May 8, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Women from all aspects of life gathered in western Kentucky to work to improve the status of women across the commonwealth.

The conference was the second of its kind put on by Kentucky Women Called to Action, a network of women's organizations from across the state. The May 1 skill-building conference was held at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton.

The network is the response of women's groups to a report published in the late 1990s that highlighted the need for vast improvement in the status of women. The report ranked Kentucky 49th nationally in women who hold elected office, 46th in political participation, 44th in terms of employment and earnings, and 48th in economic autonomy.

As a result of that report the then-leaders of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association and the Kentucky Commission on Women got together to find a way to change those statistics and invited women's groups around the state to participate in the dialog.

What came from that meeting, said Rene Siria, were three common threads among these groups and that they would work to improve certain areas. Those areas are voter participation and registration, access to adequate health care and leadership development said Siria, second vice president of the Extension homemakers.

The network is trying to improve those areas by using existing programs and communication systems, she said.

People attending the conference want to make a difference in their communities said Nancy Hunt, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer science in Crittenden County.

Hunt said she enjoyed the opportunity to network with people from different agencies and organizations, and to learn more about sources of information that the KWCA has to offer.

Glenda Green, a field representative with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, assisted in presenting a program on sexual harassment and also participated in the rest of the program. She said she was pleased to see such a diverse audience at the gathering.

"Education and awareness are the keys to inspiring women in all walks of life," Green said.

Terry Nayden, president of the Kentucky League of Women Voters, said she tried to provide participants with a better understanding of the political process such as how a bill becomes law and how to lobby for an issue.

Nayden, a member of the conference planning committee, said participants seemed eager to learn.

"They all seem to want to make things better for themselves and their children," she said.

The Kentucky Women Called to Action network includes American Association of University Women - Kentucky; Business and Professional Women; Kentucky Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences; Kentucky Extension Homemakers; Kentucky Commission on Women; Kentucky Commission on Human Rights; Kentucky Department of Agriculture; Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs; Kentucky League of Women Voters; Kentucky Master Farm Homemakers Guild; Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program; Kentucky Women Involved in Agriculture; West Area Health Education Center; University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service - Family and Consumer Sciences; and UK's Women's Health Center.