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Longtime Gender-Equity Proponent Kim Sontag-Mulder Selected As A KPBS Community Hero

Kim Sontag-Mulder, who is credited with resurrecting the San Diego chapter of NOW , the National Organization for Women, has been named the KPBS and National Conflict Resolution Center Community Hero for her work in gender equity.

“Our goal is to be that go-to organization for women and girls to come and find their voice,” said Sontag-Mulder, who is the current co-president of NOW’s local chapter. She is also vice president of programs on the executive committee of California NOW and is her local chapter’s state board representative.

NOW’s San Diego chapter closed in 2013, said Sontag-Mulder, who began the task of restarting it in 2014. Membership has grown to 500, not including chapters in high schools and on college campuses. Sontag-Mulder helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in San Diego, which turned out between 30,000-40,000 people in downtown San Diego, according to police. Sontag-Mulder said membership to the local chapter of NOW doubled after the march.

“It was fantastic to see them come out and know they had found their place. They had found their voice and through us they can continue to do that and speak their truth,” she said.

The organization currently concentrates on a variety of gender-equity concerns, including human trafficking, education equity and reproductive issues. The chapter also connects victims of sexual assault with community resources and is advocating for untested rape kits to be processed. The kits are used in cases of sexual assault to preserve evidence. A San Diego Union-Tribune article this year estimated that more than 2,000 such kits in the city and county remained untested.

Equal pay is another important issue to Sontag-Mulder. A recent fact sheet by the National Partnership for Women & Families, a non-profit organization that advances policy to help women and families, stated there is a persistent gender-based pay gap that exists and particularly impacts Latinas.

“It’s important to have equal pay, not just for the point of being equal with a man in a job,” Sontag-Mulder said. “Women tend to be the ones that raise children, take care of the home, buy the groceries. Yet they have to work sometimes two or three jobs to make ends meet. They shouldn’t have to work so terribly hard to make a living.”

Photo caption: Kim Sontag-Mulder and NOW

Photo credit: Kim Sontag-Mulder

Kim Sontag-Mulder and NOW

Her interest in gender-equity issues started early, she said. In fact, she first joined NOW in 1984 after graduating from high school. She credits her mother for being a good role model by being a strong and determined woman.

“She raised my sister and me while my father was in the military,” she said. “He was in the Navy, so I watched her single-handedly raise us.”

On the topic of the #MeToo movement, Sontag-Mulder says she has been fortunate not to have personally experienced sexual assault or harassment. But she is concerned when women are not believed.

“No one wants to really believe them,” she said. “They question them and I think that’s kind of horrific.”

What would Sontag-Mulder like to see before retiring from her long standing pursuit of gender equity? She points to the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It guarantees equal rights for all Americans regardless of sex. Though first introduced in the early 1920s, the amendment has failed to win passage.

“I would love to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed and in the Constitution,” she said. “That would be fantastic and it’s a long time coming.”

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