3/1/22 - IDHS Celebrates Women's History Month

Dear colleagues and partners,

Women's History Month is a time to commemorate and celebrate women. To kick off this special month, we are thrilled to share thoughts from strong women leaders from across IDHS who are fiercely committed to ensuring that all people in Illinois achieve their full potential regardless of race, class, and gender.

"Women's History Month, for me, means appreciating the fearless women who paved the road for my success and lending a hand to those brave women who are just finding their way. I've been fortunate to be surrounded by fierce, compassionate, and authentic women in my personal and professional life," said Kirstin Chernawsky, Director, Division of Early Childhood. "They propel me to continue fighting against gender inequality, as there is still much work to be done to ensure all women feel respected and heard."

"As I look at the leadership at IDHS, I visibly see women-identified leaders of all races, ethnicities, gender identifiers, abilities, and ages. Women are helping to craft policy and systems changes that impact thousands of individuals across Illinois every day. Women's History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the progress of those that identify as women and celebrate those successes," said Allison Stark, Director of Developmental Disabilities.

"Girls and women with all types of disabilities and without disabilities are free to be seen, heard, and can act of their own will. Women are the majority of humans, and the need for educated and respected women and girls strengthens our world," said Rahnee Patrick, Director of Rehabilitation Services. "I am the daughter of powerful matriarchs whose bloodline has brought me to this day. I am grateful for the sacrifice women have made so that I can go to school, work, and have control of my life decisions."

"I love Women's History Month because it reminds me of the powerful sisterhood we share as women, regardless of what country we are from. For me, it's a day to honor the trailblazers, find inspiration in each other, and remind girls that they are beautiful, strong, and not alone," said Beatriz Ponce De Leon, Chief of Staff, Division of Mental Health.

"Every year during Women's History Month, I reflect on women all over the world living under occupation, oppression, and state violence, who are fighting for freedom and liberation. Their strength and persistence inspire me," said Ahlam Jbara, Chief of Staff, Family and Community Services.

"Women worldwide have tirelessly contributed to the well-being of their families and communities and deserve to be honored every day. As a proud Mexican-Immigrant woman, I am especially pleased to recognize the beautiful women who promote healing, acceptance, inclusion, and respect through tradition-cultural practices," said Laura Garcia, Chief of Staff, Division Substance Use Prevention and Recovery. "These women fight intolerance gently but with force in school councils, religious institutions, and at times in their own homes, with little to no recognition. "

I also want to salute my extraordinary colleague Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who is completing an outstanding tenure and heroic service as Director of IDPH this month. Governor Pritzker said it best: "She will go down in the Illinois history books as a woman who changed our state for the better. She saved lives, many thousands of lives."

This Women's History Month, I hope you will recognize and appreciate the contributions of remarkable women worldwide, in our home state, and right here on team IDHS. Thank you.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS