Norwalk’s program for women empowerment


L.A.D.Y., the area’s newest social program for young women, was presented to women in Norwalk between the ages of 15 and 23 on Thursday. Photo credit: Clarissa Arceo

Clarissa Arceo, Community Editor

A new program sponsored by the Social Services Department in Norwalk held its first informational meeting on April 14, promoting mental health and personal development for young women.

From 6 to 7 p.m. young women residing or attending a school in Norwalk gathered to learn about and sign up for LADY, Leadership and Advocacy for the Direction of Young Women, at the Social Services Center on 11929 Alondra Blvd.

The new program will serve as a ‘big sister-little sister sorority’ for women between the ages of 15 and 23. It’s primary focus is women empowerment, equality and mentoring.

LADY will potentially be funded by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls through their Women’s Recovery Response. On March 15 they granted $5 million in funds to a variety of organizations serving women and girls that have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

At the meeting on Thursday, a series of icebreakers and power point presentations followed by a Q&A sessions were held by founders Jessica Bargas-Jimenez and Denise Lopez, who both work in the Social Services Department.

The founders have worked for the city of Norwalk for over 20 years combined; Bargas-Jimenez is an office assistant for the Center and Lopez works as a case worker.

A series of ice breakers, power point presentations, a mini raffle and a Q & A session were hosted by social service workers Jessica and Denise at the meeting.
A series of ice breakers, power point presentations, a mini raffle and a Q & A session were hosted by social service workers Jessica and Denise at the meeting. Photo credit: Clarissa Arceo

They said that by working in the social services department, they have a first-hand view on the toll COVID-19 has taken on women not only in Norwalk but all over the globe.

“We want to focus on mental, emotional and physical health, relationships, school, work, etc.,” Bargas-Jimenez said. “Our main goal is personal development because we aren’t the same women that we were last year or the year before, we are always growing and evolving, and overcoming the obstacles that make us who we are.”

“We hope that this program inspires other young women to apply the things they learn in this program to their everyday lives and one day help another struggling woman the way that we aspire to do here,” Lopez added.

The program will have an upper and lower division where girls in high school [ages 15-18] will be in one, and girls who have already graduated from or passed high school [ages 18+] will be in the other.

“We want to have two bigger groups so the girls can better relate with one another,” Bargas-Jimenez said. “Girls in high school might not be able to relate to girls who are in college and beyond, and vice versa.”

Each girl will be paired with a designated mentor according to [similar] interests, career paths, etc. in which they will experience a series of workshops, outdoor excursions, one-on-one meetings and more with.

The founders say that the program will strive to keep participant identification confidential to ensure privacy as some young women may not be comfortable with the exposure; L.A.D.Y. will serve to be a safe space for its members.

In addition to the program’s potential funding, Bargas-Jimenez and Lopez said that before they officially begin the program and make it a publicly-known resource, they must receive permission and grant money from the Norwalk city council.

Lopez said that they are grateful to have the city’s cooperation, support and involvement in the development of their program, nonetheless, as the mayor and his wife remain advocates for its launch.

“Norwalk has so much heart, when we see a problem we address it and try to make it better,” Lopez said. “The council is so invested in helping our program that they said that even if we were not approved of this grant, they would find a way to fund it and that speaks volumes.”

LADY strives to officially begin in late Spring and serve as an ongoing program. They are also looking for more inspired women to serve as mentors.

Those interested in joining or learning more about the program should reach out to Norwalk’s Social Services Center via email, [email protected], or by contacting their office at (562) 929 – 5544.