Program is aimed at abuse victims, county's diverse ethnic population
Robert Haddocks - Staff
Friday, December 27, 2002

Cindy Williams' plan for empowering victims of domestic abuse has been successful in Atlanta, and she plans on doing the same in Gwinnett County.

But because of Gwinnett's growing ethnic diversity, that will be challenging, said Williams, founder of Women Are Dreamers Too, an agency that provides life skills training for women and assists them in becoming small-business owners.

In many cultures, Williams said, the woman is supposed to be subservient to the bread-winning man.

Also, social services are "not tailored to serve these ethnic groups" and, in some cases, victims don't report the crimes, fearing deportation.

Williams said 25 women have graduated from her class and gone on to own a business in the past two years. Williams opened the agency in Norcross last week.

"Gwinnett is very diverse, there are so many ethnic groups," she said. "We want to make sure all these groups are taken care of. It's very difficult to get statistics. Some of the things are not talked about because of the cultural barriers."

To break down some of those barriers, Williams is working with the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group.

Last year in Georgia, at least 44 people were killed due to domestic violence. As of Thursday afternoon, four of Gwinnett County's 14 murders this year have been linked to domestic violence.

Women Are Dreamers Too, a nonprofit agency, has partnered with Gwinnett Tech, the Georgia Department of Labor, the Governor's Office for Small Business Development, as well as with several companies, including IBM, which has donated 25 computers.

Jackie Evans, a sales executive for IBM, said it's wonderful that Gwinnett County is embracing Williams' mission to break the cycle of poverty and to foster economic growth in various communities. Her program reaches battered, poor and homeless women.

Evans, who has been one of Williams' motivational guest speakers, said the 12-week program was uplifting.

"By the time they graduate, it gave them more confidence, it was just unbelievable," Evans said. "They seemed to be more assertive, they were excited about going out and owning their own business. I believe it really changes these women's lives."

Audree Moore graduated from Williams' class last year and now owns Divine Fragrances. A former chemist with NASA, Moore is "trying to hold it together" after struggling as a victim of domestic violence and divorce. Two of her kids have health problems, one with brain damage, the other with sickle cell anemia.

Women Are Dreamers Too has helped to turn her life around. Working out of her apartment, Moore hopes to be in a storefront by the spring.

"It really gave us hope, which is what so many of us need," Moore said. "It was just an empowering experience. Every day we went with the knowledge that we're going to learn something more. Cindy is such a knowledgeable person, and she believes in what she's doing, and she puts that positive image in us.

"She's definitely a seed planter. If a person has the ability to know how to harvest the seeds, you can be as successful as you want to be."

Get Help
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, click on our Help map Find help where you live.

Or call the national hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Williams, who has a doctorate in economic development from the University of Tennessee, is a full-time professor at Georgia Perimeter College.

Moore said Williams gave them the "nuts and bolts" of starting a business --- and rebuilding their lives.

"It gave each of us an opportunity to become business owners in the community and to contribute some of our talents, turning those into reality," Moore said. "A lot of people have dreams, but very few people know how to make it a reality."

Women Are Dreamers Too will hold its first class in Gwinnett in February. Registration deadline is Jan. 24. Call 678-421-0191

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