28 February 2011

Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

We never cease to be amazed by the remarkable work our grantees do, each and every week, to advance social change. See below for the newest news on what our grantees have been up to since our last update.
  • In the aftermath of a four-day long immigration raid in Mississippi, advocates from grantee group the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance are speaking out about human rights violations perpetrated in the course of these raids. MIRA and other immigrants' rights organizations are pointing out that both profiling based on race and deceptive scare tactics were used to round-up the 58 people arrested last week, including posing as pizza delivery men or Avon representatives in order to get "suspects" to open their doors to ICE agents. "What's taking place is overt racial profiling," MIRA'S executive director Bill Chandler told reporters, noting that many of the searches that were conducted were warrantless, and that thee people arrested are not the criminals that immigrations agents claim. The raids, and the reported abuses attached to them, have garnered significant local press; MIRA is working to get the arrested released from jail on bond, and to raise awareness about the dangerous and deceptive tactics ICE uses in the name of law enforcement.

  • The struggle over worker and labor rights in Wisconsin and other states continues: last week Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work, wrote an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the recent protests at the Wisconsin state capitol staged by unions and thousands of the state's working people. Public employees were not the ones to bring our economy to the brink, Bravo notes, and should not be the ones to pay for the criminal economic practices of large financial institutions. Hear, hear!
  • Madeline Janis, executive director of grantee group LAANE, issued her own reports from the streets of Madison, WI. The city, Janis reports, has been overtaken by a beautiful kind of progressive fervor: "It seems like every restaurant, every dry cleaners has a message posted: 'I’m pro-union,' 'I support teachers,' 'I believe in public sector workers,' Janis writes. "Wherever you go there is support." View a video detailing Janis's experience on Facebook.

  • Ensuring quality child care is not just a federal funding issue -- and we're proud to note that grantee All Our Kin is doing all it can to guarantee that, at the state level, women, children and families are provided the resources they need to access quality care. Connecticut's NPR affiliate recently featured the group in a story about why family child care matters, using AOK's work to underscore how Connecticut could do a better job of supporting quality care and treating providers fairly. The group has also partnered with the CT Commission on Children and CT Parent Power to work on a bill that would give parents "presumptive eligibility" for state child care benefits -- forcing the state to move quickly in making eligibility determinations, while also protecting family child care providers, who are "often forced to take a chance on families whose eligibility for subsidies is pending, and may never get paid for the child care they've provided.” Keep up the great work.

Anti-Abortion Billboard Heightens Assault on Poor, African American Women

Thanks to Ms. Foundation grantee the Women of Color Policy Network, we've got a major win to report on the reproductive justice front!

As you've likely heard by now, last week, New York City became the latest stop on the campaign trail for an anti-abortion initiative that aims to convince African Americans that legalized abortion is a racialized threat. A billboard once hanging at the corner of Watts and 6th Avenue, in Soho, featured the image of a young African American girl, above whose head dangled these disturbing words: "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." Not coincidentally, the billboard was situated less than half a mile from a Planned Parenthood facility.

The campaign's goal, organizers from the group behind the ads will tell you, is to cast abortion as a "genocidal plot" to destroy the Black community -- and they're taking their message nationwide. Last year they launched similar advertising attacks in Georgia, where Ms. Foundation grantees SPARK Reproductive Justice Now and SisterSong led valiant efforts to challenge the campaign's dangerous rhetoric.

Now it's time to add another grantee to the list of organizations successfully shutting the door on this racist campaign: on Thursday of last week, WOCPN was able to report that they, too, had pushed back against the companies involved in placing these ads -- and won! In response to a letter sent by WOCPN to Lamar Billboards (the company that owns the ad space where the billboard was hanging), WOCPN received word from the company that the billboard would be taken down -- immediately. On Thursday night, a crane removed the offensive ad from its downtown location.

C. Nicole Mason, Executive Director of WOCPN, stressed the role that the collective efforts of numerous organizations played in achieving this victory. "I truly believe," Mason wrote in an alert to constituents about the win, "that our collective quick action, phone calls and letters to the company are directly responsible for their decision to pull the ad."

