31 March 2011

Students: Make April Sexual Assault 'Activism' Month With SAFER

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) is replacing "awareness" with "activism." They're asking student organizers and their allies on campuses across the US to go beyond awareness, "sexual violence exists," to direct action, "I can take steps today to end sexual violence."

Join them by taking an action pledge on their campaign site today. At the end of the month SAFER will distribute a short questionnaire to pledged student activists about which action they took. For students who both take the pledge and complete the questionnaire, they will randomly select a number of raffle-prize winners. One student group will be eligible for a free SAFER training and follow-up mentoring in the Activist Mentoring Program (AMP!). Be a SAFER student activist and spread the word!

[Watch their video for an introduction.]

29 March 2011

Women's Well-Being and Policy Solutions Must Drive Immigration Reform

On Sunday March 26, 2011, the New York Times published Anika Rahman's letter to the editor in response to its March 18 article, Immigrant Detentions Draw International Fire, that identified serious problems with US immigration policies. As we note in the text below, it is "long past time that...women's solutions for change, drive federal immigration reform."

To the Editor:

We were pleased to read that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued harsh criticism of United States immigration policies, specifically immigrant detention and 287(g), the dangerous program that puts immigration enforcement in the hands of local police.

We hope that international condemnation will finally compel lawmakers to halt 287(g) and end immigrant detention, a policy that has led to gross human rights violations in for-profit prisons run by corporations.

In particular, we urge the United States government to end human rights abuses of immigrant women and children. Our grantees, advocacy groups nationwide, tell us that women are especially vulnerable.

Women in detention are subjected to a litany of horrors, including rape and physical assault, being forced to give birth in shackles and losing their young children to foster care or an abusive partner.

Across the country, 287(g) programs instill such fear of local police that women, afraid of deportation, do not report domestic violence or other crimes, placing women, families and entire communities at risk.

Our current immigration policies are an international disgrace. It's long past time that women and children's well-being, and women's solutions for change, drive federal immigration reform.

Anika Rahman
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

From Wisconsin to West Virginia, Georgia to Minnesota, our grantees are lighting it up across the US. Read below for some of the amazing accomplishments they've achieved in just the last week:
  • Grantee Win Alert! Last Thursday, March 24, workers in Wisconsin received some great news: the state's Court of Appeals made an historic decision to uphold Milwaukee's paid sick days law. Passed by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2008, the law had been put on hold ever since due to a lawsuit brought by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. This is a huge win for our grantee Family Values @ Work (also known as the Multistate Working Families Consortium), a lead supporter of the paid-leave ordinance, which gives workers the right to earn between five and nine paid sick days a year. Huge congratulations all around! And here's to this win sparking others nationwide. Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Grantee Win Alert! West Virginia Free just helped secure passage of legislation that authorizes a state-run health exchange, a significant victory in the fight to implement federal health care reform. It's just this kind of state-by-state advocacy that will make access to health insurance a reality for millions more in the US. And West Virginia Free knows this well: In addition to promoting reproductive justice issues like access to emergency contraception for rural, low-income and young women, they're a regional coordinator of Raising Women's Voices, the national coalition of which we've been a proud supporter that continues to be led by many of our grantees. Learn more about WVF's great activism on facebook or twitter; check out RWV blog for updates on the status of federal health care reform.
  • This past Saturday, March 26, LAANE, one of our green jobs grantees, joined national labor organizations and thousands of workers, students, and community and religious leaders to stand in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and across the US at the narch for Our Communities, Our Jobs in Los Angeles. “These are frightening times," says LAANE. "Everything we believe in -- a fair economy, access to decent health care, the right to join a union, women's rights, environmental standards, consumer protections -- is under fierce attack. It's time for Los Angeles to take a stand and send a clear message: we will not go backward. There is too much at stake, and Los Angeles must lead the way.” 
  • Today in Washington, DC, the Women of Color Policy Network is co-hosting the event [pdf] "Measuring Our Progress in Reducing U.S. Poverty," with the Half in Ten Campaign. They're convening experts in anticipation of the release of new poverty data later this fall to discuss how statistical tools can be used to gauge the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs nationwide. Representative McDermott (D-WA) will give a keynote address; participants will discuss how policymakers, researchers, and advocates can work together to develop shared anti-poverty goals and how that address the breadth and depth of poverty's impact on communities of color. Read the policy brief.  
      Stand Up & Take Action!
      • Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month -- recognized in April -- one step further and replacing "awareness" with "activism!" Their goal is to push student organizers and their allies on campus nationwide to go beyond awareness – “sexual violence exists” – to direct action – “I can take steps TODAY to end sexual violence.” Join them by taking an action pledge on their campaign site, which was officially launched today, and spread the word!
      • Last week Ms. Foundation green jobs grantee HIRE Minnesota initiated a range of actions in response to a proposed 50% budget cut to the MN Department of Human Rights that would drastically affect programs to fight discrimination. This while Minnesota has some of the worst racial employment disparities in the nation and people of color in the state are suffering from some of the highest unemployment rates in the US. On March 22, representatives from HIRE testified against the proposed cuts and organized an action at a House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee hearing on March 23. HIRE is urging people to continue to apply pressure to legislators to preserve funding for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. If you're a MN resident, contact committee members in the State House and Senate.

