Women's Initiatives

Purpose and initiatives of the Commission for Women

Page updated on Jul 27, 2021 at 10:19 AM

Women's Initiatives

The City of Alexandria is committed to addressing needs specific to women and to LGBTQ+ people. This commitment can be seen in the City programs and services targeted to these populations and in the active advisory bodies for women's issues and LGBTQ+ issues, including the Commission for Women, the Human Rights Commission, the Commission on HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ Task Force.

Commission efforts are largely centered on:

(1) Supporting existing City programs that focus on women:  Domestic Violence Program (DVP), Sexual Assault Program (SAP)Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy (ACAP).

(2) Providing guidance and advice to the City on relevant legislation and public policy issues.

(3) Sponsoring awareness and outreach events, including the Salute to Women Awards Program and Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

(4) The preservation and promotion of women's history in Alexandria through the Women's History Tour and related projects. 

In addition, the Commission stays active on affairs within the City. Commissioners learn about and provide insight on local issues by attending Council meetings, hearings and symposia, inviting speakers to Commission meetings, and attending educational and civic programs within the City and around the region. In 2014, the Commission celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the formation of the Commission on the Status on Women in 1974 at the 34th Annual Salute to Women Awards Ceremony.  

Specific Initiatives



  • Debra Evans, Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Division Chief, 703.746.4911
  • Lisette Torres, ACAP Coordinator, 703.746.3130
  • Debra Evans, LGBTQ Task Force and Project Coordinator, 703.746.4911
  • Commission for Women Chair - Ann Harbour; CommissionforWomen@alexandriava.gov
  • Human Rights Commission Contact - Jean Kelleher - 703.746.3140
  • Kim Burson, Substance Use Outpatient Treatment Team Leader, 703.746.3606

Women's Events & Awareness Months

MARCH- Women's History Month

APRIL- Sexual Assault Awareness & Women & Girls' Wellness Month 

  • National Denim Day 
  • Survivor T-Shirt Night and The Clothesline Project 
  • Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 

MAY- Teen Pregnancy Prevention Awareness Month

OCTOBER- Breast Cancer Awareness Month & Domestic Violence Awareness Month


Vola Lawson Breast Cancer Memorial Fund

In 1994, the Alexandria Walk to Fight Breast Cancer was established by former City Manager Vola Lawson. The Annual Walk to Fight Breast Cancer was discontinued in 2014, but to ensure that women who remain in need can access critical screenings, the Vola Lawson Breast Cancer Memorial was established. The Fund is named in honor of Vola Lawson who passed in December 2013. 

With support of community members, city government, local businesses and non-profit organizations, we are able to keep the memory of Vola and her vision alive.   

Learn more, volunteer and support the Vola Lawson Memorial Fund.

Clothesline Project

Every year, the Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program exhibit The Clothesline Project in the community during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October). The vividly decorated t-shirts are strung on a clothesline to bear witness to violence against women and their strength to survive.  

The Clothesline Project began in 1990 when members of the Cape Cod Women's Agenda hung a clothesline across the village green in Hyannis, Massachusetts with 31 shirts decorated by survivors of assault, rape and incest. Women viewing the clothesline came forward to create shirts of their own and the line kept growing. Since the first display, The Clothesline Project has grown through cooperation with schools, universities, State Houses, shopping malls, churches and women's events. An estimated 35,000-50,000 shirts have been made.

"Doing the laundry has always been considered women's work and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods, women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry," said Carol A. Chichetto of East Dennis, MA, quoted from www.now.org , the NOW organization website. "The concept is simple. Let each woman tell her own story in her own unique way and hang it out for all to see. It was and is a way of airing society's dirty laundry."

Creating opportunities for people to learn and speak openly about sexual and domestic violence is a goal of the Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program. Twice yearly, the programs host t-shirt making nights where survivors and their friends and family are invited to create a t-shirt that represents their experience.

Call the Domestic Violence Program at 703.746.4911 or Sexual Assault Center at 703-683-7273  if you are interested in making a t-shirt and participating in this awareness event. 

Children's Holiday Party

Every year, the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program and Sexual Assault Center organize a Holiday Party for children and mothers who have been recently served by the programs. At the party, the families reunite with past shelter friends and staff, eat and take pictures with Santa Clause, among other activities. Each mother and child receive a bag of gifts to wrap and place under their own tree on Christmas Day. More than 100 families look forward to this exciting event, and our community's generosity is what makes it a success.

If you would like to participate in the party this year, we have a gift suggestion list for ideas. If you wish to donate children's toys or other gifts, please provide newly purchased, unwrapped items. We will provide each mother with wrapping paper to personalize each child's gift.

We are also requesting gift certificates to local stores in denominations of $25. This way, each woman will have the opportunity to purchase something special for herself or her children.

We accept donations at our main office, located at 123 North Pitt Street, Suite 225 Alexandria, VA from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on holidays. The deadline for delivery or pick-up of unwrapped gift donations is December 15.

If you need help deciding what to purchase, or if you have any other questions about donating for this event, please call the Domestic Violence Program at 703.746.4911. Thank you for helping to make this a great day for the children and families we serve.

19th Annual Women's Holiday Art Show

The Friends of the Alexandria Commission for Women will sponsor its 19th Annual Holiday Art Market at Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe Street, 1-5 p.m. The Holiday Art Market will showcase the work of creative women artists and artisans!  Each year this event raises money to support programs critical to women in Alexandria, such as those dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. For more information, email friendsofalexwomen@gmail.com.

Bathroom Poster Distribution

The Alexandria Domestic Violence Program needs volunteers aged 18 and up to help distribute educational and public awareness materials. Volunteers are given a list of locations in the City of Alexandria and can go at their own pace. Please call 703.746.4911.

Salute to Women Awards

Shining a spotlight on the distinguished work of women, men and youth in our community is at the heart of the Alexandria Commission for Women's Salute to Women Awards Program.

Visit the Salute to Women event page for more information.

 Past Award Winners 

Silent Witness Project & Candlelight VigilSilent Witness Vigil Candles

"Witnesses are red because it is the color of our life's blood, the one way in which we are all united...no matter our race, creed, or culture. The shields are placed over the heart-our life's rhythm."
- South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The Silent Witness Project is a nation-wide initiative that began in Minnesota in 1990. The project was launched by a group of Minnesota women who felt an urgency to do something about the escalating domestic violence in their state. Twenty-six life-size red silhouettes were created, each bearing the name of a woman whose life was brutally cut short due to the violence in her life.  

Since the project began in 1990, Silent Witness exhibits have been springing up across the United States. By 1997, 46 states had joined with Minnesota in creating these silhouettes. In 2002, the Commonwealth of Virginia joined the silent witness project.

Silent Witness Vigil SillouhettesAlexandria has silhouettes of our own victims who died due to domestic violence. Family, friends, and community members will honor these lives by displaying these silhouettes at various locations throughout October. The silhouettes memorialize Alexandrians who died at the hands of domestic violence, since 1990. They will also represent the thousands of City residents who are still being hurt by those they love and are still in danger.

Each year, in Market Square, in front of City Hall at 301 King Street, the Domestic Violence Program holds the Silent Witness Candlelight Vigil, an annual event during which we remember and honor all those who have died, or are still suffering, due to acts of domestic violence. Learn about the City's Domestic Violence Program.