Women’s Equality Day 2014 – because we’re not there yet…

WEmatterAugust 26 is the day we commemorate the 19th Amendment, when U.S. women were—on paper—granted the right to vote. However, we know consistently bringing all women’s voices to our policy and political tables has been a work in progress since that day in 1920.  And this work continues today in the face of extreme voting restrictions passed by the NC General Assembly in 2013.

If you’ve been paying even a little bit of attention to the NCGA this 2013-2014 session, you may have noticed there were policies making it harder for women to vote, access needed health care, independently gain economic security and make decisions about our reproductive lives. It seems we still have a long way to go to achieving full social, political and economic equality for women in NC.

We are proud, as part of the Forward Together Movement’s Moral Week of Action, to be co-presenting today’s Women’s Rights rally in Raleigh. We’ll be commemorating Women’s Equality Day, but also calling on our institutions, government and society to do better as we work towards full gender equality.  What does “doing better” look like?

  • Acknowledging that many of the 2.3 million women in the NC labor force are both family breadwinners and primary caretakers; so access to affordable child care and paid family leave, and addressing the gender wage gap are critical to women’s economic security. They’re not merely nice job perks if you can get them.
  • Respecting that reproductive health care is an integral part of women’s health care, and can’t be separated from women’s overall health. Denying women access to the full range of reproductive health services as well as limiting health care coverage by denying the expansion of Medicaid affects both the health of women and that of their families (NC ranks in the bottom five when it comes to US infant mortality rates).
  • Admitting that violence against women is not “private violence” but a public health epidemic that affects us all and makes us all less safe. What happens in our homes doesn’t stay there, and acceptance of violence in one part of our society is going spill over to the acceptance of violence elsewhere. Believing that limiting common sense gun restrictions and expanding unchecked police powers will somehow protect women and families from violence is  denying the root causes of violence (primarily, inequality). And even if the domestic and sexual violence remained private, women still deserve safety, in our own homes and in the public square.
  • Ensuring that women can freely and easily access their right to vote, which is one of the most direct ways to bring their voices to the policy table. With women disproportionately represented in the numbers of voters without proper ID and stretched thin on time already, cutting early voting hours and increasing bureaucracy around voting will suppress our voices further.

At our rally, women from the community will speak to their personal experiences about how the policies of the latest legislative session are affecting them on issues these issues and more. Speakers include:

  • Rabbi Lucy Dinner – Temple Beth Or
  • O’Linda Gillis – Chair, Women in the NAACP, NC NAACP
  • Tayon Dancy – NC Social Action Committee, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated
  • Gloria De Los Santos – Durham Director, Action NC
  • Rev. Emma Akpan – Director of Policy, NC Women United
  • Jeannine Sato – NC MomsRising
  • Jolanda Ware – Working America

  • Shelia Arias – NC MomsRising
  • Monse Matehuala – Youth Organizing Institute

We will also have the Raging Grannies perform a song, as well as spoken word pieces (including a piece from Trina Thoughtz, past poet laureate of the NC NAACP). (More information on the details of the rally are here). 

Women are directly and uniquely impacted by many of these policy decisions, yet we continue to feel as if our voices are being ignored by lawmakers. As we talk to women from around the state, we know women are frustrated by this continued marginalization of our issues, done by both lawmakers and by the general society. Women’s voices matter because our lives matter.

With more than 40% of NC women being the primary breadwinner for their families and the vast majority of women still in the role of primary caretakers, we help power this economy, and we are the foundation for our families. And with women consistently voting in higher numbers than men and representing 51% of our state’s population, our voices can be a voice for political change.

Overly represented in fields such as public school teaching, nursing, care giving and the service, retail and hospitality industries, women have been the face of our fight for workers’ rights. Debates over women’s access to comprehensive health care, and our critical role in our families’ health (starting with prenatal health), women have been the face of our fight to expand Medicaid. We’ve been the face of those impacted hardest by the voting restrictions; those concerned about our children’s future; and those devastated by the primary and secondary violence we experience in our communities.

And as 2/3 of the Moral Monday movement arrestees, including the very first arrestee; and representing the majority of rally organizers and speakers, we power this movement. Women are the change! Today’s rally is just one step on our long road towards full equality – we hope you will join us!

(In addition to today’s local rally, we are also taking part in kicking off a national campaign to raise up women’s issues, the #WEmatter campaign. Find more info here).

Tara Romano, President, NCWU