31 May 2011

Grantee Commentary: Kentucky on Verge of Full-Blown 'Womencession'

Attica Woodson Scott, 2011 Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision honoree, and coordinator of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, knows all too well that women in her state are among the hardest hit by our nation's ongoing economic crisis -- a situation made worse by cuts to social services and other policy maneuvers that undermine their ability to recover and survive. In "Spending Cuts and the 'Womencession'," a commentary in Sunday's Lexington Herald-Ledger, Attica draws on findings from a recent national poll commissioned by the Ms. Foundation to bolster her case that many women and children in Kentucky are facing tremendous economic insecurity and injustice. She writes:
Why do so many people in Kentucky seem to be suffering even more today than at the height of the recession?

Today, 814,000 Kentuckians participate in the federal food stamp program; more than 1,000 homes face foreclosure in our state every month; and 576,500 Kentuckians lack health insurance.

A new national poll for the Ms. Foundation for Women confirms what has been clear for some time to Kentucky residents: The so-called economic recovery is taking place far from our doorsteps, with women and children increasingly paying the heaviest price.
Government cutbacks at the federal, state and local levels have had a particularly severe impact on women and children. Women across all groups are suffering, but for low-income women the situation has gone from bad to worse.
Read the full commentary here.

27 May 2011

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

This week we celebrate, highlight and call your attention to the successes and ongoing campaigns of our grantee partners. Salute them, join with them and help them make change.

Rachel Laforest has been selected to serve as first Executive Director of the Right to the City Alliance. Congrats!

Grassroots Leadership announced that Gail Tyree is a Soros Justice Fellow and will work to create a network of organizations and individuals in the southeast US to respond quickly and effectively to stop for-profit prisons, jails or detention centers from moving into their communities.

In the News
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a law that voids Milwaukee's paid sick leave ordinance that was passed by voters in a referendum and upheld recently by the state Court of Appeals. Dana Schultz, of 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, said in a statement: "We will continue this fight until paid sick days is the law of the land in Milwaukee and nationwide. We are going to fight to ensure the government works for everyone, not just a select few."

In the News: On May 16 Angela Davis -- guest at Critical Resistance’s Brecht Forum event Conversations Uptown: The world we want is the world we need -- was featured on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC talking about the history of struggle against the prison industrial complex.

20 May 2011

Gloria Awards Celebrate Women of Vision

"Last night's gala was a tremendous success," says Anika Rahman, Ms. Foundation president and CEO. "With great pride we celebrated Women of Vision who -- whether advocating for the rights and well-being of women, workers, immigrants or youth -- are tackling the most urgent issues of our time. They give us renewed hope that, despite our nation's many challenges, we will one day achieve justice and equity for all."

Below is a sampling of event photos. See all 23rd Annual Gloria Award photos. Watch the videos of this year's Gloria Award honorees: Kathy Miller, Priscilla Rorie and Attica Woodson Scott.

Anika Rahman Gives Commencement Speech to Columbia University School of Social Work 2011 Graduating Class

On Wednesday, May 18, Anika Rahman, our president and CEO, had the distinct honor of giving the commencement speech to the 2011 graduating class of the Columbia University School of Social Work. A graduate of Columbia Law School, it was a welcome homecoming, a pleasure to share her own motivation for a career that has been marked by a steadfast dedication to women's human rights, and to offer words of encouragement to a new generation of social justice leaders. Following are excerpts of her remarks:

I am so pleased to join you in celebrating the 2011 graduating class of the Columbia University School of Social Work.

I congratulate and commend you all on the discipline and passion that got you to this point. It is an honor for me to join with your families, friends, colleagues, faculty, and all who are present today to witness your accomplishment. I can only imagine the pride they must feel. My clarion call to my own daughter, who is just seven years old, is that she make a meaningful contribution and a difference in the world.

At this moment, I urge you to call to mind precisely what drew you to this educational pursuit and life path. My own background is in law, and the focus of my work, my heart, is human rights. Like many of you, I have been determined to channel my personal beliefs into a professional obligation. It is my personal mission in life to ensure that women—like the women who raised me and the one who gave life to me—get the respect that is their due.

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

Once again, we are immensely humbled by the impact our grantees continue to have on grassroots, state and national levels across the US. Take a look at some of their most recent accomplishments, as well as upcoming events and calls to action:

The sexual assault case against the IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the media's treatment of the charges have sparked critical reflections from women activists on the front lines, including striking commentary about the connections among sexual violence, unsafe workplace conditions, discrimination and stigma -- issues that so many immigrant women of color, in particular, face. We hope you'll read the following pieces by WORLD/Positive Women's Network and Tiffany Williams, who works closely with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Grantee win alert! Alaska Community Action on Toxics won a significant victory [PDF] last week when, in partnership with environmental health and justice organizations worldwide, they secured a global ban on the pesticide endosulfan (though the US only agreed to begin phasing out the use). According to ACAT, "Endosulfan—like DDT—travels on wind and ocean currents to the Arctic where it contaminates the environment and traditional foods of the people who live there."