      25 March 2011

      Monday, Live at the White House: Domestic Workers United

      We are pleased to share that on Monday, March 28, Allison Julien, a member of Domestic Workers United and a domestic worker herself, will present one of four public testimonies at a White House event honoring the legacy of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Women's History Month. In 1911, the infamous fire killed 146 garment workers in New York City, most of them young immigrant women and girls, and spurred critical labor rights and work place reform.

      But today, as Allison's testimony will demonstrate, immigrant women workers continue to face widespread labor and human rights violations.

      The event -- "a forum with women workers and organizers sharing their stories of courageous action" -- is co-hosted by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

      Watch it live on Monday, March 28 at 9:00 a.m. EDT, by visiting http://s.dol.gov/DP or http://whitehouse.gov/live

      Read this Washington Post op-ed by Secretary Solis about how to apply lessons learned from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire to workers' struggles today.

      LGBTQ Leaders Rally for Immigrant Rights in Georgia

      Yesterday, in an incredible demonstration of support for immigrants' rights, over 5,000 people took to the streets in Atlanta to protest anti-immigrant legislation underway in Georgia. Earlier this month, the state House and Senate each passed separate anti-immigrant legislation. One Senate provision is especially reminiscent of Arizona's SB1070, passed last year, in that it would allow local and state police to check people's immigration status -- just one more example of how Arizona's anti-immigrant fervor is influencing states across the US.

      Our Atlanta-based grantee, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), was a visible supporter of the rally. SONG, an organization whose membership consists of "working class people, people of color, immigrants, and rural LGBTQ people," believes strongly that all social justice issues are connected. That's in part why, while their work primarily focuses on organizing for gender justice across race, class and sexuality, they are front and center in Georgia's struggle for immigrant rights. They understand that struggles for gender, racial and economic justice are intimately linked with the struggle for immigrant justice.

      22 March 2011

      Health Care Reform Turns One!

      Last month, in the wake of Congressional attempts to repeal health care reform, and just shy of the law's first anniversary this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll that produced startling results: in total, nearly half the country believed that the Affordable Care Act had either been repealed (22 percent) or didn't know enough to say whether it was still law (26 percent).

      Wow. This means that not only is there still great confusion over the content of health care reform -- but that the far-right media machine touted the word "repeal" so much that a huge swath of the country began to think its demise was fait accompli. Which is far from the truth, of course: House Republicans knew their vote was a media stunt from the beginning, as repeal was unlikely to pass in the Senate and President Obama's veto was guaranteed.

      To be fair, the Affordable Care Act is a mammoth piece of legislation, and with some of the provisions in effect, but many on hold until 2014, it is difficult for nearly anyone to discern how the law could -- or already does -- benefit them, their neighbors, or the country.

      That's why this Wednesday, March 23, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, we must do two things: reeducate ourselves about its benefits, and recommit to doing our own PR for the law.

      Our grantees -- national and community-based organizations advocating for women's reproductive rights, health and justice -- will help us teach ourselves and others. On March 23, and into next week, several of them will host webinars and events across the US, share fact sheets [pdf] and other useful materials, and provide a platform for women to tell their stories about how health care reform is already producing meaningful results in their lives.

      A year into this historic vote -- thanks to groups like the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, National Women's Law Center, and Raising Women's Voices, a coalition of which many of our grantees are core members -- we have even more information to make our case: Instead of simply discussing what the legislation could do, as we did before it became law, we can now discuss what it is doing -- the tangible difference it has made for women, families and communities to date.

      And the stakes couldn't be higher. Amidst the haze of confusion produced by the Right's "job-killing" or deficit-swelling claims, conservative legislators continue to try to chip away at health care reform -- their most recent effort an attempt to deny federal funding for core components of the law. So while many apparently think "repeal" is a done deal, neither should we accept that "reform" is in the bag. Yes, the law is on the books. That is a tremendous victory. But as we celebrate on Wednesday, let's also work to be sure we'll be celebrating for years to come.

