Posts Tagged ‘Social Justice’

The accomplishments of AAUW women never cease to amaze me, and Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee is no exception. Ferebee, a physician, health care advocate, and AAUW board member, tirelessly worked to ensure access to health care for underserved communities.

Dorothy Ferebee

Ferebee, a child of former slaves, was born in 1898 in Norfolk, Virginia. She graduated from Simmons College in 1924 and subsequently earned her medical degree from Tufts University. Although she graduated in the top five of her class, she met with discrimination when she applied for positions at “white” hospitals. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities available to black female physicians in Massachusetts, Ferebee moved to Washington, D.C. She became an obstetrician serving the African American community at Freedman’s Hospital, which is now Howard University Hospital.

Ferebee left her mark on Washington in many ways. In 1925, concerned about the lack of access to public health and family services in the black community, she established Southeast Neighborhood House. This group of physicians provided medical care and other community services, including a day care facility to meet the needs of working mothers. By this act alone, Ferebee was clearly ahead of her time; remember, this was 1925.

During the Great Depression, Ferebee volunteered her time as medical director of the Mississippi Health Project, a program sponsored by the first African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Black physicians provided medical care to the residents of Mississippi, a state with notoriously limited access to doctors and hospitals for its black residents.

Within AAUW, Ferebee was a member of the AAUW Washington (DC) Branch. She also served as chair of the Social and Economic Issues Committee. Importantly, in 1969, she was nominated to become implementation chair for AAUW’s Human Use of Urban Space study. She was an especially fitting pick for the job since this fledgling program was created to come up with solutions to community problems left in the wake of urban renewal. No doubt public health concerns and a lack of access to basic medical services were challenges that AAUW leaders felt confident Ferebee could handle.

In addition to her AAUW service, Ferebee succeeded Mary McLeod Bethune as president of the National Council of Negro Women, was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and served as vice president of the Girl Scouts. But to be honest, the complete list of her accomplishments and contributions is too lengthy to mention in its entirety.

In a quote from Ferebee’s obituary in the Washington Star dated September 17, 1980, the writer accurately said that Ferebee “was the sort of person who enlarges other people’s ideas of what can be done by those enterprising enough to want to.”

Read Full Post »

AAUW rising largeAs Eve Ensler says, I’m “over it.”

I’m over the public safety warnings from my university alerting the community of another violent crime.

I’m over the headlines about another woman becoming the 1 in 3 worldwide to be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

I’m over the jokes, the slut-shaming, and the blaming.

I’m over Congress dragging its feet on passing a bill that would ensure protection for the 1 in 4 women who experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

I’m over violence against women.

Each day there are new stories of harassment, stalking, and violence, and with these stories emerge new victims who join the 1 billion other women who will be violated in their lifetimes.

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally considered a day to celebrate love, today is also for remembering women who have suffered physical, emotional, and social pain due to violence. Rather than spending the day enjoying boxes of chocolates and card and flower deliveries, Ensler, author and playwright of The Vagina Monologues, invites women around the globe to walk, dance, rise, and demand an end to violence against women.

As part of her One Billion Rising campaign, Ensler aims to raise consciousness about the global problem of violence against women. By encouraging women and men to join in solidarity, Ensler hopes to change the cultural and political ways we address violence.

AAUW is risingWhile the dancing is slated for just one day, spreading awareness does not end today. One way to keep the movement going is to join AAUW in urging Congress to reauthorize the  Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). For me and millions of my college peers, reauthorization of VAWA is particularly important. One in 5 women will experience sexual assault while in college. Since policies from the Campus SaVE Act are included in the Senate-passed VAWA reauthorization, we could see better and stronger policies from colleges detailing their handling of claims of sexual assault and violence. We could also see prevention activities at every school and better reporting on more types of incidents on campuses. But that only happens if the House includes these provisions in their bill as well.

By dancing for One Billion Rising and supporting the reauthorization of VAWA, women can re-energize awareness about violence against women and ignite change. This Valentine’s Day, forget the chocolate and the roses. Get up and dance, or contact your representatives in Congress. Tell them you are over violence against women.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member and AAUW Public Policy Intern Bethany Imondi, whose SAC membership is sponsored by Dagmar E. McGill in memory of Happy Fernandez and Helen F. Faust.