We're thrilled to be able to celebrate the removal of this ad from the New York City streets -- but we know the fight is not yet over. We find these ads attacking African American women both utterly reprehensible and undeniably racist. They represent yet another assault on poor women of color by seeking to limit their access not merely to abortion services, but to the other 97% of preventive health care services Planned Parenthood provides. The group behind these ads is attempting to scare Black women away from accessing the reproductive and preventative health resources many of them so desperately need -- an act that should be criminal, given that it puts women's lives at risk.

Better than anyone else, Black women know what is best for their bodies and their lives, and they must be trusted to decide, individually, which reproductive choices are right for them. Today, we can be pleased that one company eventually understood the racism and sexism implicit in this campaign (or the threat to their bottom line) and chose to stand on the side of decency. But the struggle to make sure that women's voices and perspectives are respected and heard continues on. With organizations like WOCPN, SPARK and SisterSong leading the charge, we have no doubt that reproductive justice will prevail.

Support Reproductive Justice Today!
In times like these, it’s more important than ever to support women-of-color-led reproductive justice organizations. They know best what their communities need, and have a strong track record of mobilizing a diverse grassroots base to block regressive measures and fight for positive change.

Your support for Ms. Foundation grantees who are leading the charge for women-of-color-led reproductive justice will be matched dollar for dollar today: Make a gift of $10, $25, $50 or more now and a generous donor will match your contribution to double the impact for this important work.

23 February 2011

Grantee 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.
  • It's not just Wisconsin: In an effort to raise awareness about and fight back against budget cuts that threaten to "gut workers' rights and benefits" nationwide, Ms. Foundation grantee Jobs with Justice and its affiliates have hosted and participated in a slew of actions to oppose the numerous "anti-worker" bills now sitting on state legislative dockets across the country. Including Wisconsin, JwJ has or will be hosting rallies, town halls and other protests in at least six states where workers rights are plainly under attack; now, that's what we call organizing. Go, workers, go!
  • This year marks the third anniversary of the Mississippi-based Women in Construction (WinC) program, which the Ms. Foundation began supporting as a pilot program in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today, WinC, a program of Moore Community House, is part of a broader cohort of Ms. Foundation grantees working around the country to build an economy based on a new set of values and principles, promoting economic and gender justice through job creation and improved job quality. Congratulations to the WinC program and Moore Community House on three years of remarkable work!
  • Ms. Foundation grantee Grassroots Leadership has launched a campaign to document the lives, hardships, and abuses endured by women incarcerated in for-profit prisons nationwide. By exposing the added burdens and risks faced by women in for-profit prisons, Grassroots Leadership hopes to shift priorities from "profit" to "justice" -- and move imprisonment and detention out of the corporate and for-profit sector for good.

  • On Feb 15, grantee SWAN held a press conference at the National Press Club to announce a class-action lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, on behalf of 17 survivors of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the military. News of the suit was quickly picked up by the New York Times and has garnered much additional press as well. Both the Pentagon and Congress also released responses to the lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Virginia.

  • On February 10, the Ms. Foundation joined a number of our grantee partners in co-sponsoring a Congressional briefing on violence against immigrant women. The event offered attendees a chance to hear testimony from advocates, organizers, and survivors of violence whose experiences underscore the need for legislation that protects immigrant women from abuse. Read Congressman Raul Grijalva’s response to the briefing, and listen to this powerful testimony.
  • Based on the success of a state-based pilot program to advance LGBTQ equality, the Western States Center is now taking their work on the issue national. The group has launched the Uniting Communities: National Partner Project, which will bring together organizations based in communities of color nationwide to proactively address issues of racial justice and LGBTQ equality. Three other Ms. Foundation grantees -- National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (California) -- will be participating in the project in its inaugural year; we wish them all the best, and can't wait to hear about all they have accomplished!

