28 April 2011

Honor Your Mother With a Gift for Stronger Families and Communities

On Mother's Day I honor the three incredible women who raised me. My mother, my aunt and my grandmother taught me to be unbowed by injustice and tenacious in the face of inequality. They are my inspiration, and it is for them, and for my daughter, that I fight for women's rights and human dignity.

I invite you to celebrate the women who inspire you by making a tribute gift to the Ms. Foundation for Women. When you make your gift, we will send a Mother's Day e-card to your honoree, including your message.

Your Mother's Day tribute will connect the women who inspire you to the work and the activists you admire. These special women are social justice trailblazers who are building communities where all women have access to opportunities and freedom, improving lives for countless mothers, children, families and communities.


Anika Rahman

President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

P.S. You can select either of these images and write a personal message when you honor your mother with a gift and an e-card.

26 April 2011

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

We continue to be wildly impressed by all that our grantees every day do to bring justice and human rights to women, families and communities across the US. See below for a shapshot of what some of them have been up to most recently:

In recognition of this coming Mother’s Day, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice is coordinating a communications campaign with Strong Families partners across the country to send a united message affirming that all mothers deserve recognition and support for building strong families. As part of the campaign, ACRJ is creating a music video featuring young moms of color that will lift up their experiences, celebrate their accomplishments, and illustrate how they keep their families strong. Learn more and tell your own story. Go strong moms!

We're pleased to share that SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW's board of directors announced the appointment of Paris Hatcher as SPARK's new executive director. While Paris was the interim ED, SPARK showed impressive programmatic growth, including a successful Legislate THIS! lobby day and the first ever FYRE Media Camp. Also under her leadership, SPARK continued its critical work to end the shackling of women in Georgia's prisons, and played an instrumental role in the fight against the notorious “Abortion Equals Black Genocide” billboard campaign. Congratulations, Paris! We're so excited to work with you in your new role.

18 April 2011

Bringing Child Sexual Abuse Out of the Shadows

April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Prevention Month, a time when advocates for both causes work to raise awareness about the prevalence of child abuse and sexual violence in our culture. Throughout the month, hundreds of events are taking place nationwide in an effort to train communities to stop these destructive acts before they start—and to put an end to the culture of violence that leaves millions of women and girls, men and boys, subject to abuse each year.

There’s no question that recognizing both of these issues as the epidemics they are is of vital importance to the future of our society. But it’s also worth noting that there’s another type of abuse similarly plaguing our nation that we don’t talk about nearly enough. It’s an issue that sits right at the intersection of where child abuse and sexual assault meet—but that has no such awareness month of its own. That issue is child sexual abuse.

Historically, child sexual abuse (CSA) has existed in a veritable no man’s land on the abuse spectrum. Where sexual violence advocates have predominantly focused on adult experiences, child abuse advocates have tended to focus on physical abuse and neglect. Centered in neither arena but touching both, CSA advocates have largely found themselves exiled to the peripheries of these bigger movements—rendering the issue of CSA nearly invisible, and overshadowed by these other, more prominent causes.

13 April 2011

[VIDEO] Voices From the Field: Jobs with Justice Talks Organizing, Immigration in KY

Since the 112th Congress convened in January, progressives have watched as the issues we care deeply about -- health care reform, immigrants' rights, reproductive justice, and workers' rights -- have come under attack from the new majority in the House, and in many statehouses across the country. This new reality leaves many of us profoundly concerned for our collective future, and wondering: what can be done to protect and promote social justice in an increasingly conservative environment? What strategies can social justice organizations best use to beat back the rising conservative tide?

To being to answer these questions, in early 2011 the Ms. Foundation brought together two grantees, Sarita Gupta of our National Jobs with Justice and Attica Woodson Scott of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, for a conversation about the future of progressive organizing. Their wide-ranging discussion addressed how the more conservative political landscape was affecting their own organizing -- as well as how it it affects the lives of the women, workers and families they represent.

We were pleased to be able to provide a special opportunity for Sarita and Attica -- who, because of their lives as organizers, rarely have time to connect at length -- to come together for an extended conversation in this way. And the powerful ideas that their dialogue produced underscore just how important it is that we connect the wisdom and power of both grassroots and national organizing in advocacy for social change.

In this first in a series of excerpts from their conversation, Sarita and Attica discuss KJwJ's recent victory in defeating harsh anti-immigrant legislation in the Bluegrass State -- and how legislating hate harms us all.

