Empowering Women And Girls in Hawaii

By Beth Whitehead, Women’s Fund of Hawaii Board Chairwoman

Far too many women and girls in Hawaii are not doing well, and most people are not aware of the problems they face. Among some startling statistics: Girls are arrested at a higher rate in Hawaii than anywhere else in the United States. They account for nearly 42 percent of overall juvenile arrests compared to 29 percent overall nationally. In Hawaii, girls comprise nearly 60 percent of runaway offenses.


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omen's Fund of Hawaii board member Judy Bishop (left) and Alexina Chai measure the distance between the ball and hole for a closest-to-the-pin contest at an Oct. 21, 2013, golf fundraiser at Mid-Pac Country Club Photo courtesy Women's Fund of Hawaii.

At the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, we believe that when women and girls thrive, communities prosper. Women’s Fund of Hawaii is a grant-making organi-zation that dedicates its resources to helping nonprofit organizations that benefit women and girls. In 2013, it awarded grants totaling $32,500 to seven nonprofit organizations that provide grassroots programs to empower women and girls in Hawaii.

Women’s Fund of Hawaii looks for innovative programs that may not easily obtain other grant funding. United Self Help, which provides peer counseling and mental health services to women, is one such program.

According to Bud Bowles, director of United Self Help, “The Women’s Fund of Hawaii grant will enable us to provide long-term employment for up to 15 peer mentors to support 75 women mental health consumers who face homelessness, isolation, financial stress, medical issues, lack of employment and other challenges that would be daunting for the best of us.

“We couldn’t do it without Women’s Fund.”

The Women’s Fund first was envisioned in 1989 by the then-CEO of Hawaii Community Foundation, Jane Renfro Smith. She and the fund’s original supporters shared a vision of creating an expanding resource per manently dedicated to women and girls. Throughout the country, programs serving women and girls receive only 8 percent of all philanthropic dollars.

Each year, the applicant pool for grants continues to rise, and we are able to provide more grants to women and girls in need in our community. The heartbreaking part of our work, though, is that for every grant we give, we turn down many other qualified organizations. We are working hard for a future that will eliminate the need for Women’s Fund of Hawaii and put us “out of business” because Hawaii’s women and children are truly thriving.