Grantee win alert! Women’s Voices for the Earth successfully campaigned to persuade the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a hazard alert on hair straightening products like Brazilan Blowout that contain formaldehyde. In a television interview, WVE’s Director of Science and Research explains the complications and effects of formaldehyde exposure.

On April 27, Alabama experienced the worst tornado outbreak in the state's history. AIDS Alabama has stepped up to help mitigate the damage by providing housing, financing, and other support services to their constituency of HIV-positive individuals. To make contributions of gift cards, personal hygiene items, bath linens, and clothing call Amanda at (205) 324-9822.

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum observed the 7th annual National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on May 19 by participating in over 20 events. Recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that APIs have the highest rate of increase in new HIV infections in the nation and that the HIV incidence rate is higher for API women than for API men. Learn more and find additional facts here.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is sounding the alarm that as Mississippi River flooding threatens to affect refineries and chemical plants that dot the river and waterways in South Louisiana, there are no clear plans from industry, state or federal government about preparation or cleanup -- placing local communities at grave risk. “The best predictor of the future is the past,” said Anne Rolfes, LABB Founding Director. “During the BP Oil Disaster and Hurricane Katrina, the agencies had no effective plans for dealing with the pollution, and residents and our environment continue to suffer as a result.”

16 May 2011

New Funds Awarded to End Child Sexual Abuse

Last week, the Ms. Foundation for Women was pleased to announce $600,000 in grants as part of a groundbreaking partnership with the NoVo Foundation and individual donors to end child sexual abuse in the United States.

A total of 15 organizations were selected from an historic number of submissions -- over 250 -- and represent some of the most exciting advocacy being done in the movement to end child sexual abuse today.  The awardees -- representing local, state and national groups working in 14 states across the country -- include faith-based, arts, domestic violence and survivor-led groups as well as sexual assault coalitions and child abuse prevention organizations.

“The Ms. Foundation for Women is proud to announce this new round of grants to prevent child sexual abuse,” said Senior Program Officer Monique Hoeflinger.  “From working within Native American and religious communities, to advocating for new federal policies, to using art as a catalyst for social change, each group is pursuing innovative strategies to engage families, communities and policymakers to end child sexual abuse once and for all.”

Learn about the grantees
Read the press release.
Learn more about our program to end child sexual abuse.

13 May 2011

[Video] Anika Rahman on GRITtv: Fighting the Womancession

On May 12, Laura Flanders of GRITtv hosted Ms. Foundation President and CEO, Anika Rahman, for a diverse conversation on the economy and women's rights. Their discussion ranged from the "womancession" now facing our nation, according to a new Ms. Foundation poll, which shows that the impact of the economic crisis on women has been particularly severe; to Anika's personal stake in the fight for women's rights nationwide; to the role that we and our grantees, as demonstrated in this year's Gloria Award winners, play in advancing the progressive women's movement. Enjoy!

[Source: GRITtv]

11 May 2011

Letter to the New York Times: Unemployment Crisis Especially Bad for Women

Week after week, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman continues to sound the alarm about the crisis of unemployment in our country, and the utter unwillingness of Washington to do anything about it. Recently, we submitted the following letter to the editor in support of his position, noting that the lack of attention to job creation has particularly negative consequences for women:

To the Editor:

Re: “The Intimidated Fed” (Op-Ed article, April 28):

Whether it is by obsessively zeroing in on inflation or the deficit, we agree with Paul Krugman that the Federal Reserve and other policymakers are dangerously skirting the real issue facing our nation -- unemployment. This is of particular concern to women who are faring far worse than one year ago, according to a new poll by the Ms Foundation for Women. Indeed, what was once termed a "mancession" is now a "womancession." In a key indicator of distress, a staggering 77 percent of low-income women report living paycheck-to-paycheck -- a 17-point jump from 2010. Meanwhile, women are bearing the brunt of cuts to public-sector jobs. Men’s employment has improved, but women’s has not. And women suffer most from cuts to social services.

Real Americans -- both women and men -- are hurting. And current government policy flies in the face of what people say they really need. Our poll found that a significant majority -- and especially women -- want the government to focus on creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short term. In the abstract people may support deficit reduction, but they don’t want cuts at the expense of children and families.

Our political leaders must quickly reprioritize, stop the reckless gutting of the budget, and create jobs that will enable women, in particular, to recover. If women cannot move forward, then our economy cannot move forward. And with the precarious state we are in today, wasting one more minute is something none of us can afford.

Anika Rahman
President and Chief Executive
Ms. Foundation for Women
Brooklyn, April 29, 2011

10 May 2011

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

Wow. We can't believe how much there is to report this week! Check it out:

The Ms. Foundation and our grantees have often noted how the practice of involving local police in immigration enforcement is deeply flawed, particularly because it deters women from reporting abuse to the authorities. Norma, a member of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), bravely shared her story with the LA Times about how she now faces deportation after calling the police during a domestic violence incident. MUA asks you to leave a positive comment thanking her for speaking out.

Ai-jen Poo, Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), was profiled by Barbara Ehrenreich in the New York Times Style Magazine. Read the amazing story of how she helped found Domestic Workers United, a long-time Ms. Foundation grantee organization based in New York City that won the passage of historic state legislation to protect the labor rights of nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers.

