Taken from the September/October 2017 issue of The Women's Health Activist Newsletter.
As a Board Director, I am extremely grateful to all our generous donors—you make our work to advance and protect women’s health possible. For this issue, I wanted to interview a Collective Champion. These are donors who sign up to give steady, on-going monthly contributions via credit card. I’d like you to meet one particularly dedicated Collective Champion, Clare Kirby.
1) Tell me how you first got involved in women’s rights/women’s health policy.
Growing up in the 1960’s, I was keenly aware of women’s inequality and rights. I was involved in the anti-war movement and in women’s liberation. It was a tumultuous time, which was also clarifying and energizing for those of us involved in issues of human rights.
2) What's your first memory of realizing you wanted to support this work?
The most poignant memory I have occurred in the early 1970s. I accompanied a friend over the Canadian border so she could obtain a safe termination of her pregnancy. This visit with a sympathetic doctor had to occur not only in another country, but also after his office hours, and was shrouded in secrecy and shame. I was appalled that health care for women in the U.S. had come to this. I have always been interested in health care issues and this experience focused my attention on women’s health.
3) What was your first impression of the NWHN?
I came to DC for a year in the mid-1990s when my husband was on sabbatical. I wanted to do interesting volunteer work so I contacted the Network. Although I hadn’t been involved in the organization prior to this, I was impressed with its mission. Once I met the staff and other volunteers, I was struck by their commitment, their enthusiasm, and their skill in pursuing the Network’s goals. My professional work has been as a social worker in a variety of
non-profit organizations. The Network is definitely one of the best-run organizations with which I have been involved.
4) What has surprised you most about the NWHN?
I am impressed by the organization’s ability to be front and center in all areas of women’s health care advocacy. The Network knows how to “network” in all the important ways. I feel confident always that the staff and Board know how to achieve their goals and advance women’s health.
5) Why are you supporting the NWHN as opposed to other groups?
The Network is superb at advocacy in many areas of women’s health. I also appreciate that the Network does not accept any funding from Big Pharma. I do also support other women’s health organizations whose purpose is similar.
6) What aspects/topics of the Network’s work interests you the most and why?
In this political climate, the mission of women’s health advocacy is very important. As I age, I am interested in issues of women and aging and health care. (When I was at the Network, my focus was on researching information on menopause to disseminate to interested callers.) I am happy to see that a Policy Fellow will be focusing this year on Osteoporosis. Also, the Network’s continuing focus on challenging Big Pharma is another significant aspect of its mission.
7) What's your personal philosophy on what should be done to advance the Network’s goals in the current political climate?
Organize, educate, and advocate — these are the most important things to do. The Network is doing an excellent job in all three areas, using all the resources available to them.
8) The interest in saving health care is growing. Why do you think that is?
This is primarily because the challenges to women’s health care these days are real and serious. Due to organizations like the Network, knowledge of the threat is spreading. More people are speaking up and taking action.
9) What might fellow supporters be surprised to know about you?
Not sure how to answer this! I was one of the organizers of the Big Sister (mentorship) program in Rhode Island, and served as its Executive Director for five years. I am proud to say that, 32 years later, it is stronger than ever. Also, at age 64 I rafted the Colorado River and ended up breaking my ankle. I had to be airlifted off the water and transported out to have surgery. Now I have a lot of metal in my ankle! This makes a good story, but was quite traumatic!
10) What do you do when you aren’t supporting causes and fighting for women’s rights?
I have a wonderful urban garden here in Providence, RI and I love to work in it. I am trained as a Master Gardener through the University of Rhode Island. I also have a new grand baby (4 months old) who lives close by and I relish the time I spend with him. Spending time with friends and family is important to me, as is maintaining my own health through exercise, etc. At age 72, the process of maintaining is work, for sure!!
Collective Champions’ monthly support is the backbone of our work.
To join Clare and become a monthly donor, sign-up at: http://donate.nwhn.org/collectivechampions.
Tiffany Reed is the Treasurer of the NWHN Board of Directors.