In the News
  • Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of the Family Values @ Work, appeared on GRITtv to discuss workers' ongoing struggles for basic human rights in Wisconsin. Bravo helped lead a successful campaign in Milwaukee for paid sick days that is now being attacked by Governor Walker's administration, and brings a unique, inside perspective to the fight for workers' rights.
  • West Virginia Free’s Executive Director, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, published an op-ed in the West Virginia Gazette, drawing attention to two new state-based bills that would further restrict women's access to reproductive health care. "House Bill 3020 and Senate Bill 443 would not only take away a woman's ability to pay for private insurance coverage of abortion care," Chapman Pomponio wrote, "[they] would unconstitutionally eliminate abortion coverage for state workers and women who need assistance through state-run insurance programs." Another example of how national and state-level politics converge -- and, in this case, not for the better.
  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s Pablo Alvarado published a piece on the Huffington Post that highlights Arizona’s introduction of new state legislation that challenges the birthright citizenship clause of the US Constitution's 14th Amendment. The article includes moving video testimonials from a young immigrant woman and girl -- members of Las Comadres, a group affiliated with Tonatierra, a Ms. Foundation grantee based in Phoenix -- who spoke at a State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about how the bill would have a devastating effect on the lives of children just like them. Earlier that day, they and other children led a group of over 100 families outside the State Capitol building in protest of the legislation. Their testimonies surely played a key role: in the end, the committee leader "held" the bill because he didn't have the votes to pass it. This was a critical win for immigrant women, children and families in Arizona, and you can be sure they'll be back again to protect their rights as other State Senate committees consider the bill next.  
  • Nancy Duff, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center posted an eye-opening analysis of the negative impact FY12 proposed budget cuts will have on women and families. "If the House passes H.R.1, the  Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, girls and women would bear a heavy burden—from girls in early childhood programs to women in their working and childbearing years to women in retirement," Campbell wrote. Keep your eyes on the Senate fight over passage of the act, which must come up for a vote before March 4 (it's already passed the House).

Events and Action Opportunities
  • Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children is holding a special Black History Month event on Feb. 25, 2011. The event will feature discussion of Michelle Alexander’s book the “New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” If you're in the New Orleans area, be a part of what's sure to be a stirring conversation.

  • Last Friday, the House voted to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Now, many of our grantees, including several state-level Planned Parenthood affiliates, are rallying their constituencies to fight back. Access Women’s Health Justice, for example, is urging everyone to stand with Planned Parenthood; NARAL Pro-Choice Washington urges you to help save all women’s access to reproductive health care. Take action  now -- women's lives depend on it!

Collateral Damage: Poor Women Pay the Price in the Right’s War on Women’s Health

On Friday, February 18, the US House of Representatives dealt a crushing blow to the health and well-being of millions of women across America: in a 240-185 vote, the the House approved H.R. 1 -- also known the Pence Amendment -- which would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for any purpose, including providing basic preventive health care to women and families.

Consider it a slap in the face to women in general, especially to low-income women who have nowhere else to turn for their primary health care.

At present, Planned Parenthood provides nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, 830,000 breast exams, more than a million Pap tests, and helps prevent more than 612,000 unintended pregnancies each year. Annually, three million women and men in the United States visit Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers for trusted health care services and information; for some of those clients, largely those that are low-income, the nurses and doctors at Planned Parenthood are the only health care providers they ever see.

Because we at the Ms. Foundation for Women believe, without question or qualification, that all women are due the fundamental human right to quality reproductive health, education and services, we have been a long-time partner and supporter of Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide. We currently count Planned Parenthood of Utah, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Southeast (which covers Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi), and the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts among our cherished grantees. And today, in light of the shocking news out of the House of Representatives, we are ever more committed to the goals of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights, health and justice organizations whose efforts protect and value the lives of women across America.

For those of us who have stood on the front lines of the reproductive justice movement for years, there's no doubting that this attack on Planned Parenthood is a not-so-covert attack on abortion rights. Planned Parenthood has been targeted, in this case, because it does provide (among many other services) abortions to a small percentage of its clients. This is a fact that Conservatives like Rep. Mike Pence, who authored the bill, abhor -- and will apparently go to deeply irrational lengths to prevent. Because whatever your stance on abortion may be, there's no mistaking that providing preventative health care to millions of women, men and families is in fact a good thing. Preventative services save lives, and, in the long-run, save money -- an outcome you'd imagine this "pro-life” and "fiscally conservative" cadre from the Right could get behind.

Instead, the Right has chosen to make millions of everyday Americans, many of them low-income, the collateral damage in their war on reproductive rights. The impact of the proposed funding cuts would likely be immediate and stunning. “Without Title X funding for Planned Parenthood in Atlanta, we can anticipate seeing more women who can only afford to purchase their birth control but cannot afford an exam," says Leola Reis, spokesperson for our grantee group PP Southeast. "We anticipate increases in undiagnosed cancers and STDs, and over all increasingly poor health outcomes for Georgians.”

