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The Road Ahead for Gender, Racial, and LGBTQ Equality: Activists Share Their Views

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 13:07

What do Gender, Racial and LGBTQ activists believe are the most pressing issues impacting their communities? You’ll find some of the answers here:

Lori Sokol, PhD, Women’s eNews Executive Director, talks about the need for the ERA, how mandatory quarantines are increasing opportunities for fathers to nurture, and how it is now up to women to save the world (with Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality).

Executive Director Lori Sokol speaks with Carol Jenkins about Women’s Equality and her new book, She is Me: How Women Will Save The World

Women’s eNews presents the first in a series of panel discussions on the topic of Race Relations in collaboration with The Root, the award-winning African-American news site. (with Danielle Belton, Imara Jones, Mona Sinha, and Marcy Syms)

Watch It Here!

Q&A with Nell Merlino, Founder of Count Me In

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 14:08

A powerful force for the advancement of women and girls, Nell Merlino has developed numerous collaborative campaigns and programs that mobilize millions of people to take action. Creator of “Take Our Daughters To Work Day”, she is also the Founder & President of Count Me In. Originally founded in 1999. Count Me In (CMI) was the world’s first online micro lender, pioneering a unique model that combined business pitch competitions, mentoring, education, and access to financing for female entrepreneurs. Today, in response to an increasingly challenging business climate brought on by COVID-19, coupled with protests in support of Black Lives Matter, Count Me In has launched a Revival to support women-owned business in transforming their products, services, and companies to meet the new safety, health and racial justice imperatives.

The following is a Women’s eNews (WeN) Q&A with Nell Merlino:

WeN: Why did you launch Count Me In at this time?

Merlino: In 1999 I founded the Count Me In organization after noticing a gap in the market — a lack of support for women business owners who had already passed the startup phase. While there is certainly nothing wrong with staying small, I felt that more opportunities and resources could help those who wanted to get to the next level. 

As for relaunching it now through Count Me In Revival, I think people recognize that in this moment we have to help each other. As business women we already knew that — it’s why a lot of us started our businesses in the first place. But I think that same creativity and sensibility that we have about our products and services has to be shared throughout the business world.

Today, Count Me In supports women in business in a huge array of industries, from language translation services to companies that provide medical testing to patients, providing financial assistance through contests and grant programs.

WeN: How has this launch been similar/different to the Take Our Daughters to Work Day launch?

Merlino: What is similar is the common theme of helping women or girls who will one day become women, value themselves and be valued by society in the business world.

When I created Take Your Daughters to Work Day in 1993, I really thought about what would happen if every girl got a chance to appreciate what their parents do outside the house. It was seeing what mothers and fathers did outside of the home that was a revelation for a lot of girls. Back then it was not the norm for girls to show up at work with their parents and far fewer women had a role in the business world.

Although there’s still a long way to go, women are rightfully making their mark in the workplace and accepted more than ever not just as employees but as entrepreneurs.  For me what’s different with the launch of Count Me In Revival from Take Your Daughter to Work Day is empowering women to grow bigger and stronger versus trying to give them that initial shot at being seen in any kind of role in the workforce and/or company.

WeN: What do you hope will be gained by the recipients of the Count Me In grants?

Merlino: We are excited to provide nineteen exceptional women entrepreneurs grant money to help them adapt and thrive in the COVID-19 economy.  There has never been a better time for women to lead in business and to support one another. The founders of Smart & Sexy and Curvy Couture who provided the $250,000 in grant money are a great example of showing the power women entrepreneurs hold to help lift one another toward the common goal of success.  Together as a community we have survived and thrived through 9/11 and The Great Recession.  As we face these new obstacles, I have no doubt we will continue to innovate and grow our businesses with the help of community support including through help of the awarded grants.  

WeN: Are there specific areas of focus that your organization is supporting, and why?

Merlino: We focus our efforts on working with women entrepreneurs who own and run small businesses in any and all sectors.  If you take a look at the recent nineteen women who were awarded the grant money, you’ll see a very diverse group of companies covering many different industries.  You’ll notice representation of consulting, legal services, agriculture, manufacturing, retail sales, and many other sectors represented by the awardees as well as others involved in Count Me In Revival.

WeN: What have the results been thus far?

Merlino: The response to the Count Me In Revival was overwhelming with 2200 female-owned businesses expressing interest in applying for grant money.  In the end, 444 businesses submitted applications.  The nineteen grant winners awarded on 7/31/20 are now utilizing their grant money and the CMI Revival Award business, financial and communication coaching to adapt and grow in these challenging times. 

Click here to learn more about Count Me In Revival.

Click here to learn more about Nell Merlino.

COVID-19: An Opportunistic Attack on Reproductive Health

Sun, 08/23/2020 - 14:18

Entering her 50th year at Choices Women’s Medical Center, founder Merle Hoffman has witnessed a lot. Imagine launching a reproductive health center providing abortions two years before Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973.

But it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, she says, that has been “one of the most, most challenging times that we’ve faced, I’ve faced.” 

She points to the challenges of navigating through new safety procedures, reduced volume and employee furloughs, but also to the anti-abortion protestors screaming outside her Queens, NY, medical center. They’ve not only maintained their presence throughout the pandemic, but also doubled in numbers, armed with graphic posters but failing to wear Center for Disease Control-recommended face masks. 

“Their attitude is that we’re vulnerable now and women are vulnerable so let’s harass and abuse them verbally even more,” Hoffman says. 

It’s a tactic witnessed around the country. In the early weeks of the pandemic, the governments of several conservative states saw an opportunity to roll back women’s reproductive rights. Women were already proving to be disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus, with financial insecurity and lack of childcare topping the issues, when 12 states deemed abortion a “non-essential” or “elective” procedure. Some governors and attorneys general argued that it would seize the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by medical professionals in hospitals. Others insisted that the procedure could be delayed.

Their arguments aren’t supported by medical evidence. A statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and six other prominent medical organizations refuted this claim, stressing that “abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care” and should not be delayed.

“It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible,” the statement read. “The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being. …community-based and hospital-based clinicians should consider collaboration to ensure abortion access is not compromised during this time.”

However, abortion services in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas were still for banned for weeks. Arkansas’s ban has yet to be overturned. Unchallenged by her local government, Hoffman never closed Choices. 

“It was immediately decided — I did anyway — that [we are] an essential service,” she says, “and there was no way I was closing down and would be in any way vulnerable to that kind of political playbook.” 

Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, noted that these states have a long history of digging for reasons to ban or limit abortions, calling the non-essential services mandate the latest excuse. 

“It had nothing to do with COVID,” she argues. “I was disgusted at the depth to which they would go to stop women and people who can get pregnant from doing what they know is best for themselves and their families. It’s disgusting to see them use a word like pandemic as an excuse to once again try to restrict abortions.” 

As Americans are urged to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, and more medical providers are turning to telemedicine appointments to see and treat patients, there is an option for those seeking abortions that meets today’s restrictions and concerns — so long as politics stay out of it. Rather than go to a clinic for a surgical abortion, a woman choosing to end her pregnancy can get a medical abortion by taking two Food and Drug Administration-approved pills to induce a miscarriage at home. The pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, have been available for 20 years, Pearson adds. 

“It’s an option that’s safe, effective, and we do want more people to know about it,” she explains. “We know why people don’t, in part because it’s kind of hard to get. If something’s not widely available, you’re less likely to know about it.” 

The FDA tied Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) — meant for medications that are unsafe in some way — to mifepristone, one that requires it be administered in person by a specially certified provider, despite being approved to be taken at home. Jamila Perritt, a physician, activist and abortion provider in Washington, D.C., says the restrictions, which depending on the state can include additional state-signed forms, an ultrasound and two visits with a waiting period in between, are not grounded in medical or scientific evidence. Without them, she says she could simply, easily and safely write a prescription and call it into a patient’s local pharmacy. 

