This time last summer, women across the state – who had spent the first half of 2013 pushing back against legislation that blocked Medicaid expansion, cut unemployment benefits and decimated vital public service funding – were mobilized like we hadn’t in years to stop the surprise attacks on our reproductive rights. Unfortunately, our efforts were not enough to hold back the ultra-conservative agenda that was being put forward by our General Assembly since 2010. This year’s “short” legislative session wasn’t much better. Legislators’ response to the citizen demonstrations of the summer 2013 seemed to consist of changing the rules of protest at the NCGA and shell games with funding under the guise of helping NC public teachers. There didn’t seem to be many avenues for proactive advocacy in support of women.
These setbacks have not stopped NC women, however, who came together at Bennett College in Greensboro on July 26 to organize and build our movement. NC Women Matter, a coalition of state-wide organizations and close partner of NCWU, convened women from around the state to come together to learn more about the issues facing us and how we can mobilize together to take action. Since we always tend to hear from the issue experts, our conference focused instead on sharing women’s stories, as women are the experts on our own lives. Access to birth control; health care; paid sick days and maternity leave; and affordable, quality educational opportunities for us and our children are all crucial components of securing our health and economic security. And all of these issues have been negatively impacted recently by state and federal policy. Coming together to connect over and learn from one another’s experiences, we also did spend some time sharing ideas and best practices in organizing, communicating, issue campaigning, voter mobilization and coalition building. We talked about building on what our mothers/grandmothers/aunts started, and how to stand in solidarity so we lift up all women. In highlighting the injustice of what is happening to FL domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander, we challenged ourselves to think and act more like a community of interconnected lives rather than a loose group of individual actors. This kind of solidarity will be critical in building our movement and pushing us forward. With such a diverse, committed, energetic group of women (and a few men) that came together that Saturday, we are confident that 2014 will end on a more hopeful note than when it began. Stay tuned.
Tara Romano, President, NCWU