Read Full Post »

KatyMiller_For_WebsiteCourageous. Inspirational. Groundbreaking. These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think about Katie Miller, one of our 2013 NCCWSL Women of Distinction. Miller’s story is truly inspiring and gives me the courage to lead no matter what barriers stand in the way.

Ranked eighth in her class of more than 1,000 cadets, Miller was a model student at the U.S. Military Academy. But under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibited gay men and women from serving the country openly and freely, Miller felt she was living untruthfully. She could not keep quiet and had to speak out. The truth came out in 2010, when she announced her resignation from West Point — and her sexuality — on live television.

Reading Miller’s story is eye-opening. Being gay in the military then was a controversial issue and continues to be even after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; but Miller saw no other way to live than to be honest. She showed her bravery by looking past the criticism — and, at the time, the apparent end of her promising military career — and coming out.

Following her resignation and announcement, Miller joined the founding board of OutServe, a then-underground network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members. She then advocated for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

A recent graduate from Yale University, Miller continues to thrive as an advocate for LGBT service members. Now the policy and government affairs chair for OutServe-SLDN (OutServe merged in 2012 with the Service Members Legal Defense Network), Miller has become the youngest board member of a major LGBT organization. She also recently joined the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress as their special assistant and plans on returning to the military soon.

All that Miller has done inspires me to go against the grain: Speak out, stand up, and make a difference. She has led gallantly and candidly and encourages me to lead with the same vision. Whether your passion lies within the LGBT community or elsewhere, Miller’s leadership can truly motivate anyone to take a stand and make a new way for tomorrow.

I look forward to hearing the words of strength and leadership that Miller will deliver at NCCWSL 2013! Will you be there?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

Read Full Post »

On September 11, 1973, one country’s world was turned upside down. Known domestically as “el otro once de septiembre” (“the other September 11”), that day on the Chilean calendar marks when the nation’s military forces executed a successful coup against the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. By the end of that fateful morning at La Moneda (Chile’s version of the White House), Allende was dead and Gen. Augusto Pinochet and the military had taken power.

steffi domikeFrom that moment on, left-leaning Chileans, academics, union leaders, or anyone critical of the dictatorship faced incredible danger. During the dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, more than 3,000 people were abducted by the military police and “disappeared” (clandestinely murdered). Many thousands more were illegally detained, tortured, or forced into exile.

These events profoundly impacted Steffi Domike. The daughter of a U.N. economist, Domike spent her adolescence in Chile, only returning to the United States in 1969. Domike, who supported Allende and his agrarian reform movement, left behind friends in Chile, not all of whom survived the Pinochet regime. Domike was shaped by a personal connection to the almost unfathomable injustice there and a desire to understand and challenge the political and economic structures that make such violence possible.

From a steel mill job to television production to academia, all of Domike’s work has related to equality and workers’ rights. After being laid off following the closing of the steel mill where she worked, Domike took classes and began working in and teaching television production. She then decided to get a master’s degree in order to become a full-time art professor. It was during that time that Domike received her 1995–96 Career Development Grant from AAUW.

Domike’s art is deeply connected to her values of justice and equity. Her art deals with environmental and labor issues and exposes the exploitation of people and of the earth; both abuses that she believes are often committed by the same destructive system.

For Domike, art and activism are inextricably intertwined; both are representations of an issue or a point of view. “When something happens and I react, I represent my view. If I can make some thing or image, or [if I can] organize, all these are forms of representation. The best activist art is experienced. It affects the participant and takes their mind to another level and gets them involved in the movement,” she says.

In addition to her artistic work, Domike’s day job for the past six years has been working as the communications coordinator for the Associate Members Program with the United Steelworkers Union. Her primary responsibility is to maintain communication with the more than 24,000 associate members. Domike loves working with local, multifaceted movements like Fight Back Pittsburgh.

