Sharon Hanshaw

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June 4: Sharon Hanshaw
Sharon Hanshaw; Executive Director of Coastal Women for Change Hometown: Biloxi, MS When she started Coastal Women for Change: In January 2006, after Hurricane Katrina What she did before this: Ran a local business and worked as a community advocate for over 20 years
Sharon Hanshaw is a native of Biloxi, Mississippi. She is the Executive Director of Coastal Women for Change, an organization she helped found in January 2006 in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The group brings together community members in Biloxi and the surrounding area to participate in long-range community planning and rebuilding. Ms. Hanshaw ran a local business and worked as a community advocate for over 20 years before the Hurricane lifted her to a position of leadership in Biloxi.

Ms. Hanshaw has followed in the footsteps of her father who is a minister, and has committed herself to a lifetime of community service. She worked with the Star Education Center, which offers free literacy classes for local residents, and she is an active member of the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP, where she serves as the Assistant Secretary. For the last several years, Ms. Hanshaw has focused her energy on enabling the community in the rebuilding process and overcoming the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Through her efforts and with the support of the faithful few, Coastal Women for Change (CWC) was born. Coastal Women for Change became a recognized non-profit organization on May 8, 2006. Ms. Hanshaw and CWC have instituted life-saving responses to the danger of floods in Biloxi. The initiatives include the creation of a database of emergency contacts and prescription medications for area residents, women's healing retreats and training on financial literacy for people receiving disaster assistance and insurance money. She is an advocate for affordable housing and is vocal about the physical and mental health hazards of confined trailer housing for so many Mississippians, including herself.

Under her leadership, CWC has become a long-term community planning foundation with significant input in the City Counsel and Mayor's offices. She has also worked on the state and federal level, has testified before Congress and has met with Members of Congress. Her recent trip to tsunami-stricken India has expanded her view to the global level, and the realization that all Sisters on the Planet need to have a voice in shaping the future.

As a founding Ambassador for Oxfam America's Sisters on the Planet initiative, Ms. Hanshaw has traveled widely to bring attention to the crisis of climate change, including to the Governor's Global Climate Summit in California and the Global Conference on climate change in Copenhagen. She has testified before Congress and participated in Oxfam Congressional Education and Advocacy events in Washington, DC. Ms. Hanshaw is featured in Oxfam's Sisters on the Planet video documentary, and is a recipient of Oxfam America's Sisters on the Planet Climate Leaders Award.