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Donna Wade


Donna Wade began down the path to human-rights work as a child. She has spent her life championing causes focusing on compassion and equality for all. It's a path that led her to the Idaho Women's Network, where she has worked as the fund development director since 2006. Not only does she raise money for the nonprofit group, but she also helps build partnerships in the community that support the organization's mission of fighting prejudice, poverty, inferior education and sub-par child-care standards. In her spare time, Wade is an adjunct professor of communications at Boise State.

Wade took time out of her preparations for IWN's annual Bread and Roses fundraiser (Oct. 5) and the annual membership convention (Oct. 6) to tell BW what human-rights issues mean to her.

How did you become involved with IWN?

Prior to my employment here, I had finished up my MBA and then, two months later, had my first child. I had always been interested in philanthropy. Throughout my undergrad, I was interning at the ACLU, I was interning at the Women's Center at BSU, I was on the board of directors of United Cerebral Palsy. So, I already knew that nonprofit was what I wanted to do and what I cared about. And I started looking more into the Women's Network, and it just fit so well with my world view, my values, with what I cared about, what I believe in, and I knew it would be a good fit. And luckily, I got the job.

Do you ever do lobbying?

I don't, but I'm interested in it. It's an interesting place to be in Idaho when you're working for progressive politics, and I feel like the time has come for folks who identify as progressive to work together with folks who may be perceived to be on the other side of the political fence. I feel like there are ways to find common ground and create alliances based on common goals.

How do we find that common ground?

As I teach in my communications class, when you're looking at persuasive speaking, the idea is that change is incremental. You don't change someone's mind overnight. The truth is that there are common values that we share that we should be focused on maybe more than we have up to this point.

What about issues like same-sex marriage or abortion where there's no middle ground?

The way I approach it is to focus on common values. And I think there are common values in those discussions. Things like compassion, empathy, freedom to live a life where you have protections that provide stability for your family and your employment. Eventually, that incremental change can happen.

What are main issues for IWN?

One of the main things is this Idaho Human Rights Act, and we'll be presenting that in coalition again to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected folks within the state of Idaho. Then we're going to be working in coalition on child-care standards. Last year in the Health and Welfare legislative committee, a bill was proposed to create minimum safety standards in in-home day cares, and it didn't go anywhere. It was killed. And we're talking about things like having a working phone on the premises; everyone that lives on the premises getting a background check; having pools of water be safely obstructed from children having access; no loaded weapons; having to be trained in CPR. I mean, these are minimal standards, but they're not in place.

What do you consider some of your biggest successes?

It was before my time, but we secured $1.5 million per year for treatment of breast and cervical cancer for women without health insurance. It allowed more than 300 women to receive potentially life-saving treatment since 2001. We've trained more than 300 women and men to run for elected offices. Locally, we played a major role in 2006 in the coalition work that resulted in Boise including sexual orientation and gender identity in its employment non-discrimination policy.

Are women making progress?

I think we are making progress, both locally and nationally, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We've made improvements in terms of equity in pay. It's not perfect, but it's improved. We need to embrace the different choices that women make. It's essential that a woman who wants to stay home and take care of children is an equally important choice as someone who wants to work outside the home and pursue a career.

What about the abortion-rights debate?

I think we have to look at it from a human-rights standpoint. The people who are born, and who are here on the planet today, we have to empower them today to make choices that will work for them in their lives, that will be good choices for them. And when we say, "You're not capable of making this decision for yourself," we're disempowering them, and I think we're violating their human rights, too.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I consider myself a humanist, above and beyond any other calling in this lifetime. What that means to me is inclusive of feminism. My higher ideal is that of ethics, compassion, taking care of humanity and making choices that empower people to live quality lives. I have respect for feminism and feminists, and I'm fascinated by learning different ways of approaching that. Ultimately, if I had my druthers, it would be about human beings, and that everything that we do would be less about our differences and more about our similarities and commonalities.

Who taught you all this stuff?

I've had many teachers, but my mother is my absolute heroine. She is the greatest inspiration of my life. She is not only bright and loving and driven, she is the most philanthropic-oriented person that I've ever known. And that is where I learned that, from a very young age. And we were in poverty for quite a while, but she never stopped figuring out how to help other people. I was involved in volunteer activities at a very young age, from elementary school. And there was no prejudice. That was ingrained from a very early age.

Do you have a favorite philosophy?

The one thing that sticks in my mind is basically treat others how you'd like to be treated. And I've always connected with the Hippocratic oath, "Do no harm." So if I can live by those, I will have done a pretty good job.

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