Meet The Team: FMF’s Newest Organizers Are Getting to Work!

This summer, the Feminist Majority Foundation saw to it that our CHOICES Feminist Campus Leadership Program brought on four new team members before the school year started: three new organizers who will join Edwith on the ground across the country, and one travelling do-it-all media maven to help them tweet about it. The new folks introduced themselves last week on the Feminist Campus blog. Here are their stories!

Click to Read Their Posts!
Click to Read Their Posts!

Alyssa Seidorf: National Campus Organizer

It turns out I was always a feminist – I just didn’t know the name. I was raised by a strong mother in a family of sisters, where she taught us to be empowered and independent, so I came to college already subscribing to feminist ideals. During my freshman year of college, I took my first women’s and gender studies class, and it literally changed my life. Not only was there now a name for what I believed in, but there was an entire movement that was beautiful, vibrant, unbelievably exciting, and often heartbreaking, to learn about.

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Ashleigh Moses: National Campus Organizer

All the feminists I look up to and who have shaped so much of my perception of the world have openly addressed the systemic marginalization that I had only condemned in papers and to fellow feminists. My feminist role models have broken out of feminist spaces and actively engaged audiences that are not always accepting of their messages. They have marched, given speeches, and written to thousands. They have founded and presided over organizations, social justice campaigns, and political methodologies. They have given feminism a voice.

After interrogating my personal silence, I put passive reflection aside and picked up a sign.

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Nancy Aragon: National Campus Organizer

My best advice to any young feminist out there is this: Take as many as possible courses in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), or the equivalent at your school, as you can. Having a feminist academic space on campus is pivotal to your growth as feminist. That is where I found the space I had been desperately looking for. That is where I was finally given a voice, not just in writing my own story, but in activism. I became involved with the FMLA chapter at CSULA and realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: organizing.

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Taylor Kuether: Campus Communications Associate

I love journalism. I love writing and editing, reporting and researching. I love conducting interviews and asking questions. I am a journalist; it’s a huge part of my identity. This is how I do what I love. How I love what I do is a little different: it’s how I use my skills and abilities for the promotion of a cause I’m passionate about. That cause, of course, is the feminist movement.

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Register at Early Bird Rates for the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference!

originally posted at the Feminist Campus blog.

We’re thrilled to announce that Early Bird Registration is now open for the 10th Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, taking place from March 29-31, 2014! You won’t want to miss out on this year’s NYFLC: there’s going to a a slew of workshops, panels, and plenary sessions ranging in topic from global women’s rights to campus organizing tips all featuring campus activists, feminist and political leaders, and other public figures. You’ll have the chance to take action, get inspired, network with other activists, and even grab some feminist gear or explore the nation’s capital.

Click to Register!
Click to Register!

Our Early Bird rates are $25 for individuals and $20 per person for groups of 5 or more people. After Early Bird Registration closes, those rates will go up – so don’t hesitate! Register today. We’re also offering prizes to the largest delegations in attendance and the largest Early Bird Registration groups, so go ahead and register a friend as well!

You can read more about the conference on our website and RSVP on Facebook to find friends, arrange carpools, and make plans with other registered folks. You can also tell us how excited you are on Twitter using the hashtag #NYFLC2014! If you have any questions, concerns, or unique needs, or know you’ll be registering a group, don’t hesitate to contact us at nyflc@feminist.org or call 703-522-2214 and ask to speak to a conference representative.

We’re looking forward to seeing a diverse array of feminists at the conference this year, and we hope you’ll join us in celebrating a decade of young feminist action and leadership across the nation. Save a seat at NYFLC 2014 today – and we’ll see you in March!

Meet the Team: FMF’s Newest Organizers Share Tips, Tricks, and Stories

It’s August! That means college students are dragging their feet back to campus and our campus organizers are getting back on the ground. At FMF’s East Coast office, we welcomed four new campus organizers over the summer: three travelling do-it-all regional organizers and one media maven who’ll be working on the web to keep campus leaders on top of the major issues affecting their communities.

The new team members introduced themselves last week at the Feminist Campus blog and shared their organizing tips and tricks. Here’s a sneak-peek. (Click their names to check out the full pieces!)

meet the team
Click to View the Series!

Edwith Theogene: Southern States & HBCUs

Besides having a flair for the comedic, I am a recent graduate of Florida International University. I was there for ten years on and off, so I can’t really say that it was necessarily the best time of my life because it was basically my whole life. I will say this though: it was a great experience. I blossomed late with my involvement in grassroots organizing but I was able to intern with various local social service and advocacy community groups and become heavily involved within my own campus Feminist movements over that time. Since FIU is predominantly a commuter school within a huge metropolitan setting, we were able to work on a variety of campaigns and connect any sort of campus activism with local community efforts; that made me realize how important networking and coalition-building are in this movement.