Domike’s commitment to workers’ rights and fair representation has taken her far. “I don’t regret union work, being an artist, or [being an] activist because I’ve loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t want to go counter to my ideas and values,” says Domike. She believes AAUW’s Career Development Grant supports women returning to school to work through these ideas of values, success, and career. Domike recommends that people set their own expectations and find their own definition of success. Because, she says, if you let others define “success,” then it will never be attainable. You have to make it your own.

Steffi Domike’s Career Development Grant was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Research and Project grants: the Lancaster (PA) Branch endowment and the Pennsylvania Bicentennial endowment.

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

Read Full Post »

Obama Inauguration speech 2013We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still. Just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall. Just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.                        

—    President Barack Obama, January 21, 2013

The chills I felt while hearing these words during President Obama’s inaugural address had nothing to do with the Washington, D.C., weather and everything to do with hope and pride in being an American. I went to the Mall with my parents and my 7-year-old daughter, and we waited for hours in the cold to see the president. But it was completely worth it.

It was worth it to hear the president unite the civil rights struggles of the last century into one sweeping idea — that we are fighting for the rights of every person to be treated and valued equally. It was worth it to hear him say that being born a woman or African American or gay makes you no less equal in the eyes of others and no less deserving of the full protection of our laws. It was worth it to hear him say that women should receive equal pay for equal work, something I’ve dedicated my own life to fighting for. It was worth it to hear the word “gay” said aloud for the first time in an inaugural address — a small word but a big step forward. It was worth the cold and the wait and the crowds to hear these words.

I attended the inauguration with my parents, who lived through the Jim Crow era and remember the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, and my daughter, who doesn’t remember life before the United States had an African American president. To see the impact of history on my own family — is it any wonder I got the chills?

Read Full Post »

Not only was a day last week dedicated to human trafficking awareness, but January was also declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This month, President Obama is urging Americans to “educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery.”

There’s a lot of discussion about slavery these days — we’re commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, plus the release of movies like Lincoln and Django Unchained. But a different kind of slavery also draws our attention — human trafficking. According to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, modern-day slavery involves “exploitation through fraud, force or coercion; physical abuse and/or psychological intimidation; and victims are not readily able to free themselves from their situation.” Human trafficking is a worldwide, multibillion dollar enterprise that affects 12–27 million people annually.

A recent Google Hangout on slavery and human trafficking featured Cambodian anti-trafficking advocate Somaly Mam, New York City-based Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) founder Rachel Lloyd, and New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof. The panel, moderated by Luke Blocher from the Freedom Center, discussed the causes and consequences of domestic and international sex trafficking, as well as the steps we can all take to address this problem.

Mam, who was profiled in last fall’s documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, is the founder of AFESIP Cambodia (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations). The organization fights against the trafficking of women and children for sex slavery and works to secure victims’ rights, rehabilitation, and reintegration. Mam, a survivor of sex trafficking, understands exactly what’s needed to heal survivors. She noted during the Hangout that “you can’t just go into brothels and get the women — you have to empower them, be with them, and listen to them. Don’t look at them as victims but as human beings.” As a survivor, she understands that “it’s not easy to escape, stay out, to heal.” But once the survivors do, AFESIP provides them with skills training, since most have no education. When asked about the future, Mam has hope. She sees “students getting involved, pop stars, more social media.” This exposure has given more people a chance to understand the issue and gives survivors a voice.

GEMS founder Lloyd indicated that “100,000–300,000 young people are at risk for commercial exploitation each year.” And she reminds us that this is happening in our neighborhoods, not just in other countries. Unfortunately, the lack of attention to the issue of human trafficking reflects a similar neglect of those whom it impacts most: low-income people, people of color, and people in the juvenile justice system — those who are not “high on anybody’s priority list.” Lloyd supports the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, which encourages decriminalization of survivors so that they are “not prosecuted as criminals but as people in need of services when they are picked up at the age of 12 for prostitution.” But she noted, “We can’t legislate or prosecute our way out of it.” She encourages people to get educated, find out what’s happening locally, and get involved — tutor, mentor, volunteer — because ending trafficking is more than “driving around in a van at night scooping up and rescuing girls.”

