31 January 2011

Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

What have Ms. Foundation for Women grantees been up to lately? Read below to learn how the groups we support are changing the world around us -- one day at a time.
  • Joining forces with more than 70 other organizations, Ms. Foundation grantee Wider Opportunities for Women issued a statement in support of the affordable transportation proposal outlined by President Obama in his State of the Union address. As these projects, and debate around them, moves forward, WOW will work to ensure that women and communities of color get their fair share of the many expected jobs and contracting opportunities in construction, maintenance and operations that a national investment in improving our transportation infrastructure is likely to create.
  • A new tool unveiled by the Western States Center might help revolutionize the way grassroots organizations work -- and how effective they are in the long-term. “Capitol Gains: Traditional Vs. Movement Building Approach” is designed to help organizations move beyond organizing around legislative issues alone, by showing them how to incorporate long-term movement-building approaches into their organizing strategies. An initiative of WSC's VOTE (Voter Organizing Training and Empowerment) program, the report offers a useful chart for identifying key differences between legislative versus movement-building outcomes; make sure to download [pdf] your copy today.

28 January 2011

Submit Your School's Sexual Assault Policy Online by Monday, Jan. 31!

Join SAFER and V-Day's Winter Break Challenge and submit your school's sexual assault policy to their innovative, movement-building, online database by Monday, January 31

Ms. Foundation grantee Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), a group that builds the power of students to hold their schools accountable for preventing and responding to violence on campus, is in the throes of a great campaign, the Campus Accountability Project. CAP, a partnership with the terrific anti-violence organization V-Day, encourages students to research and submit their school's sexual assault policy to an online database, a tool used by student-led movements to reform policies in colleges and universities nationwide. CAP makes accessible successful policies and identifies the serious gaps in others: for example, so far, 75% of schools in the database offer 24-hour crisis services to survivors, while only 7% include a drug and alcohol amnesty clause for survivors, something SAFER and V-Day say is crucial.

So take part in and ask others to join SAFER and V-Day's Winter Break Challenge! While they'll continue to accept entries in the coming months, they're in their final push to get as many students as possible to submit their schools' sexual assault policies by Monday, January 31. Watch and share the creative video below, "Why Policy?"; register and submit your campus policy in an easy, step-by-step process at www.safercampus.org; and tell your family members and friends to do the same!

27 January 2011

[Video] Domestic Workers United on "The Colbert Report"!

Domestic Workers United is on a roll! Not only did our fabulous grantee, a member-led organization of nannies, elderly caregivers and housekeepers in New York City, succeed in persuading New York State to pass historic legislation last year, they've now entered the ring with Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. Watch this fantastic video of DWU organizer Christine Yvette Lewis in her interview on "The Colbert Report" last night. Congratulations DWU and Christine for spreading the message of domestic workers' human rights to millions nationwide -- you worked it!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Christine Yvette Lewis
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26 January 2011

[Video] Next Generation of Green Activists Share -- and Sing -- Vision for Change

Want to be inspired? Check out this music video, produced by the Climate Change Crew -- winners of Ms. Foundation grantee Green For All's 2010 "Dream Reborn Story Contest."

The "Crew"-- a group of young, inner-city environmentalists from Minnesota's Twin Cities -- has put together a video that not only raises awareness of the environmental dangers faced by low-income communities and communities of color, but also encourages other youth to play a role in building a green economy that can "provide access and opportunities for all." One thing's for sure: theirs is a unique and refreshing vision of what "green" really looks like.

Read more about the Climate Change Crew and their work to inspire a new, diverse generation of green activists -- and watch this background video about what drove them create such an influential piece of social justice media.

25 January 2011

[Video] Voices From the Field: Hollaback! Confronts Street Harassment

Meet Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May, and learn how she and you can stand up to street harassment.

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support social justice trailblazers like Emily May and her Hollaback! crew. We were one of the first to fund Hollaback! -- an organization that uses online and mobile technology to crowd-source stories of street harassment, a daily occurrence for many women and LGBTQ individuals worldwide.

Noting that cat calls and other forms of sexual harassment in public places were often ignored or overlooked by law enforcement and policymakers, Emily May and some of her friends took the matter into their own hands. In 2005, they started a blog in New York City that aimed to track, catalog and report instances of street harassment -- a widespread phenomenon that in their minds helps create a "cultural environment that makes gender-based violence okay." That blog has grown into an international movement, with local chapters emerging from Egypt to Australia to Canada.