Maddie, Edwith, and Kristy!
Maddie, Edwith, and Kristy!

Madeline (Maddie) Barnett: Mid-West States

At the risk of sounding extremely cheesy, we need conductors to orchestrate the efforts of all of the musicians so that they can play together in harmony: although the “invisible” part of organizing doesn’t always come with instant gratification, it helps ensure the long term endurance of the feminist movement and provides the leg work and orchestration behind many important grassroots efforts.  This work has made me a better organizer because I understand the planning and development that has gone into any trainings I participate in, rallies I attend, or materials used to fundraise, recruit, or implement a campaign. I have even developed a better understand of the media campaigns or press conferences of organizations and politicians. These efforts aren’t just something to “like” or “share;” they are an important part of maintaining a feminist presence and keeping others involved, aware, and invested.

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Kristy Birchard: Mid-Atlantic and Northeast States

 I didn’t have the words for it until I was 16, but I took pride in being smart. I recognized that it was something a lot of people didn’t expect, especially from someone so quiet. As a teenage girl in the tech world, I often felt that my help was undervalued; I wasn’t expected to be good with computers and I didn’t like forcing myself to tell people that I was. Now, my 22-year-old self is the result of years forcing myself out of my comfort zone: sticking up for myself, asking questions, and asking for help. I’m still an introvert; and I like that. I’ve learned to speak up when I feel it’s necessary but I don’t have to change who I am to appease anyone. That’s the most important thing that feminism has taught me.

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Carmen Rios: Online Community Organizer

My use of the Internet to network and share content didn’t seem like a revolution, but indeed it was: though feminist leaders didn’t need my help writing organizational strategy, they sure as hell needed someone to blog about it for them. My basic knowledge of HTML was like a golden egg I could bring to every interview; my capability to quickly post to various networks in my organization’s unique voice equated to the sound of a sealing envelope. I didn’t recognize until after about two years of working for campaigns and organizations like THE LINEHollaback!, and even the FMF (as a wee college freshman!) that I was creating the future of the movement I’d pledged to work in for the rest of my life – now, it’s merely the present and I’m playing my own part. Now, I’m a prolific D-list Internet celebrity who writes regularly for Autostraddle and PolicyMic and edits the blog of THE LINE Campaign. (Because once an intern, always an intern.)

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A Women in Academia Mini-Roundtable

It’s clear that women still struggle to find standing in academia. In this post, two FMF interns tackle the issue right at the line where the personal becomes political.

This post originally appeared at Feminist Campus.

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Gaisu

I’m not American, and I come from a different culture where academia is very sex-segregated. That was shocking to me, and unacceptable. It’s disappointing to me that academia is still not a comfort zone for women in the United States. I had heard of the United States’ commitment to gender equality and democracy before arriving here, but unfortunately the culture turned out to be different than I expected and shocked me once again.

When I attended community college for two years in the United States, I learned that my character and abilities didn’t matter due to my gender as well as English being my second language. I moved from Afghanistan in 2007 and found academia a refuge where I could empower myself to learn new skills and expand my knowledge of issues I cared about, but I noticed that women were not treated the same as men. I also noticed many women choosing gendered fields, whether consciously in prediction of a future family or unconsciously: female students were studying nursing or education while women remained vastly outnumbered in engineering or political science programs. Even though 60% of students were female, most of them were in liberal art programs that limited their future competition with men in the workforce and often offered flexibility rather than rigor in the professional world.

The structure of the school, didn’t fare any better in terms of gender equity: the president of the college was a man, as well as most of the well known professors. I noticed that professors who had children were mostly working part time, and my female professors’ children often came to school because there was no one else to take care of them at home. This, to me, demonstrates the fact that women should not, and can not, pursue leadership in academia while balancing a family life – a life in which they are still expected to shoulder a majority of the child-rearing responsibilities. This is how I’ve perceived academia as working: women academics struggle to find a balance while men show no signs of outside conflict with their profession, and then receive promotions and more attention from their community. Women, through gendered course tracks and existing systemic sexism, are kept out of that community. That’s sexism, be it direct or indirect.

I am deeply embarrassed by the current state of gender imbalance in American academia. Ultimately, the inherently sexist structure of the academic world leads me to question America’s democracy and commitment to gender equality: if women aren’t thinkers, then who is? Women’s voices must be heard in classrooms just as they need to be heard in boardrooms, but my experiences within the college culture show me that there remain issues that need to be fixed.

I am transferring to University of Virginia in the Fall, and I hope the culture will be different. I do not think one person can solve the gender gap in academia, but surely a group with strong skills and convinctions can.

Here’s to finding a group, and the women academics who haven’t yet.

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Joanna

Men are the breadwinners and women belong at home: an age-old adage that just gets older.