“The REMS that are tied to the abortion pill are not grounded in safety but in political ideology,” Perritt said. “It’s an attempt to restrict access to this medication in a way that doesn’t happen with any other medication. It’s singled out and treated differently simply because it’s used to provide abortion services.” 

As states placed limits on travel, business and regular outdoor functions — and in some places, as mentioned, surgical abortions — in the early weeks of the pandemic, the National Women’s Health Network saw a need for change. It started the #MailTheAbortionPill campaign in the first week of April to call on the FDA to not only lift its restrictions now, but also in a post-Coronavirus world, allowing medical professionals to mail the pill. Pregnant people then can “get the pill where they take the pill,” the campaign declares. 

“It’s just crazy to tell people, ‘Stay home, don’t get on a plane, don’t go to work, but get in your car and travel hours each way to pick up a pill you can take at home,’” Pearson said. “That’s why we launched it in a hurry.” 

While the campaign has yet to elicit a response from the FDA, it has helped bring about change in court. Last month, a federal judge in Maryland suspended the in-person requirement for the abortion pill during the pandemic, citing it as a “substantial obstacle” and allowing providers to mail it directly to patients, PBS News Hour reported. Pearson doesn’t take credit for the ruling — the National Women’s Health Network wasn’t a plaintiff in the lawsuit — but she believes their efforts, along with activism by the 21 attorneys general who organized a letter to the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the Trump Administration have no involvement in the REMS designation, added to the change in climate, affecting the judge’s decision. 

The ruling was a win, albeit a short-term one, as the mail-in option will only be in place as long as there’s a public health emergency. Abigail Aiken, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, is well-versed in the challenges women in Texas, especially in rural cities, seeking a medical abortion already faced before COVID-19, from how expensive it is (it’s not covered by most health insurance plans or Medicaid), to long travel time (96% of cities don’t have abortion providers), to overnight accommodations, to finding childcare. She was curious about the impact of the pandemic, a time when demand for abortion could be increasing due to financial instability, when one might struggle to get to or not even want to go to a clinic due to infection risk, when there were state bans on abortions (a policy move she called an “opportunistic attack on reproductive health”). 

In a study recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Aiken and a team of researchers found that COVID-19 and its barriers led more people to seek medical abortions outside of the formal healthcare setting, such as clinics and hospitals. Tracking data from Aid Access, an online telemedicine service where people can request and have a consultation for the medication abortion pill, which then gets mailed to them, found a 27% increase in the rate of requests across the US from March 20th to April 11th. 

Requests to Aid Access nearly doubled in states with the most COVID cases and those that tried to restrict abortion. New York, which was the hot spot at the time, saw a 60% increase. Texas, which had banned all abortions for about four weeks, saw a 94% increase; however, there are explicit state laws barring medication abortion by telemedicine. 

What’s so important about these findings, Aiken told Women’s eNews, is knowing that a remote medicine abortion model is possible. Just as dermatology has teleconsults, doctors in a clinic can prescribe the abortion pill and call it into a pharmacy. It’s how the United Kingdom responded to the pandemic — the region overhauled its policies and went fully remote, medical abortions included. 

“We see the demand for these remote services, and yet we don’t have the policy environment that allows us to do it,” she says. “I’m looking ahead and wondering what’s going to happen with the REMS decision, how it’s going to change things. I think we might see changes in some places, but those state-level restrictions are going to have to change.” 

The study’s data only comes from requests, however, and couldn’t hone in on how telemedicine abortions could disproportionately impact people of color and those in poverty, who are already marginalized and struggle to access abortion services.

“This cross between COVID and reproductive healthcare and racial inequity is an intersection that many of us have been living at for a long time and are grappling with for sure,” says Perritt. “My practice and the way that I provide care has always operated at these intersections, understanding that folks who are seeking reproductive health care are doing so in a vacuum. Decisions around whether or not to have a baby, to get pregnant, to have an abortion, or to use contraception are always grounded in the context in which people live. This moment in time, for so many of the folks that I care for in my community, is really a reminder that our lives are super complicated, and the things happening in the world, they shape the way we make decisions about our reproductive health, as well.”

All of these mandates, hoops and barriers are more likely to impact people with fewer resources. But COVID-19 is not the entity to blame for the threats to abortion.

“Certainly the COVID pandemic has exacerbated those things, but it’s important to understand that it didn’t create these barriers,” Perritt says. “The bigger threat to abortion access and clinic sustainability are these legislative practices that restrict care.”

About the writer: Alyssa Fisher, who recently earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Florida, is a 2020 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program* at Women’s eNews, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program:

The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence program at Women’s eNews was launched in 2014 with support from the Sy Syms Foundation. The fellowship provides support and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

“For a democracy to flourish all voices must be heard.” says Marcy Syms, a founding Trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation. “Through its investigative reporting Women’s eNews gets at the essence of good journalism. The Sy Syms Foundation is proud of this collaboration to support today’s newest women journalists.”

As part of its mission to create social change for women and girls through investigative reporting, Women’s eNews helps foster, train, and support the career development of new journalists with a focus on social justice and women’s rights.

WOMEN TAKE THE STAGE COAST-TO-COAST IN A FREE CONCERT ON THE CENTENNIAL OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT

Tue, 08/18/2020 - 10:45
With Gloria Steinem, Letitia James, The Chicks, Indigo Girls, Vanessa Williams & more!

Book of the Week: With or Without You

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 15:14

by Caroline Leavitt

The night before a big break, an aging troubled rocker argues with his longtime lover, the two of them drinking and taking a pill. In the morning he wakes and she doesn’t, going into coma. When she emerges, her personality is radically different, causing huge changes for herself, for him, and for the young doctor caring for her.

Chapter 1 (Excerpt)

Disaster. Everywhere he looked, when he thought of flying, he saw disaster.

His suitcase lay open on the table, a jumble of dark clothing. Hers was on the floor, everything in tight rolls, more than enough for the week she was taking off from her nursing job at the hospital to go with him. He was staring at her the way he would if he didn’t know her, which he’d been doing more and more lately, something that unnerved her so much that she wanted to shake him, point to herself, and say, I’m right here. All you have to do is look.

She took another sip of wine, just to calm herself, maybe to add some heat to her body, to stop the queasiness rolling through her. Outside, it was another freezing February New York City winter, the snow blazing down in sheets against the windows and layering over the sidewalks. There was a blizzard advisory for an accumulation of twelve inches, complete with school closings and warnings for the elderly and the infirm to stay inside. It was the main reason they were here tonight in the apartment. The airports were closed, and their flight to California wouldn’t be rescheduled until tomorrow night at the earliest. The weather was too snowy for them to drive, plus they didn’t have enough time.

Simon’s band was once successful, but that was twenty years ago, when she had first met him and he was just twenty-two himself and his band was riding high with Simon’s megahit song, “Charlatan Eyes.” Simon didn’t even really sing back then; he was just harmony and played bass guitar to the lead singer Rob’s aching wail. Once, Stella had even heard the song as Muzak in an elevator at Macy’s, and while everyone else in the elevator seemed to ignore it, she flushed with pleasure. Over the years, the band still played for decent-sized audiences and recorded a few more albums. A few more songs got some play, and Simon began to sing more of his own songs, but the band didn’t build, the audiences and the stages their manager booked became smaller, and the awards they were all so desperate for never arrived.

Caroline Leavitt  is a New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, Is This Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World. With or Without You was also named:
One of Popsugar‘s “Incredible Books of August”
One of Bustle’s Best Books of the Week
One of AARP’s Best Books of August
Publisher’s Weekly Fall Book of Note.

COVID-19’s Impact on Women of Color: August Update

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 16:42

The COVID-19 pandemic has been claiming countless lives across the United States, regardless of age, race, or social status. Yet people of color have been shown to be disproportionately impacted ever since coronavirus cases and deaths began to surge in mid-March. Now, five months later, not much has changed.

COVID-19 DEATHS PER 100,000 PEOPLE OF EACH GROUP, THROUGH AUGUST 4, 2020:

  • 1 in 1,250 Black Americans has died (or 80.4 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 1,500 Indigenous Americans has died (or 66.8 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 1,700 Pacific Islander Americans has died (or 58.7 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 2,200 Latino Americans has died (or 45.8 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 2,800 White Americans has died (or 35.9 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 3,000 Asian Americans has died (or 33.1 deaths per 100,000)

This is particularly problematic for women of color, who often play a crucial role in maintaining the economic stability of their families. According to the Center for American Progress, 67.5% of African American mothers and 41.4% of Latina mothers are the primary breadwinners in their families, compared to only 37% of white mothers. 

“The largest number of single mothers in this country are women of color,” says Mona Sinha, a member of the Board of Directors of Women Moving Millions, a leading non-profit, “They have to make larger investments in their families with much lower income. So, who suffers in this case? It is the mother, the sister, or the daughter in the family who has to make personal sacrifices to make sure everybody else is taken care of.”

To effect future changes and policies, it is important to understand some of the reasons why women of color are being impacted at higher rates by the virus.  

Statistics from the Center for American Progress:

The charts above demonstrate that women of color are primarily employed in fields where they are more apt to be exposed to the Coronavirus. For example, essential and domestic workers like nursing assistants, home health care providers, grocery store cashiers, domestic workers, and childcare providers are primarily women of color. Further, threats to their health are compounded by their challenges in attaining health insurance from their employers due to the fields in which they are primarily employed.

“Around healthcare, the impact of COVID is a health issue that showed that the health disparities that existed before just got worse, made people more vulnerable and more susceptible to COVID, and increased the chances of dying from COVID,” says Ana Olivera, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation. “Healthcare has been a long conversation in this country. The best that we could get was health insurance associated with employment. But health insurance needs to be associated with just being alive. This is the time for policies that provide universal health care access. They have to exist.”

Women of color also face inequities regarding their living and working conditions. For example, according to the National League of Cities, low-income women of color are particularly cost-burdened and face higher rates of eviction. Further, occupational segregation has resulted in Black and Latinx people being overrepresented in low-wage jobs, which often cannot be transitioned to remote work despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have so many women who are doing nursing care,” says Seher Khawaja, Senior Attorney for Economic Empowerment at Legal Momentum in New York City. “Those women who have been called to the front lines have been exposing themselves and putting their health at risk. They were already making inadequate pay, but now the risks you’re asking women to take on are substantially higher. They’re exposing their whole families by going to work every day,” Seher continues.

The pandemic has also brought to light the issue of unequal pay, benefits, and support within the trans women of color communities. “The loss of income during COVID and the inability to access government help has deeply impacted trans people disproportionately,” says Imara Jones, creator of TransLash and The Last Sip. “I think there’s been a response from mutual aid societies to assist trans communities in helping them figure out how to get cash, how to get food, and how to get rent assistance to those people directly.”

When it comes to the recently enacted COVID-19 laws (i.e. The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security CARES ActThe Families First Coronavirus Response ActThe Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act) , too many essential workers, including healthcare providers, emergency responders, grocery store clerks, undocumented immigrants, etc., were excluded from the relief package.  “While it was great to see quick movement on federal legislation to provide what should have already been there; paid sick time, paid emergency, and paid leave to care for family members due to various different COVID related events,” Khawaja says, “What we saw was that it excluded way too many workers who are most vulnerable.”

“If you look at how women of color and, particularly, the trans women of color community, the pandemic has really shone a bright light on the unequal treatment people receive in this country,” Sinha adds.

About the writer: Simone Soublet, a communications and journalism studies student at Loyola Marymount University, is a 2020 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program* at Women’s eNews, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program

The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence program at Women’s eNews was launched in 2014 with support from the Sy Syms Foundation. The fellowship provides support and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

“For a democracy to flourish all voices must be heard.” says Marcy Syms, a founding Trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation. “Through its investigative reporting Women’s eNews gets at the essence of good journalism. The Sy Syms Foundation is proud of this collaboration to support today’s newest women journalists.”

As part of its mission to create social change for women and girls through investigative reporting, Women’s eNews helps foster, train, and support the career development of new journalists with a focus on social justice and women’s rights.

From the Executive Director- She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:59

Women’s eNews is thrilled to announce that it’s Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, Lori Sokol, has published a new book available beginning today, August 11th: She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World

A non-fiction book which is part memoir, Dr. Sokol takes you into the homes, offices and classrooms of 30 courageous and powerful women who are dedicating their work, and their lives, to building communities, saving lives, and sustaining the planet.

From author and activist Gloria Steinem, to groundbreaking sports legend Billie Jean King, to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, you will witness how traits viewed as soft and weak in traditional patriarchal societies, are actually more effective in creating positive change while building peace.

To learn more about her book and all of the inspiring and brave women in it, visit sheismebook.com.

To buy the book, with the entire purchase price donated to Women’s eNews, please click here.

“Because Lori Sokol tells the truth about her own story — and listens with her heart — thirty diverse women have told her the truth of their lives. ‘She Is Me’ takes us from global to personal.” 

– Gloria Steinem, author & activist

Book of the Week: Since I Lost My Baby

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 08:30

by Selimah Nemoy

“When I was 17 years old, I was forced to relinquish my newborn baby and told to “just go home and pretend it never happened.” Not likely. Twenty-four years later, I found my daughter and our reunion was broadcast on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This is my coming-of-age memoir of what happened those 24 years since losing her, and the power of soul music that brought me through.” – Selimah Nemoy

BOOK EXCERPT

Los Angeles, 1967 

For What It’s Worth 

I’d paid my dues, big time, the ultimate price for committing the unpardonable sin. After five months of humiliating incar- ceration, with the stroke of a ballpoint pen I agreed to the life sentence that had been handed down: I was walking out of there alone. 

Early morning fog met me on the landing outside, and the whiff of budding flowers on a weedy Scotch Broom in the alley caught me by surprise. I wondered if it was heralding my free- dom or mourning my loss. My father, shoulders sagging with resignation and relief, went first, carrying my suitcase to the car, where my mother, eyes forward but looking at nothing, was waiting inside with the doors locked. 

I took one look back at the hideous institution from which I was being released. Behind its windows, like dark condemning eyes, were generations of secrets and shame—where the wanton and wayward were imprisoned by wicked old witches who had been born with their ugly gray hair in a bun and never been loved by a man in their whole life. 

Across the street behind a chain link fence, a dirty Chihuahua yapped and barked as, for the last time, I descended the wide concrete steps of the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, a relic of last-century history to which teenage girls like me were banished for the crime of falling in love. 

Halfway down the steps I heard someone call my name. The Director had forgotten to give me her farewell speech: those tired, fake words of wisdom that unimaginative old people hand to young ones as if they were tools or money or the Bible. Standing on the step above me, she put one lizard-like paw on my shoulder. 

“Now dear, you’re only seventeen years old. Your whole life is ahead of you. We’ve taken care of everything.” 

I held my breath, along with the urge to slap her and watch those withered old legs go tumbling down the stairs. 

And then, just like everyone else who had ever inflicted damage on me, she poured on the perma-seal. 

“Just go home and pretend it never happened.”

Click Here for Book Purchase Options

About the Author: Selimah Nemoy is a storyteller, journalist, and author of SINCE I LOST MY BABY: A MEMOIR OF TEMPTATIONS, TROUBLE & TRUTH (OG Press, June 2020). Born in Los Angeles, her coming-of-age journey was shaped by soul music in the 1960s, then by the turbulent, multicultural 1970s in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area.

Selimah served with the (President Bill Clinton) White House Press Corps in 1994, and as the English editor for both an Italian-American and a Japanese-American newspaper. Her play, THE DADDIES, was performed at the Buriel Clay Theatre in San Francisco’s Western Addition, and her short story, GOODBYE, received first place at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference. Learn more at selimahnemoy.com

A Female VP: What’s Ambition Got To Do With It?

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 11:49

It’s convention season, which means it is almost time for Joe Biden to name his VP running mate. Since the announcement that the VP will be a womanvarious names have been floated, each with her own unique selling point: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tammy Baldwin, Stacey Abrams, Susan Rice – the list goes on and on.

As names have proliferated, so has the commentary: each woman has been analyzed, scrutinized, and endlessly discussed in this not-so-modern Cinderella story. Who will be given the glass slipper, the rose garden? For now, only Prince Joe the Charming knows. In 2020, only four short years after Hilary Clinton’s electoral college defeat, it is sad that women can still only strive second-best, especially given the tremendous rise in women holding public office since the last election.

Today, 127 women serve in Congress, more than ever before but still less than a quarter of all representatives. The tendency to parade and belittle women is, if not as old as time, at least as old as the ancient Greeks. The story of the Trojan War begins with the Judgement of Paris, a not very impressive shepherd saddled with the task of allocating a golden apple to one of three goddesses. Hera promised him power, Athena wisdom, and Aphrodite the possession of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose sex, and the rest, as it were, is history: men get to choose between women more powerful than they, in hopes that their choices will empower them right back.

And so it goes: Biden’s allies are already said to be waging a secret campaign against Kamala Harris, on the suspicion that she will be ‘too ambitious’ for the presidency in 2024 to pull her weight this time around. But why shouldn’t she be? Biden is 77, and age alone means there is a real chance his will be a one-term presidency. Even if it weren’t, what Vice-President doesn’t have his—or, someday her—eye on the next rung?  It is female ambition that is frowned upon, women who are seen as taking up more room than they warrant.

How can we break this narrative? Hillary Clinton tried to be more prepared, more approachable, and more experienced, but failed among her fellow white female voters. What can women do to break out of their pre-assigned role, step off the pedestal, and muck in the same arena where political progress is actually made? As a woman voter, here is what I hope for. Whomever Biden ends up picking—and we each have our favorites—I want the ticket to become a genuine partnership, and the chosen VP an ambitious prospect for next time, when she is the presumptive nominee and the party will have had four years to prepare for the inevitable wave of misogyny.

Even more, though, I want this presidency – through the VP selection, cabinet appointments, leadership position and legislative priorities — to be an exercise in public education, making the prospect of the first female president an inevitable and long overdue consequence of all that women have achieved. To do this, the Biden campaign, and the White House, must work to make women’s issues central to the experience of each and every citizen, whatever their gender.

Reproductive rights, maternity leave, pre- and post-natal care, childcare, workplace discrimination, the pay gap, sexual harassment, rape culture, educational attainment – these are all issues that affect every one of us, even if they impact the bodies of only half the population. Framing them as ‘women’s issues’ not only distorts reality, but ignores the vast contribution of women to the fabric of society as mothers, nurses, teachers, social workers, CEOS, lawyers, soldiers, or doctors.

Biden is well on his way: his $775 billion dollar plan to fund universal childcare and elder care  is an ambitious start, and if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that this country’s economic recovery begins and ends with care duties, and those who shoulder them, who are predominantly women of color. But there is more, much more, to be done. Putting a woman in the VP slot is a good start, but to really change the narrative, it is time for Prince Charming to turn the selection process on its head: Ask not what women can do for you, but what you can do for women. 

Ayelet Haimson Lushkov is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a Public Voices Fellow of the Op-Ed Project.

Announcing: The Loreen Arbus Accessibility is Fundamental 2020 Fellows

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 16:28

Women’s eNews is thrilled to announce its selection of The Loreen Arbus Accessibility is Fundamental* Fellows for 2020! This inaugural fellowship has been created to train women with disabilities as professional journalists so that they may write, research and report on the most crucial issues impacting the disabilities community.

Meet the 2020 Fellows

Cheyenne Leonard: “Where society and others may see my disability as a tragedy, I have always seen my disability as an opportunity. My disability has afforded me the opportunity to travel the United States to compete in the Jr. Paralympics in track for 12 years, to change laws in my school district to allow for disabled students to be on their high school track teams, and to be a model and actress bringing diversity and disability representation to the media where it is severely lacking. I have had a lot of opportunities in my life, but being a Latina woman in a wheelchair, I have always had to fight for my rights, my voice, and my place in every room I’ve been in. I have two bachelor’s degrees from UNLV in Psychology and Criminal Justice, but my passion has always been disability and media representation. I never saw disability representation in the media growing up and the few times that I did, it was mostly white and male. Because of that, I want to be and/or create the representation I never had.”

Katrina Janco: “I can’t recall many times in my life where I wasn’t the only autistic female in the room, let alone the only openly disabled person. In this position, I always feel an extreme burden in properly representing my community. One way I have been able to relieve that is by writing about my experiences in this position. Seeing people respond to my writing is the most amazing feeling. It’s why I want to be a journalist. This wasn’t always true. For years, I was in denial about this desire. A major turning point was writing my first feature for 34th Street, the student-run magazine at Penn. I wrote about how, while Penn may lead in autism research, it failed to support autistic students such as myself. It was extremely difficult, especially with having to meet impossible expectations. It won awards and critical acclaim from students, alumni, and most importantly, other autistic people who finally felt seen. I then truly realized my voice’s value and continued to write.”

Natalie Doggett: “I am a rising senior at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. At Gallatin, I created my own concentration entitled Globalization of Local Media and Community, which concerns the political and cultural functions of journalism and media within grassroots activist organizing. I have honed my academic interests in my work as an aspiring journalist and educator, writing about pop culture and politics for a variety of publications, including: Washington Square News, Embodied Magazine, and SONKU Magazine. In the fall of 2018, I created an interview-series podcast hosted on WNYU 89.1, called Bad Radical Radio. Bad Radical Radio is a free educational resource that features scholars, student activists, and local grassroots organizers discussing social issues affecting people of color, by people of color. As a young Black woman, I am invested in seeking and amplifying news stories that investigate the intersection of race, disability, and gender orientation.”

Loreen Arbus

The Loreen Arbus Accessibility is Fundamental Fellowship with Women’s eNews provides vital employment opportunities for women with disabilities to report on the issues that significantly impact the disabilities community.

Loreen Arbus is the President of The Loreen Arbus Foundation, The Goldenson-Arbus Foundation and Loreen Arbus Productions, Inc. Through these organizations and in her personal endeavors, Ms. Arbus is a tireless advocate for women and girls; a champion for one of the world’s largest minorities, people with disabilities; and is passionate about encouraging equal opportunities in television, film, communications, and the arts.

In Case You Missed It: The Americans with Disabilities Act – 30th Anniversary

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 10:39

As the nation celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA30) on July 26, 2020, the 50-member ADA Lead On “Core Production Team” (in front of and behind the camera/keyboard) and 22 ADA Generation bloggers, influencers and signal boosters were focused and determined to set the record straight, and flip the script on educating, entertaining and empowering people with (and without) disabilities with the creation and production of ADA30 Lead On: Celebration of Disability Arts, Culture, Education & Pride. This two hour, 15 minute entertaining, educational and empowering journey chronicled the five titles of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark civil rights legislation!