12 April 2011

Weekly 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.
  • On April 7, grantees Choice USA and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum  joined other reproductive health, rights and justice groups in Washington, DC for the rally, Stand Up for Women's Health. They let Congress know that, with anti-choice attacks and attempts to weaken the Affordable Care Act still pending women of all kinds support reproductive justice. For a quick overview of what took place at the rally, check out this blog post from NARAL's Blog for Choice.
  • On April 4, thousands of union members, community activists, people of faith, students, youth, LGBTQ, civil rights, and immigrant rights allies gathered across the country to stand in solidarity with our nation’s working people as part of the We Are One campaign for workers' rights. Many Ms. Foundation grantees, including Jobs with Justice and Domestic Workers United, took part in these actions, which provided an opportunity to honor the date of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination – and commit to continuing his fight to bring justice to all workers. Visit www.we-r-1.org to learn more.  
  • Grantee win alert! Oregon Tradeswomen and Green for All, two of our green jobs grantees, scored a major win recently when the Department of Energy lifted up Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO) as a national model of success! CEWO is a new public-private alliance set up to finance and deliver an energy efficiency building retrofit program that can support jobs while increasing energy savings. Joining together, Oregon Tradeswomen and Green for All were instrumental in negotiating CEWO's workforce agreement -- a key component of the project that helped earn it national recognition. Thanks to them, 50% of work-hours are going to underrepresented workers, and 20% of contract dollars are going to women- and minority-owned businesses. Oregon Tradeswomen has 13 graduates working as weatherization technicians in the program. Green for All recently released a report of outcomes from the project, initially focused on Portland, which reached its goal of 500 energy efficiency home upgrades and supported over 350 jobs. The project will now expand to 17 communities (6,000 homes) throughout the state. Congrats on the huge success! Check out the fantastic video,Women Want Green Jobs, to learn more.  
    Want to know more about how the green economy can work for you? Join Green For All at the Power Shift 2011 conference, where they'll be providing tools and training across five sectors (energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, urban agriculture, renewable energy and social entrepreneurship). If you have interest in attending any portion of the conference, please contact Sarah.  
  • Out in Colorado, grantee COLOR has been hard at work galvanizing support for three bills: one to re-authorize the practice of home birth midwives, one that would have legalized civil unions in the state, and one that would advance the implementation of a state health care exchange. Though there was good news to report on the midwife and health care bills (both passed out of committee), the civil unions bill was struck down by the House Judiciary committee. Meanwhile, COLOR recently traveled to Washington DC to participate in grantee National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health's National Advocacy Weekend; they will also be hosting discussions about how the Affordable Care Act, and a host of other hotly contested issues, affect women and communities in Colorado. Keep a watch on their website for more.

[VIDEO] Voices From the Field: Service Women's Action Network (SWAN)

Here's a statistic that'll run chills down your spine: at least one-third of all US women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service. You read that right: one-third.

The prevalence of sexual assault in our armed services is a national disgrace -- and Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) is doing all it can to end to this epidemic. Through groundbreaking advocacy initiatives and innovative, community programs that focus on healing, SWAN supports, defends, and builds the power of today’s servicewomen and women veterans of all eras. The organization works to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform -- without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault.

In recent months, SWAN has ratcheted up the fight to protect servicemembers from sexual assault -- and to improve the military's response when such events do occur -- to incredible new levels. The organization played a lead role in a groundbreaking lawsuit against the Department of Defense for its failure to investigate incidents of rape and sexual abuse, and served as a driving force behind legislation, recently introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, that would require the DOD to establish a unified system to permanently retain digital records in all cases of military rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, and allow lifetime access to these records by the survivor.

The following Ms. Foundation Voices From the Field video is one Marine's story of sexual assault in the military, as told to us by her mother. Her abuse at the hands of her attacker -- and the military's response to it -- make it all too clear how important SWAN's work is, and how desperately our armed services need the transformation SWAN seeks to bring about.

Another Equal Pay Day? Really? -- 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.

If one more person points to Meg Whitman or Arianna Huffington as proof of women's earning power, I'm going to scream. That's like saying Tiger Woods and Will Smith are slam-dunk proof that black Americans have broken into the ranks of the ├╝ber-rich.

Which brings us to National Equal Pay Day. I can't believe we're having another one. I still have my little green button from 1970 -- with "59¢" emblazoned on it -- tacked to my bulletin board. I remember how we all wore that button on our t-shirts as we marched to protest the gender pay disparity of that time. Now we're at 77 cents.