      21 March 2011

      Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

      Last week was a terrific one for our grantees. Check out the many ways they've been igniting social change on behalf of women, families and communities nationwide and find out how you can join them in upcoming actions and events:
      • Grantee win alert! Good news coming out of Arizona? Yes, it's true! Thanks in large part to two of our grantees – Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson and Tonatierra in Phoenix. They, along with their allies, helped ensure the defeat of five horrific anti-immigrant bills in the Arizona state legislature that would've created a virtual prison for undocumented immigrants, especially women.

      • Grantee win alert! Did you know that legislators in Kentucky have been trying to pass their own anti-immigrant legislation? Well, not so fast. Kentucky Jobs with Justice, a Ms. Foundation grantee, just helped derail SB6, a Kentucky bill modeled after Arizona's SB1070, the racist, anti-immigrant law that drew such national ire last year. "How did we win in a conservative, mostly rural, overwhelmingly White, Southern state like Kentucky?" asks Attica Woodson Scott, KJwJ Coordinator [and 2011 Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision!]."  "We brought our unique organizing style to a large, statewide table. We helped to get hundreds of good people from across Kentucky to converge on Frankfort (our state capitol) to lobby legislators, build alliances and stand strong against SB6.”  Read Attica's blog post to learn more about this key win.
      • While our grantees organizing for immigrants' rights are on a roll, the struggle is far from over. Just ask the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights. With support from the Ms. Foundation, they're launching a communications initiative to elevate immigrant women’s voices and push back against the dehumanizing, dangerous rhetoric emanating from Congress, statehouses, and conservative press that targets immigrant women, children and families. Visit their website for a campaign overview, including a statement of principles and message recommendations, and find out how to get involved. 

      18 March 2011

      Guest Grantee Post: Ending Street Harassment - The Next Step

      By Sarah Blake and Emily May, Hollaback!

      When Hollaback first started more than five years ago, we knew that we, along with thousands of other women and LGBTQ New Yorkers, were sick of trying to ignore the aggressive lewd comments, public masturbation and groping that are so commonplace on the city’s streets, subways and buses. But, at the same time, when we talked about “street harassment,” few people knew what we were even talking about. The term wasn’t commonly used then, and when we would explain what we were talking about, we were often told that the problem was minor, “just the price you pay” for living in a city, or, “not a problem here.” As we join activists around the world, led by Stop Street Harassment author Holly Kearl in recognizing the first ever International Anti-Street Harassment Day on March 20, we can see how much has changed – and how, in many ways, we have only just begun.

      There is now rapidly building momentum for the movement to end street harassment around the world, and Hollaback has become a network supporting a multiplying number of local leaders around the world. Along with organizations like Harassmap in Egypt and Women Speak in Trinidad and Tobago,  Hollaback’s volunteer leaders in twelve cities around the world are now working to engage their own communities to challenge the attitudes, myths and assumptions that allow street harassment to remain a daily, global, reality. There is no question that we, together, are ready for the next step: creating a world where women and LGBTQ folks are as safe in the streets as anyone else. On March 20, Hollaback leaders around the world will be holding community forums, leading and taking part in street, blog and twitter campaigns, filming public service announcements and more.

      We hope that these events will mark the start of the next step:

      Atlanta, GA: Hollaback Atlanta will be conducting the first on-site street harassment survey at the Five Points MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) train station.  An extremely busy train stop, we hope to find out more information about the harassment faced by MARTA riders (myself included) on a daily basis.  Currently MARTA has no anti-street harassment policies, and we're hoping to change that!  By conducting research, we want to present the peeps in charge at MARTA with some data to prove that they need to take harassment more seriously.  Hopefully this project will enable Hollaback Atlanta to help make Atlanta's public transit a harassment-free space for all who ride it!

      Baltimore, MD: Hollaback Bmore is hosting a Community Talk on Street Harassment at the Baltimore Free School 3pm - including free childcare, self-defense tips and filming of a public service announcement to be posted on "Why I Holla Back" to be posted on Hollaback Baltimore’s blog

      Buenos Aires, Argentina: Atrevete Buenos Aires will be handing out stickers, the Spanish version of the “catcaller's form,” (courtesy of The Riot) educational pamphlets on street harassment and self defense and factsheets from Stop Street Harassment site so that everyone can work in their own environment with their own micro-actions. We will be talking about what each one of us can do to raise awareness.

      March 20: Pledge to Make the Streets Safe for All

      Have you ever walked to the other side of the street in order to bypass unwanted attention? Given a wary smile or downward look in response to a catcall? Or worse, been forced to witness inappropriate sexual behavior on the bus or train?

