22 December 2010

Washington State Win! Pharm Board Protects Access to Emergency Contraception

It's always nice to be able to report a little good news around the holidays, and the folks in Washington State are giving us the opportunity to do exactly that!

You may remember that just over a month ago, we reported on a challenge to an existing rule in Washington State that requires pharmacies to fill customer prescriptions for legal medications -- regardless of how individual pharmacists may feel about whether these products should or should not be legal. If the rule had been overturned, pharmacies in the state could have refused to provide certain medications to customers on the basis of "moral objection" -- medications like Plan B (the "morning after" pill) and other types of contraceptives.

21 December 2010

Asian Women Giving Circle Announces RFP for Women, Arts and Activism

The Ms. Foundation is pleased to announce an Open Call for Proposals for our new donor-advised fund, the Asian Women Giving Circle. We are very excited that the Giving Circle has joined the Foundation and look forward to a successful partnership.

Open Call for Proposals

The Asian Women Giving Circle, a donor-advised fund of the Ms. Foundation for Women, is pleased to announce a Request for Proposals for its Women, Arts and Activism Fund.

Through this RFP, the Asian Women Giving Circle seeks to support Asian American women-led projects that use the tools of culture, the arts and education to raise awareness and catalyze action around critical issues that impact Asian American communities. As such, the focus of this grantmaking will be on programs and projects that combine the arts with activism, and which highlight and promote women’s central role in their leadership, creation, development and management.

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 5pm (Eastern Standard Time).

Learn More or download the Complete RFP [PDF]

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Support Women's Well-Being this Holiday Season

Want to make a real difference during this season of giving? Donate to the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Giving to the Ms. Foundation is about more than making a gift, it's about making an impact. It's about standing up for the safety and health of women and girls, and building their economic security and civic participation.
By making a gift now, you are enhancing women's safety and well-being by:
  • Bringing the issue of child sexual abuse out of obscurity and investing in a comprehensive, social justice approach that puts communities at the forefront of prevention;
  • Working to end the trauma of sexual abuse in the military; and
  • Using technology -- including iPhone applications -- to challenge street harassment.
When you give, change happens.
Join us now! Making a donation online is fast and easy. You can also mail us your contribution.
Cathy Raphael
Chair, Board of Directors
The Ms. Foundation for Women

20 December 2010

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

Wondering what Ms. Foundation grantees have been up to recently? Here's a quick round-up of some of the impressive work our grantees have done in just the last week (!) to advance social justice nationwide.
  • Together with the ACLU, Ms. Foundation grantee the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) files a lawsuit [pdf] in district court to force the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran's Affairs to release military sexual trauma records currently being withheld by the federal government. SWAN also issues an important response to a new pentagon report on sexual assault trends at the military academies. Read that press release.

  • Women of Color Policy Network issues an action alert calling on supporters to protect federal funding for child care and Head Start. The omnibus appropriations bill that would have provided the funding levels necessary to adequately support early childhood education and child care was eventually pulled from the Senate amid concerns over earmarks; Congress is now faced with passing a continuing resolution that would cap government funding of child care/early ed at FY2010 levels -- and leave tens of thousands of children out in the cold.

The Highs, the Lows: DADT and Dream Act Meet Opposite Fates in Senate

After 17 years, 13,500 dismissed service members and enough debate to have launched a thousand ships, the US Congress finally did what's right: on Saturday, December 18th, the US Senate repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military's ban on openly serving gay and lesbian soldiers. This repeal is a tremendous win not just for gay and lesbian service members, or for women and people of color (who, we now know, were disproportionately impacted by the discriminatory policy); it is also a remarkable win for our nation as a whole, as it moves us ever closer to becoming a truly inclusive democracy --one where who we are puts no limits on what we can be, and what we can do.

17 December 2010

NoVo Foundation Launches 10-Year Initiative to End Violence Against Women & Girls

Ms. Foundation partner NoVo Foundation has launched Move to End Violence, a 10-year initiative to end violence against women and girls -- one that could prove a "game changer" in the field of anti-violence work nationwide.

Move to End Violence is designed to strengthen advocates' collective capacity to end violence against girls and women in the United States. "Social transformation of this magnitude requires effective collaboration of well-resourced leaders from strong organizations working strategically toward a common vision," the initiative's website reads. The initiative provides visionary leaders with transformative leadership development opportunities; critical support to their organizations; and capacity building for the movement as a whole.

Over ten years, the initiative will convene five cohorts for a two-year cycle, and will eventually engage more than 100 individuals from organizations in the process of ending gender-based violence. The first cohort -- to which applications are now being accepted -- will be made up of 15 leaders from across the United States chosen for their "vision for ending violence against girls and women, capacity for leadership, and passion for social change."

To qualify, individuals must be based in a nonprofit organization that is working (at least in part) to end violence against girls and women. Individuals and organizations applying must also be fully aligned with the NoVo Foundation’s mission and values.

To learn more about the Move to End Violence initiative and how to apply, please visit MovetoEndViolence.org.

Grantee Report Documents Civil Rights Abuses in Immigration Policing

Saturday, December 18th is International Migrants Day -- a time when communities and nations pause to celebrate the rights of the more than 185 million people worldwide who live outside of their countries of origin as migrants or refugees. But according to a report newly released by Ms. Foundation grantee the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, we here in the United States have precious little to celebrate these days when it comes to our treatment of migrants and our respect for their rights.

The NNIRR report, Injustice for All: The Rise of the Immigration Policing Regime [pdf], argues that in the past decade, the US government has built a "brutal system of immigration control and policing that criminalizes immigration status, normalizes the forcible separation of families, destabilizes communities and workplaces, and fuels widespread civil rights violations." Furthermore, the report's authors point out, the system encourages "racial discrimination and hate violence against immigrants" -- as well as against individuals perceived to be foreign born or "illegal."

16 December 2010

Join Me in Welcoming Anika Rahman, Our Next President

I am writing today to share some wonderful news. After an extensive and exciting national search, the Ms. Foundation for Women has selected our new president and CEO. Anika Rahman will be joining the Ms. Foundation in February. On behalf of the board I want to introduce you to Anika and share with you why we are so excited about her combination of experience, perspective, track record and passion.

Driven by a vision of a world with justice and equality for all women, Anika is a passionate advocate for social justice and human dignity. She has spent her life and dedicated her career to fighting for women's rights and is especially passionate about reproductive rights, health access and equality under the law. Born in Bangladesh, raised there as well as in Pakistan by three strong women, and educated in the United States, Anika has a powerful perspective on the many facets of social inequity and the work of creating social justice. We loved it when she told us "fighting for women's rights is in my DNA."