The absence of women in intellectual bodies goes back before many feminist undergrads’ birth years – women such as Phyllis Richman dealt with this very same issue back in 1961, for example. Richman submitted an application to the Urban Planning graduate program at Harvard University in 1961, but her hopes were struck down when then-Assistant Professor for the department, William A. Doebele, challenged her in a letter to convince the admissions committee if and how she could juggle being an effective student and an effective spouse. Phyllis did not comply to the request until last month, when she wrote an emeritus Harvard professor a response:

I haven’t encountered any women with “some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education.” I’ve never regretted a single course. In all, I attended graduate school for a dozen years, though only part-time, since my “responsibilities to [my] husband,” as you so perceptively put it, included supporting him financially through his own graduate studies, a 10-year project.

This might seem to reinforce your belief that marriage and a family would stunt my career, but I think being admitted to Harvard would have propelled my career path to the level of my husband’s. While I ended up with a rewarding and varied professional life, your letter shows just how much Harvard — not to mention my husband, our families and even myself — didn’t give my career the respect it deserved when I was just starting out.

Women such as Richman faced the challenge of having to choose their careers or their families. Fifty-two years later, women continue to face this dilemma: whether a woman is seeking a corporation or service job, the notion of career versus family peeps its ugly head every time. As I prepare to excel in the job market I am a bit nervous of whether or not I too will face the unwanted dilemma of employers “offering” the option of a family or a career. I don’t want to choose. I want it all, or a combination of it all – but either way, I want to decide.

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Statistics show that women in academia are consciously and subconsciously blocked from lasting careers (such as one on the tenure track) because they are primarily seen as domestic child-bearers. This is antithetical to data that shows women graduating at higher rates and with greater success than their male counterparts – which leads me to wonder why their competence remains a question. As a woman proudly armed with an undergraduate degree, I was definitely been aware of gender in education. I worry about the “glass wall,” which is a term for what happens when women experience career growth but are prevented from entering tracks with the most mobility.

The illusion of a “choice” between a satisfying academic life and a family is ill-suited for a modern world with so many educated women in its company. Women today aspire differently: some women seek a professional career over a family, some seek to juggle both, and others choose to devote themselves to their families for long or short periods of time in-between. Surely there must be room in academia for all of us who choose to be there – and especially those of us who seek to lead there. Surely we, like men, should have a full range of options to pursue knowledge at whichever level we find most challenging, most comfortable, or most enthralling.

Roundtable: Our Experiences Buying Plan B

This post originally appeared on Feminist Campus.

In light of the recent FDA changes regarding the sale of Plan B, the FMF interns started talking about sharing their own experiences purchasing emergency contraceptives. Our experiences have been pretty diverse – some people were received by helpful pharmacists, some…not so much – but our experiences made it clear to us how important it is for women, especially younger women, to have access to emergency contraceptives.

Jenna

One Saturday night last spring when the condom broke while I was with my partner, I knew I had access to Plan B, but didn’t really want to use it and wasn’t sure if I really should. We realized that the condom had broken very quickly and we stopped. My partner didn’t think it was a big deal, and even suggested that we have unprotected sex, saying that it would be safe enough it he just pulled out. I was still worried and a little bit upset, but wasn’t sure if I was just making a fuss out of nothing. And even if I had been convinced that I definitely should get it, the idea of going up to the check-in desk and having to say that I was there to get emergency contraception in front of whatever other students would have been there at the time was just too embarrassing.

Luckily enough, the next day I came down with a bad cold so I went to the student health center (…to get some decongestants). While I was there, I was nervous, knowing that I should probably ask about Plan B, but not knowing how to bring it up. I was lucky that the nurse noticed that I was upset, encouraged me to open up, and talked through it with me. My partner hadn’t seemed worried at all, and I wasn’t sure if I really needed to take it—she reminded me that taking that chance was risky, and completely unnecessary and that taking the pill was a reasonable, responsible thing to do. So I took it.

The reactions to my choice were mixed: when I finally told my partner about it, he was dismissive and said that it was unnecessary and that I was overreacting. When I finally talked to a close friend of mine about it, she really set things straight for me, and helped me to realize that taking Plan B didn’t make me a slut, or irresponsible, or anything else to be ashamed of. I am so thankful for my friend’s support, but I wish that even before I took Plan B that someone had told me that it’s okay to use emergency contraception, and that my friends would be there support me, not judge me.

Breanna

I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed to ask for birth control and I don’t think anyone should be. So, with that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the first time I went to get Plan B from my local Planned Parenthood, I walked up to the representative at the front counter with confidence. Although I was alone, I was not afraid. I walked past the people waiting to be seen by a doctor, nurse, or other staff and approached the counter. “I need Plan B,” I loudly exclaimed.