Ultimately Hollaback! aims to raise the profile of sexual harassment on the street, to bring it to the attention of law enforcement and policymakers, and to fight for a culture that does not allow street harassment to be the "'price you pay' for being a woman or for being gay."

24 January 2011

Abortion Rights: When Dollars Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death

By Ellen Liu, Program Officer

What happens when poor women are denied access to safe abortions? Just ask folks in Pennsylvania, who are now dealing with the fallout from recent revelations of substandard, sometimes deadly, conditions at a "rogue" abortion clinic in West Philadelphia.

Kermit Gosnell, an unlicensed "doctor" who ran the Women's Medical Society for more than 30 years, is now charged in the death of at least one patient and seven newly born babies at his clinic, which largely serves low-income women and women of color. The abuses that Gosnell and his staff are accused of are nothing short of horrific -- and it's all but certain that anti-abortion forces will seize on them as support for the notion that abortion in this country should never be legal.

But as Daniel Denvir points out in an article now running simultaneously on RH Reality Check and AlterNet, abortion foes have once again got it entirely backwards. It's not abortion itself that is to blame for these lost lives and barbaric practices; rather, it's the policies advocated for by anti-abortion activists that bear the burden of guilt here -- particularly those that deny government funding for abortion -- because they too often "[force] women into... life-threatening situations."

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

How are the Ms. Foundation's grantees igniting change this week? Take a gander below to find out.
  • To commemorate the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Ms. Foundation grantee Choice USA  brought together six young reproductive justice leaders for a "royal rumble" over the future of reproductive rights. The event -- called We are the Champions -- featured three rounds of intense debate around youth activism and advocacy, abortion access and funding, and the 2012 elections, among other topics. Missed attending in person? Not to worry -- video footage of this exciting event is now available online. Check it out!
  • In addition to planning much needed events like the one above, Choice USA has also recently partnered with  RH Reality Check (another Ms. Foundation grantee) to cultivate an intergenerational op-ed series on reproductive justice. The series aims to engage young activists and more established members of the movement in an ongoing dialogue to broaden the base of support and lift up the voices and leadership of youth. “We have realized that we as a movement need to figure out successful ways to work together across generations in order to be sustainable and garner bigger wins,” says Kierra Johnson, ED of Choice USA. The series' first installment, "From Generation Roe to Generation Now,” written by Andrew Jenkins, is up on RH Reality Check now.
  • An article on MSNBC.com about women and the economy featured expert analysis from grantees the National Women’s Law Center and Wider Opportunities for Women. The piece, “After 'mancession,' women falling behind,” highlights the much ignored fact that as the economy improves, women remain at a disadvantage when it comes to finding jobs, gaining back just 1 in 10 of the jobs added to the economy in 2010 -- despite having lost 1 in 3 jobs in 2008/2009. “The whole idea of this ‘mancession’ has always been so interesting because it is definitely true that we saw huge job losses in the [male-dominated] building trades … but it never meant that women were doing well,” Mary Gatta of WOW told MSNBC. Learn more about how WOW partnered with another Ms. Foundation grantee, Moore Community House, to help women in the Gulf Coast weather the economic crisis by accessing quality jobs in construction.

20 January 2011

Memo to the Right: Preventing Pregnancy IS a Preventive Service

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act -- our nation's boldest, if flawed, step in the direction of health care equity since the New Deal. While this is tremendously disconcerting, little will happen as an immediate result. Democrats in the Senate, who still hold a slim majority, have vowed to block a vote for repeal, leaving the House vote in Congressional limbo.

While this means, for the time being, that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay -- a very good thing for the millions of people who will benefit from the law, many of them women -- it doesn't mean it isn't in jeopardy. The health-care law faces continued attacks at the state level, in the judiciary, and will likely be taken up again in Congress as House Republicans attempt to undo it piece by piece. What's more, certain provisions of health care reform, as passed, are still being debated by federal agencies -- with significant implications for women. 

High on the list of provisions in question is coverage of birth control -- specifically, whether new insurance plans will be required to provide free coverage of contraception as part of the preventative care services mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and supported by the Women's Health Amendment. This is not a small issue. If coverage of birth control is not included as basic, preventative care, low-income women and women of color (many of whom are disproportionately poor) will continue to face an undue economic burden in protecting their reproductive health. In short, if coverage is not an option, many women will continue to find themselves priced out of the market for contraception, resulting in more unplanned pregnancies and potentially higher abortion rates -- a fate you'd think the anti-choice movement would be working to avoid at all costs.

18 January 2011

Health Care in the House: Urge Your Reps to Vote NO on Repeal!