Kristof noted that “traffickers control the girls the same way around the world, whether it’s New York or Cambodia.” This control can be psychological or physical. The past strategic mistake of “people grabbing the girls instead of the pimps has begun to change but must change even more.” He stressed the importance of the empowerment of girls and education: “Just 1 percent of what we spent on the Afghan and Iraq wars would eliminate the primary education gap and end global illiteracy.” Education is critical since the “pimp model relies on illiterate girls.” Kristof, like Mam, acknowledged that there has been progress because the issue has gotten more attention, and “naming and shaming” has worked, since “the U.S. annual trafficking report does embarrass some governments.”

And speaking of pimps, all of the panelists agreed that men (and boys) need to be a part of the solution. Lloyd wants us to “socialize boys and young men differently, so that they know that they don’t have the right to purchase other human beings.” Kristof stressed the importance of “john school” to give men “a day in which they hear from survivors what trafficking is really like.” Mam simply stated that “we need to have men and boys involved and educate them.”

If you missed the Hangout, I encourage you to watch it (above).

Wondering what else you can do to help?

Read Full Post »

Many people see things in the world that make them stop and wish for something different. I’m not talking about adding ketchup and mustard to a burger; I’m talking about something a bit deeper, like injustices, discrimination, and hate. In the workshop session “Leadership and Social Justice: Preparing for a Better Tomorrow,” Carmen Rivera, from Colorado State University and Samuel J. Offer from the Washington Consulting Group helped prepare students to become not only activists, but effective ones.

Carmen highlighted on the importance of the “sense to act” and knowing what you are acting on behalf of. Is this just something that you feel passionate about for the moment, or is this something that you are willing to become a true activist for? Do you have knowledge of the subject? Do you know what your resources are? Do you know who your key research people are in the field? Do have knowledge of what you are fighting for?

Carmen really showed that, in a typical day, people may see many injustices in the world, but the ability to effectively change them is a whole other story. In order to be an effective activist it is important to know yourself, know your cause, know your resources, and know those around you who may have similar passions and can help you create that change.

After Carmen spoke, Sam took center stage and helped with the first part of the process, which was the main focus of the session. Sam helped us undercover who we are, what we identify as, what our passions are, and where we see ourselves. The exercises helped the participants know themselves better and know what motivates them to act.  Sam helped us see not only our desires, but also the correlation between our lives and the future we seek.

Ultimately, Carmen and Sam focused on the participants understanding themselves, understanding others, and using such information to create a better future. It was a very eye-opening and soul-seeking workshop that left participants with building blocks to become better activists in their lifetimes.

This post is by Amanda-Rae Barboza, NASPA intern.  Amanda-Rae studies Government and International Affairs at George Mason University.

Read Full Post »

Ritu Sharma has led a life that would appeal to anyone interested in social change. Sharma will be one of our keynote speakers at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, and I cannot wait for all of the attendees to learn from such an amazing activist. She is a first-generation American; her family fled India due to poverty and violence. In 1998, Sharma created Women Thrive Worldwide to bring attention to her family’s legacy and women’s social injustices and to ensure the United States acts in a helpful manner in the world. She has served on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Session on Women. AAUW is proud to have an affiliation with Women Thrive Worldwide and encourages our states and branches to engage in these international issues.

Sharma’s work is inspirational, and it’s remarkable how her organization addresses a variety of social issues from violence against women to women and trade. One of the most interesting issues, I learned about from researching Sharma’s work was the connection between violence against women and poverty.

As shared on the Women Thrive Worldwide website, a study conducted in Nicaragua discovered that children of abused women tended to leave school approximately four years early due to the violence in the family. According to the Royal Tropical Institute, a Dutch think tank, young men who witness violence learn to treat women poorly, and women who have been exposed to violence as children will accept the abuse inflicted upon them later in life. If a woman is abused, it decreases her ability to work and therefore increases the likelihood of poverty. Unfortunately the most vulnerable members of a population continue to suffer these social indignities.

Some of Sharma’s other impressive accomplishments include authoring An Introduction to Advocacy: A Training Guide. An Introduction to Advocacy: A Training Guide is designed to be used as a tool to explain a variety of fundamentals to running a successful advocacy campaign, from fundraising to developing messages. Personally, I am looking forward to learning about Sharma’s views on the current status of women worldwide and possible solutions to ending violence against women. Learn more about her and all the other NCCWSL information at http://www.nccwsl.org.

