Dianna Payton, CEO of YWCA, promotes peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all | Inspired by Louisiana

Dianna Payton has managed nonprofit programs and served as a grant writer for over a decade at the local, state and national levels. She previously served as Director of Community Investment for Capital Area United Way. In this role, she led the strategic development and execution of the group’s first open and competitive community investment process in its 90-year history.

Payton sits on various area boards, including the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority, Partners for Progress, and the Capital City Family Health Center board. This year, Payton was named Commissioner of the Year 2022 for the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to affordable housing.

Tell us about the YWCA. How is it different from the YMCA? What is the local mission of the Women’s Y?

Our organization has a different mission than the YMCA. The YWCA aims to empower women and eliminate racism. We also promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

To achieve this locally, we strive to be a leading service movement and build a community where women are respected leaders in all sectors of society.

We believe that when women’s lives improve, families and the Baton Rouge community are positively impacted.

How is the YWCA seeking solutions in Baton Rouge?

We create pathways to improve the quality of life of every woman by improving economic opportunities in the labor market; provide affordable, high-quality early childhood education and child care services; and awareness, education and resources for domestic violence, homelessness, mental health, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, social justice and advocacy.

Many women we help are vulnerable or at risk.

Our programs are Early Head Start, Domestic Violence Services and Assistance, Emergency Rental Assistance and Shelter Services, Community Bail Fund, Workforce Development Services, Child Empowerment Day women in the legislature, crime prevention and trauma counselling, and mental health services.

What do you think is the most difficult challenge facing young women in Louisiana?

Education and career choices that lead to higher incomes and a better quality of life.

This challenge comes up against inequalities in Louisiana in terms of educational orientation, remuneration and promotions.

Was there any particular incident that led you to a service career?

I recognized early on that we are all products of our experiences and exposures in life. I knew from college that I wanted to be a social worker and help others. Social work is who I am and the lens through which I see the world every day.

Who is/was your mentor?

The strong women in my family and those I met early in my career. I am a true seeker of wisdom and knowledge and have received it from myriads of people along the way.

How can individuals support or volunteer with YWCA?

We need women who are passionate about improving our community.

They can become members of the YWCA or volunteer in our mentorship program. We invite people to sponsor and attend our events, make a monetary contribution, tell our story to others, and attend our Day at the Capitol event.

We’re focusing on empowering women with a special event in March that will feature an inspirational speech by Jane Fonda.

The third annual YWCA Women’s Empowerment Event will feature American film icon and activist Jane Fonda in person at the upcoming YWCA Empower the “W” Brunch. Fonda will be the guest speaker on March 5 at LSU Stadium Club. Sponsorships are now available and information for purchasing tickets will be available in December through a bontempstix website.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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