Forty years and 18 cents. A dozen eggs has gone up 10 times that amount.

There are people who undermine the pay gap by citing the women who make 98 cents on every dollar a man makes. But this is an elite group. According to the National Women's Law Center, the vast majority of American women -- working "full-time, year-round" -- are still stuck in that shameful 77-cent zone. The gap, says the National Women's Law Center, translates into "$10,622 less per year in female median earnings." Those are real dollars that could cover real expenses -- like food and school and clothes and health care and childcare.

05 April 2011

Women's Funding Network Conference Starts This Week!

globesOn Thursday April 7, the Women's Funding Network will kick off its annual conference in Brooklyn, NY -- and the Ms. Foundation is proud to be one of the local hosts of this important event!

This year's WFN conference aims to mobilize women leaders to activate, harness and amplify the Power of Global Networks. The conference program -- which runs through Saturday, April 9 -- will focus on:

  • How women’s funds turn the conventional model of philanthropy upside down, radically changing the way individuals, corporations, foundations and governments invest in women and girls.
  • How women’s funds, and the network at large, is an effective vehicle for shared leadership and collective action, allowing us to authentically and effectively extend our reach, increase our impact and build a movement for social change.
Representatives from the Ms. Foundation will be in attendance throughout the conference, participating in panels, and leading workshops. On Friday, April 8, Program Officer Sangeeta Budhiraja will speak on the panel, "Embracing New Leadership to Advance the Women's Funding Movement," while Leslie MacKrell, Senior Officer for Planning and Development, will help lead the workshop, "Value, Power and Viability: A Business Model for Women’s Funds." On Saturday, April 9, the Ms. Foundation will host a convening of Southern Women’s Funds. And throughout the event, we’ll be pleased to introduce our new president and CEO, Anika Rahman, to our beloved community of women’s funds.

One especially exciting component of the conference is the opportunity it provides to attend "local to global excursions," visits to grassroots organizations like Domestic Workers United and Restaurant Opportunities Center United, two Ms. Foundation grantees who are igniting transformative change by and for women workers in New York and nationwide. Also, be sure not to miss the closing keynote address by Michelle Bachelet, the first under secretary-general and executive director of UN Women!

For more information, and to learn how to participate, please visit WFN's conference site. We hope to see you there!

Photo: globes by Paul Goyette, flickr

Weekly Round Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

What a week! Check out all the amazing work our grantees are doing, from coast-to-coast, to build a more equitable future for us all.
  • Last week, Wider Opportunities for Women released their Basic Economic Security Tables Index -- a tool for measuring the basic needs and assets workers require to achieve economic security in the US. The subject of a important recent article in the NY Times, the BEST Index was created to help policymakers, researchers, advocates and the media better assess the status of the nation’s workers, the needs of America’s families, and the state of the nation. Get the real scoop on what it takes to survive and thrive in this country by reading the full report [pdf].
  • Grantee win alert! Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) is living proof that educating, organizing and mobilization works! Thanks in part to a actions sponsored by the organization, all 33 of the anti-immigration bills being considered in the state of Mississippi are now dead for the remainder of the session. Over the course of the last few months, MIRA hosted a number of “Civic Engagement Days,” drawing hundreds of Latinos, African Americans, and families of ICE raid victims together to speak to their legislators about the harmful effects of the proposed legislation. Led by MIRA, this broad and energetic coalition of organizations and individuals played a crucial role in getting these noxious bills defeated. Kudos to all involved for their tremendous efforts!

  • Grantee win alert! In the midst of the dismal state budget proceedings taking place in California, grantee LIFETIME was able to score an important win, convincing legislators to create a subsidized jobs program for parents who are part of the state’s welfare to work program (CalWORKs). The program would provide employers with a 50 percent match of funds from the state, and provides a crucial avenue for compensation to those families who are often forced to meet the 32 hour weekly welfare work requirement by taking on unpaid workfare positions. Given that the rate of unemployment among single mothers in California sits at 14 per cent, this is a critical resource for the state’s families. LIFETIME is already working to optimize this win by meeting with Solyndra – a local solar panel production facility -- to discuss how the company can use the new program to provide paid training and employment opportunities to CalWORKs mothers. Learn more about LIFETIME’s work on April 13th, when the Women of Color Policy Network hosts a panel on the future of TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) nationwide.