We told you last week to expect it this week, and now here it is: tomorrow, Wednesday, House Republicans have scheduled a vote to repeal health care reform.

A waste of time, you say? Yes. Money? Absolutely. The wrong priorities for our nation in a time of few jobs and uneven recovery? We agree completely. But with ultra-conservatives now in control of the House, it looks like this largely symbolic but dangerous gesture will move forward -- despite the fact that health care reform is already improving the lives of millions of women and families by providing them access to affordable health care coverage and making sure that coverage doesn't drop them once they become sick (or have a C-section, or get raped).

But Republican control of the House doesn't mean others don't have a voice. A number of Ms. Foundation grantees are urging their constituents to take action by calling members of Congress and letting them know just how outraged you are by these attempts to roll back progress on the health care front.

Grantees Raising Women's Voices, the National Women's Law Center and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum are all running campaigns to get people on the phones and sending emails to make sure our representatives know just how strongly we oppose repeal -- and the offensive "job-killing" rhetoric Conservatives have misguidedly attached to it (see today's New York Times for a thorough repudiation of that logic).

If you believe as much as ever that all Americans deserve access to affordable and fair health care, now is the time to make your voice heard: Call Congress today and tell them to vote NO on the Repeal of Health Care Reform! Time is short -- act now!

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

What have Ms. Foundation for Women grantees been up to recently? Read below to learn more about how the groups we support are changing the world around us -- every day.
  • In response to the Arizona shootings, GRITtv highlighted a valuable interview with immigrant rights activist Salvador Reza of Tonatierra, a Ms. Foundation grantee. More than a year before this violent act took place, Reza spoke presciently about the climate of hate building in Arizona, and the dangerous outcomes of discriminatory immigration policies. Watch and learn.
  • Did you know that women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, but that men are twice as likely to receive VA benefits to treat PTSD? On January 11, Anuradha Bhagwati of Service Women's Action Network appeared on CNN to discuss this and other challenges that women veterans face upon returning home. Bhagwati took time to highlight the high levels of combat stress and sexual trauma faced by women in today's military, and noted that the troubling gap in benefits awarded to women is in part a result of policies that prohibit women from serving in combat roles -- despite the fact that women are effectively serving on the front lines every day. Read the transcript to learn more.
  • Led by two Ms. Foundation grantees -- NLIRH and NAPAWF -- and SEIU, the National Coalition for Immigrant Women's Rights (NCIWR) offered up some much needed and clear-eyed commentary on the introduction of legislation to undo a key clause of the 14th Amendment -- the latest attack on immigrants' rights. From "anchor babies" to "alien invaders," NCIWR looks at how anti-immigrant language vilifies women and children in the debate over immigration reform, and scapegoats vulnerable communities.
  • On Friday, January 14, grantee group Family Planning Advocates of New York State was featured on North Country Public Radio discussing Governor Andrew Cuomo's early support for the Reproductive Health Act. FPA has led the way in advocating passage of the bill -- which would protect abortion in New York state should Roe v Wade ever be overturned -- and has penned an important and informative memo in support of its passage.
  • The National Day Laborers Organizing Network released a unique interactive timeline of anti-immigrant violence in Arizona, which was featured on the Roll Call blog. A History of Hate: Political Violence in Arizona provides a detailed, chronological list of critical acts of violence against immigrant communities stretching from 1987 to today -- a reminder of the many lives at stake in the struggle for just and inclusive immigration reform. 
  • Grantee Win Alert! The Richmond, California City Council unanimously approved a new solar and green jobs resolution -- a piece of legislation fiercely advocated for by Ms. Foundation grantee Solar Richmond. Richmond’s Mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, noted that “given Richmond’s high unemployment rate, we need to pursue all strategies for job creation, including in the rapidly growing clean energy sector.” Congrats to Solar Richmond on a job well done!
  • HIRE Minnesota’s analysis of workforce data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the past three construction seasons found that after significant job losses in 2008 and 2009, women and people of color finally saw an uptick in hiring by the DOT in 2010. In fact, hiring of these groups rose by as much as 45%, thanks in part to advocacy by HIRE MN to advance hiring equity. In 2011, MnDOT will formally adopt all of the group's suggested transparency and results measures -- another major win for transportation workers in the state! 
Photo by Elizabeth Rappaport. Service Women's Action Network, New York City Veterans' Day Parade, November 2010.