Ellen Bravo, Director, Family Values @ Work, was honored by the Ford Foundation as one of the 12 “Visionaries of Social Change.” First with 9to5 and now with Family Values @ Work: Multi-State Working Families Consortium, she is at the forefront of the fight for pay equity, family leave, fairness for part-time and temporary workers, and an end to sexual harassment and punitive welfare laws. Congratulations, Ellen -- we've always been proud to support your trailblazing advocacy!

Why We Need to Think of Our Mothers as Caregivers by Tiffany Williams (HuffPo) highlights Caring Across Generations (CAG), a campaign led by two of our grantees -- National Domestic Workers Alliance and Jobs with Justice -- that's about to make incredible waves. CAG, which seeks to transform caregiving across the US by advancing worker and immigrant rights, creating jobs, and promoting access to affordable, quality care at all stages of life, just coalesced dozens of organizations from the disability rights, senior rights, and worker rights worlds in Washington, DC for a crucial preparatory meeting. The campaign will officially launch on July 12 at the first "Care Congress."  "What mom really needs this Mother's Day," writes Duff, "isn't a bouquet of flowers or greeting card. It's a new respect for the value of care, in all its forms, and a new vision for what we deserve as Americans when it comes to giving and receiving care."

09 May 2011

Help Working Women on Mother's Day

The following is an opinion piece sparked by new findings from a Ms. Foundation for Women poll, Community Voices on the Economy. It was originally posted on Politico.

By Anika Rahman, Ms. Foundation for Women President & CEO
May 8, 2011

For millions of struggling moms, there is little to celebrate this Mother’s Day. Though the recession technically ended months ago, the bad times are far from over for growing numbers of women. If anything, they’re getting worse.

Government cutbacks at the federal, state and local level have taken a particularly harsh toll on women and children. Without quick and effective government action, our nation is likely headed toward a full-blown “womencession” with potentially dire consequences for our long-term economic recovery.

Women across all groups are suffering, but the downward skid for low-income women has been especially steep.

The number of low-income women living paycheck to paycheck rose to 77 percent, according to a Lake Research Partners poll this spring for the Ms. Foundation for Women – an astonishing 17-point increase over results from a similar 2010 poll. By contrast, that number has remained essentially flat among low-income men — at 69 percent.

Americans overall continue to struggle. The number saying they live paycheck to paycheck is up by five points from 2010 — to 49 percent. But women across all categories report the greatest difficulties. The percentage living paycheck to paycheck jumped five points for Latinas to 63 percent, eight points for African-American women to 61 percent, eight points for unmarried women to 58 percent and four points for blue-collar women to 59 percent.

Read the full commentary on Politico.

About the Community Voices on the Economy Poll

Read a summary of the complete findings.
Read a summary of findings on the role of government in fixing the economy.
Learn what the 2010 survey uncovered.

05 May 2011

Ms. Foundation Releases New Poll, Finds Women Bear Brunt of Economic Crisis

Today, the Ms. Foundation for Women released findings from a major national poll that found that women are  bearing the brunt of today’s economic crisis. Two-thirds of Americans reported that the economic downturn continues to have a real impact on their lives, according to the survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners. The impact on women, however, has been particularly severe.

The survey asked Americans how they were faring in today's economy, and revisited key questions from a similar poll we commissioned last year to see if economic recovery was reaching people on the ground. With the data in hand, we can now definitively say that it is not. In fact, says Anika Rahman, Ms. Foundation President and CEO, “the impact of the economic downturn continues virtually unabated, and in some cases is far worse, especially for low-income women and women of color. The so-called economic recovery is not reaching women or others in need—not by a long stretch.”

[Read a summary of the findings.]

In a key indicator of economic security, the percentage of Americans who report living paycheck to paycheck all or most of the time was up five points over 2010 to 49 percent. But the increase among low-income women is especially staggering: 77 percent report living paycheck to paycheck, a 17-point jump from last year. Other highlights include:
  • Seventy-one percent of women and 65 percent of men say the economic downturn had some or a great deal of impact on their families.
  • Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) remain concerned that they or someone in their household could be out of a job in the next 12 months.
  • Low-income women continue to feel the greatest impact from the downturn, with 80 percent saying it has had some or a great deal of impact compared with 73 percent of low-income men. Other groups experiencing a particularly strong impact are: Latinas (74 percent); single mothers (73 percent); and women without a college degree (74 percent).
The survey also revealed that women—and a robust majority of the American public—want the government to take a stronger role in fixing the economy and creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short-term. In fact, most Americans are concerned that deficit cuts will come at the expense of families and children. But you wouldn't know that from watching Congress at work...

“Our political leaders must quickly reprioritize, stop the reckless gutting of the budget in the name of deficit-reduction, and create jobs that will enable women, in particular, to recover,” says Anika Rahman. “If women cannot move forward, then our economy cannot move forward. And if our economy cannot move forward, neither can our nation. Certainly, with the situation as dire as Americans tell us it is, wasting one more second is something none of us can afford.”

Read a summary of the complete findings.
Read a summary of findings on the role of government in fixing the economy.
Learn what the 2010 survey uncovered.