      Well now is the time to take back public space, talk back to the cat-caller, and stop street harassment. Join the movement this Sunday, March 20 for the first annual International Anti-Street Harassment Day.

      Although studies show that over 80% of women worldwide face some sort of gender-based street harassment, this intimidation is too often ignored. In a guest commentary on our blog, Sarah Blake and Emily May of Ms. Foundation grantee Hollaback! -- an organization dedicated to ending street harassment through mobile technology -- write:
      When Hollaback first started more than five years ago, we knew that we, along with thousands of other women and LGBTQ New Yorkers were sick of trying to ignore the aggressive lewd comments, public masturbation and groping that are so commonplace on the city’s streets, subways and buses. But, at the same time, when we talked about “street harassment,” few people knew what we were even talking about...we were often told that the problem was minor, "just the price you pay" for living in a city, or, "not a problem here."
      The women of Hollaback! knew better. What they didn't know then was that their organization would help spark an international movement.

      [Watch this video to learn from Emily May, Hollaback! Executive Director, about how it all began:]

      15 March 2011

      [VIDEO] Voices From the Field: Arizona Anti-Immigration Bills are an Attack on Women

      As we recently noted, the Arizona state legislature is considering ever-more frightening anti-immigrant legislation that would have devastating consequences for women and families.

      Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a Ms. Foundation grantee, explains how women and children -- who together make up a majority of the US immigrant population -- would bear the brunt of these drastic new measures. This tacitly racist legislation, she says, would leave them isolated, vulnerable and dangerously barred from public resources and public life.

      Listen to and view other grassroots women experts' perspectives on key social justice issues. Help us keep these attacks on immigrant women's rights at bay -- in Arizona and nationwide -- by supporting the Ms. Foundation today.

      Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

      Another great week for grantee action, nationwide. Take a look at how these groups are working to protect women's rights, and lives, from coast to coast.
      • A recent decision by the Washington State Department of Health to eliminate funding for the only women-specific support program for HIV-positive women in the state may be part of a larger national trend to defund women-centered services, say advocates. Read Ms. Foundation program officer Ellen Liu's recent commentary on how the Foundation grantees like Babes Network-YWCA will be impacted by these cuts, and what you can do to help.

      • On March 10, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington celebrated National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers with a campaign to spread thanks for these essential health care representatives.  Thanks to NARAL's efforts, numerous notes of gratitude were sent to abortion providers across Washington State. It's not too late to share your appreciation: learn more about how to participate.
      • A bill recently introduced in the Texas State legislature would make it a felony to "knowingly hire an immigrant not authorized to work in the United States -- except in the case of a person hired to perform household duties such as babysitting, house cleaning, or lawn mowing." Ms. Foundation grantee the National Domestic Workers Alliance has issued an important statement about how the exemption of domestic workers in this case will yet again provide unscrupulous employers the opportunity to "take advantage of vulnerable workers who are fearful of asserting their rights." Stand up for domestic workers' rights today: endorse NDWA 's campaigns on behalf of excluded workers.

      10 March 2011

      Budget Cuts Spell Crisis for Women with HIV

      Rallies for workers' rights in Wisconsin and other states have raised critical awareness about the potential implications -- and targets -- of budget cuts across the US. But in addition to the fate of unions and public sector employees at the local and state level -- the majority of whom are women -- the battle over budgets will also determine the fate of key social services, many of them on which women and children in particular depend.

      Nothing makes this more real for us at the Ms. Foundation than when our grantees report how budget cuts will impact -- indeed, threaten -- their own programs and their own communities. For example, just a few weeks ago, the Washington Department of Health decided to cut funding for the state's only women-specific HIV/AIDS education and support program -- a program run by Seattle-based BABES Network-YWCA, our longtime grantee. This decision, BABES tells us, along with an additional funding cut at the county level, will result in a 75 percent reduction in their program budget -- an untenable outcome that will leave hundreds of women without critical support services.

      In a press release issued yesterday on National Girls and Women HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Pat Migliore, an HIV-positive Seattle resident and BABES co-founder, said, "BABES serves 400 women and affected family members every year. This will have a huge consequence for the health of women we are desperately seeking to keep in care."

      08 March 2011

      Grantee Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

      It's been a huge few days for grantee action, we're pleased to report! Take a look at the many ways our grantees are working to advance social change nationwide.
      • BABES Network-YWCA has launched a fight against budget cuts that would "eliminate funding for the only women-specific education and support program for women living with HIV in Washington State." Proposed cuts to Ryan WhitePart D funding would mean a 75% reduction in the amount of money funneled to services supporting women and children in the state, leaving hundreds of Washington State families without the resources they need as they battle HIV/AIDS. On Thursday, March 3rd BABES held a town hall-style forum informing people about the needs of women living with the virus in Washington State, advancing the case for increased care, rather than cuts, in times like these. To help protect these essential services, write DOH Secretary Mary Selecky using the  letter template provided.