That is a reality we, as a nation, can little afford to promote. Subjecting women and other vulnerable communities to reductions in health care access in the name of budget cuts and moral wranglings over abortion is both dangerous and absurd. Those of us who value women's lives and the health of our nation must do all we can to push back against the rising tide of anti-woman and anti-justice rhetoric emanating every day from the Right.

"Morality," Rebecca Traister noted recently in Salon, "is not the exclusive domain of the unborn, whatever we have been told for decades. Morality is on the side of women, on the side of children, on the side of a society that offers aid to its impoverished and to its young and does not discriminate against half its population." From our perspective, there's no question that Planned Parenthood stands on the just side of our moral arc – one that focuses health and lives of women. We are as proud as we ever have been to stand alongside Planned Parenthood.

Anika Rahman
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

22 February 2011

Survivors Like Senator Brown Are Key to Prevention

No matter your political stripe, we can all agree that it is tremendously brave and commendable for Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) to come forward as a survivor of child sexual abuse, as he does in his soon-to-be published autobiography. For most, "outing" oneself as a survivor to one's family and community is an incredibly huge and almost surely frightening step; few have the opportunity to take advantage of the national platform afforded to elected officials. As such, we are especially moved that Senator Brown has chosen to use the privilege of his position to challenge the silence that permeates child sexual abuse on a national scale.

Child sexual abuse is, we know, a staggeringly silent epidemic. Conservative estimates suggest one in three girls and one in six boys in the US experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. Yet less than 10 percent of all cases are reported to legal authorities and very few survivors ever share their stories publicly. For a variety of complex reasons -- including that the issue remains very taboo, myths about who is most likely to perpetrate abound, and policymakers have privileged a punitive criminal justice approach over community-based prevention -- child sexual abuse remains incredibly difficult to combat.

The Ms. Foundation for Women is committed to changing this reality. We believe one of the most effective ways to put an end to child sexual abuse is to elevate the voices of survivors -- like those of Senator Brown and so many others -- who are uniquely positioned to understand the root causes of abuse and can help guide practitioners and policymakers to adopt a more holistic, community-based approach to prevention. We know that survivor-activists play a critical role in building a new movement to end child sexual abuse. Survivors' stories encourage a much more open and honest dialogue about child sexual abuse -- both at kitchen tables and at policymaking tables. And their voices are often the most effective antidote to myths and misunderstandings that perpetuate abuse and lead to well-intentioned, but frequently insufficient or misguided, policies and programs.

The more our society creates safe spaces for open and honest dialogue about child sexual abuse, the better able we'll be to shift public understanding about abuse and build the power of individuals, families and communities to advance more comprehensive, effective and just approaches to prevention. That is why it is so important that survivors like Senator Scott Brown -- and our wonderful grantees and their constituencies -- encourage others to step out of the shadows and demand that the conversation continue. 

Join the movement and hear the voices of other survivors by attending a special NYC performance of the play Secret Survivors with the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Join Us! Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Share Stories on Stage

We are very pleased to announce a special NYC performance of Secret Survivors, a play in a series by the arts organization Ping Chong and Company that draws on interviews, writings, and conversations with survivors of child sexual abuse. The performers -- themselves survivors -- tell their powerful stories of abuse, touching on issues of societal taboo, fear, and silence. Both personally cathartic and socially aware, the play "seeks to use direct personal narrative to show that this violence is epidemic, to represent the diverse ways it occurs, and grapple with the many reasons that most survivors remain silent," says Chong.

Silence -- as evidenced by the fact that only 10 percent of cases are reported -- is one of the key barriers to child sexual abuse prevention. That is why the Ms. Foundation for Women is committed to elevating the voices of survivors whose stories break through the silence that perpetuates abuse and challenge the myths that inform public understanding, policies and programs. Community-based approaches that encourage healing and honest dialogue -- like Ping Chong's innovative play -- are the first step towards building a new movement to end child sexual abuse.  

This performance is sold out, but the Ms. Foundation has a limited block of seats. Admission is free. RSVP by March 1 (please email AKorangy@ms.foundation.org).