She will be coming to the Ms. Foundation after six years as president of Americans for UNFPA, a leading national organization focused on promoting the United Nations Population Fund in the United States. The UNFPA works in over 150 countries, is the largest multilateral source of such assistance and an anchor for women's equality throughout the world. In her work at Americans for UNFPA, Anika significantly enhanced fundraising, grew the budget dramatically, negotiated a $37 million bequest for UNFPA and Americans for UNFPA, increased the organization's capacity to deliver on its mission, developed a comprehensive policy agenda and frequently contributed commentary to both traditional and social media.

Earlier in her career, Anika served as director of International Programs for the Center for Reproductive Rights where she helped women around the world fight for equality and legal protections. She also led the Center's policy team to gain important experience in the connections between advocacy, legal and communication strategies to effect change. Her direct experiences partnering with grassroots advocates to fight for women's health and rights in forums ranging from the halls of Congress, the United Nations and to the court of public opinion prepared her to recognize the many pathways that must be navigated to create social change. Anika earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School.

Anika will work closely with the board and Interim President Susan Wefald to ensure a smooth transition and continued impact. Susan is looking forward to returning to her role as chief operating officer. The board thanks Susan for her many years of dedication to the Ms. Foundation and her willingness to lead the organization while we looked for our next president and CEO. We invite you to meet Anika online. We will be hosting a series of events and coffee sessions and hope you will have the opportunity to meet Anika personally in the New Year.

Thanks to the leadership of Sara K. Gould, Susan Wefald and the incredible work of our staff and our partners, the Ms. Foundation is in a strong position to address core social justice issues and to engage an even larger group of advocates, donors and partners. With our endowment now over $26 million (near our peak), an incredible community of social justice donors, a decades-long track record of impact, partnership with over 150 innovative grassroots grantees and a talented staff, we are ready to welcome and leverage new leadership.

Together we will stand for and with social justice trailblazers in the fight for changes like good paying jobs, reproductive health, ending violence against women and girls and the inclusion of women at all decision-making tables.

Together we will work toward a nation in which power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class or any other factor.

Cathy Raphael

Chair, Board of Directors
Ms. Foundation for Women

More about Anika. Statement from Anika Rahman. Profile of Anika Rahman.

Meet Anika Rahman, Our New President & CEO

Hello to the Ms. Foundation for Women community.

Though I will not be joining the staff of the Ms. Foundation until February, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and express my appreciation and excitement about joining this community of social justice trailblazers.

I have spent my entire life and dedicated my career to women's rights and dignity. I am thus deeply honored that the Ms. Foundation has invited me to become its next president and CEO. This is a remarkable and iconic organization, one that has a track record of impact more than three decades long. It was the first women's fund, an early leader in the fight for reproductive health and justice, one of the first foundations to address all forms of violence and one of the leading voices for bringing a gender lens to the field of philanthropy. I was drawn to the Ms. Foundation not only because of the wins in its past, but also because of the innovative, powerful and vital work it is part of right now. The Ms. Foundation must continue to be an anchor institution for the women's movement.

I came to the United States at the age of eighteen to attend college, first earning my Bachelor's degree at Princeton and then my Juris Doctorate at Columbia Law School. Since those days, I have focused on helping women throughout the world as they have worked to improve their lives and the lives of those in their communities.

Women and social justice are in my DNA. From a very early age, I felt first hand the devastation of inequality. In Bangladesh, where I was born, my father was able to divorce my mother by simply saying three times, “I divorce you.” The laws and cultural mores that allowed him such power and freedom did not apply to my mother who, because she was a woman, had very few rights. I continued to experience my society's attitudes towards women as being restricted and painful because I saw the world through the eyes of the three women who raised me -- my grandmother, my mother and my aunt. These three incredibly strong women taught me to be unbowed by injustice, to fight it and to be tenacious. I am who I am because of what they taught me. I fight for women's rights and for human dignity for them and for my daughter.

Of course, my experience with discrimination did not end when I grew to adulthood.

As an immigrant, a woman of color and a Muslim, I know what it is to be different. I know what it is to be hurt by prejudice, ignorance and injustice. But I also have the privilege of education, voice and opportunity. I know that the only way to create change and to create a better world is to harness our collective energy and to take action. I believe in the possibility of change because I have seen it in my own life. I believe with my whole heart that the work of the Ms. Foundation staff, grantees and donors is making that change a reality. And there is so much more work for us to do together.

I very much look forward to getting to know and learning from the Ms. Foundation's grantees, donors and staff. I want to collaborate with you. You are on the front lines of change. The work you do every day, the passion you bring to your work and to your communities and the partnerships you have made with one another and with other social justice advocates are powerful forces that are needed more than ever. What we do together matters. I am proud to join such an exceptional community and am honored to stand with you in our collective fight for equality, justice and opportunity.

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

Anika Rahman

More about Anika Rahman. Statement from Cathy Raphael, Ms. Foundation Board Chair. Profile of Anika Rahman.

Katie Couric ROCs: CBS Host Highlights Ms. Grantee and Gives Paid Sick Days Important Boost

Earlier this month, Katie Couric, host of CBS Evening News, gave the national campaign for paid sick days a great boost, voicing support for passage of the Healthy Families Act and highlighting a report by Ms. Foundation grantee, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, which found that 90% of restaurant workers lack paid leave and 60% have cooked or served food while ill. Couric called the federal legislation, which would provide all workers with up to 7 days of paid sick time, long-overdue, adding, "Fettuccine tastes a whole lot better without an extra sprinkling of germs."

Katie, you ROC!

Contact your representatives to voice your support for the bill.

15 December 2010

Court Challenge to Health Care Reform Shouldn't Slow Us Down

We knew this was coming. Ever since a slew of November election campaigns were run on a platform to repeal the Affordable Care Act (or as some people would have it, Obamacare), we’ve been anticipating an active and concerted health care reform backlash. And this Monday the battle lines were drawn. A Federal District Court judge in Virginia ruled that one of the primary aspects of the law is unconstitutional -- the provision requiring that uninsured Americans obtain health insurance. This  cornerstone of the legislation would extend coverage to almost all of today’s 30 million uninsured Americans. Although this ruling will have no effect on health care reform’s rollout -- the judge refused to require that the act’s implementation be suspended -- it does reveal the growing activism of the anti-reform cohort.

