30 September 2013

Access Denied: There's nothing to cheer about on the anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

Last year, the Ms. Foundation for Women published this post to raise awareness about the implications of the Hyde amendment. This year, our state of affairs remain unchanged. Please sign on to the ALL Above all petition to repeal the Hyde amendment once and for all. 

The relief that women experienced following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion was short-lived. After merely three years, zealous politicians managed to impose their own personal agendas with the passing of the Hyde Amendment, systematically excluding millions of low-income women and women of color from accessing abortion care. 
With broad support from anti-choice legislators, the Hyde Amendment banned federal Medicaid coverage of abortion. Denial of Medicaid-funded abortions subsequently retracted low-income women’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion. The rights they gained in 1973 were essentially stripped away.

Today marks 36 years since the Hyde Amendment was enacted. Millions of women who rely on Medicaid for health care are still excluded from accessing abortion care. The restrictions imposed by the Hyde Amendment leave many women in a difficult situation—choosing between basic necessities like food and rent or the medical services that are standard among the majority of private health plans.

This injustice must end. Stand up for choice. Stand up for women’s constitutional rights. Please sign this petition from ALL Above All to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

26 September 2013

Secret survivor’s tools for strengthening your prevention efforts

Sharing one’s story of child sexual abuse is an example of reciprocal empathic connection. In telling the story the individual shares a deeply intimate narrative that connects those that listen with an experience of sorrow, strength and perseverance. Those that receive the story are provided with the opportunity to shift their worldview by connecting and supporting another through the process of healing from trauma.
Secret Survivor’s Tools for Strengthening Your Prevention Efforts, illustrated the power of the personal narrative in a focused prevention strategy. The Ending Child Sexual Abuse Web Conference series sponsored by PreventConnect and Ms. Foundation for Women understands that creativity has an important role in changing and reshaping social norms. The series co-hosts Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick facilitated a thoughtful discussion with Sara Zatz from Ping Chong + Company and Billye Mulraine from Kingsbridge Heights Community Center about their work using the medium of storytelling in prevention efforts.
Check out the recording of this web conference for details about these actions and more.

23 September 2013

Countdown to Health Care: Fighting for Equity for Women

By: Ellen Liu, Director of Women's Health for The Ms. Foundation for Women

There is a lot that organizations like Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA) can do to make sure women are front and center in the Affordable Care Act, according to NoHLA’s Staff Attorney, Emily Brice. “More specifically, [we need to prioritize] women who are particularly vulnerable because they’re lower income, immigrants, have limited English proficiency, or who face other barriers to enrollment.” In Washington State, nearly one in five women between 19-64 years old is uninsured.

The Seattle, Washington-based organization is a Ms. Foundation grantee and works to increase access to health care and basic health care rights through legal and policy advocacy.

“We always knew that the federal government clearly cannot do this alone,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently told The Washington Post. While the Obama administration has highlighted aspects of the health care overhaul that are important to women — like preventive services without cost sharing and contraception coverage with no co-pays — current government outreach to support women’s enrollment in health coverage is limited, especially among the women who stand to benefit the most.

In Washington state, NoHLA and its network of partners have stepped in, pushing for greater equity in enrollment services ahead of the October 1st launch of the signup period for insurance plans in state marketplaces under the new law.

After learning from state officials that the Washington exchange would provide only very limited language access services — merely translating the state’s exchange website into Spanish — they “leapt into action and started doing education work,” Brice said. The effort, which began in December 2012, included raising awareness about the changing demographics in Washington state. In the past two decades alone, the number of limited English proficiency persons has risen 210 percent representing one of the fastest growth rates in the country. Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian-speaking communities account for the highest numbers.

Of course, demographic shifts have become a national reality, as well. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reports that as of 2009, approximately 21 percent of nonelderly people in the United States spoke a language other than English at home. People who identify as having limited English proficiency are uninsured at much higher rates than the rest of the population, at a staggering 50 percent.

Beyond demographics, it all comes down to a person’s right to health. The ACA prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color and national origin for any health program or activity receiving government funding and for any plan offered through the new ACA insurance marketplaces. This requirement was derived from Title VI of the historic Civil Rights Act, and was bolstered in 2000 by President Clinton's Executive Order 13166 to improve access to services for individuals with limited English proficiency.

NoHLA’s pioneering initiative invoked the legal requirements for Washington state to provide language-access services. As a result of the ongoing negotiation process, today, the Washington exchange has agreed to translate the enrollment application and other key materials immediately into eight languages, and into every other language as needed by individual clients. It will provide oral interpretation services in more than 150 languages, as well as offer relay services and other key services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Washington has now become a leader in language-access services and an example for other state exchanges.

In addition to language access, there were concerns about cultural competency and sensitivity in outreach, or “what we call ‘plain talk’ here in Washington State,” Brice explained. “Are the materials that are being distributed understandable for someone with a 6th grade education? Are they written in a way that regular people can access?”

Expanding access to care also means an expanded need to improve health care literacy. “Folks who have never before been able to access insurance coverage need to be able to learn how to use it,” Brice said.

NoHLA’s solution to making sure these important concerns become institutionalized was advocating for the creation of a Health Equity technical advisory committee, appointed by the state’s health Exchange Board and charged with considering issues of health literacy, cultural competency and hard-to-reach populations. Currently, NoHLA works closely with members of the committee to advocate for joint goals in overcoming access and enrollment barriers.

