Not many people can say they’ve helped hundreds of people in their community find a career or better life for themselves, but Herlema Owens can. Owens is a leader by example, who has dedicated over ten years of her life, and her own funds from her time as a construction worker towards improving the lives of her neighbors. Throughout her time as a construction worker in the 80’s, Owens advocated for women’s rights in the field and defended to preserve her community to the best of her ability. Owen’s passion eventually led to the birth of her non-profit organization, the Association of Women Construction Workers of America (AWCWA) that now offers a 15-week pre-construction training program. In addition to women, the organization services youth, minorities, veterans, and justice-involved individuals. Owens is a diamond in the rough and a rarity in her community. This retired construction worker and women’s advocate has touched the lives of countless people by educating women, construction workers and her peers on their rights as women and as workers of America.
Owens’ initiative and influence upon her community has been recognized over the years, but never to the parallel extent of her good work to the people of the tri-state area. Through AWCWA, many women have had the education that is typically neglected to women within the building fields and have gained the confidence to tackle the industry head-on to reach higher and better-paid positions. Women can do more than hold signs while men do the manual labor, they can do more than sit on the sidelines and proving this continues to be AWCWA’s mission.
AWCWA has grown a tremendous amount in the course of its years, and continues to grow beyond the people who work to make it happen. As a result of its exponential growth, AWCWA continues to look for office and class space to continue to provide for the community. Currently fortunate enough to be using the space at Soul Group LLC, a taxing and real estate company, AWCWA is growing with no room left to grow into. AWCWA was built for the community and wouldn’t be able to succeed without the community, which is what makes it so great. The organization has served its purpose in the tri-state area and in the lives of the people it’s touched, and that makes it a success.
Part of making AWCWA a success is the group effort of those working at and with the organization. The women’s advocacy group has turned to its community and members that believe in the mission of AWCWA to donate anything that could be of help to the organization and to the women and workers benefiting from it as well.
In a male-driven society where gender roles dominate our work, educational, and social spaces we must learn to appreciate the people who put forth opportunities to break these parameters. AWCWA offers exactly that, and that is why we must pay homage to this amazing organization. Women who have not directly taken advantage of AWCWA and its connections can still appreciate the organization for its contribution to society as an organization that guides, defends, and educates the women in our communities to reach their full potential as people and workers of America.
For more information about AWCWA or any of its resources please contact 888-434-5303, visit awcwa.org, or you’re welcome to come into the office at 113-06 Sutphin Blvd, Jamaica, Queens.
Association of Women Construction Workers of America
By Sulermi Batista