The ruling came on the heels of two new reports by Ms. Foundation grantees -- one by the National Women’s Law Center and one by the National Asian and Pacific American Women’s Forum -- demonstrating the continued threats to women’s overall health presented by income inequality and lack of insurance coverage. According to the NWLC report, women who have access to private insurance are often denied access to basic reproductive health: “In 2010, only seven states have recognized the importance of access to comprehensive maternity care -- including prenatal, birth, and postpartum care -- by requiring that these services be covered in all individual and group health plans.” Furthermore, the racial disparities in insurance coverage are staggering; “nationwide, 37.6% of Hispanic women, 32.0% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 23.4% of Black women do not have health coverage, compared to 13.9% of White women.“

Right Readies its Anti-Abortion Fight

It's no surprise, but it's still shocking: with just weeks to go before the start of the 112th Congress, conservative leaders are busy putting the pieces in place for an all-out, multi-tier war on reproductive rights.

With Republicans about to take control of the House, a tighter margin of Democratic leadership looming in the Senate and a significant rise in the number of anti-abortion governors across the country (up to 29 from 21), conservatives understand that they are sitting on a remarkable political "opportunity" to push for policies that limit access to and funding of abortions at both the state and local levels. And they plan to capitalize on it.

In the House, moves are already being made to lay the foundation for a more dedicated assault on reproductive rights: this week, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) was named chairman of the influential Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which has control over private health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Pitts is a staunch conservative with a zero pro-choice rating; he was co-author of the famed "Stupak amendment" and has been described by some as “one of the most anti-choice members of the House.” His selection as chair of this important subcommittee "presages a major shift on abortion and family planning," according to The New York Times, and Pitts has already announced that he will use his new position to push for a ban on the use of federal subsidies “to pay for any abortion, or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” (A stance that's so 2009, mind you, when the issue became a sticking point in health care reform, or better yet, 1976, when the Hyde Amendment, which already bans federal funding for abortions, was established.)

14 December 2010

Child Care Subsidies, Early Education Still at Risk -- Congress Must Act Now

Child care is not an abstract issue. Every day, millions of families in the US rely on -- and pay for -- others to care for their children so that they can hold down jobs, pay the rent and put food on the table. For many low-income families, child care programs that are subsidized by federal and state funding, along with programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, provide the only means by which to access care -- and, consequently, to hold down a job. For them, these are the programs that make work, and any modicum of economic justice, possible. 

But across the country, these programs are in danger. Before the members of 111th Congress depart for their final holiday break, they must decide whether to continue funding subsidized child care services and early childhood education programs, or as Ms. Foundation grantee the National Women's Law Center has put it, leave hundreds of thousands of children "out in the cold."

13 December 2010

Upcoming Event: Program Officer Sangeeta Budhiraja Leads Conversation on Women and Economic Recovery

On Wednesday, December 15 at 2pm EST join the National Council for Research on Women and Ms. Foundation Program Officer Sangeeta Budhiraja for an important online conversation about how to build pathways to greater economic security for women and their families.

The webinar, "Women and Economic Recovery: A View from the States," will feature a discussion of the Ms. Foundation's Southern focus and provide a snapshot of our economic security work in the South, where we fund a range of organizations crafting unique solutions to the economic crisis. "Our grantees in the South are taking a holistic approach to economic security," says Budhiraja. "They're looking at the economic crisis from a perspective that takes into account the nuanced ways it has affected women -- particularly low income women of color, who have suffered greatly throughout the recession. Immigrant organizations, child care advocacy organizations, job training programs, and organizations pushing for job quality and increased social supports: these are the groups leading the way to true economic recovery -- and we're proud to be partnered with them."

Budhiraja will be joined in conversation by Randy Albelda, Professor of Economics and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who will share research findings from the report "Women in the Down Economy: Impacts of the Recession and the Stimulus in Massachusetts."

Be a part of this important discussion about the economic future of women and girls. To participate, register today.

09 December 2010

DREAM Act Passes House; Pressure Senate Today!

Powerful organizing in support of the DREAM Act is paying off. Late yesterday, the House passed it with a vote of 216 to 198. Now it's time to put pressure on the Senate, where it could be put to a much tougher test when it comes up for a vote today. (According to Politico, Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster any legislation that doesn't have to do with the Bush-era tax cuts and the "funding of the government.")

There's no way to deny the momentum. Tell your Senators the time to pass the DREAM Act is now. Find your Senator's contact information here.

UPDATE: The Senate just passed a motion to table a vote on the DREAM Act. This allows for more time to generate greater support. Call 866-996-5161 and tell your senators to vote "yes" when they take up the House version of the bill.

08 December 2010

A Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse, Community by Community

Bringing an end to child sexual abuse (CSA) is a cause all of us should be able to get behind. Since 2009, the Ms. Foundation and NoVo Foundation have been working to build a new movement to end CSA that looks beyond the criminalization of offenders (which experts agree will never fully solve the problem), and seeks instead to advance a comprehensive, community-based prevention model that encourages individuals and organizations to collaborate in unique ways to protect children from CSA before it occurs.

One exciting example of how groups are working to craft new solutions to the problem of CSA comes courtesy of a campaign and website recently launched by Ms. Foundation grantee partner Massachusetts Citizens for Children (MCC). Developed as part of the MA Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership (of which MCC is the lead agency), the Enough Abuse Campaign and website are designed to provide clear, usable information that can help protect children from child sexual abuse -- and according to Monique Hoeflinger, Senior Program Officer at the Ms. Foundation for Women, theirs is an advocacy effort that breaks the mold on CSA in many ways.

They're Voting Today! Stand Up for the DREAM Act Now

This is it: Today, Congress is set to vote on a motion that could bring the DREAM Act to the floor for consideration by the full House. There are literally just hours left to convince your representatives that the DREAM Act must be passed, once and for all.

The DREAM Act provides an all-important path to citizenship through education and/or service for those brought to this country as undocumented minors. "This is a no-brainer," says Caroline Hotaling, Program Officer at the Ms. Foundation for Women. "Originally drafted by Republicans and Democrats together, the DREAM Act gives our country the chance to benefit from the work of young people who just want to contribute, whether it be through higher education or military service. There is no good reason to say 'no' to this legislation."

The US South: Policy Failures Fuel HIV/AIDS Among Women and People of Color

World AIDS Day may be just behind us, but the battle to combat the epidemic marches on. And believe it or not, one of the places it marches on most ferociously is in the US South, where women and communities of color are increasingly affected by HIV/AIDS.

"Forty-six percent of all new AIDS cases come out of the South," says Patricia Eng, Vice President of Program at the Ms. Foundation for Women, "and of the 10 states with the highest number of women with HIV, seven of them are in the South." Southern communities of color have also been particularly hard hit: as a recent Human Rights Watch report notes,

How a Goaltender Taught Me About Social Justice

I could tell you about a girl who stayed up late into the night listening to baseball games on the radio in order to record the most up-to-date statistics on her favorite players. I could tell you about a girl who did her homework on Sundays in front of the television flipping between different NFL broadcasts; a girl whose fifth grade softball team won the city championships; a girl who played road hockey every day after school and spent her weekends traveling the suburbs playing in soccer tournaments. But instead, I will tell you about a girl whose hero was Manon Rhéaume.

01 December 2010

World AIDS Day: Keeping Women Front and Center

December 1, 2010 is World AIDS Day -- a day when people around the world are encouraged to reflect and take action on behalf of the global fight to end AIDS.

At present, an estimated 33 million people worldwide are infected with the HIV virus, nearly 16 million of whom are women, and more than 2 million of whom are children. Those are staggering numbers, but new data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) offers at least some reason for hope: the study shows that both new infections and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses are dropping worldwide -- a result, experts believe, of increased education around safer sex practices, particularly among the young, for whom rates of new infection have fallen by as much as 25 percent in some nations.

"Investments in the AIDS response are paying off," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, told CNN. But he also warned against putting too much weight on what has been accomplished, lest we forget that this epidemic remains very real -- and deadly. "[These] gains are fragile," Sidibe said. "The challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress."

Request for Proposals: Ending Child Sexual Abuse

The Ms. Foundation for Women is pleased to announce a Request for Proposals in the area of child sexual abuse.

Through this RFP, the Ms. Foundation seeks to support building the movement to end child sexual abuse. We believe this long-term vision begins with supporting communities in developing the relationships and infrastructure needed to grow and sustain this movement. The focus of this grantmaking will be on projects with a primary emphasis on organizing and advocacy. In particular we seek to support projects that go beyond education and awareness to address specific changes in policy, culture or practice related to child sexual abuse.

This RFP will include two stages: (1) an open call for letters of inquiry, and (2) an invitation for select applicants to submit a full grant proposal. The deadline for submitting a letter of inquiry is January 10, 2011.

For complete details, download the RFP [pdf], or visit the grants section of our site.

Spread the Word
Please help to spread the word to other organizations and networks.

Grantee Highlights Sexism and Racism at the Heart of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) has published an excellent and insightful piece about Don't Ask, Don't Tell (the US military's policy banning homosexuals from service) and its not-so-subtle sexist and racist roots.

Featured yesterday on the WNYC.org site, the piece was timed to coincide with the release of a new Pentagon report that revealed that 70 percent of active duty and reserve troops surveyed feel that the repeal of DADT would have a "positive or, at worst, inconsequential effect on a unit’s ability to 'work together and get the job done.'" While the battle over DADT has largely been perceived as a LGBTQ issue, Anuradha Bhagwati, Executive Director of SWAN, points out that the policy has had a negative effect on women and people of color in the military, who are particularly susceptible to punishment under the banner of DADT. She writes,

4 Critical Issues; 4 Ways to Make a Difference Today

As early as this week, Congress may vote on key issues that will overwhelmingly affect women, families and communities -- particularly those still struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis. Readers of this blog know that we've been highlighting a number of ways you can take action to ensure just policies are put in place before positive change becomes more difficult to achieve; below we offer a recap of four of those actions, and hope you'll help urge Washington to protect the interests of women and families across America.
  1. Congress must protect access to child care and Head Start for more than 300,000 children and their families. Let our government leaders know how important quality, affordable childcare is to our country's future. Learn more about how to take action.
  2. Beginning today, emergency unemployment insurance expires, affecting millions of long-term jobless workers.  Meanwhile, legislators are still debating who among the richest of the rich will get to keep their tax cuts. Tell Washington that real economic recovery should benefit women, families and communities, not the wealthy or Wall Street.
  3. Urge Congress to retroactively renew the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund, which has helped create more than 250,000 subsidized jobs and increase services for low-income families wounded by the economic crisis.
  4. Comprehensive immigration reform is still the goal, but the DREAM Act is a step in the right direction. Tell Congress they must pass this important legislation and grant citizenship rights to at least a million undocumented youth who are working tirelessly on behalf of their families, communities and country.
Together, let's capitalize on the window of opportunity presented by the Lame Duck session and secure changes that will make a real difference in women's lives.

The Time for CEDAW is Now

For more than three decades, the failure of the United States to ratify the preeminent international women's human rights treaty has thwarted progress towards equity and justice in the US and around the world.

In 1979, the General Assembly of the UN formally adopted CEDAW -- the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women -- a set of equal justice standards that serve as an international bill of rights for the protection of women. Countries that sign on to the Convention are bound to "undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms," including:
  • Incorporating the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolishing all discriminatory laws and adopting appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women 
  • Establishing tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination 
  • Ensuring elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises

30 November 2010

It's the Law! Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Takes Effect

It's about time! As of November 29, 2010, nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in the State of New York will, at long last, be afforded the employment protections they deserve under the law. There is no doubt this is long-overdue: For more than 75 years, domestic workers have been explicitly excluded from federal laws meant to protect nearly every other worker in the country.

The result of years of hard work by Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United (DWU), the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights provides basic labor protections -- including overtime pay, one day of rest per week, paid leave and protection from discrimination and harassment -- to the more than 200,000 individuals who make up New York's domestic workforce. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, and was signed into law by outgoing Governor David Paterson on August 31, 2010.

Act Now: Call on Congress to Preserve Child Care for Hundreds of Thousands

Back to work after Thanksgiving, Congress is about to make a number of crucial votes that will affect the economic security and well-being of women and families: chief among them the renewal of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start. CCDBG provides federal funding for state-administered child care subsidies and initiatives that improve the quality and accessibility of child care for low-income families, while Head Start provides early education opportunities to pre-schoolers.

Congress has until Friday, December 3 to re-approve these programs. But renewing at current funding levels is simply not enough. Economic stimulus funds that bolstered support for child care and Head Start are about to run out. If Congress doesn’t carry over this additional funding, over 300,000 children would be affected, dealing a devastating blow to families already struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis.

29 November 2010

TANF Extended -- Minus Crucial Emergency Funding

Time to share a little "good news/bad news" on the TANF front.

For the good: Just before departing for Thanksgiving recess, the Senate voted to extend TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding through September 30, 2011, circumventing what would have been certain disaster for our nation's neediest if the program had been allowed to expire in December, as the bill originally stipulated. According to Ms Foundation grantee the National Women's Law Center, the House will now take up -- and likely pass -- the full bill at some point in the coming days, marking a major win for families in need nationwide.