One Performance Only!
March 12, 2011 at 7:30pm

Secret Survivors
A work in Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements series
Written and directed by Sara Zatz
Based on interviews, writings and conversations with the performers: Gabriella Callender, Lucia Leandro Gimeno, RJ Maccani, Diana Sands, and Amita Swadhin

El Museo del Barrio
1230 5th Ave @ 104th, NYC

Photo by Annie Escobar

14 February 2011

Grantee Round Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

Across the country, Ms. Foundation grantees are hard at work, advancing social justice every day. Here's a look at just some of what they've accomplished over just the last few days.
  • Grantee Win Alert! On February 3, Critical Resistance’s New Orleans chapter helped advocate for and eventually pressured the City Council to shrink the size of the notorious Orleans Parish Prison. In the face of plans to build thousands of new cells at OPP, CR helped win an order to cap the jail size at 1,400 and decommission existing jail space with a unanimous vote by the Council. Watch this video to learn more about their efforts -- and congrats to all involved!

  • On January 29 and 30, BABES Network-YWCA joined local community partners to put on a 2-day advocacy training for people living with HIV/AIDS. The event -- which attracted a majority of women attendees -- equipped participants with the skills to advocate and communicate effectively around HIV issues, with a special focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and their families. “Many of the men in the training commented that they had never understood the perspective of low income women living with HIV until this training," noted Amelia Vader, Program Manager for BABES, in a recent email to supporters. "Women are making a major impact in the HIV community in Washington State and our current collaborations are... providing more opportunities for their voices to be heard by the broader AIDS community.”
  • Grantee Young Women United helped bring more than 1000 women and families together for a march to demand dignity and justice for all communities. The 1000 Women March, which took place in Santa Fe, N.M. on Feb. 11, sought to bring a broad range of pressing issues to the attention of lawmakers, and promote civic participation among New Mexico's women and families. In particular, marchers demanded a place at the table when decisions concerning the welfare of women and families are being made, in pursuit of a “frank, direct, and permanent dialogue with the Governor." That's what we call daring to be heard! Keep up the great work!

Ms. Foundation Board and Staff Welcome CEO Anika Rahman

February 14, 2011, marks the first day of Anika Rahman’s tenure as the president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women -- and we couldn't be happier to have her on board!

We are tremendously excited to welcome Anika into her role as the Foundation's newest leader, and eagerly anticipate the fresh perspectives and ideas she will bring as she helps the Ms. Foundation continue to lead the way forward, propelling the women’s and social justice movements -- and the Foundation itself -- to new heights.

Anika comes to the Foundation with a lifetime of unique and relevant experiences -- both personal and professional -- to guide her work; she has dedicated both her life and career to the fight for women’s rights and dignity, and she is part of a wave of young feminist leaders who bring new energy and creative strategies to movements for social change. Born in Bangladesh, and raised there and in Pakistan by three strong women who encouraged her to come to the US to pursue a world-class education, Anika felt the sting of inequality early on, as she witnessed her father exercising rights and freedoms that her mother simply didn’t have.

Her passion for achieving justice for the women of this world led her to a career in women’s rights advocacy, first with the Center for Reproductive Rights and then, most recently, as president of Americans for UNFPA, a leading organization focused on promoting the United Nations Population Fund in the United States. Her own life experiences have taught Anika much about how prejudice and injustice can affect lives and communities -- and also about the incredible, transformative impact that increased equality, justice and opportunity can have on those same lives. Inspired by her mother, grandmother and aunt, and by the desire to build a future filled with better opportunities for all of the world’s daughters, Anika brings to the Foundation the courage, tenacity and strategic leadership required to achieve progressive change in the 21st century. We feel so lucky to have her.

At a time when progressive ideals are under attack every single day, our work standing with and for social justice trailblazers becomes ever more important. Under Anika’s leadership we will continue to support the fight for good paying jobs and for reproductive justice; we will continue to work to end violence against women and girls, and to make sure that women are included at all decision-making tables. And we will continue to fund the most extraordinary cadre of grassroots organizations, whose daily work as social justice trailblazers leaves us in awe. Times may change but the goal remains the same: to build a nation where power and possibility are never limited by gender, race, class -- or any other factor.

It’s an exciting day at the Foundation, and we hope you’ll join us as we wish Anika the greatest success in her role as president and CEO. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share details about events where you’ll have an opportunity to meet our new leader in person. But in the meantime, join us as we say,

Welcome, Anika!

