You Go, Girls!

Kauai County Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) is dedicated to the empowerment and rights of women and girls. It consists of only seven women, yet it packs one powerful punch. The volunteer team works to inspire and promote education and positive growth, as well as advocate for issues related to women and girls, such as health and wellness and the prevention of domestic violence.

One woman who has made quite a difference in the community as a member of this committee is its secretary, Edie Ignacio-Neumiller. She had served on the commission for several years prior to her reappointment in 2011.

“I find it fulfilling,” says Ignacio-Neumiller, who has been especially busy lately volunteering her time in preparation for the Women’s History Month celebration this month. She devotes many hours to the cause, not only because she takes pleasure in advocating for women and girls, but also because she appreciates being able to work with other professional and influential women.

“We bring all our experiences and our backgrounds to the committee,” says Ignacio-Neumiller, who is a member and past president of Zonta Club and also a member of Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce. “To me, that’s enriching.”

CSW members all are employed and come from a variety of professions, including marketing, health and education. Ignacio-Neumiller, for example, brings her administrative skills to the table. She is commission support clerk for Kauai Department of Water. Prior to that, she worked for the county as a secretary for Americans With Disabilities Act and Anti-Drug Program coordinators, as well as support staff for the Charter Review Commission. She also worked as an employment specialist for the Workforce Development Division and helped people acquire jobs by coaching them on everything from interview skills to crafting resumes.

“The whole nine yards of trying to get a job,” she explains.

Her wide scope of experience is an asset to CSW, which has been successful in supporting women in many aspects by sponsoring regular events, such as inspirational workshops led by empowerment coach and former member Savita Kumar. The next workshop, titled, “Relationships from Turbulent to Harmonious,” is slated for March 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. in Moikeha Building Room 2A/B.

CSW has hosted additional noteworthy events in celebration of Women’s History Month. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was a guest speaker for an audience of approximately 80 people last year at Kauai Museum. Earlier this month at the museum, an event in honor of women featured retired Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, a decorated member of the U.S. Air Force, who spoke about her job.

This year, CSW plans a screening of Rise of the Wahine — a documentary about the formation of University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Wahine volleyball team, during a time when gender equality laws were still being debated and voted on in America — at Waimea Historic Theatre and Kukui Grove Cinema.

A career day luncheon also is in the works, which will focus on high school girls. About 40 students will be selected by their principals and counselors — girls who aren’t necessarily high achievers but who need more inspiration.

“The ones who maybe need a little kick-start to make them see the possibilities and start thinking about that for themselves,” explains Sharon Lasker, CWS chairwoman, who was recruited for the group with the help of Ignacio-Neumiller.

The students will have a chance to network and listen to a variety of guest speakers from the community.

“We’re all just so excited about this because we’ve never had an opportunity to do something this big before for a younger segment of the female population on this island,” says Lasker.

CSW vice chairwoman Virginia Beck is proud to encourage young women in ways like this in order to help them strive to obtain leadership positions in the workforce and in government.

“It is their planet, and they need to be at the controls of our society, our decision-making processes,” she says.

She would like to see more women represented in all levels of the government.

“Research shows that teams that include women make better decisions for communities, corporations and our planet,” she states.

CSW always is looking for new recruits. Members of the statewide organization, which was established in 1970 by the state Legislature, are appointed by the mayor and meet once a month.

“Something my mother told me when I was growing up was to make sure I have a skill, get a good job, learn how to drive and to take care of myself — to be self-sufficient,” recalls Ignacio-Neumiller. “I believe I have accomplished these goals, and would like to share the empowerment with other women and girls through volunteerism and resources.”

Call 241-4920 or email Sharon Lasker at salasker@gmail.com for more information.

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