Thanks to NoHLA and its partners, Washington women will experience a considerably easier process of enrollment that is culturally sensitive, produces materials in their appropriate language and demystifies complicated health care terminology.

But the goal is not simply higher rates of women’s enrollment; it’s the improved health outcomes of thousands of Washington women previously denied that opportunity.

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support pioneering leaders like NoHLA as they eliminate barriers for women, fight discrimination and ensure that affordable, quality health care is not a privilege but a basic human right for all.

12 September 2013

Labor Rights are Women’s Rights

The Ms. Foundation for Women charges forward in its unwavering commitment to fortify and extend labor protections to workers across the country. This week, Aleyamma Mathew, Senior Program Officer for Economic Justice, joined an army of progressive organizations and labor union leaders at the AFL-CIO convention. She strategized with group leaders who represent minorities, women, youth, environmentalists and LGBTQ people to resolve how they could unite and work together to strengthen the labor movement to effectively defeat “entrenched corporate interests" and achieve "shared prosperity," as labor leader Richard Trumka expressed. Click here to learn more about labor's new approach to coalition building

Return to the Ms. Foundation for Women website

11 September 2013

Inspiring a Movement: Ending Child Sexual Abuse at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference

By Natalie Sullivan, Ms. Foundation for Women interim Program Officer, Safety

Last week, the Ms. Foundation for Women hosted a mini track on child sexual abuse prevention at the National Sexual Assault Conference in Hollywood, Calif. In partnership with PreventConnect, a project of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, OAASIS Oregon, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, Ping Chong + Co., Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and Samaritan Counseling Center, Ms. hosted five workshops on child sexual abuse prevention. 

The 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) kicked off with flying colors on the morning of Aug. 28, 2013 – the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Opening speaker Lynn Rosenthal of the Office on Violence Against Women set the tone for the conference by offering that “there is a connection between the work [we’re] doing for women’s freedom and King’s work.” Faye Washington, of the YWCA Los Angeles, added, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.” With such calls to action, 1,400 of us from across the U.S. spent the next three days gathered together to “Inspire a Movement, Invest in Change, and Imagine…” what a world without sexual assault would look like, and what it would take to build a vibrant movement to arrive there.

I was thrilled and humbled to be in the presence of a diverse range of movement makers. From service providers to therapists to policy makers to teachers to activists (and many, many more), we roamed the halls, meeting rooms and streets of Hollywood strategizing about how to end the culture of violence and sexual abuse that is so pervasive in our lives and communities. The Ms. Foundation, alongside our grantee partners, was lucky enough to host five workshops specific to ending child sexual abuse – an issue that too often has fallen on the periphery of and between existing movements – with the guiding belief that ending child sexual abuse is one of the most strategic actions we can take to improve the safety of communities everywhere. Our mini track, “Building a Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse,” highlighted several cutting-edge strategies currently led by our grantee partners across the U.S. to prevent child sexual abuse.

We opened our mini track with Foundations for Change: Sharing Key Approaches to Ending Child Sexual Abuse, hosted by David Lee, Leona Smith DiFaustino, Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick. Drawing upon lessons learned and strategies shared throughout our and PreventConnect’s National Web Conference Series to End Child Sexual Abuse, this workshop led attendees through an introduction to the various strategies currently used in the field to prevent child sexual abuse, including policy advocacy, faith-based organizing, perpetrator prevention and survivor activism.

Next, Christi Hurt and Sarah Vidrine of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina led a workshop on what it took to build a statewide coalition in North Carolina focused on creating a state primary prevention policy package to end child sexual abuse. Christi and Sarah walked attendees through the process of building a coalition that brings diverse communities, multidisciplinary teams and the voice of survivors to the table, while maintaining focus on one sole objective. The workshop proved to be a fertile space for the exchange of ideas, examination of how to overcome challenges and exploration of how other states might be able to take on such a model.

Our third workshop, Convening to End Child Sexual Abuse: A Strategic Choice for Movement Building, was led by Klarissa Oh, Linda Crockett, Cordelia Anderson, Billye Jones Mulraine, Christi Hurt, Randy Ellison and myself. During this workshop, we explored why convening is key to movement building and why storytelling is crucial in the work we do to end violence. We invited attendees to consider how they might do the same in their own work.

Day two of our mini track kicked off with Linda Crockett and Deb Helt of Samaritan Counseling Center’s Safe Church Project. Linda and Deb showcased the Safe Church project, an interactive one-year ecumenical group training designed to shift congregational culture to inspire prevention of child sexual abuse within churches and communities. Currently launched in Pennsylvania, they are planning to take the project national soon.

Finally, our mini track closed with an arts-based workshop led by Sara Zatz and Amita Swadhin, who hosted a documentary screening of Ping Chong + Co’s Secret Survivors. In addition to showing the documentary, Sara and Amita guided attendees through an interactive discussion and creative workshop on using the arts to end child sexual abuse. They presented the Secret Survivors toolkit designed to complement the documentary and support community and education partners in sparking dialog to end child sexual abuse.

This conference enabled child sexual abuse to come out of the shadows and into the foreground into a national dialog of violence prevention, and I thank CALCASA and their partners, National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape for their vision in organizing this conference.  I continue to be moved and pushed in many ways by the brilliance and depth of knowledge of those who do this work. For me, conferences reinforce the benefit of face-to-face exchanges of ideas, breaking down silos, so that we continuously remember how each of our pieces of work supports the greater whole. This year’s NSAC fully lived up to those expectations, laying the groundwork for progress and continued movement building to end violence.