The Board and Staff of the Ms. Foundation for Women

09 February 2011

Tomorrow in DC: Ending Violence Against Immigrant Women

For those anywhere near the Washington, DC area tomorrow, here's a reminder about an important event sponsored by a number of Ms. Foundation grantees:

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, an ad-hoc congressional hearing on emerging issues in the fight to end violence against immigrant women will take place on Capitol Hill. This event offers a chance to hear testimony from advocates, organizers, and survivors of violence whose experiences underscore the need for legislation that protects immigrant women from abuse. Their stories will also shine a specific light on the unintended and harmful consequences that ICE Access programs visit on immigrant women and their families.

Moderated by Congressman Raúl Grijalva (the event's honorary chair), the hearing will take place from 2:00 - 3:00 pm in Room 2456 of the Rayburn House Office Building: 45 Independence Ave, SW, Washington, DC 20515.

Ms. Foundation grantees, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Legal Momentum, MomsRising and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network have all signed on as co-sponsors of this event. We hope you'll turn up and the hearing and show them your support!

Next week, we'll be posting words and images from the hearing -- so if you can't make it in person, you'll still have an opportunity to experience the event. Stay tuned for more.

"The Daily Show" Gets It Right: There's No Such Thing as "Rape-ish"

Looking for a brilliant breakdown of what H.R. 3 and the Right's attempts to redefine rape could mean for the the future of reproductive rights? Then check out the clip posted below, from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Together with Stewart, "Women's Issues" correspondent Kristen Schaal offers a pitch-perfect send-up of how the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would limit access to abortions by insisting on new, Machiavellian definitions of rape -- and move us ever closer to a time where abortions would once again be outlawed even to save a woman's life. 

Have a good laugh (it's a truly funny bit)-- and then remember that this is no joke. Join Ms. Foundation grantees National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the National Women's Law Center in their campaigns to make sure that H.R. 3 never passes the House.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

08 February 2011

Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

A new week, a new round of information to share about the many ways the Ms. Foundation's grantees are advancing social justice nationwide:
  • Grantee ACT for Women and Girls went viral to promote the importance of condom usage and healthy sexuality for all. Luchador vs. HIV is the first video produced by this year's participants in ACT's Female Leadership Academy  -- an initiative that brings a diverse group of young women leaders together to provide them with hands-on advocacy training. Their video dispels myths about HIV transmission and stresses the need for members of all communities to practice safer sex -- reminding us (quite aptly) that "no great fighter would ever go into the ring without their mask." Point taken.

  • The Rebecca Project for Human Rights got a mention in a recent Newsweek article about the increased incidence of sex trafficking around major sporting events like the Super Bowl. Notably, authorities in Dallas (the site of this year's Super Bowl) took the threat seriously, adding as many as two dozen extra staffers to their ranks to monitor the traffic of underage girls around the event. “The involvement of the attorney general and law enforcement is far greater than anything we’ve seen before,” said Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the Rebecca Project. Way to go, Big D.

  • The Minnesota Department of Transportation has plans to increase the number of women and people of color it hires, according to a report on Minnesota Public Radio that featured Ms. Foundation grantee HIRE Minnesota. After more than a decade of failing to meet its goals in hiring women and "minorities," MnDOT has now been convinced by a coalition of community groups -- including HIRE MN -- to get serious about putting women and people of color to work, in part by putting in place a strict deadline by which any contractor bidding for state work must also submit their plan for including women and people of color in their workforce. It remains to be seen just how effective these new measures will be, but they're a bona fide step in the right direction. Good job, HIRE MN!
  • The National Women's Law Center is urging everyone to tell your members of Congress to oppose the harmful Smith Bill (H.R.3), newly-introduced legislation that, if passed, would cement current and, put in place dangerous new, prohibitions on the federal funding of abortions. The original draft went as far as to attempt to redefine rape, language that was removed after an outcry from activists. But there's still no doubt that this bill seeks to restrict women's reproductive rights and health and could put the health of millions low- and middle-income women at risk. Don't wait: tell your congressional representatives NOW that they must oppose the Smith Bill and the danger it presents to women's lives.

  • Last week, Adriann Barboa, executive director of Ms. Foundation grantee Young Women United, wrote a stirring piece about the deaths of eleven young women in the desert outside of Albuquerque, NM -- and how her organization was able to transform its city's response to these deaths. We were so moved by her words, we posted her commentary on our blog.

