Founding member of Lafayette’s Commission on the Needs of Women, still fighting strong

Photo: KLFY
Photo: KLFY

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)—In Acadiana many organizations promote, protect and push for the needs and well-being of many individuals. In Lafayette, one particular group has been making sure women are fully represented for 40-years.

84-year-old Sarah Brabant is the last living founding member of the Lafayette Commission on the Needs of Women. She said woman’s rights are nowhere near completed.

For Brabant, protecting the needs of women in Lafayette has been her life’s work.

“We became aware of battered women,” said Brabant, “in that time if a woman left her husband without her children she was accused of abandoning them, and if she took them, she kidnapped them.”

Brabant said she wanted to change that. In 1976, she helped in the creation of the Lafayette Commission on the Needs of Women.

“We were two African-American women and three white women.” Stated Brabant, “And I think we got things through because the white man on the council could deal with black women and they can deal with white women, but I don’t think they were able to deal with us mixed. I think you really began to realize early on that our diversity was strength.”

And this strength is still going strong today. According to the Commission’s President-Elect Marlice Dugas, it doesn’t matter what your background is, “It doesn’t matter where you’re from or doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s about respect to your identity.”

The commission began the first battered shelter, which is now known as Faith House, as well as the first rape crisis center.

“I remember in the rape crisis center we ran into lots of problems, [I] remember a sheriff’s deputy took me aside and said, ‘little lady don’t you know that the men in this town don’t want a hotline their wives can call.’” Brabant told KLFY.

Brabant added that this is an issue that she understands, “I was a survivor of domestic abuse.” Brabant said, “I ended up in my 30s with my children and no visible means of support. I really wanted to give to women. When I went through my struggle, there just was very little out there.”

According to Dugas, the commission sees assault to sex trafficking and hopes to see the commission get more active in helping.

Both Dugas and Brabant said by looking to the past, they have hope for the future for the women in Lafayette Parish.

“We’ve come a long way we have, but we still have quite a long way to go.” Stated Dugas.

The commission is currently looking for six new members. If you are interested, you can apply online on the LCG website.

The Lafayette City-Parish President appoints members based on the commission’s recommendations.

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