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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Women for Positive Change, a new grassroots organization that aims to empower women, is holding its first St. John meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cruz Bay.
The group, founded by former legislator Stephanie Scott, aims to attract women — the territory's largest voting bloc — who are interested in working together on community issues ranging from safety to health care to education and beyond.
"Women are taking the lead now to begin the healing process, not just to be political, but to get things back in some sort of order in our communities," Scott said.
The first priority for Women for Positive Change is to focus on female voting power, particularly concerning legislative elections on Nov. 7.
"People see the Legislature yielding to big business but they don't see how Jane and John Doe can make a difference," Scott said. "The feeling is my vote doesn't count. But there are 15 people we hire every two years, who get salaries of $65,000 a year, and yet have no supervisors and no job description. We want to make them accountable."
And, she says, this group is uniquely qualified to do so. She cites voter registration statistics that show, as of August 2000, that of the territory's almost 52,000 registered voters, nearly 30,000 are women.
"We want to take a hot charcoal from this fire and ignite their fire at home and work, continue to pass the survey around and generate the numbers to show these are issues women are concerned about," Scott said. "Not just specific to women but about the community — health care, education, economy, safety."
The agenda for St. John's meeting will follow that of successful turn-outs on St. Croix and St. Thomas, which took place respectively in late August and last Saturday. Attendees will receive an information package that includes a survey (asking questions like "what issues are most important to you" and encouraging everyone to register to vote).
But equally important is creating an opportunity for active, committed residents of the community to get to know one another with the aim of fueling grassroots activism.
Says Carol Lotz of St. Thomas, who attended the Women for Positive Change gathering there last Saturday, attendees "were a dynamic group of women, all trying to talk over each other in their enthusiasm. We want to empower women, particularly those who don't vote or vote without knowledge of the issues. The survey is designed to help women say, 'These are my issues.'"
Scott founded Women for Positive Change in May. The motive? "Out of frustration," she says. "I had threatened to leave the Virgin Islands. I was tired of the struggle. We're fighting for things in the Virgin Islands that are already accepted in the States. It's so frustrating you just want to give up."
But Scott took an inch of optimism and transformed herself in the process. "I felt I had to find a way to overcome this. I started investigating how many women are registered to vote and what I found out blew my mind," she said.
"Why are things in such chaos if women have the vote? You have $400 cash in your hand, your refrigerator is empty, your children are hungry — you've got the power to fill the refrigerator, do it, use it."
In addition to grassroots-style island meetings, Women for Positive Change is planning its first territory-wide event. On Sept. 30, volunteers will fan out to shopping centers, malls, beauty salons and other locales on all three islands to pass out the organization's issues survey to anybody willing to fill it out.
"Sometimes," Scott says, "we need some external motivation to say, 'Go, girl — you did it'!" For more information, call 774-6683 or 775-0635.

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