A Sneak Peak At Local Organizations Where Women Do Just That
In honor of Women’s History month, Michelle Sedaca, development and communications assistant at Casa Myrna Vazquez, interviewed local organizations advocating for women.
Change is in the Air
With a new administration in office, steps toward greater women’s equality are tangible. President Barack Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to protect a woman’s right to sue an employer for discrimination. There has also been a reversal of the Global Gag Rule, which restores funding to international organizations that provide comprehensive reproductive information to patients.
And on March 6, just two days before International Women’s Day, the president announced his intent to nominate Melanne Verveer as ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. According to the president, the new State Department post “reflects the elevated importance of global women’s issues” to the new administration.
Change Starts from Within
According to Tyra Sidberry, director of Third Sector New England’s Diversity Initiative, an organization’s own structure and leadership needs to represent the community it serves if it is to be successful in its advocacy for women. Inclusivity and diversity should be front and center within their own staff and board, with women and people of color well represented.
How can an organization make sure it “walks the walk” and not merely “talks the talk?” An organization first initiates a self-evaluation process, since the goal is much more than simply increasing the number of people of color and/or women on the board and/or staff. The illusion of inclusivity based on numbers represents a common misconception, according to Sidberry.
“People think that if they can achieve the numbers, the organization is inclusive. Instead, [what results is that] the organization is unsuccessful at sustaining the level of diversity and doesn’t know how to become inclusive,” she noted.
Becoming genuinely inclusive is a much more complex venture. Successful blueprints exist. Teen Voices, a journalism mentoring program for adolescent girls which produces a national publication and one of the Diversity Initiative grantees in 2004, addressed its low representation of women of color mentors and board members through open dialogue and reflection among staff. “Teen Voices examined how they run their programs, their magazine, and their board; [as a result of this process] the organization now integrates the perspectives of its constituents - teen girls,” said Sidberry.
“[This process] never goes out-of-style. There needs to be a constant evaluation of your connection to your community,” she added.
The Start of a Quiet Revolution
These steps towards progress for women in the United States and beyond will be celebrated throughout March, Women’s History Month. On International Women’s Day (IWD) alone – observed worldwide on March 8 – more than 970 events in 62 countries were held to recognize women’s political, economic and social progress.
Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, officially established IWD in 1911. However, its origins can be traced to 1908 when thousands of women protested perilous working conditions in New York City factories. In 1975, the United Nations began celebrating the day internationally.
Celebrating and Advocating for Women’s Accomplishments
International Women’s Day gives the world an opportunity to reflect on the progress that women have made since 1911. On IWD, the world is also asked to set aside just one day, less than one percent of our year, to look at how much farther the institutions and structures that support and hinder women's progress must go to help women and girls achieve full equality.
Many TSNE partners, clients and tenants of the TSNE NonProfit Center (NPC) are at the forefront of the women’s rights movement, advocating for women at the local, national and international levels.
NPC tenant, the Massachusetts chapter of the national organization Komen for the Cure, educates women about breast cancer in an effort to prevent the ominous disease, a chief culprit of death for females.
“International Women’s Day continues the history and goals of Komen for the Cure to educate and empower women, to continue to save lives, to ensure quality care for all and to energize science to find a cure,” explained Jeanette Beltran, director of Community Initiatives.
TSNE fiscal sponsorship client yogaHOPE offers yoga instruction throughout Greater Boston and beyond to homeless women, victims of domestic violence and women in substance abuse recovery programs as a source of healing and empowerment.
“At yogaHOPE, women struggling with addiction, poverty and domestic violence have an opportunity to heal from the inside out,” explains Executive Director Suzanne Jones, whose own intimate experience with yoga’s restorative power inspired her to provide this healing practice to underprivileged women.
“My yoga class was the only thing that I would drag myself out of bed for because I told myself that if all I wanted to do was lay there I could. The mat became a refuge for me. Yoga changed my life and saved my life,” shared Jones.
MataHari: Eye of the Day (MataHari), a Boston-based organization, advocates on behalf of immigrants, victims of human trafficking, and domestic and sexual violence.
These organizations and thousands of others represent solid steps towards engendering a more just world for both women and men.
On International Women’s Day, MataHari hosted a forum at UMass Boston to highlight its work on immigrants’ rights, domestic and sexual violence, and human trafficking. Carol Gomez, MataHari’s founder, explained that the event was designed to illuminate the interconnectedness of issues affecting women.
“We can’t work in silos. All of our issues are interrelated and dependent – economics, globalization, gender oppression, labor exploitation, corporate greed, commodification of people in general, profits made from exploitation of human beings…
“We have to hold in our heads the context of the larger world – and make those relationships to daily living – whether it’s in our interpersonal relationships, valuing of each other as human beings ... or in public sphere and policy,” Gomez expressed.
Learn more about Women’s History Month and the ways your non-profit organization can support local observances, and learn more about the history of IWD and the nearly 1,000 events that took place to celebrate the day.