All too often ignored by Hollywood and media employers, ADA30 Lead On Production Team created and presented an all-star ensemble cast of deaf and disabled performers, artists, filmmakers, storytellers, disability leaders, policymakers and key influencers who boldly own this narrative and created this show – meeting weekly for months – all from their own homes, across the country during this pandemic (instead of our original plan at the Kennedy Center) – with Disability Power & Pride.

Because of past erasure from history, it is very important that during this celebration, voices of deaf and disabled talent, ADA Generation bloggers, social media influencers and signal boosters of color from multiply marginalized communities were amplified to make sure that BIPOC voices, contributions, ideas and aspirations are part of this celebration, and of future events.

Appearances included: Danny Woodburn, emcee; Tony Award-winner Ali Stroker; Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin; Comedian/performers Maysoon Zayid, Geri JewellKathy BuckleyNic Novicki, Nina G., Andy Arias, Shannon DeVidoSelene Luna, and Michael Beers. Check it out on BROADWAY WORLD.

The event was such a success that ADA30 Lead garnered the following results on its Facebook page, thus far:
54,372 people reached (up from 28,671) – organic, not paid
20,326 views
17,806 unique views
10,353 engagements 
2,523 total reactions
1,735 comments
620 shares

ADA30 wants to especially thank Lead Sponsor AT&T for its awesome blog – “The ADA is a beacon for progress that can only happen when determined activists, people like you and me campaign and lobby for change,” said Chief Compliance Officer David Huntley of AT&T, Inc. “At AT&T, we’re committed to the ADA mission and ensuring that we are providing equal employment opportunities to people with disabilities makes us a better company.”

ADA30 also wants to thank AT&T, its Lead Sponsor, Google our Gold Sponsor, plus sponsors: The Ability Center, AT&T, Bus Door Films, Deraney PR, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, EIN SOF Communications, Exceptional Minds, Foundation for Global Sports Development, Google, Kessler Foundation, Lights! Camera! Access!, michaels.adams., Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Mulberry Tree Group, Point 360, PolicyWorks, TransCen, Wells Fargo, and Woman of Her Word.

Book of the Week: HE THREW THE LAST PUNCH TOO HARD

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 13:47

When Los Angeles based photographer and former Hollywood stuntwoman Hannah Kozak was nine years old, her mother left Hannah and her family after falling in love with another man. He turned out to be violent. From the age of nine to fourteen, Hannah witnessed him abuse her mother on the weekends she spent with them. In 1974, he beat Hannah’s mother so badly she sustained permanent brain damage. After caring for her for six years, Hannah’s father moved her mother into an assisted living facility at the age of forty-one, where she lived for thirty-five years. She has spent the last five years at a different, much improved facility. She is partially paralyzed on one side and cannot walk on her own, cloth or feed herself.

Hannah had early, fond memories of her mother as a beautiful, passionate, vivacious, fiery Guatemalan Sophia Loren-type brunette who loved to dance the Flamenco. But because her mother left her, she carried tremendous feelings of abandonment and rage towards her mother and ignored her for decades in an attempt to distance herself from her own pain.

Preferring to stare fear in the face than be paralyzed by it, and to further escape from reality, Hannah spent twenty-five years in the film industry as a Hollywood stuntwoman (her dream job since childhood), performing high falls, stair falls, train falls, car hits, bike hits, fights, driving and fire burns. In October of 2004, she broke both of her feet jumping out of a helicopter onto the tallest building in Los Angeles. While recovering from the stunt accident, she experienced a spiritual epiphany. “I realized when I couldn’t walk and was crying in my bedroom, I needed to forgive myself for judging my mother for leaving.” – Hannah Kozak

Hannah began photographing her mother in 2009, twenty-nine years after she was forced to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home, as a way to process her feelings towards a mother that she had never truly known. “I hoped by photographing her I could bring closure to an open wound I had my entire life. In the process, I grew to love my mother and discover the power of forgiveness,” Hannah says. He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard is the story of our reconciliation.”

My mother, circa 1970.

“I have been deeply invested in photographing my mother for ten years. Her complexity continues to beckon me: I will not avert my eyes from the truth of her condition no matter how difficult it is to see. Someone must be witness to her life. In addition, I want my photographs to make people pause and question the nature of the human condition and assess their own will to live.”

“My mother is my muse. I feel our connection without fear as I create photos meant to take me out of my comfort zone. These photos tell my mother’s story of isolation, loneliness, abuse, connection, compassion, forgiveness, family, humanity, grace, joy and above all, love.”

My mother, December 15, 2009

“My mother is a symbol of perseverance. Even though she suffered permanent disability from domestic violence; she never lost her kindness, belief in love and hope. As my mother’s body deteriorated; her right hand turning in more, her soul flourished. What happened to my mother also fractured my persona yet we both grew from the trauma and she refused to be covered with a veil of pity. She is comfortable in silence and is fully present in the moment. I never planned to show these photos when I made them, but I’ve learned that by sharing myself and my process of healing, that in turn helps others on their path to healing.”

Mom dancing a day after my birthday, July 27, 2015

Nursing homes during the pandemic:

The facility where Hannah’s mother lives has been in lockdown for five months. No family members are allowed inside the building to visit their loved ones. Back in March, when the lockdown was initiated, Hannah’s mother became confused and agitated when her daughter stopped coming to see her. To mitigate the situation, Hannah wrangled a compromise with the facility. Since April 22, she has been pre-approved to visit her mother twice a week for 25 minutes behind a gate outside in the blazing sun with the traffic whizzing by. In an NPR story titled “Banned From Nursing Homes, Families See Shocking Decline In Their Loved Ones” (June 9, 2020) NPR correspondent Ina Jaffe writes that “Advocates for residents say it’s time to rethink the outright ban.”

About the Photographer: Hannah Kozak was born to a Polish father and a Guatemalan mother in Los Angeles, California. When she was ten years old, her father, a survivor of eight Nazi forced labor camps, gave her a Kodak Brownie camera. With a camera in hand, she began to explore her fascination with photography. In her twenties, her hustle and fearlessness led her to a twenty-five-year career as a Hollywood stuntwoman where she also would make photos with her camera on sets. Although she continued to photograph over the decades it wasn’t until her forties that she turned full tilt towards personal projects in photography, as a passion, and her desired profession. Photography became a way for her to explore and reveal her internal world. Kozak holds degrees in Liberal Studies with a Spanish concentration (B.A.) and Psychology (M.A.).

“Photography has served as a means for coping with emotional pain and has subconsciously been an effort to transform and heal. My self-portraits are a search for self-knowledge that provide me with a coherent sense of self and are the mirror I never had from my mother. Our relationship was derailed so early in my life. My early mothering experiences were associated with unavailability, loss and rejection. Photography has reworked this relationship and it’s the only arena where I can express my conflicts in the separation of our relationship and use my heart to rework who we can be to each other.” – Hannah Kozak

All the images are copyright © Hannah Kozak from the book He Threw The Last Punch Too Hard published by FotoEvidence. The book is edited by Régina Monfort. For further information, visit: http://hannahkozak.com For book purchases, visit hannahkozak.com/bookstore/

Book Excerpt – She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World

Sun, 07/19/2020 - 10:46

FOREWORD

“I would say that each of us has only one thing to gain from the feminist movement: Our whole humanity, because gender has wrongly told us that some things are masculine, and some things are feminine . . . which is bullshit.”

—Gloria Steinem, author and activist

When I was five, I wanted to die. I was lying on the plastic- covered living room couch. It was a sixties thing— wrapping couches and chairs entirely in plastic to prevent the furniture below from showing signs of wear. It also blocked any feelings of warmth or comfort emanating from the soft fabric inside.

It was a hot, sweaty summer day. No air conditioners were allowed in the Brooklyn, New York, public housing complex where my parents, my older brother, and I shared a small two-bedroom apartment. One large gray fan stood in the middle of the living room, circulating warm air in one direction. Still, I wrapped my entire body in a blanket. It felt somewhat safer inside a cocoon-like covering; encased, protected. While watching a cartoon on the black-and-white television set a few feet away, I stopped breathing. I did not move or call out for help, however. Finally, peace, I thought. I gently closed my eyes.

The terrorist I lived with was standing no more than ten feet away, in the kitchen. As a father, his temper flared almost daily and spontaneously. My only warning sign was a behavior that was very confusing to others, but for my mother, brother, and me, it was all too familiar. He would stick out his tongue just far enough to protrude outside his mouth, immediately roll it underneath into a ball, and then harshly bite down on it with his upper teeth. Instantaneously, I responded by turning my back to him in hopes of lessening the pain from the physical blows that followed. He always used his right hand, his fist landing mostly on the left side of my head.

My father must have found me lying alone on the couch that day, not breathing. I don’t know how, exactly, since I had fallen unconscious, and reopened my eyes to find him with me in the back seat of a taxi taking us to the closest hospital. I was ultimately diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia, remaining in the hospital for eight days. Once the x-rays showed that the pneumonia cleared my lungs, I returned home . . . to his home. The hospital, which had served as a safe respite, now faded from view.

The blows I suffered from my father were never warranted. Truly, how could any parent hitting a child ever be warranted, since it always has more to do with the abuser than the young and innocent victim? But he always found a reason that made sense only to him, whether it was because I spoke too loudly, cried too deeply, or breathed incorrectly. “Stop breathing with your stomach going in and out instead of up and down, or else you’ll get a fat stomach!” he’d yell. A strong man, a “macho” man, who was compared by many who knew him to Jack LaLanne, the American fitness, exercise, and motivational speaker often referred to as the First Fitness Superhero of the 1960s and ’70s, my father was also named Jack, and often referred to as a “hero” and “legend” by friends and neighbors. He was admired for his ability to run and complete marathons until the age of sixty-five, yet our family superhero was also paralyzed by the most mundane things—unwilling or unable to drive a car, correctly dial a rotary telephone, or properly use a paper clip. These lapses, which reflected basic abilities for most, kept him guarded and scared. His fear of being exposed and humiliated compelled him to control those closest to him by abusing and belittling us, all to help reduce his inner feelings of insecurity and shame.

Patriarchy not only befitted him, it engulfed him, providing the ultimate mask to conceal his failings, while justifying his violent outbursts to keep those closest to him diminished. Females, he believed, were secondary citizens, alive only to serve as his punching bag, his doormat. It was a belief my older brother, Kevin, learned from him all too well. It is not uncommon for physical aggression and antisocial behavior to occur among childhood victims of physical abuse, since they learn to view such behavior as an appropriate means of resolving conflict. So, my brother projected his failures—mounting ones at school and in sports—onto me as well. But he used his left hand as well as his right, pushing me into tables, doors, and chairs; anything with a sharp edge.

My mother sometimes came to my rescue, but only slightly and temporarily. Handing me a handkerchief filled with ice cubes to place over the ensuing swelling appearing just above my eyes, she made me remove it before my father returned home from work. “Don’t let your father see,” she warned me. Her first priority was to protect my brother. This is common for wives of domestic abusers who have internalized their misogyny, protecting the (often male) abuser over the (often female) victim.

Still, my mother did provide me with some hope to have a better life—once I became an adult, that is. In fact, she named me Lori to help ensure I would. My name was meant to bring me luck, but not just any kind of luck, like being born with intelligence, or with a musical, artistic, or athletic talent, or with any other quality that could help me achieve independently in life. No, the only luck my mother could possibly envision for me would come from someone else: a man. Lori was the name of the lead actress in the popular 1950s television series, How to Marry a Millionaire. By naming me Lori, she hoped that I, too, would grow up to marry a wealthy man, since she had not. What she refused to acknowledge, however, was that it wasn’t being married to money that mattered most, but being married to a man who didn’t abide by the patriarchal rules of power and dominance over his wife and children.

The first time I became acutely aware of the extreme gender inequality in our home was when I was seven years old, during the first month of second grade. My teacher recommended to the school principal that I skip second grade and move immediately into third. This would place me in the same grade as my brother. “How would that look?” my father nervously responded, while my mother adamantly refused, warning me, “You’re not going to think you are better than anyone else!” The older I got, the worse it became. Since I didn’t fit neatly into the stereotypical feminine box of playing with dolls, wearing ribbons in my hair, or being “seen and not heard,” I was punished when I brought home good grades at the end of each school year and my brother did not. When I won trophies for my athletic prowess, I was told to hide them. Rather than acting out in protest, however, I hunkered down until I was old enough to move out. And when I finally did, after graduating from college at the early age of twenty, I devoted my career to help- ing others, particularly women and girls who are also experiencing similar feelings of loneliness and isolation living within the strict confines of an abusive patriarchal society. As a passionate writer, I chose to do so as a journalist, where I could reach many more women and girls, through both my observations and my words.

Writing, after all, had always served as my lifeline through- out those traumatic childhood years. My personal journal, which I wrote in daily, was my one trusted friend, a place where I could express my feelings, hopes, and goals secretively and without judgment. Embarking on a career in journalism, I hoped to serve as a live personal journal whom other women could trust to express themselves freely, and without fear.

And that’s what led me to write this book. In interviewing countless highly accomplished women for over three decades, there have been some common threads, recurring qualities and values that each exhibited, regardless of their chosen fields. Whether it was Gloria Steinem, the iconic feminist, author, and human rights activist; Billie Jean King, the women’s tennis cham- pion once ranked best in the world; Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who turned oppressive insults about her weight into helping others embrace their bodies at whatever size; or Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and Liberian peace activist—each exhibited warmth, compassion, and humility. Yet, these virtues were not exhibited only behind closed doors. They utilized their tools for success to enable countless others to reach their full potential and even, in some cases, save their lives. That brought me to wonder whether other highly accomplished women possessed the same or similar qualities, and how these qualities had proven helpful to empower and save others as well. Further, could these qualities, if put to work on a grander scale, resolve our world’s most crucial challenges, like preventing or ending war, and eradicating climate change, thereby ensuring a safer, healthier, and more peaceful world for future generations? We are currently living in a pivotal time in history, where the fear of losing long-held patriarchal control is causing members of marginalized groups (including women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and people with disabilities) to be scapegoated and physically attacked. Further, patriarchy’s refusal to accept glaring facts about climate change is threatening our planet’s long-term survival.

In the pages that follow, you will not only be taken inside the private homes, offices, and classrooms of each of these five women who gave rise to this book, but also twenty-five others who have since been interviewed, including authors, actors, filmmakers, philanthropists, and political leaders, to learn how they are successfully dedicating their work, and their lives, for the greater good of all. They will further demonstrate how being able to freely display values that exist in all of us—empathy, modesty, compassion, warmth, and introspection—will not only free us universally, but will also provide us with what may be our very last chance to save the world.

To view the book’s trailer, please click here

To receive a signed copy of Lori Sokol’s book, please click here (your purchase will be tax-deductible)!!

Major Corporations Have Their Say on the ERA!

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 09:24

“Gender equality is good for business,” says Maria Vullo, former New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services. “I was pleased to team up with my former colleagues at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP to represent 93 US businesses in an amicus brief in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.”

This is no small feat. The 93 corporations include some of the largest and most influential in the world: Apple, Google, Twitter, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Estee Lauder, and athletic leagues like the NFL and the National Women’s Soccer League. The brief was filed on June 29th.

Referred to as the amici curiae, this diverse group of 93 corporations employ millions of women and men throughout the world. Not only are these firms united in their longstanding support for gender equality, they are also standing with the majority of Americans (80%) in support of the ERA.

Simply put, these firms recognize that eliminating systemic barriers that impede women’s economic and social advancement will result in a more just, vibrant, and productive country. Further, ratifying the ERA sends a powerful message about the nation’s commitment to sex equality—a message amici believe would be transformational for the American economy. 

“What is historic here is that corporate America is saying that they are proudly supportive of gender equality, in the court case that will decide whether the ERA becomes the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution,” Vullo added. “Corporate America is saying the ERA should be – because gender equality is important for the US economy.”

The Equal Rights Amendment has a long history, over 50 years, in fact. First proposed in 1972, its original ratification timeframe was 1979, whereby a minimum of thirty-eight states had to ratify in order for the proposal to be added to the US Constitution. Although the deadline was then extended to 1982, still only 35 states ratified it by then. In recent years, Illinois and Nevada added their support and early this year, in January, Virginia became the 38th state. One month later, the House voted to remove the 1982 deadline, and the bill remains pending before the Republican-controlled Senate. However, the Attorneys General of the States of Virginia, Illinois and Nevada have filed suit against the U.S. Archivist, asserting that the amendment itself contains no deadline and there is no constitutionally imposed time limit for ratification. On this point, corporate America also agrees, by stating that the Archivist’s “inaction obstructed the realization of the People’s will.”

“I think we are in a very interesting and important time right now,” Vullo continues. “People are very focused on equality and social responsibility. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women and people of color disproportionately in terms of loss of employment, healthcare, childcare and eldercare, and for those who remain employed, a significant percentage of women are essential workers.”

The impact of COVID-19 is specifically referred to in the business brief: ‘The novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, which has exposed and exacerbated systemic gender inequities in our society, demonstrates now, more than ever, the need for the ERA in the US Constitution.”

What’s next? It’s now up to the courts to decide whether the ERA becomes the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. With so many major corporations serving as signatories to a supporting amicus brief, the hope is that this voice will play a significant role in the conversation. Further, as stated in the brief: ‘Canada, Mexico, and the European Union are not outliers—we are. An overwhelming majority of the world’s constitutions—including virtually all developed nations—contain provisions guaranteeing equal rights or prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.’   

“It’s time to get this done in the US!” Vullo adds.

An Anniversary in Bosnia, and How Women Found Justice

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 13:29

On July 11, 1995, the horrors of the only European genocide since World War II reached their nadir with the massacre of an estimated 8,000 men and boys at the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. While UN “protectors” watched passively, Serb forces separated these unarmed husbands, fathers, sons and brothers from their female family members, boarded them on buses and drove them off to mass murder and mass graves.  What had previously been unthinkable, especially on European soil, shocked the world in its cold brutality.

Left behind were thousands of women, overwhelmingly the wives of the farmers who worked the land in this agrarian area, for whom the man of the house was its center: The breadwinner who ran the farm and protected the family, whose role formed the core of an economic and social unit.

What is remarkable in the wake of this world-shaking mass murder is how the women, the vast majority of whom were uneducated, stepped forward, demonstrating the kind of resilience that knits together not just families but communities and nations, if only we would tap it. These women, whose story is largely untold, rose to this extraordinary occasion in three notable ways.

First, they demonstrated courage and resilience in returning to the land that the enemy was attempting to take from them. They filled the shoes of their dead husbands and took charge of the farms, mobilizing remaining family members and relying on neighbors to survive and carry on. In some cases, these women became remarkably successful, forming cooperatives to sell produce well beyond their communities.  Berries grow in abundance close to the Drina River that flows nearby.  Blackberries and raspberries are exported internationally and known for their excellence. The women took advantage of grants facilitated by the deeply flawed Dayton Accords that stopped the war and sent their children to school. They strengthened their families by insisting that their children broaden their horizons. Their daughters and sons are now proud doctors and professors all over the world, contributing to society in new ways because the mothers and wives whose husbands were slaughtered in Srebrenica persevered through unspeakable grief and trauma and rebuilt.  

The women went further, into roles even less likely for wives and mothers who had spent most of their lives gathering and preparing food and tending their families. They demanded justice. Unprepared for the work of advocacy, they nevertheless organized and learned on the job, calling for accountability from the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Their voices were heard as Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, regional leader Radovan Karadzic, and military commander Ratko Mladic were arrested and put on trial for war crimes, including – historic for international jurisprudence – the charges of genocide.  Milosevic died in custody before his trial concluded. Mladic and Karadzic are behind bars. The women who testified against these three men demonstrated great courage and composure. Not only were they managing their grief, but by speaking out in an international spotlight they risked being ostracized back home, where the Serbs, who had waged war on their people (Bosniak, traditionally Muslim) were still in control.  

The women also organized to memorialize their murdered men. They advocated for the exhumation, identification and burial of their loved ones into a sacred place in the killing fields. Today the Srebrenica Memorial Center encompasses a large grave site, listing the names of those killed, and includes an outdoor mosque and a memorial room where photographs graphically portray the atrocities and the tireless exhumation efforts. The Center, dedicated in 2003 by US President Bill Clinton, operates against the backdrop of continued denial that the genocide ever happened. Nonetheless, it has attracted more than one million visitors to date. Many come as delegations, including students from all over the world. As with other such sites, the message of the memorial is clear:  Never again.

A few months after the Srebrenica massacre, women from all over the world converged in Beijing for a conference that would become a milestone in the story of women’s rights. There, influenced in part by the experience of the women of Srebrenica and more broadly throughout Bosnia, for the first time the issue of women and war, beyond victimhood, crystalized as an idea that would eventually become policy.  Women wanted a seat at the table, bringing their resilience and advocacy to preventing war, or stopping or recovering from it. Five years later the UN would pass a resolution calling for women’s full involvement in building peace. In time the field known as Women, Peace and Security would be well established in foreign policy.  

The women of Srebrenica played a significant role in reshaping how we think of war and peace. Their legacy is a lasting tribute not only to their own remarkable rebuilding but to the men and boys whose lives are remembered on this anniversary.

Miki Jacevic, who was a student leader from Sarajevo at the time of the Srebrenica genocide, is Vice-Chair of Inclusive Security, founded in 1999 to integrate women’s leadership into peace processes worldwide.

Women’s eNews Podcast: Women Saving The World

Mon, 07/06/2020 - 14:13

“Giving is the best investment I’ve ever made.” – Suzanne Lerner

Women’s eNews Executive Director Lori Sokol speaks with her guest Suzanne Lerner, co-founder and president of lifestyle and clothing brand Michael Stars. Suzanne is a business leader, activist, and philanthropist who shares her experience and life lessons, builds networks that connect valued resources, and inspires people to seek their purpose, realize their visions, and give back to our world.

Click Here to Listen on iHeart Radio

Dear Supreme Court: Shouldn’t the ERA Be Next?

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 10:37

In the three minutes before she clicked onto our phone call, Carol Jenkins heard the breaking news: “The Supreme Court decision is out.”

It was an incredible week for social justice. That day, June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ and transgender workers were protected from workplace discrimination.  Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of people around the country marched through the streets, protesting against racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The energy was ineffable. But something was missing. 

“Everything was happening,” said Jenkins, co-president and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality. “We were sending out congratulatory messages. Black and brown people count now! The Supreme Court said LGBTQ people counted now! And then we [at the coalition] looked at each other and said, ‘When exactly will women count?’ We — and Black women especially — are still at the bottom of consideration.” 

Unequal pay and lower paying jobs, unpaid labor at home, workplace discrimination, no equal protection in court —  women’s disparity has been a long-raging issue. And as the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps the United States, it further exposes the holes within its systems, some of which have left women — especially women of color, especially mothers — with additional struggles to navigate. 

These issues have kept the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the conversation. First proposed in 1923, the amendment aims to include women in the United States Constitution; currently, there is nothing written in the historic document that calls for equality based on sex, preventing women and men from legally sharing equal rights. In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, and the following month the House of Representatives voted to remove the time limit on its decision to ratify the amendment. The Senate’s decision is still pending.  

While no single law can secure anyone from the impact of a pandemic, having the ERA in place is a crucial longterm step. 

“A huge, important part of the Equal Rights Amendment is that it’s able to lift women’s status in our society,” said Bettina Hager, D.C. director of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality. “If we did have a more equal society, I think there would be different laws around domestic violence, and there would hopefully be laws around healthcare and childcare that would help women.”

Before the pandemic, families were already trying to navigate the childcare system to find high-quality yet affordable care, while juggling school with work demands. Now for some, it’s become a nearly impossible situation. Jessica Mason, senior policy analyst for the National Partnership for Women & Families, recently said the effect on many of her coworkers has exceeded the stress of the virus itself: “Many are looking after their children and acting as home-school teachers while working full time, and others are caring for older relatives and family members who need extra support during this time.”

Mason added, “It has really driven home all the work that we’ve been dedicated to for so long around the impossibility of managing work and family and caregiving without really supportive policies.”

It’s been especially difficult for women, considering that they comprise a large portion of essential workers throughout the pandemic, including 78% of health care workers, according to The New York Times. They also represent the majority of employees who were among the first to be cut, such as retail and housekeeping. 

For too many women, these conflicts are nothing new. Once having children, women historically have been pushed out of the workforce, and for those who remain, many are only able to hold a part-time job. That has taken a toll on women’s income over time, Mason continued, resulting in less savings. And those part-time jobs are often lower quality and less likely to include benefits like paid family leave, paid sick leave or health insurance. Over the last several decades, the United States has made “glacial but measurable steps toward gender equality in some parts of the economy,” she explained, “With men taking more of an interest in equally dividing the caregiving work.” Women still shoulder the bulk of it, however, and with the economy edging toward “reopening” while school and childcare remain in flux, the country is at risk of losing at least a generation of progress for equality.

“One of the data signals that has been most disturbing to me was this spring, Mason continued. “For the first time in almost 40 years, we saw the percentage of adult women who are in the labor force drop below 50%. Geez, we already know that this has pushed people out of the workforce, but the only question is: Is that going to be long term or is it going to be temporary?”

Her uncertainty is universal. In New York City, where one of the Department of Labor’s approaches for reopening schools is to have students in the classroom on alternate days, author Deb Perlman concludes: “In the COVID economy, you’re only allowed a kid OR a job.” 

The National Partnership for Women and Families has been deep in the fight for national paid family leave and paid sick days for many years, beginning with its role in enacting the Family and Medical Leave Act in1993. The original purpose of paid family leave was to allow people to take time off from work due to a medical condition, to care for ill or injured family members, or to give birth. Now childcare has become a necessary factor to consider as well.  

“Previously we had not put childcare in that bucket because we, like so many people, had never anticipated a world where someone would need potentially weeks and weeks and weeks of time over the course of a year away from their jobs to do childcare,” Mason said. “We’re all adjusting on the fly as we deal with the situation.”

For assistance today, Mason recommends looking into the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, emergency legislation enacted in March that offers workers two weeks of paid sick days. But it has significant, problematic gaps that disproportionately affect women, and women of color in particular, since it allows employers to exclude healthcare workers and first responders. 

“It’s egregious,” she said. “Think of women nurses or women home health aides who are providing that essential care. Those are the last people you want to have going to work sick. So many of them are also parents.” 

Mason speculates that while the COVID-19 crisis further exposes society’s gender and racial disparities, it also draws new awareness to those who haven’t paid mind to these gaps; the way women and people of color are pushed into lower paying jobs with fewer protections and fewer rights; the importance of transforming unpaid care work into paid caregiving; and how essential teachers, healthcare workers and grocery store workers are supported in the workplace. 

The mission to ratify the ERA too, has been around for almost 100 years, yet is now returning to the forefront of the political conversation. 

“It resonates with this new level of conversation that has just burst across intersectional conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of racial equity in our economy, in our political system and in our justice system,” Mason said. “It does seem to me that there is an incredible appetite among a large, large part of the public to finally create that society and political system and economy that really reflects the best of our values.”

If true, women’s equality could be next on the docket. As Jenkins said, simply yet staunchly, “The Equal Rights Amendment would be a major force in recognizing our rights.” 

About the writer: Alyssa Fisher, who recently earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Florida, is a 2020 fellow in the Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program* at Women’s eNews, funded by the Sy Syms Foundation. The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program at Women’s eNews fellowship supports editorial and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program

The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence program at Women’s eNews was launched in 2014 with support from the Sy Syms Foundation. The fellowship provides support and development opportunities for editorial interns in the pursuit of journalistic excellence.

“For a democracy to flourish all voices must be heard.” says Marcy Syms, a founding Trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation. “Through its investigative reporting Women’s eNews gets at the essence of good journalism. The Sy Syms Foundation is proud of this collaboration to support today’s newest women journalists.”

As part of its mission to create social change for women and girls through investigative reporting, Women’s eNews helps foster, train, and support the career development of new journalists with a focus on social justice and women’s rights.

Important Event Reminder: CREW | 2020 SENECA FALLS REVISITED VIRTUAL CENTENNIAL EXPERIENCE

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 05:08

100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment of Women’s Right to Vote JULY 23-25, 2020 Empowering and Energizing Women in New York State and Nationally about the Importance of Voting WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:

We will celebrate together the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment of Women’s Right to Vote following in the footsteps of the NYS suffragists, to be part of affecting change. You will experience visionary insights from our amazing speakers, legacy descendants and inspiration from the voices of the past as well as the next up and coming generation.

THE PROGRAM

A star-studded awareness event with the most incredible prominent female leadership, advocates, entrepreneurs – and inclusive and diverse audience of women as we set the tone for “Energizing the Power of our Vote in 2020!” – making our voices heard during Congressional and Presidential elections this year.

Click Below to View Virtual Event Trailer :

“CREW100 Presents: Suffrage Celebration” from iCampaignNY

PROGRAM CHAIR  PROGRAM NEW YORK STATE ADVISOR   LEGACY CO-CHAIRS 

About CREW:

Civically Re-Engaged Women (CREW) is incorporated in New York State as a national not-for profit corporation, a 501(c)3 and 501 (c) 4.   CREW provides education and training with a political focus. CREW hosts annual conferences and special events featuring best practices for winning results.  At the conferences, private and public sectors compare playbooks on efficiency, volunteerism, corporate social responsibility, and contemporary progress to prominent societal values and practices. Additionally, CREW offers subcontractor leadership and “branding” services to prominent organizations and institutions and creates original training/programming for a variety of disciplines.

To Learn More and Register, Click Here

Women’s eNews Podcast: Women Saving the World

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 14:10

In this podcast, Executive Director Lori Sokol, PhD talks with Mariam Jalabi, the Representative of the Syrian Opposition Coalition to the United Nations in New York. She is also a founding member of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement and has led the Syrian Opposition’s diplomatic engagement with the Permanent Missions to the United Nations, UN Department of Political Affairs, and Office of the UN Secretary-General. Her work focuses on women’s inclusion in politics and decision-making.

In this episode, Ms. Jalabi discusses her views on the Black Lives Matters movement:

“Although I experienced oppression in my homeland, I am now constantly thinking about how I am part of a system that is giving me privilege and access in the US. More of us have to think hard about that.” – Mariam Jalabi

Click here to listen to the full podcast on iHeartRadio