By Kailey Cota, Nation Ford HS (Fort Mill, South Carolina)
Mentors, friends and role models push women to grow in the right direction. That mentality of women supporting women is what caught the attention of Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) Operations Manager, Kayle Wright in 2016 when an administrative job at newly established WREN opened up.
“The ambitious goals of the organization definitely attracted me to the position,” Wright said. “I care about women’s issues so I wanted to take my office management and administrative skills and be able to use them in an organization like WREN.”
WREN is a South Carolina-based network created to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls and their families. WREN aims to provide a strong, collective voice for South Carolina’s women and girls.
View Kailey’s online photo essay on WREN.
WREN is an important organization for everyone to get involved with; “Women’s rights are important to everyone regardless of gender,” Wright said.
The best way to become involved with WREN is to visit its website. There are currently over 29,000 members in WREN’s network. Membership in WREN is free, and the organization regularly sends out direct email correspondents about volunteer opportunities, events and legislation that is moving in the State House.
“We give tours of the statehouse and teach the community how to talk to their legislators. We sometimes pull legislators off the floor to speak with them. It gives the community an experience with talking to their legislator,” Wright said.
However, WREN’s “Meet Me at the Statehouse” event is not the only time that the community should communicate with their legislators, Wright said. WREN wants to empower women to not only be socially active within WREN’s network but also within their hometowns and personal lives.
“Show up for council meetings in your community and show up for school board meetings so that you know what’s happening in your neighborhood and that you’re holding the people that represent you accountable,” Wright said. “It’s intimidating but we all can do it.”
She said social activism also takes place on a personal level.
“Activism starts with personal accountability and understanding as a woman what feminism means to you,” Wright said. “Feminism to me is a woman being able to do whatever she wants however she wants. No conditions.”
The first step to bridging a personal definition of feminism into social activism is engaging in a community. A WREN Partner Organization, Indie Grits Labs (IGL), works to bring the community together through creativity. Community-based art projects, media education programs, and the annual Indie Grits Festival are the three ways that IGL engages the Columbia community.
“Everyone should start by finding a community that they can connect with and relate to,” IGL artist and photographer Steffi Brink said. “It could be one with a tool of self-expression because that is something that really helps you build confidence to reach out to other women and share your experiences and your voice.”
Community does not necessarily require a structured environment: “Even you and your friends could come together to talk about the latest social justice issue or the latest policy passed,” IGL filmmaker Mahkia Greene said. “From that point on you can figure out what you want to do.”
WREN and its partner organizations work to encourage social activism in any and every form.
“One thing that individuals can do is hold each other accountable and care for and amplify the voices of women in their own communities,” Wright said. “If you see something, say something. Everything starts with our voices in our communities.”