WGGS History: The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County

Did you know that WGGS started out as a project of League of Women Voters of Schenectady County? In 2003, one of our founding mothers, Joanne Tobiessen, attended a League of Women Voters convention in Washington, DC and came home inspired by Doris Shapira, the League’s UN observer, who talked about her work with The International Working Group on Girls. The International WGG is a UNICEF coalition of over 75 national and international non-governmental organizations with representation at the United Nations dedicated to promoting the human rights of girls, advancing the inclusion and status of girls and assisting them to develop their full potential.

What if, Tobiessen wondered, we could replicate that sort of collaboration on a local level? She pitched the idea to the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County.

“League members responded with enthusiasm and the Working Group on Girls has grown to the incredible organization that it is today,” explains Cheryl Nechamen, President of the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County.

Joanne got the League’s support to recruit women from various organizations in Schenectady that work with and for girls to start a similar group here. Joanne was joined by Betsy Forkas and together they began making calls, knocking on doors, and asking one pivotal question: What does a community that cares about its girls look like?

With this small organization of women interested in supporting our community’s girls, we began to work together to put the spotlight on girls and educate the community about their needs, challenges, opportunities, and successes. Our first meeting was at the YWCA in November of 2003.