    12 January 2011

    Vote to Repeal Health Care Law Still Looms

    Had not the horrors in Arizona taken place this past weekend, today, the US House of Representatives would have staged a largely ceremonial but still dangerous vote on the repeal of health care reform. Ceremonial because even if the vote had passed the House, it wouldn't have passed the Senate (where Democrats still hold a slim majority); dangerous, because it continues to lay the foundation for a repeal of these laws at the state level and "dismantling the law piece by piece."

    That would spell real trouble for millions of low- and middle-income people -- many of them women, children and people of color -- who would once again find themselves shut out of the health care system if the repeal takes place.

    For women, the stakes in this debate are incredibly high. As our friends over at Womenstake, the National Women's Law Center blog, noted:
    Repealing the law will return us to the days when women were treated like a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies will be allowed to drop coverage when an enrollee gets sick and deny women coverage if they’ve had a C-section, breast or cervical cancer, or received medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence. Repeal will keep 11 million women from receiving subsidies to help them buy affordable health insurance and prevent 4.5 million low-income women from becoming eligible for coverage through Medicaid.
    Consider that just the tip of the iceberg. Our recent grantee Raising Women's Voices -- a leading voice on the importance of health care reform to women -- published a useful fact sheet on the benefits women gained from health care reform in 2010, and just highlighted a few more women friendly policies that will go into effect in 2011, if nothing changes. These include:
    • Lowering prescription costs for seniors (many of them women);
    • Providing free preventive services, such as vaccinations and cancer screenings, for seniors on Medicare; and
    • Requiring insurers to give us rebates if they don't spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care.
    But if repeal efforts gain any foothold, these benefits -- along with others like the requirement that new insurance plans provide preventive health care and screenings (such as pap smears and mammograms) for free -- would be gone with the wind.

    11 January 2011

    The Verdict Is In: Stimulus Funding Kept Rising Poverty at Bay

    If there was ever any doubt that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) had a positive impact on the economy and those facing grave economic insecurity, a new report indicates that those doubts can now officially be put to rest.

    Recent analysis of data from the US Census Bureau shows that thanks to the temporary expansion of our social safety net under ARRA, more than 4.5 million people were kept out of poverty in 2009 -- making ARRA, "one of the single most effective pieces of antipoverty legislation in decades," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    For those who struggled most profoundly through this economic crisis -- including women and people of color, who were disproportionately affected by the tanking economy -- we now know these funds irrefutably made a difference, putting more money in the pockets of everyday Americans to keep them above the poverty line and providing vital connections to much needed social services and work supports (think child care, early education, health care and the like). But despite the major wins that ARRA achieved, its effects may end up being short-lived -- thanks to the "natural" expiry of ARRA funds and Conservative efforts to block spending on these important services going forward.

    10 January 2011

    Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

    Ms. Foundation's grantees have been hard at work over the last few weeks, advancing social justice nationwide. Here's a quick round-up of what a just a few of them have been up to since we last checked in.
    • The Herstory Writers Workshop scored a major victory when it was announced that stories shaped in their women and teen girls prison writing workshop would become required reading for incoming officers in Suffolk County’s corrections academy. Volumes 1 and 2 of the collection, Voices: Memoirs from Suffolk County Correctional Facilities, are now available for purchase online.
      • West Virginia Free launched a campaign to gather support for its Healthy Youth petition, which calls on the state to mandate insurance coverage of contraceptives and pregnancy care for teens. And on January 10 (today!), they held a public hearing on the implementation of the state’s health care exchange.

      Words Do Matter: A Ms. Foundation Statement on the Arizona Shooting

      With the rest of the nation, the Ms. Foundation for Women was shocked and horrified by the tragic events that took place this past weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Though we don't yet know the specific motivation behind these shootings, we do know that they took place in a state where violent political rhetoric has become dangerously commonplace. Where violent speech is the norm, violent action inevitably follows; where the value of some lives is diminished, the worth of all life is irreparably harmed. And given Arizona's position as the epicenter of a movement that is anti-immigrant, racist and growing, the events of this weekend may turn out to be not just heartbreakingly predictable, but also just the beginning of a new, increasingly violent political era.

      We will wait, along with all of you, to learn more about what compelled the young man responsible for these crimes to act in such a hugely destructive way. But this we know for sure: the culture that he lived and breathed each day -- Arizona's culture; America's culture -- was one that devalued the worth of immigrants, questioned the rights of women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals to live their freest, fullest lives, and put political figures within cross-hairs for elimination. Under those circumstances, it is only a miracle that we don't see actions like his each and every day.

      What we all must learn from this sorrowful chain of events is that words -- in that simple old adage -- do indeed matter. They create the world that all of us live in and respond to, sometimes in ways that bring out the best in human nature, and sometimes in ways that bring out the very worst. If we hope to have fewer such days that reduce us to shock over the latter, we must work to build a world where violent rhetoric -- on the political stage, against women, immigrants or any other -- is no longer tacitly accepted as clever verbal volleying. We must once and for all reject the politics of violence, rhetorical and otherwise, because lives, we understand ever more profoundly today, are quite literally at stake.

      For those who made the utmost sacrifice in that parking lot, and those still struggling to survive, we -- and our political leaders -- should be able to give at least that much.

      04 January 2011

      Attack on Unions Looms in States

      Another day, another attack from the Right on everyday Americans. This time, it's the unions they're after, and with them, the livelihoods, safety and economic security of millions of working people -- including more than 14,000 child care workers in Ohio, who could soon have their right to unionize stripped from them if conservative lawmakers have their way. 

      According to an article in today's New York Times, political leaders in a number of Republican controlled states are now promising to take steps to weaken unions and limit workers' ability to collectively bargain -- an effort, they say, to shrink dangerously bloated state budgets.

      But their tactics signal a dangerous return to a time before unions were empowered to protect the basic rights of workers, and unbridled corporate exploitation was the norm. Decades of advancement to secure the rights of working families are now on the line, and if their efforts succeed, many women, people of color and low-income workers -- for whom unions remain a vital resource -- are all but certain to find themselves once again vulnerable to unchecked abuse from corporate entities.

      Though a number of states are now working on different approaches to curtailing union power, the most draconian set of measures is coming from Ohio, where conservatives currently control the governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature. As The Times notes,
      Of all the new governors, John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.

      “If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

      Mr. Kasich also wants to eliminate a requirement that the state pay union-scale wages to construction workers on public contracts, even if the contractors are nonunion. In addition, he would like to ban the use of binding arbitration to settle disputes between the state and unions representing government employees. 
      The impact these rollbacks could have on working families cannot be overstated. Without the ability to organize, or the strength of a well-funded union behind them, low- and middle-income workers often have little recourse to defend their rights -- to decent wages, to safe working conditions, to sick leave and vacation time. And if you take the time to think about who fills all those jobs Governor Kasich is planning on barring from unionizing, you'll see that women and people of color -- who make up a large percentage of the teachers and child care workers who will be penalized -- are going to be some of the biggest losers if conservatives win this battle.

      03 January 2011

      Upcoming Event: Early Childhood in the 112th Congress

      Remember how back in December, Congress failed to act on the funding bill that would have spared hundred of thousands of children the tragedy of being cut off from Head Start and other early childcare initiatives for low-income families? Well, if you're interested in learning more about how that happened, and what lies ahead for early child care and education funding in the next legislative session, Ms. Foundation grantee the National Women's Law Center has an opportunity you may want to take advantage of.

      Their upcoming conference call, "What's Next for Early Childhood in the 112th Congress," will take place on Thursday, January 13th at 3:00 pm, and will feature commentary on the topic from Helen Blank, Director of Leadership and Public Policy at National Women's Law Center; Danielle Ewen of CLASP; Adele Robinson of the National Association for the Education of Young Children; and Harriet Dichter of the First Five Years Fund.

      Register today to participate in what's sure to be an important conversation about the future of early child care and education in America.

      Upping the Ante: States Move to Attack Immigrants' Rights, 14th Amendment

      Happy New Year! Now that we're refreshed and refueled after a short holiday break, it's time to get back to the business at hand: pushing for progressive change that benefits all -- something that's about to get significantly harder as conservatives harness increased power in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide.

      One issue we're sure to be hearing (and talking) much about in the near future is the coming state-level assault on undocumented workers and "immigration reform" -- a battle that will have a particularly severe impact on immigrant women, who now make up the majority of immigrants in the United States.

      According to a recent article in the New York Times, at least six states (Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina) are now planning to propose anti-immigrant legislation much like Arizona's maligned SB-1070 bill, which is currently tied up in the courts after being challenged by the federal government and progressive groups. In addition to expanding the abilities of the police to question anyone "suspected" of being undocumented, as the Arizona legislation did, these bills also seek to bar undocumented students from public colleges and universities; allow for seizure of vehicles and property "used to transport or harbor illegal immigrants"; visit severe penalties on businesses that employ undocumented workers; and generally make life hell for anyone who is or aids an undocumented immigrant.