02 November 2012

Facing Hurricane Sandy, Reminders of Women Less Fortunate

By Christie Petrone
Senior Manager, Public Relations

With 8 million people, New York City can sometimes seem vast and impersonal. But the city is comprised of so many small communities, places that more often resemble small towns than a big city. It’s those women, men and children from diverse backgrounds – with wealthy and poor often living side-by-side – that form the city’s backbone. This week, each of these communities was, in some way, touched by – and, in many cases, devastated by – Hurricane Sandy.

Thousands of New Yorkers remain without power, including the Ms. Foundation’s fearless leader, President and CEO Anika Rahman. More than 100 families lost their homes in a raging fire in Queens during the hurricane. And parts of Staten Island are still under water. But the dozens of lives lost are the most heartbreaking of all.

Throughout this difficult week, my heart – and the hearts of all Ms. Foundation employees – were with women in the most vulnerable communities, those already impacted by economic injustice and struggling to cope with another blow.

When I stocked up on supplies ahead of the storm, I thought of the women who can’t afford to buy a week’s worth of water and groceries in advance.

When I shelled out $30 for baby formula for my toddler, just in case the electricity faltered and the regular milk spoiled, I thought of the women who could not risk spending money on something they might never use.

When I debated whether to evacuate my apartment – considering paying for a hotel or staying with friends – I thought of the women with limited access to resources and support systems, who had nowhere else to go.

When the Ms. Foundation closed its offices due to power outages, I didn’t worry about being paid. But I did think about the hourly wage women for whom every day away from work meant lost income – and more difficulty paying bills.

When the subways shut down, paralyzing transportation, I thought of all of the domestic employees, restaurant workers and others who don’t have the option of working from home and who risk losing their jobs because of flooded subway tunnels.

When my daughter’s daycare shut down on Tuesday, I thought of the Polish immigrants who love my daughter like their own, and I wondered if they’d still be paid.

And when her daycare reopened on Wednesday, I thought of the daycares that might still be shut, and of the low-income mothers forced to choose between going to work or caring for their children.

During every step from hurricane preparation to disaster recovery, I was reminded that the everyday struggles of those less fortunate are exponentially more challenging in emergency situations.

It reaffirmed to me why the work of the Ms. Foundation for Women is so important. And why we must never give up in our fight to achieve economic justice – equality for and among all women – certainly, in the good times, but most especially, in the bad.

Photo Credit: May S. Young

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