Happy Women’s History Month! This month and every day, we honor the critical role women play in their communities in building brighter futures for themselves, their families and their neighbors. As our friends at Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley wrote: “Whether it’s a mother building a firm foundation for her family, a volunteer raising a wall she built alongside other women volunteers, or a leader using her voice to ignite change — through Habitat, women build.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are four ways women build with Habitat:
1. Women create brighter futures
Habitat for Humanity has long recognized the critical role women play in their communities and their specific barriers to homeownership. Despite the challenges women face to access homeownership — from housing discrimination to the wage gap — women are now more likely to own a home than they were three decades ago. Over the last year, Oregon Habitat affiliates partnered with more than 240 households to build and repair homes. Half of these households were headed by women.
Beyond the immediate impacts of safe, stable and affordable housing, a Habitat home allows families to lay down roots and create a prosperous future for themselves and their children — a brighter future measured by peace of mind and progress toward goals and dreams.
Southern Oregon homeowner Christina has seen these impacts firsthand. Since moving into their Habitat home, Christina’s kids Joseph and Jozlyn have thrived and enjoyed good health, which allowed them the energy to focus on their studies. Joseph was valedictorian of his high school. “My kids don’t have to move around anymore,” said Christina. “There’s nothing in this house that’s going to make them sick. I know that they will reach their full potential by us having this house.”
2. Women wear many hats
Habitat for Humanity of Oregon has long been stewarded by women. From guiding Habitat’s statewide legislative agenda and participating in critical rulemaking processes to shepherding Oregon’s affiliates through capacity building and an enhanced understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, Executive Director Shannon Vilhauer has ushered our organization through tremendous growth and is a trusted housing leader in Oregon and beyond. Six brilliant women round out the Habitat Oregon team: Meet Kayla, Gina, Lyndsey, Megan, Reianna and Sara (and a special shoutout to Contract Accountant Marilyn!).
From leadership and office staff to ReStore management and construction crew, women are at the forefront of all Habitat for Humanity activities. In fact, of Oregon’s 24 Habitat affiliates, 11 are led by women.
3. Women empower themselves and others to advocate for change
In addition to Habitat’s homebuilding and repair work, we have the ability — and, now more than ever, the responsibility — to advocate for sustainable and inclusive policies and systems that promote access to safe, healthy and affordable homes — here in Oregon, in Washington, D.C. and even globally. Advocacy is critical to achieving Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. But it also provides an opportunity for women to get involved and use their voices for change.
In 2019, Habitat Oregon was proud to support international advocacy work as part of our yearly tithe. We earmarked $20,000 to support Habitat Nepal’s efforts to advocate for women to have the right to own real estate for the first time in the nation’s history. Their efforts speedily came to fruition, and the practice is increasingly common nationwide — beyond Habitat homeowners.
4. Women come together to volunteer
Since 1991, Women Build volunteers from all walks of life have come together to build stronger, safer communities. Habitat organizations in all corners of the state have always championed opportunities for women to learn new skills while working alongside their neighbors at the build site.
Search for your local Habitat to find out if a Women Build is occurring near you.