  • In just the first month of this year, grantee Women's Voices for the Earth has made critical inroads in the fight for environmental and reproductive justice. We've highlighted their recent gains -- which include pushing for a ban on the use of triclosan in consumer protects, raising awareness about toxins in nail salons and the plight of nail salon workers, and strengthening environmental regulations for cleaning products -- on the blog. We are thrilled at the progress they're making, alongside other grantees, to improve the reproductive health and overall well-being of women and girls through the lens of environmental justice. Keep up the good work!
    Upcoming Opportunities
    • Join Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) on Wednesday, February 9 for their first Building Bridges to Economic Security training webinar: How to Advocate Effectively in an Economic Downturn. Participants will hear from national communications and policy experts on what’s coming up in the 112th Congress, and learn messaging strategies around building economic security for workers, families and elders. The webinar will begin at at 1:30 p.m. EST on 2/9; RSVP to kstellrecht@wowonline.org to reserve your spot.

    • Our grantee Sister Song's 3rd annual, Let's Talk About Sex Conference is on the horizon, and they're looking for fabulous workshop proposals to make the event a smash success. This year's conference theme is "Love, Legislation and Leadership" and organizers are looking for workshops that "highlight cutting-edge visions that address issues on sex, sexuality, and sexual pleasure." Submissions are due February 11, 2011; the conference itself is set to take place July 14 - 17 in Miami Beach, FL. Submit your proposals today!

      • On Feb 28, The National Council for Research on Women will host a panel discussion in advance of their annual Making a Difference for Women Awards, which this year honors former Ms. Foundation presidents Sara K. Gould and Marie Wilson. The panel, Building a Pipeline to Women's Leadership, will bring together leaders in the corporate and higher education worlds to “share their vision, insights, strategies, and... action steps for unlocking women's and girls' potential in all fields of study and careers.” The event is free and open to the public, and runs from 3:00pm – 5:15 in Manhattan; RSVP to rsvp@ncrw.org.

      • Choice USA is now accepting applications and nominations for their Western and Southern States Reproductive Justice Leadership Institutes (RJLIs). The RJLI is a weekend-long training for 50 young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are passionate about reproductive justice and want to learn how to make a difference. Attendees will expand their knowledge of reproductive health, rights and justice; hear from experts in the social justice movement; connect with others who share their passions; and learn how to take action.Western States RJLI applications are due February 18, 2011 and Southern States RJLI applications are due March 11, 2011. For more information contact Mari Schimmer, Choice USA Outreach and Trainings Manager, at 202-719-9443 or email mschimmer@choiceusa.org.
      • AIDS Services Austin, home to Ms. Foundation grantee the Women Rising Project, asks for your support for their AIDS Drug Assistance Program Advocacy Day on Tuesday, February 15. “With extraordinary budget cuts looming for Texas, we need your help to preserve the lifesaving AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) in our state budget. Over 13,000 Texans statewide receive support from ADAP, including over 900 people in the Austin area.” Stand with our sisters and brothers in Texas to save funding for HIV/AIDS programs state-wide: register now to join them at the State Capitol on advocacy day!
      • Community Voices Heard is accepting applications for their Gail Aska Policy & Research Fellowship: a 10-month, full-time fellowship “designed to support and develop the skills of a woman of color to shape public policy and conduct constituent-driven research on issues affecting low-income communities." The fellowship, which runs from March through December, aims to address the scarcity of women of color in the fields of public policy and research working on social and economic justice issues. Submissions are due by February 18, 2011, but will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Learn more about how to apply.
      • In partnership with the University of Washington, The BABES Network - YWCA is looking for participants for a study of HIV-related stigma among African Americans. They aim to find out how to best modify a stigma reduction program for African Americans living with HIV. For more information about this opportunity, contact Amelia at BABES: 206-720-5566.

      02 February 2011

      Grantee Commentary: We Are ALL Our Nation's Daughters

      In a commentary shared with her organization's constituents today, Adriann Barboa, executive director of Young Women United, a Ms. Foundation grantee based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, paints a moving picture of how YWU was able to transform its city's response to the deaths of eleven young women whose bodies were found in the desert, and how today, YWU advocates for policies that would help prevent such tragedies from occurring again. With permission from YWU, we are reposting Adriann's message below. 