But there's significant bad news to report as well...

23 November 2010

Help Keep the Right at Bay: Double Your Dollars for Reproductive Justice by Dec. 1

Much has been said about this month's electoral shuffling and the impending doom it could mean for abortion rights struggles nationwide. So, as Thanksgiving nears, the Ms. Foundation is especially thankful for the remarkable work of our grantees who advocate for reproductive rights, health and justice across the US. From Colorado's perennial "personhood amendment" (called Amendment 62 on this year's ballot) -- which would assign personhood rights to a fetus and deal a huge blow to abortion rights -- to the ongoing fight to ensure contraception is covered in the implementation of health care reform, it is clear that the battle to protect and expand reproductive freedom remains fraught. In the face of greater conservative control over legislation come January, particularly at the state level, reproductive justice organizations are uniquely positioned to continue this fight, but will require even greater resources to keep the Right at bay.

Groundhog Day? Don't Let Congress Delay Unemployment Benefits Again

Thanksgiving Day? How about Groundhog Day? Last week, the House failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits, reviving the familiar, inherently flawed deficit vs. economic stimulus and safety-net debate. If no positive action is taken, beginning in December, millions of jobless people will be without this critical assistance, impacting individuals, families and the entire economy. Meanwhile, the possibility of reestablishing tax cuts for the rich once they expire at the end of 2010 still seems to be in play. And all of this against the backdrop of the highest corporate quarterly profit ratings in at least sixty years. Isn't it obvious who is really hurting in all of this?

The hypocrisy, to say the least, is mind-blowing. Preserving the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy has been framed as an effort to protect the common person (also known as the "small business owner"), while programs and policies that actually would protect poor, low- and middle-income people struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis are slashed. In truth, emergency unemployment insurance prevents a significant number of people from joining the ranks of the poor while also stimulating economic growth. A wealth of research compiled by the National Women's Law Center, a Ms. Foundation grantee, backs these claims and helps call the conservatives' bluff. For example:
  • Last Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the national 14.3 percent poverty rate in 2009 would have been 15.4 percent without unemployment insurance benefits, a poverty level not seen since the 1960s.
  • A study commissioned (ironically) by the most recent Bush Administration reported that every dollar spent on unemployment insurance results in an increase in economic activity of two dollars.
  • The Economic Policy Institute, in its "What would you do with $67 billion? Three alternatives to giving it to the rich," [pdf] concluded that extending emergency unemployment insurance would generate roughly 5.0 times as many jobs in 2011 and 2012 as would be created by an extension of the upper-income tax cuts.
The facts speak for themselves: renewing emergency unemployment insurance is just common sense. Take action today to demand that Congress extend it before millions of jobless workers -- many of them women, who make up a rapidly growing percentage of the long-term unemployed -- lose this critical benefit and face even greater economic insecurity. And those tax cuts? The Economic Policy Institute -- and plenty of our grantees -- have some better ideas.

Today, urge Congress to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, not Groundhog Day.

18 November 2010

Congress: Listen to Women on Immigration Reform

For those of us who believe comprehensive immigration reform means something other than "build a bigger fence" (oh, and electrify it, if you can), an editorial published in the New York Times this week is enough to run a chill right down your spine.

On Monday, the paper of record used a little of its editorial space to speak out on what it perceives to be a disaster-in-waiting as the Republicans assert control of the immigration agenda in the House of Representatives. Led by Congressmen Lamar Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa -- both of whom are ardent supporters of overturning the 14th Amendment (the one that grants citizenship to those born on American soil), and one of whom has come out strongly in favor of racial profiling (which, as the Times editorial hastens to remind us, is illegal) -- the new powers that be on immigration reform appear to be dead set on pushing for draconian and downright inhumane measures to deal with undocumented immigrants.

As the Times notes:
If [Republican] legislation looks anything like their campaign ads, there will be no way for illegal immigrants to get right with the law and no real solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Just a national doubling-down on enforcement, with still more border fencing and immigration agents, workplaces locked down, and states and localities setting police dragnets on what always was — and still ought to be — federal turf.

That hard-line approach mocks American values. It is irresponsibly expensive. It is ineffective.
More fences? More questionable methods for deporting people? More federal spending on tactics that are inhumane and known not to work? It boggles the mind -- and the House is not alone in allowing reactionary sentiments to guide its policy making here. The Times also points out that every Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee, "signed a letter last month to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of 'a lax approach' for focusing more on dangerous criminals than on those with minor or no criminal records."

While conservatives keep themselves busy chastising other public officials and finding ways to spend money we don't have, numbers of organizations working at the grassroots level doing the hard work of producing real, viable solutions to our immigration issues.

Take the women of La Mujer Obrera, who have staged a hunger strike outside the White House to convince our government to invest in long-term economic development, not electrified fences, in border areas. They know that jobs, along with vocational and educational opportunities, provide a much more effective type of border security than increased militarization ever could; they're working to combat poverty and crime by providing women -- who now make up more than half of the US immigrant population -- with the economic security they need to ensure real security on the border.

If the new leaders on immigration in the House are looking for real solutions rather than reactionary strategies, they would do well to take a cue from La Mujer Obrera and other women's organizations that are leading the fight at the grassroots level. These organizations know what their communities need -- and they'll need our support if they're going to be able to make a difference in the face of this new, conservative leadership in the House.

Read the Times editorial. Watch the video below. And then pledge to help us lift up the voices and visions of women who are organizing for change -- on the border and everywhere.

16 November 2010

Grassroots Collaborative Improves Safety in San Francisco Nail Salons

Great news for the women who labor in nail salons in San Francisco: last week the city passed the first ordinance in the nation to protect workers from the toxic chemicals contained in the products they use daily. Passage of this ordinance owes much to the efforts of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative -- a coalition fighting for safer working conditions statewide -- of which three Ms. Foundation grantees (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and Women's Voices for the Earth) are members.

Three particularly harmful chemicals -- toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde -- often used in nail polishes, glues and hardeners are known to cause birth defects and cancer, as well as headaches, dizziness and asthma. As a result of the new ordinance, nail salons that utilize products free of these chemicals will be promoted by the city and recognized as "healthy" salons. The ordinance will not only allow customers to make informed choices about what kind of nail salons they patronize, but also may push salon owners to change the kind of products they use -- improving working conditions for the mostly female, mostly immigrant, and largely Asian populations that provide labor for San Francisco's salons.

Tell Congress You Support Paycheck Fairness, Dream Acts

When the 111th Congress returns to Washington next week for its so called "lame-duck" session, two important legislative issues are likely to find their way to a vote: the Paycheck Fairness Act (which would "deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bar retaliation against workers who disclose their wages") and the Dream Act (which provides a path to citizenship through education and/or service for undocumented minors).

If you'd like to weigh in with your reps in Congress about the importance of both of these acts, here are two campaigns you can take part in today:
  • Paycheck Fairness Act: On Wednesday, November 17, the Senate is scheduled to vote on this essential update to the 1963 Equal Pay Act. According to Ms. Foundation grantee Wider Opportunities for Women, the bill aims to "hold employers accountable for wage discrimination and finally close the earnings gap between men and women."

    WOW is encouraging all those who support passage of this act to contact their Senators and voice their support. One easy way to do this is by signing on to an online campaign run by the National Women's Law Center (another Ms. Foundation grantee), which will email your support directly to your Senators.

  • Dream Act: This week, outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed her determination to bring the Dream Act to a vote before the end of this session. Take the time to thank her for her support of the act -- and encourage her and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep pushing for passage of this legislation, which could radically improve the lives of thousands of undocumented youth.

    America's Voice is running an online campaign to let Pelosi and Reid know just how widespread support for the act is; sign on today, and let our leaders know how much we care about the future of all our nation's children.

15 November 2010

WA Group Takes on Threat to Emergency Contraception: Act Now!

In Washington state, there's a battle brewing over access to emergency contraception -- and our grantee, NARAL Pro Choice Washington, is standing tall, right at the center of it.

Back in 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy -- with the explicit support of the state's governor, Christine Gregoire -- put in place a rule that requires pharmacies to fill customer prescriptions for legal medications regardless of how individual pharmacists may feel about whether these products should or should not be legal. The issue that drove the Board to implement this rule initially was concern over access to contraception in general, but specifically to Plan B, or the "morning after pill," which a particular grocery store in the state had refused to stock and dispense, citing "moral objection."

Once the 2007 rule was put in place, that grocer -- Ralph's Thriftway in Olympia, WA -- filed suit against the pharmacy board, seeking to overturn it. That lawsuit has dragged on all these years, with no resolution -- even though both public and judicial support falls distinctly in favor of upholding the 2007 measure and protecting women's access to the contraception of their choice.

Now, however, there is a new and troubling twist to the story: just recently, instead of letting the case go to court, the state's Attorney General attempted to negotiate a settlement between the Board and the suing pharmacists -- urging the Board to put in place a new rule, which would "[allow] druggists to refer patients to a different pharmacy" for service, "including for conscientious reasons." This would effectively overturn the 2007 rule, and provide cover for business owners and pharmacists to opt-out of providing customers with medications that they find "morally objectionable."

The people of Washington State have apparently been none too pleased to learn about the AG's actions -- or that the Board has since voted 3-2 to put this new rule in place. (Of particular note: two out of the three women who serve on the pharmacy board voted against accepting the AG's suggestion; the third woman was not present when the vote was taken.) To date, thousands of people have spoken out on the issue by sending letters directly to the pharmacy board; 4 out of every 5 comments has registered support for retaining the 2007 rule.

We're proud to report that Ms. Foundation grantee NARAL Pro Choice Washington is playing an active role in opposing these new limits on women's reproductive choices. The group has launched an online campaign that allows Washington State residents to send comments directly to the pharmacy board members -- and to Governor Gregoire -- to share their concern about pharmacies being allowed to take the law into their own hands. The decision is not yet written in stone -- people have until November 30 to urge the Board to reconsider its stance.

So if you're a Washington State resident, link up with NARAL -- and act now. Don't let your rights slip away without a fight!

10 November 2010

CA Judge Extends Child Care Subsidies; Mothers, Workers and Advocates Deliver Strong Message to Gov. Elect

Great news for Ms. Foundation grantee Parent Voices, a group that is part of a critical campaign to save child care in California: On Friday, California Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill ordered a temporary extension of child care subsidies to low-income workers in the state -- subsidies that had previously been eliminated by cuts to the budget made by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That's excellent news for the more than 54,000 families experts now say would be affected by these cuts -- at least for the moment. The program in question, CalWORKS Stage 3, provided individuals who had completed the state's welfare-to-work program with much needed help in paying for child care so that they could remain in the workforce; the loss of those subsidies would mean that thousands of parents could no longer afford to work -- the cost of child care becoming prohibitively expensive without help from the government.

When the cuts were announced, the folks at Parent Voices took action. Their Oakland chapter joined as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to reinstate the more than $256 million of lost funds, launched a campaign to fight back against the cuts, and participated in a well-publicized protest outside of last month's Women's Conference in Long Beach (the conference is the brainchild of Maria Shriver, Governor Schwarzenegger's wife).

Then, last week, they took their fight directly to the Capitol, where, as part of the child care advocacy community, they planned to deliver more than 5,000 signatures from mothers and child care workers affected by the cuts into the Governor's hands. Locked out of the Governor's press conference due to lack of credentials, these 20 women and their children decided to wait outside on the Capitol steps on the chance that they might be able to share a few words with exiting media after the press conference was over. According to Mary Ignatius, statewide organizer for Parent Voices, here's what happened instead:
After 5 minutes of waiting, lo and behold, Governor-elect Jerry Brown [walked] past us. The mothers began clapping and cheering and I handed him an envelope of 5,000+ signatures of working mothers and child care providers who were at risk of losing their jobs. Before taking the package he asked “Don’t you want to give this to Schwarzenneger?” and I replied, “No because you are the one who can do something about this!” He took the package and we followed him chanting “Child Care keeps California Working!”

Our leaders were so thrilled. Most took the day off of work to be in the Capitol believing that sacrifice would be worth it. We didn’t know how the day was going to turn out, but because these mothers determined they just couldn’t sit back and watch their livelihoods be ripped from them, they were able to get their message out to the Governor-elect on his first day in the Capitol.
What a terrific, unexpected outcome -- and just one more example of how Parent Voices and their organizing partners are standing strong to ensure that the voices of low-income women will not be ignored.

It still remains to be seen, of course, whether the state will permanently restore the funds that support these essential child care subsidies, but there may be reason to be optimistic: At a local campaign event before the election, the now Governor-elect vowed to restore funding for the measure when pressed on the issue by a Parent Voices leader. Here's hoping that's a campaign promise he's willing to keep.

Learn more about how the Ms. Foundation supports policies and organizations that promote economic justice for diverse communities across our country.

09 November 2010

Honor Servicewomen This Veterans Day: Stand with SWAN

This coming Thursday (Nov. 11th) is Veterans Day, and if you're in New York, Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) is sponsoring a number of events you may want to attend.
  • On Thursday morning, representatives from SWAN will be marching for the first time in the New York City Veterans Parade -- and they're encouraging women veterans and their supporters to march with them. They'll be marching to honor the contributions of all servicewomen, but particularly those who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma -- including PFC LaVena Johnson, who was raped, brutally beaten and murdered while deployed in Iraq.

    The group also hopes that their presence will help bring further attention to the plight of LGBT servicemembers and the discrimination they continue to experience as a result of policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

    To learn more about how you can stand with SWAN in this year's Veterans Day Parade, please call 212.683-0015, ext. 324 or email kalima@servicewomen.org.

  • On Thursday evening, SWAN will serve as the co-sponsor of an important discussion about the military's treatment of LGBT servicemembers.

    “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Where Are We, And How Did We Get Here?”
    will feature commentary from Richard Socarides, former White House Special Assistant and Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton, who will be joined in conversation with columnist Jonathan Capehart, author Nathaniel Frank and Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress.

    The event begins at 7pm on November 11th, and will take place at the LGBT Center: 208 West 13th Street, NYC. Limited seating is available; register now if you'd like to attend.

    This event is also sponsored by The LGBT Center’s Young Leaders Council, Knights Out, and The Service Member’s Legal Defense Fund.

  • Did you know that Don't Ask, Don't Tell disproportionately impacts women and people of color in the military? "In 2009," according to SWAN, "women made up only 15% of the armed forces, but comprised 39% of total discharges under DADT. In 2008, non-white servicemembers represented 29% of the military, but accounted for 45% of DADT discharges."

    On Monday, November 15th at 6:30pm, SWAN will be providing an opportunity for military veterans of color to share their stories and opinions about DADT and how the policy has impacted their lives. The panel will be moderated by Anu Bhagwati, former US Marine Corps Captain and Executive Director of SWAN, and will take place at the LGBT Center in NYC: 208 West 13th Street, NYC.

    For more information about this unique event that seeks to uplift the voices of those too often silenced, please visit SWAN online.
And for those of you who are photography buffs, renowned photographer Jo Ann Santangelo will be exhibiting her multi-media touring show “Proud to Serve" at The Center, as well. The show -- which runs through January 30, 2011 -- features images of LGBT servicemembers who served their country in silence or were discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Don't miss it!

08 November 2010

Grantee Launches iPhone App to End Street Harassment

Kudos to Ms. Foundation grantee Hollaback on the launch of their new iPhone app -- and a fantastic story in the New York Times highlighting their work!

As we've previously written, Hollaback is a great young organization using technology to step up the fight against street harassment. Previously you could either visit their website or send a text message to report being harassed by someone on the street; now, with their newly launched iPhone app, users will have a streamlined method of reporting these incidents of harassment (which can include a picture of your harasser, if you wish). A GPS mapping feature automatically tracks where the harassment is taking place, and then adds the incident to a map on the Hollaback website.

After this basic information has been captured, Hollaback sends a follow up email to users to collect more detailed stories and information. And for those who aren't iPhone users, no need to fear: a Droid app is in the works and should be forthcoming shortly.

Rock on, Hollaback! Keep making us proud.

Univ of Cincinnati Launches Groundbreaking Law Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice

The University of Cincinnati Law Center is breaking new and proudly feminist ground in the teaching and practice of law: This fall, the University launched its new Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, providing a formal home for the multi-pronged intersectional work that has been taking place at the law school since the mid-1990s.

This newly formed Center aims to prepare law students in an unprecedented way to "take the lead in advancing justice." Students are provided opportunities for experiential learning and research in connection with organizations working at the intersection of gender, race and class, whose constituencies and leaders are most impacted by multiple forms of injustice: low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, youth and LGBTQ people.

Co-directed by Ms. Foundation for Women board member, Verna Williams, the Center offers students a unique joint J.D./M.A. program in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies -- a program that was the first of its kind offered in the nation when it was established in 1995. This four-year offering engages participants in a "rigorous, interdisciplinary and feminist study of law and social justice," and culminates with a semester-long externship at one of a number of national public interest non-profits (including Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Women's Law Center).

"Social justice feminism is our guiding principle," says Ms. Williams of the Center's approach to teaching law. "That means we have to focus on the multiple forms oppression can take and utilize multiple tools and disciplines to tackle them. At its core, the Center is about making change in society. Our mission is to to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change."

In addition to running its joint degree program, the Center also publishes the Freedom Center Journal (a joint, scholarly publication of the University of Cincinnati College of Law and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center) and oversees the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic. Through the latter program, students represent victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking, gaining hands-on experience in the practice of this sector of the law. The hope is that students will also eventually apply their practical knowledge to advance policy on behalf of battered women and their families nationwide.

The Center held its formal launch event on October 22nd, with a luncheon featuring Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and director of the White House office of Public Engagement. Congratulations to Verna and the University of Cincinnati for undertaking such an important endeavor!

Watch us Lead the Way

The Ms. Foundation for Women works with 150 grantee organizations that are igniting change nationwide. Watch us lead the way.

04 November 2010

After the Election: A Future Worth Fighting For

The midterm elections have certainly altered the landscape. Conservatives, as predicted, captured control of the House, made significant gains in the Senate, and will take up residence in a host of new Governor’s mansions nationwide. For those of us who spend our lives fighting for equality and social justice, there’s plenty of reason for deep concern: health care legislation, unemployment benefits, investments in child care, and protecting a woman’s right to choose are all up for attack given this new balance of power.

Many progressives have greeted this news with an understandable level of despair. But as we enter this new chapter in our nation’s political life -- we at the Ms. Foundation encourage you to forgo despair in favor of something much more powerful: a belief in the ability and tenacity of grassroots organizations to engage communities and build momentum -- even in the face of the political challenges currently before us.

This belief buoys us right now, and for good reason. We know the work our grantee partners do every day to push for policies at the local, state and national levels that will benefit women and families. We know that their organizing and advocacy makes a difference in communities across the country -- whether they’re fighting in New York for the passage of a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (signed into law just this year) or demanding that California’s new governor undo drastic budget cuts that will otherwise leave 80,000 low-income families without access to child care.

We are hopeful because we know that the ongoing economic crisis presents a moment of opportunity for systemic social change -- one that our grantees will fight for no matter who holds the power in Congress. Our grantee partners are working from the ground up to build a new economy based on a new set of values and principles – an economy that puts those directly affected by the economic crisis and most marginalized from the centers of power (very often women) at the forefront of creating powerful policy solutions. They do this by pushing for green and other non-traditional jobs for women; by organizing in state-wide coalitions to fight for paid sick leave; by launching campaigns to ensure that local workers have access to living wages that keep them out of poverty; and by implementing creative organizing strategies that connect grassroots solutions to national platforms for greater impact.

Whatever the media may have told you, the grassroots progressive movement hasn’t lost its steam. The organizations we fund are steadfast and stalwart; they fight for equality in good times and in bad. They fought to advance social justice in the 111th Congress and will continue to do so during the 112th – whatever the political climate may be.

One thing is for certain: now, more than ever, progressive grassroots organizations need our help in holding the line against regressive measures, and in pushing forward local and state-based initiatives that expand opportunities for us all. They will need our support as they continue to build larger and stronger and constituencies, the only hope in paving the road to a more progressive political future.

The problems we face today are insurmountable only if we stop believing that change really is possible and the future worth fighting for. Women working at the grassroots every day are creating that future by meeting basic needs and healing families and communities. Will you join them?

Sara K. Gould, President and CEO

Susan Wefald, Executive Vice President and COO

02 November 2010

Arizona Immigration Law Spawned With Private Prison Support

If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 legislation, there’s no need to wonder anymore. According to a recent report from NPR’s Morning Edition, we can largely thank the private prison industry for generating this bill, which holds the potential to make industry insiders “hundreds of millions of dollars” -- all off the backs of undocumented immigrants.

The Morning Edition report -- which features research and data unearthed by Ms. Foundation grantee Grassroots Leadership -- shows that private prison corporations and leaders walked hand-in-hand with Arizona legislators throughout the campaign to get SB1070 drafted, passed and signed into law. The largest for-profit prison corporation in the nation, Corrections Corporation of America, was at the table when a group of legislators and big business representatives got together to write the bill, delivered to the legislature by Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce.

Congressional sponsors of the legislation were promptly rewarded with major donations from prison corporation lobbyists. According to NPR, "Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months from prison lobbyists or prison companies – [including] Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group" -- all companies that would greatly benefit from the passage of the bill.

SB1070 requires law enforcement to lock up people who cannot prove that they are citizens, establishing a new prison-ready population -- undocumented immigrants -- who will have to be housed somewhere. This makes the law a perfect vehicle for filling prisons and expanding business for the corporations in question, and Corrections Corporation of America and their allies are banking on this expanded inmate population to help pad their bottom lines.

Notably, this strategy is not one industry leaders are even attempting to keep secret: according to the NPR report, capitalizing on the detainment of undocumented immigrants is a business model openly discussed within the for-profit prison community. In a conference call with investors, the president of Geo Group, Wayne Calabrese, came clean about the potential SB1070 holds for growing their business: "I can only believe the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what's happening,” he said. “Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and… I think there's going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."

Knowing the truth behind the origins of this bill makes it all the more crucial that we work to get it -- and other bills like it that have been proposed in 25 states -- fully overturned. It's going to be a long fight: just yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her legal team appeared in federal appeals court to back SB1070 (a lower court has already stayed some pieces of the legislation). While the Obama administration is standing firm in its argument that "requiring police officers to question immigration status is unconstitutional," Brewer and her allies are vowing to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court if they need to.

With forces like these striving to undermine the dignity and freedoms of the immigrant population, the work of organizations like Grassroots Leadership, which fights for transparency in our legislatures and humanity and justice on our streets, becomes ever more important. Learn more about their efforts to support the human rights of all immigrants, and do your part to push back against these discriminatory measures now proliferating across the nation.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rappaport, Immigration March, Washington DC, May 2010

Upcoming Event: Mothers Behind Bars

On Monday, November 8th, join two Ms. Foundation grantees for an important online conversation about how federal and state correctional laws can better meet the needs of pregnant and parenting women behind bars.

The Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the National Women's Law Center have joined forces to produce an original report called Mothers Behind Bars, which explores the dangerous practice of shackling women during childbirth and other important issues affecting pregnant and parenting women behind bars — the vast majority of whom, the report points out, are non-violent, first-time offenders. The report's authors, Jill Morrison of NWLC and Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director of the Rebecca Project, conducted state-by-state analysis of policies impacting incarcerated women, including prenatal care and family-based drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration; they will discuss their findings and highlight a few much needed solutions during this important online event.

With more women behind bars today than at any other time in our nation's history, and with more than two-thirds of them identifying as mothers, this is a conversation whose time has come. Don't miss it.

WHAT: Mothers Behind Bars webinar
WHEN: Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm Easter
HOW: For more information and to RSVP, please visit the event's registration page.

Vote Tuesday November 2, 2010 - Find Your Polling Place Here

Update: Today, Tuesday November 2 is the day.

Exercise your rights and vote this Tuesday, November 2. The gadget below -- produced by the Voting Information Project, a partnership of NOI, Google, the Pew Center on the States and local election officials -- will identify your polling place.

01 November 2010

Upcoming Event: Impact of Child Care Subsidies on Women of Color

Concerned about the state of child care assistance available to low-income and working class families in these troubled times? Then you may want to take some time tomorrow (Tuesday, November 2nd) to attend an important event hosted by Ms. Foundation grantee the Women of Color Policy Network, here in New York City.

"Carrying the Load: The Impact of Child Care Subsidy Policies on the Economic Security of Women of Color," will feature a roundtable discussion of the many challenges working and low-income families with young children face in accessing safe, quality, affordable child care. The panel will examine the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on child care subsidy funding and availability; highlight the importance of child care subsidies for working, low-income communities; and strategize policy solutions to enhance child care subsidy experiences for women of color and their families.

Panelists include: Gina Adams, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute; J. Lee Kreader, PhD, Director of Research Connections, National Center for Children in Poverty; Benita Miller, Executive Director, Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective; and Chanelle Pearson, Research Associate, Women of Color Policy Network, NYU Wagner. The discussion will be moderated by Hannah Matthews, Senior Policy Analyst at CLASP.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 2, 2010, from 6:30 - 8:30 PM in the Rudin Family Room (2nd Floor) of The Puck Building: 295 Lafayette Street, New York, NY.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit: http://wagner.nyu.edu/wocpn/news/calendar.php#child.

Please also note that next Tuesday's roundtable will be followed by a
national webinar on child care subsidies in the states, to be held on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM (EST).

Read how our grantee, Parent Voices, is fighting for affordable child care in California.