      • A number of grantees took to the streets this week to protect women's health and workers' rights. On March 2, Kentucky Jobs with Justice hosted a rally for public workers in downtown Louisville, while local chapters of JwJ did the same nationwide. (Visit this photo album on Facebook to view excellent pictures from the event.) And in New York, thousands of people joined together on February 26th to "Stand Up for Women's Health" -- a rally sponsored by Planned Parenthood to push back against federal budget cuts that would put millions of women's lives in danger. Watch this great video from the event, which features Jessica Gonzales-Rojas, Deputy Director of Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH).
      • Southerners on New Ground (SONG) is working to spearhead the creation of a queer & trans coalition to fight copycat anti-immigrant bills winding their way through the Georgia state legislature. A town hall meeting was held on March 3rd to raise community awareness about how these bills increase the state's ability to police not just around immigration status, but around identity overall (including gender presentation), which could have profound impact on the LGBTQ community. A second town hall meeting is planned for March 9th in Atlanta, to strategize a coordinated response to these measures and discuss the role the LGTBQ community can play in supporting the broader immigrant and refugee rights community.

      International Women’s Day: Miles to Walk, in the US and Across the Seas

      2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day -- a day for the celebration of women worldwide. In 25 nations (including China, Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia), the day has become a national holiday, a time not only to cheer for women's advances, but also to reflect upon the many global inequalities women still face.

      We honor this day in the United States, too, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are struggling to surmount injustice around the globe. But here at the Ms. Foundation, we know we must do more than look outward at the failures and fault-lines of equality beyond our borders. Today, this entire Women’s History Month, and throughout the year, we must take a hard look at our own country’s shortcomings. While we pride ourselves on our global leadership and our national ideals, there is no doubt that the US falls hideously short.

      Of course, we need not look far. Whether it’s Representative Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) attempt to redefine rape and set the women’s movement -- and our entire country -- back decades, or Congressional attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers, it is clear that women’s reproductive rights and health are under blatant attack. But even before the Right’s most recent assault on women’s lives, the status of women’s health in the US has lagged far behind. Did you know, for example, that over the last 20 years, deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the United States have doubled? And need we remind you that this is taking place in a nation that spends more than any other country in the world on health care?

      The Movement - Guest Blog Post by Marlo Thomas

      This piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.

      Marlo Thomas is a founding mother of the Ms. Foundation for Women and a long time champion of women's rights.  

      I was a young actress in Hollywood trying to sell a TV show about a single girl living in New York who had every interest in a career, and zero interest in marriage. So when I went to my first pitch meeting at the network, I took along a copy of The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan's 1963 treatise on the unhappy state of the American woman.

      My point was to convince the guys in the suits that That Girl was not a revolutionary figure, but, in fact, a fait accompli. True to Friedan's observations in her seismic book, across the country the foundation beneath women's lives was dramatically cracking. We were not our mothers' daughters. We were a whole different breed. One of the network executives paged through Freidan's book, then looked at me in horror. "Is this gonna happen to my wife?" he asked.

      Yeah, I thought. It probably will.

      01 March 2011

      Arizona: Anti-Immigrant Legislation Gets Worse

      While Republican statehouses in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio are trying to push through sweeping anti-worker legislation, the virulent anti-immigrant bills just keep coming: in a move that could leave millions of women immigrants and their children more vulnerable than ever, the State of Arizona is now proposing a slew of new measures that could, according to the New York Times, make last year's discriminatory SB 1070 "look mild" in comparison.

      Aiming to create an environment in Arizona where "life [is] so difficult for illegal immigrants that they stop coming, or leave," these new bills would seek to prohibit undocumented immigrants from driving, receiving public benefits, and enrolling in school. Children born in Arizona to undocumented parents would receive a special, "second class" of birth certificate -- which would note that Arizona does not consider them true citizens of the state. In practice, the Times notes, these measures would,
      ...compel school officials to ask for proof of citizenship for students and require hospitals to similarly ask for papers for those receiving non-emergency care. Illegal immigrants would be blocked from obtaining any state licenses, including those for marriage. Landlords would be forced to evict the entire family from public housing if one illegal immigrant were found living in a unit. Illegal immigrants found driving would face 30 days in jail and forfeit the vehicle to the state.