By GWEN OREL
For women, empowerment can be as simple as wearing a well-fitting bra.
And as meaningful as wearing clothes, instead of scrubs, home from the hospital after an assault.
Next week, from Saturday, April 1, through Saturday, April 9, Montclair Center Business Improvement District (BID) presents Women’s Empowerment Week. Ladies Night Out, on Friday, April 7, will be a highlight of the week.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month. After attending a women’s entrepreneurship panel four years ago at the United Nations, Israel Cronk, executive director of BID, said he wondered how to bring amazing women in locally, people who he might bump into getting coffee. As soon as he joined BID, last April, he began planning the event.
He met Christine Ferro-Saxon, executive director of SAVE, and they planned a week that would help raise funds for her organization. Cronk only had three weeks to plan last year’s event, but he had a full year to plan this April’s events, and the more than 30 events this year include self-defense workshops, nutrition and entrepreneurship.
During the week, funds, clothing and personal hygiene products will be collected for SAVE of Essex. SAVE, a program of Family Service League, is the State of New Jersey’s designated Rape Care Center for Essex County.
“The first year, I needed to make a statement about SAVE of Essex, which has its headquarters here in Montclair. This year I incorporated speaking as part of it.” Empowerment, he said, could be about self-image, entrepreneurship. “People are coming out of the woodwork.” Having Ladies Night, which has a long history in Montclair, take place during the week made sense too, as way to bring fun into a week that opens with serious subjects.
TALKING ABOUT EMPOWERING WOMEN
The empowerment week panel will take place at the Wellmont, 5 Seymour St., on Tuesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. Speakers on the panel are WOR radio host Joan Herrmann, career and life coach Laura Berman Fortgang, Montclair Township Council Member Renée Baskerville, activist Peg Cafferty, business owner Omni Kitts Ferrara and Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, executive director of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence. Donna Miller, an entreprenuer, will host.
Berman Fortgang said she had just launched her campaign to run for the New Jersey Assembly. “Women approach advancement differently than men do,” she said. “Even in the context of the political world. Men will get up, look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m going to run for president.
“Women will say, ‘What will people think? Can I really do that? What makes me think I can do that? I better get some credentials.’” Women, she said, often think more globally than men, considering who they are responsible to while juggling 50 plates in the air. As a result, sometimes they take on too much, become overwhelmed and drop out — or conversely never begin.
On the panel, she will talk about trusting intuition and overcoming Impostor Syndrome.
It’s good to have credentials, of course, and Berman Fortgang did take a workshop on running for office at Rutgers this month.
“But we can definitely, as women, benefit from becoming more myopic,” she said. Women are often more inclined to start slowly, she said — when she decided to run some people suggested she start by running for town council or the board of education.
She said no.
As a girl, when she sought a job as a waitress at a fancy restaurant, she was told to start at a diner first. She said no. The restaurant hired her anyway. And she worked there for seven years.
EMPOWERING AND ASSAULT
One of the most important things SAVE does, said Christine Ferro-Saxon, is help victims of violence through the evidence collection process. Rape victims are instructed not to eat, wash, or brush their teeth before evidence collection, she said. Police take victims’ clothing for evidence, so they have to go home in hospital scrubs. That’s a problem especially for women don’t want their families to know where they’ve been, particularly if the violence is domestic. Sexual assault is not just an urban, downtown problem, Ferro-Saxon pointed out: SAVE serves many women in Montclair and Bloomfield and surrounding areas.
During a time when state and federal grants are in jeopardy, Women’s Empowerment week serves as an awareness campaign, she said. One of the women on the Empowerment Panel at the Wellmont, Peggy Cafferty, is a board member for Family Service League. Family Service League was established in 1881; SAVE of Essex County was founded in 2004.
In addition to helping victims through the evidence process, SAVE runs an emergency hotline, and hosts workshops on preventing sexual violence. Women feeling empowered to stand up for themselves are more likely to see warning signs in relationships, and less likely to be victims, she said. When rape victims are given their care packages by SAVE, Ferro-Saxon said, she’s heard them say “I never had someone care this much about me.”
EMPOWERING AND DAILY LIFE
But empowerment is not only for women who are victims of crime.
Radika Eccles, owner of SWOON, a home furnishings and lifestyles store on North Willow Street, is hosting events for Women’s Empowerment Week and during Ladies Night Out on April 7.
On Thursday, April 6, Swoon will present nutrition coach Amy Romano, who will talk to women about mindfulness and healthy eating. “She’s great with teenagers. I have teenagers,” Eccles said. “With all the electronics and technology, it’s important for young girls to know about well-being and mindfulness, and how to slow down.”
During Ladies Night, SWOON will host a make-up event. Eccles observed that many businesses in town are run by women.
Arlene Carrini, owner of One Savvy Design, a consignment store on Church Street, and of Nouvelle, on Valley Road, also said she had noticed many stores are owned by women. She wanted to participate, she said, because “I want to be part of the community.” One Savvy Design is hosting champagne and chocolate tasting on Ladies Night.
For Deborah Furr, owner of Johari, a lingerie store on Bloomfield Avenue, breasts are a tool of empowerment. “Wearing the proper bra will change how you feel about yourself,” she said. Johari is hosting a bra-fitting event and a talk on the subject on April 7.
“My thinking was breasts are underrated or overrated,” she said. “We don’t necessarily see the power in what our breasts bring.” In a male-dominated society, Furr said, it’s especially important to “use what you got. Embrace your breasts.” Women often come in to her store crying, because they’re too small or too large. “I view breasts as a positive. Why do we have this thing with our body image?”
Saturday, April 1
Self-defense class, 1:30 p.m. At YMCA of Montclair, 25 Park St.
Tuesday, April 4
Women’s Empowerment Panel, 7 p.m. At Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St. Tickets: montclaircenter.org
Wednesday, April 5
Workshop: Personal branding through digital media by Debra Dixson, Owner of Light and Gold PR, 9 a.m. At 28 Valley Road, Suite #1
The Creative Life: Art and Mental Health, 7 p.m. At Creativity Caravan, 28 South Fullerton Ave.
Thursday, April 6
“Downsized, Obsolete, Retired, Transitioning? reFIRE Your Life!”, noon. At Bangz Salon & Wellness Spa, 23 South Fullerton Ave., 2nd floor.
Teens & Women Well-Being and Mindfulness, 7 p.m. At SWOON, 12 North Willow St.
Friday, April 7
Self-defense: Krav Maga with Dave Ordini, noon. At Architect Studios, 4 Lackawanna Plaza
“Your Foundation and Confidence: Get a Proper Bra Fit!” with
Deborah Furr, 7 p.m. At Johari, 465 Bloomfield Ave.
Friday, April 7, 5-9 p.m.
For full schedule, visit http://tinyurl.com/n4jp2zk
5 p.m.: Opening cocktails at Pig & Prince
Lackawanna Plaza 2
Drink specials, maps, selfie sticks to first 15o attendees
Golden Land Jewelers, 436 Bloomfield Ave.
Free ear piercing, no purchase necessary
Juice Basin, 631 Bloomfield Ave.
USDA Raw Organic hangover cures
Amanti Vino 30 Church St.
Wine tasting and selfie station
Boone Studio, 40 Church St.
Free barre kettle class at 6:30 p.m.; free restorative yoga class at 7:30 p.m.
One Savvy Design Consignment Shop, 74 Church St.
Champagne, Double Reward Shopping Points, Sweet Home Montclair chocolate tasting, selfie station
Phil Cantor Photography, 26 Lackawanna Plaza
Phil Cantor discusses posing for photographs, takes photographs with your smartphone