As freshmen at Vestavia Hills High School, Caroline Penfield and Kat Walton were looking for a place to explore their interest in politics, which ultimately led to starting a new club last school year. Caroline plans on working public policy and Kat in politics—and they have already made tentative plans for Caroline to run Kat’s campaign for Senate. We caught up with the two seniors to learn more about their Student Activism for Women club, which has 32 members who meet regularly during club periods.
How did your club get started?
K: For our Relay for Life project, we decided to make T-shirts that raised awareness about the wage gap. They said, “I am for women’s rights because 77 cents doesn’t equal $1,” and they had Rosie the Riveter on them. We sold about $700 worth of shirts and got a positive response.
C: People were saying, “Thank you for bringing light to this issue.” That’s when we were like, “Let’s just make our own club,” since there are these people interested in the same things we are. Our friend had started a Student Activism for Women club at Homewood High School, so we changed it into a form of it that fit our school.
What have you focused on since starting?
K: Our mission statement is empowering women through acts of service. Last year we worked with Grace House, the YWCA, the Lovelady Center and First Light homeless shelter downtown. This year we have been collecting feminine products because that is their greatest need.
C: We also focus on education making sure our members are informed so that if a situation arose…they have the facts to combat that in a respectful, educated way.
What do you do during your meetings?
K: We had Jeanne Jackson come in last year, who was CEO of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, talking about the poverty level in Birmingham and how large a percentage of that is woman and how large a percentage is African American. Our last club meeting for 2017 we are having the CEO of Blanket Fort Hope. We will discuss, have a speaker or watch videos. It’s a good environment to discuss things freely. We have people who disagree, and we encourage that.
What other things do you discuss?
C: Most of our club time is taking up with discussing current events. Last year we looked at laws being passed in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Russia that were discriminatory toward women, but we also look at positive things like Saudi Arabia passing a law where women can drive now. We try to look at how our issues differ from around the world and what privileges we have here that we can use to help women other places.
What legacy of this club do you hope remains after you graduate in May?
C: I hope that people who have been in our club are more informed citizens specifically about women’s issues but also about what is happening in their community, and that the things we teach them for problem solving can be carried into other issues.