths coming through,” said Leahy.

CWA is not aspiring to exclusivity. Rather, its goal is to reach all women. “We want it to be for women of all walks of life,” said Leahy. To reflect this, conference workshops are purposely designed for a diverse population of women. “We're big into the entrepreneurial scene,” added Leahy. CWA's future goals include building its information resources, to enable it to become a whole resource for women.

“A Million Circles” is the theme of the 2013 conference, which will take place on April 25 at the Crown Plaza Cromwell, 100 Berlin Road, in Cromwell. Early Bird registration is $99 until March 1. The conference’s theme is derived from the works of author Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen. The concept implies that circles of women can create a movement that promotes change. The idea is described on the CWA website as, “The Millionth Circle proposes nothing less than the possibility that women’s circles can accelerate humanity’s shift into a post-patriarchal era.”

The keynote speaker for the 2013 event will be Ronita Johnson, a founding convener of "The Million Circle" movement. Registration for the 2013 conference, as well as more information about the CWA, are available by visiting www.ctwomensalliance.com or by calling 888-577-9458.

Volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are available with CWA. “We absolutely encourage and would like to have more volunteers to help with events and growing the organization,” said AbouAkar.

Leahy shared her own interest in becoming affiliated with CWA. She said it is her belief that society is at a “tipping point,” a time when the pendulum needs to swing toward a focus of women in leadership. “I'm very driven for women's purposes – women's leadership, women's power and passion,” she said.

In a twist of poetic justice, the CWA has found what might be considered a surprising source of support. “We have more men that actually support our mission, than not,” said Leahy.

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