  • On Wednesday, March 30, grantee Community Voices Heard staged a powerful protest in response to drastic cuts to the New York State budget – and in solidarity with beleaguered workers across the US. Alongside their allies, CVH members descended on the state capitol for a “Capitol Camp-In,” demanding that Governor Andrew Cuomo revise his proposed budget to renew the “millionaire tax,” strengthen rent laws and spare the state’s children from devastating education cuts. Led by low-income New Yorkers, people living with HIV/AIDS, students, seniors, the camp-in drew hundreds – though, in the end, the legislature passed the draconian budget, which is likely to impact an estimated 99 per cent of New Yorkers adversely. Check out coverage of the event that appeared in The New York Times, The Nation and other news outlets.

  • Thanks to some hard work by grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), last week, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced Senate Bill S. 658, The Support for Survivors Act, which requires the DOD to establish a unified system to permanently store and retain digital records in all cases of military rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, and allow lifetime access to these records by the survivor. Currently, those files are destroyed in one to five years -- presenting massive problems for servicemembers who later seek disability compensation from the Veterans Administration and for those seeking to pursue legal action against their perpetrator. “Never again should a servicemember who has been a victim of military rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment have to hear that his or her records were lost or destroyed due to the serious level of incompetence in the current system,” said Anu Bhagwati,executive director of SWAN. The organization first recommended permanent digital records retention during a March 2010 Congressional hearing, and has played a key role in crafting the legislation. Rock on, SWAN sisters!

  • On March 30 – Domestic Workers’ Day – grantee Mujeres Unidas y Activas helped lead a rally to urge the support for the California Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (AB 889), a piece of legislation that would grant equal protection to domestic workers and recognize the importance of domestic workers to the state’s economy. Held in San Francisco, the rally drew more than 75 domestic workers, employers, and their families, as well as advocates from a number of allied organizations. Learn more about the campaign for the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights via our grantee the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

  • Looking for a master class in how to use new media to attack some pretty persistent problems? Check out the videos our grantee ACT for Women and Girls is churning out these days to spread some truths about emergency contraception and HIV protection. From "Luchador v. HIV" to "Getting Schooled on EC," the videos -- created by youth participants in ACT's Female Leadership Academy -- use crafty avatars to educate young people about the importance of condoms, and how emergency contraception really works. And the young women of ACT aren't just speaking up in videos: this past weekend the group kicked off its 4th annual Coming Out for Justice tour, which aims to promote leadership development among youth and adults in California using a reproductive justice framework.

  • Want to understand what the "school to prison pipeline" really means? Check out how SpiritHouse's Choosing Sides/Youth Noise Network uses a game called “Step Up” to show how racial disparities impact the juvenile justice system in North Carolina. It's a video well worth watching.
In the News
  • Our grantees are speaking out on the Walmart discrimination case, and why it is so crucial that the Supreme Court certify what could end up being the largest class-action lawsuit in US history. Portia Wu of the National Partnership for Women and Families spoke to Free Speech News Radio on the issue, and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center appeared on ABC Weekend News, NBC Nightly News, PBS NewsHour and C-Span to discuss the case. NWLC is also featured in an important article highlighting the gender gap newly visible on the Supreme Court. 
  • Grantee win alert! Grantee LAANE continues to garner great press coverage for its initiatives to build a just economy:
Stand Up and Take Action
  • On April 7, grantee Choice USA will join other reproductive health, rights and justice organizations in Washington, DC for the Stand Up for Women’s Health Rally and Lobby Day. Join them, and let Congress know that young people support reproductive justice. To get you ready for all the lobbying you're going to do while you're there, Choice USA will be hosting two e-trainings on April 5 at 8:30 pm EST and on April 6th at 1:30 pm EST. RSVP for these great events today!
  • April 12 is Equal Pay Day. To help garner support for fair pay, NWLC and Moms Rising want you to speak out by blogging and tweeting about the issue. The theme for this year's Blog for Fair Pay Day is, "Stop Discounting Women" -- which NWLC urges you to use as a starting point to "riff on what you would do in a world without the pay gap, what cases like Dukes v. Wal-Mart mean to you, and the importance of Fair Pay legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act." Sign up today!
  • For the third time since December 2009, immigrant prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Complex in Pecos, Texas have gone on strike, protesting inhumane conditions and abuses. Our grantee, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, is leading the charge to help support the prisoners' demands for justice. If you believe that we must put an end to the policing and persecution of immigrant members of our communities, NNIRR has designed a toolkit that can help you take action. Report a human rights abuse; sign up for a training on how document these abuses in your community; and learn how to organize for human rights through NNIRR's HURRICANE initiative [pdf].