WILL helps Hispanic women of Trenton

Here on campus, most women, whether they are students, staff, or faculty members, are well aware of the services that are offered to them by the College and surrounding communities. They know where to turn to for health advice, information on sexual violence and counseling for their personal problems.

However, in neighborhoods as close as downtown Trenton, such assistance is not always readily available – and even when it is, certain populations are either unaware of it or unable to take advantage of it.

On April 27, six senior Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) students will reach out to a specific population of women in Trenton: low-income Hispanics. Their program, entitled “La Mujer Saludable,” which means the healthy woman, will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at El Centro, a local community center, and will seek to address some of these issues.

The six women – Danielle Ravaioli, English major; Nisha Bavalia, biology major; Mediha Kosovrasti, political science major; Kathleen Brock, women’s and gender studies major; Marlene Valera, psychology major; and Marileny Valera, elementary education major – comprise the WILL Capstone course, which is a requirement of the government funded program.

To complete the course, the women must apply the feminist theory that they have learned through their work in the WILL curriculum to a community service project.

“We were given free reign and a small budget to come up with an activism project,” Ravaioli said.

After reaching out to various women’s agencies in Trenton, the class decided to focus on the city’s Spanish-speaking population. Thus, the idea for “La Mujer Saludable” was born.

The program will feature two distinctive workshops. The first will teach the women how to maintain a nutritional diet on a budget. The second will focus on issues of domestic violence.

In addition, each participant of the program will receive a folder with pamphlets printed in Spanish, including advice on how to receive special services and government aid such a food stamps, information on immigration services and contact information for local Planned Parenthood agencies.

“We want people on campus to realize that there are a large number of female-headed households that live below the poverty level,” Ravaioli said. “Living so close to Trenton, we thought this would be the most effective way to put what we have learned into practice.”

“We are really focused on taking activism to the community and raising awareness on campus,” Bavalia added.

In addition, the women noted that this is a sustainable project that can be carried on by future WILL Capstone classes.

“If they are interested, this is definitely a project that can be done again year after year,” Bavalia said.

Since the budget provided by WILL can only cover the cost of pamphlets and pertinent materials for the program, the class is seeking donations.

“These donations will serve as incentives for the women to come and participate in our program, and will include things like gift certificates to local grocery stores,” Ravaioli said.

In addition to “La Mujer Saludable,” the members of the WILL Capstone course also

support a New Jersey bill under review that would compensate women who need to leave work due to domestic violence for up to 20 days.

“Whether they need to leave due to physical injury or even emotional reasons, this bill would provide them with the same protection given to, for example, someone who is ill or breaks a bone,” Kosovrasti said.

Members of the WILL Capstone course have drafted a letter for students and campus organizations to sign in support of the bill, which will be decided upon in June. The letter will then be sent to state legislators.

Although the WILL Capstone class is small by comparison to most at the College, it is clear that the women involved intend to make a big difference.

For more information on current and prospective New Jersey legislation pertaining to domestic violence, students can visit njleg.state.nj.us.

Students interested in donating to “La Mujer Saludable” can e-mail valera3@tcnj.edu or bavalia2@tcnj.edu.