      Two Years Ago, Eleven Women Found in Desert in Albuquerque

      By Adriann Barboa

      Two years ago today, in a story that shook me to my core, a woman walking her dog found a femur in the desert. She alerted the police, who began a three-month dig, covering a vast area of the mesa near my home. The police found the bodies of 11 women, one of whom was four months pregnant. Many of the women were close to my age and grew up here like me. Were brown like me. Had struggled here, like me.

      But when these women were found dead, President Obama did not come to town. There was no jam-packed memorial to mourn their lives cut short. What we had instead were devastated families whose greatest fear had been realized when their daughter's remains were discovered on the mesa.

      As the story unfolded, terrible sounds echoed in my ears. Not the sounds of the shovels in the desert, but the sound of these lives being erased. Not only through death, but through the official description of the events. The women were not brave heroes who faced histories of poverty, abuse and trauma with the best tools they could find. They were "addicts." And because they used drugs, many earned money the best way they could -- by selling sex. And so they were "prostitutes." The authorities thought the story could begin and end there: bodies found, case closed. Eleven more prostitutes dead. Done.

      The $100,000 reward for information leading to the killers was rarely advertised, and by most accounts from the families of the missing and dead, the police have been less than enthusiastic about pursuing the case. When challenged on their lack of results they said, "The only suspects we have are dead."

      I often found myself wondering if that would that fly if these were 11 white college students found buried under a football field.

      Organizing at the Intersections of Reproductive and Environmental Justice

      Very proudly, the Ms. Foundation for Women supports an amazing cadre of organizations that are blazing new trails to advance environmental and reproductive justice every day. And if the news from one such grantee, Women's Voices for the Earth, is any predictor, 2011 is off to an incredible start.

      Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE) is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact the health of women and girls -- who, in fact, have largely been overlooked in research about the effects on humans of the more than 85,000 chemicals estimated to be use in the US environment today. Over the last month, WVE has taken bold and concrete action to protect the well-being of women and girls, raising awareness about how these chemicals compromise women's reproductive health, pushing for increased regulation of consumer products, and organizing to ban one particular toxic substance currently in widespread use.

      Though little discussed in the national media, activists and everyday women alike know that women face environmental dangers unique to those faced by men: women, on average, use more personal care products, containing potentially dangerous chemicals, than men do; spend more time in the home and using cleaning products; and have higher fat reserves -- where toxins are stored -- than their male counterparts do. And women of color, low-income women, and immigrant women tend to be at even greater risk for exposure to environmental toxins than their middle class, white peers -- either because they live in areas that are rife with toxic and hazardous materials or work in industries with few protections against exposure to chemicals.

      01 February 2011

      Join Us in NYC for an Evening of Film, Feminism, and Fun!

      Magdalena is 14 and pregnant and … a virgin?

      Join the Ms. Foundation Young Leaders next Monday, February 7 from 6-9 pm in Manhattan for a screening of the Sundance award-winning film Quinceañera. Share in an evening of wine, snacks, thought-provoking cinema and a lively discussion of sexuality, race, gentrification, teen pregnancy, religion and social justice. Reproductive justice advocate or film-lover -- all are welcome!

      $10 suggested donation. RSVP to rsvp@ms.foundation.org

      Your donation will be matched 1:1 by a generous donor to the Ms. Foundation for Women to support women of color-led reproductive justice organizations across the US.

      Download the flyer [PDF]

      Event Location:
      International Action Center
      55 W. 17 St. (room to be confirmed)
      Between 5th and 6th Avenues
      New York City

      Upcoming Events: Youth and Reproductive Justice Leadership Conferences You Should Know About

      For all of those young feminists and reproductive justice advocates out there, we wanted to share two great conference opportunities on the horizon:
      • In advance of Sister Song's 3rd annual, Let's Talk About Sex Conference, our fantastic reproductive justice grantee has put out a call for workshop proposals. This year's conference theme is "Love, Legislation and Leadership" and organizers are looking for workshops that "highlight cutting edge visions that address issues on sex, sexuality, and sexual pleasure." The deadline for submissions is February 11, 2011; the conference itself is set to take place July 14 - 17 in Miami Beach, FL. Get your proposals in before it's too late!

      • The 7th Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, will take place March 12-14, 2011 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. This year's event will focus on the impact of young women's advocacy on both domestic and global issues, and will conclude with a day of visits with Members of Congress. Early bird registration ($20 per person) closes on February 1 (that's today!); regular registration ($30 pp) will remain open through March 9, 2011.