This post was written by Jennifer McGuire, AAUW-Leadership and Training Institute Fellow.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

Patricia M. Lowrie (Image: Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights)

Patricia M. Lowrie (Image: Michigan Department of Civil Rights)

When deciding which woman in academia to highlight in this blog, I decided not to focus on a well-known woman academic leader, such as a woman university president or a distinguished female professor. Instead, I did a Google search to find a woman who has not necessarily been in the public spotlight, but who has nonetheless worked to make education a reality for many young, diverse women across the country. In my search, I discovered Patricia M. Lowrie. It is women like Lowrie who have provided the support that the more well-known women leaders needed to get where they are today.

Lowrie is the director of the Women’s Resource Center and assistant to the dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. Lowrie works to bring issues of inequality, social injustice, and discrimination to the table in order to address the disproportionate representation of women in various academic fields and in high-level academic positions. With high-reaching dreams of my own, women like Lowrie are paving the way for my dreams to become more and more of a reality. We cannot forget that there were days in which women were not allowed to attend university, not allowed to hold higher education positions, or even to study particular academic fields, and unfortunately our fight is not over. Discrimination in education and academia is still very much alive, but with leadership from women like Lowrie, hindrances to women’s advancement are pushed aside to allow more and more goal-driven women to succeed. Women like Lowrie, whose work focuses on implementing education, leadership, social justice, and advocacy programs, further empower women to make long strides in academia.

As detailed in an Association of American Colleges and Universities article, Lowrie has put a great deal of enthusiastic effort into further equalizing opportunities for women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and ensuring that culturally diverse classrooms encourage students from all backgrounds to realize an equal chance to reach their dreams and live up to their full potential. Lowrie has worked at a grassroots level not only at Michigan State University, but also by serving on the governing board of the Council on Education for Public Health under the American Public Health Association and Association of Schools of Public Health. Lowrie is working to change statutes to make education more widely available to students, particularly women, of minority cultures. Diversity is absolutely an aspect of education that, as I sit in my own classes, I do not see enough of. Most classes continue to be dominated by students from distinct socio-economic backgrounds that do not represent the populous of the country. I applaud Lowrie’s work and the achievements that she has already made, in addition to those she continues to work toward. Lowrie has had many great achievements in ensuring that all women can break through barriers to become leaders in their field.

This post is part of a special Women’s History Month series. It was written by Crystal Cazier, AAUW Public Policy Fellow.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

Tattoos seem to be in favor again as a decoration of choice among young women. Lower back, neck, or arm tattoos have become very evident during the summer months in recent years. I was just shown a new one by a friend of my niece, who very proudly wore a short shirt to showcase this latest work of “art” (brrrr, given that its 34 degrees at the moment).

I was a very young girl when I saw my first tattoo. It was on the arm of a neighbor’s grandmother, and I had no clue what it represented until my own mom took time to explain it to me one afternoon. Over a cup of hot chocolate, I listened as my mom told the grandmother’s story of being in a concentration camp during World War II and receiving the tattooed numbers as an identification mark. She said the grandmother had been separated from her family and never saw them again, but that she was fortunate to survive and have a family of her own. I apparently sighed with contentment, clueless and pleased with the “happy ending.”

It was only years later that I heard the full story of horror, pain, and despair relayed to me when I started asking questions again after reading Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl at school. I was struck by remembering the story of the grandmother down the block and finally put two and two together. I made a promise to visit the Anne Frank house when I went to Europe and eventually did so. I learned to question authority and never took “because that’s the way it is” as an answer (much to the annoyance, on occasion, of my parents, teachers, or bosses). Until I paused to think back, I never realized what a difference that tattoo ultimately made in my own life.

This December is Universal Human Rights month, celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations without dissent. Human rights and women’s issues are unfortunately intertwined. We all know that education is a key deterrent to human rights violations, and I encourage you to use AAUW as a vehicle when teaching others about their rights as women. In the meantime, I will be buying a few copies of Anne Frank’s book to give to some young folks I know — to help them question their world, too.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »