How Far We’ve Come

The Jamestown Branch of the American Association of University Women and the Zonta Club of Jamestown have teamed up to co-host an International Women’s Day celebratory dinner.

The event is scheduled for Friday, March 8, at the Robert H. Jackson Center at 6 p.m. The celebration is open to the public and will feature two speakers: Katherine Mang of Mothers Clubs of Haiti and Paige Mecca of Solar Liberty Foundation. They will speak about their experiences while helping women in Haiti and East Africa. Dinner is $25 per person and reservations can be made by calling 483-5448.

According to Maggie Irwrin, president of the Jamestown branch, AAUW is a national organization with about 150,000 women. The mission of the organization is to advance equity for women and girls through education, research, philanthropy and advocacy.

“International Women’s Day is something that is celebrated all around the world and is held for women and to recognize how far they’ve come,” said Irwin. “I’m thrilled these two speakers are coming because I just love hearing enthusiastic people who love what they do and these women work with other women who need our help.”

Each year, the Zonta Club of Jamestown honors women by participating in International Women’s Day, said Sylvia Stenander, co-chair of the International Women’s Day dinner and program.

“Our mission is to advance the status of women worldwide and there are so many giving, hard working and strong women out there who deserve to be recognized,” said Stenander. “International Women’s Day gives us this yearly opportunity to honor and thank them.”

Mang, who has been working with Mothers Clubs of Haiti since 1993 as a board member, strives to educate people about this micro-lending program and raises funds for the loans that help poor women of East Africa and Haiti start businesses. She has taken seven trips to Tanzania since 2003 as well as three trips to Haiti. In 2009, she spent three months in Tanzania living in a village and getting to know club members and the program better. She also served in the United States Peace Corps in Honduras from 1969-71.

“For the last 22 years I’ve been working to give micro-loans to rural women in Haiti and Tanzania who will start businesses for sustainability for their families,” said Mang. “I’ll be speaking on what micro-loans have done for women all over the world. How it’s not only brought them out of poverty, but given them hope for a future life.”

To Mang, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight work done by women for women throughout the world, she said.

“It’s not just the celebration of it, but it’s the fact that women are so involved in the life and stability of countries even though they are not often recognized for the work that they do,” said Mang. “So, I think it’s a great time to celebrate and I’m very honored to come to Jamestown and be able to speak about it.”

For more information about Mothers Clubs visit

Paige Mecca, executive director and founder of the Solar Liberty Foundation, who is originally from Jamestown, is an attorney with a master’s degree in social work, both of which she earned at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She also has an undergraduate degree from St. Lawrence University. Prior to her work with Solar Liberty Foundation, Mecca practiced family law, working on behalf of children as a law guardian. She said she is excited for the opportunity to attend the dinner and speak about her experiences.

“I am thrilled to discuss our nonprofit’s work with people from Jamestown, especially at the Robert H. Jackson Center,” said Mecca. “My presentation will be about the work that my nonprofit, Solar Liberty Foundation, does to improve women’s lives in Haiti, Tanzania, Kenya and Liberia.”

Mecca’s organization, the Solar Liberty Foundation, provides renewable energy resources to rural areas of developing nations by donating solar energy systems and solar cookers to health clinics, schools, orphanages and individuals.

“We are committed to ending energy poverty which affects one-fifth of our world’s population,” said Mecca. “Energy poverty is the lack of essential electricity for basic human needs. People who are living in energy poverty are unable to pull themselves out of poverty without access to power.”

At the dinner Mecca will discuss Solar Liberty Foundation’s project in Kitenga, Tanzania, which will take place this year. The project is to provide five solar energy systems to a small village that has no access to electricity.

“The systems will benefit the women and girls of the village by providing power to the first ever health clinic, buildings for the first secondary school for girls and the first library, which will have computers and internet connectivity, in honor of the late Alice Kryzan.”

In December, Solar Liberty Foundation completed a solar energy system at the Grace School in Haiti. The school is situated on small island off the coast of Haiti. The electricity at the school is now providing power for lighting, computers, a water filtration system and a refrigerator. The power is also run to a nearby orphanage to provide lighting into the evening hours.

“Villagers have flocked to the school at night to use the school as a community center for completing work, homework in the evening, charging villagers cellphones and as a meeting place that has light,” said Mecca.

The organization also sent 520 pairs of shoes in a shipping container for the children because the school administrators told Mecca that although the children have many needs, their greatest need is for shoes.

“The children walk to school through rough terrain, cut their feet and often die from infections that cannot be treated because of the lack of medical care,” said Mecca. “So, we sent out a call to our donors called the Crocs4Kids campaign. Within two weeks, we had received 520 pairs of Crocs and other durable shoes into our office. And, the shoes have been distributed to the children.”

For more information about Solar Liberty Foundation visit

International Women’s Day is held annually on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19 in 1911. For more information visit