12 June 2008

Huffington Post on Gloria Awards

Gloria SteinemOur celebration of the 20th Annual Gloria Awards was a time to note the remarkable achievements of women activists and visionary philanthropists whose strength, courage and leadership move us towards the realization of the long-cherished vision: a just and equitable world. For 35 years, in partnership with our grantees, we have acted on this vision by building women's collective power to ignite change.

Marcia G. Yerman attended the event and shared her experience in the Huffington Post. She notes:
...within that room was tremendous solidarity for feminist activism, social justice, leadership, and courage.

The crowd was wowed by the story of 21-year-old Yunuen Rodriguez (winner of the Marie C. Wilson Young Women's Leadership Award), and her involvement in taking on a Chicago Spanish-language radio station that had run an ad campaign depicting a rear view of a line of Latina women in short-shorts. The caption "25 pegaditas" (translation being hits/slaps) was positioned on their behinds. Working with Females United for Action (FUFA), an initiative of the Women & Girls Collective Action Network (a Ms. Foundation grantee), Rodriquez developed a public relations strategy that led to a sit-down with the station's general manager, as well as an owner's rep from the Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System. The ads were pulled, and they gave FUFA airtime to discuss their agenda on how to combat violence against women.
Read Marcia Yerman's full report at Women Get Respect -- Part 2.

Photo: Gloria Steinem © Kevin Wick/Longview

Senate to Consider Extending Abstinence-Only Funding in Medicare Bill

Two of the Ms. Foundation's national Sexuality Education Advocacy Initiative grantees are calling on voters to oppose an 18-month extension of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program included in the Medicare package prepared by the Senate Finance Committee.

The grantees, Advocates for Youth and Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS), joined the Ms. Foundation and many other organizations in signing a letter to Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The letter objects to continued funding of abstinence-only programs and their inclusion in a Medicare bill. It notes:

The Senate Medicare package extends these programs despite the mounting scientific and medical evidence indicating that abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is a poor public investment.

It is extremely noteworthy that at least 17 states have firmly rejected federal funding through Title V of the Social Security Act. Acting on principle and in the best interest of their youth, these governors have rebuffed a source of much needed revenue after concluding that these unduly restrictive and ideologically-driven programs were, at a minimum, ineffective and, at worst, harmful.

An eight-year, congressionally mandated evaluation published by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. in April 2007 shows that abstinence-only programs have no beneficial impact. Students who participated in a range of curricula funded through the federal Title V abstinence-only program were no more likely than non-recipients to delay sexual initiation, to have fewer partners, or to use condoms when they did become sexually active. [Report Executive Summary – PDF]

A November 2007 report by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy confirmed these findings, concluding that "[a]t present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners," and therefore there isn't "sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination." [Report]

To find out more about how to promote comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education, visit Advocates for Youth and SEICUS. To send an email with your opposition to the extension of abstinence-only funding in the Medicare bill, you can join this effort organized by Advocates for Youth.

03 June 2008

Strengthening Strategy in South Beach

Nothing makes true progressive change seem more possible than when activists take time out of their busy lives to come together to build on past successes, strengthen coalitions, and share strategies to bring about transformative shifts in policy and public debate that will have a concrete, positive impact on the lives of women and families nationwide. We're so honored to be able to help create this space at gatherings like our reproductive justice grantee convening in Miami, taking place today and yesterday in sunny, humid Miami.

Over the years the Ms. Foundation for Women and other social justice advocates nationwide have come to understand that the most strategic, successful approach to bringing about lasting social change involves making connections to build power: across issues, organizations and policymaking levels, and across race, class, and gender. For the second year in a row, MFW asked grantees from our Reproductive Rights Coalition and Organizing Fund to invite representatives from other organizations to the convening with whom they'd like to build or strengthen their partnerships, specifically groups that would bring a new perspective, constituency, and/or resources to the table and help move a particular policy or advocacy initiative forward--ultimately, creating a stronger reproductive justice movement and broader base for change.

Over two days, this year and last, groups have had a chance to review what's worked and what hasn't, to strengthen their strategic plans and to identify new, innovative organizing tactics so that when they return home they'll be much better positioned to ensure success.

For example, MFW grantee Migrant Health Promotion's La Voz Latina partnered last year with the Lower Rio Grande Development Council's Rio Transit and Planned Parenthood to ensure regular transportation for migrant farmworking women living in rural South Texas colonias so that they could access reproductive health care services. They were so successful--there are now regular routes to 99% the colonias in Hidalgo County in which La Voz Latina works and 1500 women use the bus service each month--that they're coming together to move into a new county, Cameron, where they will replicate the organizing strategies they used in Hidalgo to identify and develop local leaders, promote awareness about reproductive health, and encourage women to access services--the majority provided by Planned Parenthood--via public transportation.

As expected and unexpected challenges occur, such as changes in funding for transportation or reproductive health care services, they'll have a solid coalition of all three groups--La Voz Latina, Rio Transit and Planned Parenthood--to advocate for the rights and needs of the thousands of women they represent. And not just that--women from the colonias will advocate for and defend their rights themselves, thanks to training from La Voz Latina and intercambios (exchanges) between women from Hidalgo and Cameron Counties.

[Lucy Felix of Migrant Health Promotion, in attendance at the convening, was one of our 2008 Women of Vision awardees. Watch this video to learn more about Lucy's visionary leadership and the groundbreaking work of La Voz Latina.]

This collaboration in South Texas across reproductive justice and advocacy, transportation access, and reproductive health care services is just one example of the creative movement building across issues, organizations and communities taking place here. Moreover, folks aren't just working within their coalitions but across them as well, sharing ideas around access to transportation that worked in Texas that may work in West Virginia, or strategies for defeating parental notification ballot initiatives in California that may be applied to similar challenges in Illinois.

Look for more in the coming months and year for updates about the coalitions meeting here in Miami and their strategies for expanding the base of the reproductive justice movement and bringing about concrete social change for women and families in their colonias and cities nationwide.