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HeForShe Forum highlights the potential and the power of gender equality alliance

The movement invites men and boys to build on the work of the women's movement as equal partners.

TOLEDO, Ohio — There is a movement in Toledo with the goal of empowering women who are small business owners. 

It's known as the HeForShe, and it's a solidarity movement for gender equality. 

Women and men gathered at the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion on Wednesday during National Women's Small Business Month.

The HeForShe movement invites men and boys to build on the work of the women's movement as equal partners.

In a room filled with several business owners, that's exactly what their counterparts did. 

"As a business owner, I'm a full-time business person and I'm a full-time mom," said Rita Jassal, the owner of Bombay Kitchen on Monroe Street. "So I have to make sure the restaurant's open, but I have to make sure my kids are off to school, get them picked up from school. They have soccer. They have after-school activities."

After a difficult year, the mother of three is at the HeForShe Forum, joined by her husband Peter Jassal. 

"HeForShe was started by the UN, and Women of Toledo has been involved in it for many years now," said Ramona Olvera, the Secretary for the Board of Women of Toledo, "and it is an opportunity for men to support women and to stand up and say that they support the struggles and the opportunity women have in our society."

"I don't they need a male figure as such. But they need support. They need. It could be a father, brother, husband. Or anybody, and don't have to be male or female," explained Peter Jassal. "But yes, if you have good support, that leads to success of the business overall."

Peter Jassal says it can then lead to success within a family. 

Diana Patton, owner of RISE with Diana, says the movement can also help elevate the voice of women. 

"This organization really is trying to partner with other genders and to really make certain that we all understand that together we can rise, right?" said Patton. "If we really learn what each other is made up of, learn our stories, understand what makes us tick and why."

According to the Women of Toledo, if we've learned one thing during the pandemic, it's that these women are essential. 

"Those moments when they're not able to get into their jobs, not get into their business, really, we can see how that affects the whole economy this past year," said Olvera.  

And that's why she says it's crucial to recognize their contributions. 

If you are a woman trying to start up your own business or looking to get to the next level, Women of Toledo encourage you to reach out to them. 

The organization says it can connect you to more opportunities with its partners in the community. 


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