I am amazed, in awe, and inspired by the way many nonprofit leaders – many of whom are women – are leading their organizations through the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. So much so, that I’ve decided to do a special series about Badass Nonprofit and Small Business Executive Women who are living in the trenches, working to keep their nonprofit running, and doing critical work to continue to serve individuals and families during this crisis. I’m curious about their work and the people they’re serving, their biggest concerns, and how they are taking care of themselves and those around them. So I asked!

Rima Shahid, Executive Director, Women4Change

Rima has served as the first Executive Director of Women4Change since 2017 – a small non-partisan and grassroots organization designed to promote the health, safety, and respect of all Hoosiers. Before Women4Change, she served as the Executive Director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana and spent more than a decade working as the Trade Development Officer & Cultural Attaché at the Pakistan Embassy in Bahrain. With a passion for advocacy and a collaborative philosophy, Rima brings a unique perspective to community outreach objectives. She lives in Central Indiana with her husband, Muneeb, and their three children.

Q.  Who are you serving and how are you serving them during this crisis?

A. We have a staff of 2 ½ people who serve a membership of 5,000 people across the state, most of whom live in Central Indiana. One of the most important things right now is that we stay true to our mission and continue to engage women politically and civically – even amidst this pandemic. We are also serving our members and the larger community through educational programs, events, and services. We’re also working hard to educate and encourage Hoosiers to vote. Tuesday, June 2 is the primary election and Indiana has made it safe to vote during this public health crisis. We’ve engaged close to 6,000 absentee ballots.

Q.  Have you added, changed, or deleted any services because of COVID-19?

A.  Before the pandemic we were hosting two programs a month, we had plans for an exciting year of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and our biggest fundraising event, Women Behaving Badly, was scheduled for March 31. COVID-19 has caused us to cancel, postpone, and move our programs online. During this time, we did create a new video series that has been well received. Through the Engaging Ideas series, we were able to bring together the advice, knowledge, and perspectives of community experts in 3- to 5-minute videos – all of which can be found on our Facebook page. We have also created online events to stay engaged with our members and the community at-large. Our next event is Friday, May 22. We’re using Netflix Party to watch an episode of Self Made: Madam C.J. Walker together and discuss it.

In an effort to recognize and celebrate the women who are serving on the front line, Women4Change is partnering with Jacquie’s Cafe and Gourmet Catering to provide healthcare workers with warm, healthy meals during their shifts. You can support our efforts by joining our GoFundMe campaign.

Q.  What are your biggest concerns right now?

A.  Right now, it is extremely important that people are educated and empowered to vote. My hope is that we are encouraging and promoting safe and responsible voting opportunities that will ultimately lead to higher voter turnout. Our voices need to be heard. Also, as an executive director of a nonprofit, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that funding and sustainability is of great concern. We are a small, young nonprofit that relies on support from our members and donors.

Q.  How are you taking care of yourself, your staff, and your clients?

A.  We are working 100 percent remotely right now to ensure the ultimate safety of our staff.  We are also allowing ourselves grace and patience during this time. We all need to understand that this is not normal, and we are working in unusual circumstances – just because we are working from home doesn’t mean we have to stay plugged in all of the time. I am trying to be very intentional and set boundaries between work and home.

Q.  What is your biggest need right now and how can people support your organization?

A. Funds, awareness, and action are our biggest needs. We need to continue to raise money for our organization, raise awareness about important issues and policies, and to take action to create positive change for women. I would encourage people to follow Women4Change on social media, sign up for our newsletters, and stay engaged with us. We try not to overshare – especially at a time when there is so much noise – but we feel it’s important to share pressing matters and keep people informed of what’s going on.

Q.  What are you reading, watching, listening to, or doing to get through this?

A.  I just finished How to Start a Revolution, by Lauren Duca, which I highly recommend. I love podcasts and subscribe to several, including “The Daily”, by NY Times, “The Productive Woman”, “The NPR Politics” and the “The Rachel Maddow Show”. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I did just watch Mrs. America and Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker.

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