I had seen a few people before me approach the counter and quietly relay their requests, but I didn’t see any logical reason for me to lower my voice, but apparently it would’ve been helpful for the comfort of others because immediately after I asked for the pill, everyone in the waiting room looked up at me in shock except the staff. While that made me slightly uncomfortable, the receptionists reaction reaffirmed my belief that there was nothing to be ashamed of – she simply responded with “okay, please fill out these forms and bring them to me when you’re done.” So, I filled them out and returned them as requested. I then waited for some time in order to receive Plan B, but it wasn’t too terrible – they had a television playing the local news station and pamphlets galore to keep me busy as I awaited my turn.

After about 20 minutes, they called my name, unlocked the door and let me into the back of the facility. I was greeted by a friendly nurse who asked for some information to confirm my identity then a quick screening on the reason that I needed the pill. I then received the Plan B I requested and another pill to keep in case I needed it again so that I had it on hand. I signed off on their paperwork and I was out of there just like that, at no cost to me. Planned Parenthood made getting Plan B was much, much easier than I had expected it would be.

Allison

The first, and only, time I have made the decision to purchase an emergency contraceptive was one of the first times I ever had sex, as if that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough. It was within a long-term relationship with a very open and supportive guy, who offered to get me Plan B the second the condom broke. I was overwhelmed and the circumstances were such that we were fairly confident we had noticed in time to avoid any accidents, so I (stupidly, upon reflection) turned down his offer to go get it right away.

The next evening I was sitting in my dorm with my roommate, who was several years older and had been sexually active for a while, telling her about the experience. She shared her two or three stories of taking emergency contraceptives and reasoned to me that, even if I was pretty sure noting had gone wrong, 50 dollars was definitely worth my piece of mind for the next month. I asked her if she would be willing to go with me and she agreed, so we set off on the 15 minute walk to our local pharmacy. In the store, I traipsed off to the family planning aisle and started trying to decipher the difference between Plan B and its generic form, Next Choice. I chose Plan B.

I tentatively walked up to the pharmacist, grateful that it was a relatively young woman. I wasn’t prepared for her response, however. She glared as I handed over the Plan B card and silently walked back into the pharmacy shelves. She returned a moment later and said they were out of Plan B, so I asked if they had Next Choice. She nodded, so I grabbed a Next Choice card and went back to the counter. She just continued to glare and didn’t say another word to me for the duration for the transaction. Admittedly, my assumption that a young woman would be accepting of another young woman purchasing emergency contraceptives was presumptuous, but I would like to think I live in a society that could at least be satisfied when it sees it’s members making an attempt to take care of themselves.

Anyone who thinks I could have raised a child a year ago is quite mistaken, as is anyone who thinks I could do it now. What a lovely world it would be if women, people for that matter, trusted each other to be making the right decisions for their bodies, their circumstances, and themselves.

Ann Marie

 I woke up one morning during my first semester of college and needed to take Plan B. This particular morning happened to be the first day in 2 months that I would be leaving Canada in order to go back home to Virginia. And because of irresponsible, first-semester-of-college related reasons, I had overslept and could very seriously miss my flight. I threw whatever clothes I could find in a duffle bag, grabbed my passport, and hurried off to the pharmacy.

Blinded by the same embarrassing ignorance that allowed me to try and use an American twenty to pay for my first meal in Canada, I assumed the laws regarding Plan B in Toronto were the same as they were back home. My only experience buying Plan B was paying a friend’s 19-year-old sister 60 bucks to run into CVS while 16-year-old me bit my nails in the backseat of her car, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was now of legal age, true, but what kind of questions would the pharmacist ask me? Would it be embarrassing? Am I going to have to go into gory details about my recent sexual experience to a complete stranger? How long is this going to take? Am I seriously going to miss my flight and have to spend Canadian Thanksgiving alone, sad, and possibly pregnant, eating Oreos on the floor of my dorm?

I bee-lined for the back of the store and stepped up to the counter. Groping around my bag for my ID, I mumbled out apologies and explained to the pharmacist that I made a mistake and needed to purchase Plan B. He glanced up and pointed behind me. “Its by the condoms.”

“Oh.” Confused, I thanked him and turned around to investigate. Plan B was indeed in aisle 6, comfortably nestled between the pregnancy tests and condoms. I grabbed it, trotted back to the pharmacist to pay, who politely told me I could pay at the front of the store so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. So I did that. I also bought some Advil and a Dr. Pepper. Made my flight. It should always be that simple.

Hundreds Gather to Protest VA’s Anti-Abortion TRAP laws

By Campus Organizer Sarah Shanks. This post was originally posted on the Feminist Campus Blog.

In Virginia, abortion clinics might begin closing at an alarming rate due to legislation requiring they be regulated like hospitals. In March, Governor McDonnell signed SB 924, a bill that classifies women’s health centers in the state as a category of hospitals, making them subject to new regulations created by the Department of Health. These laws are called “TRAP laws,” which stands for Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers.

The measure forces the state’s 21 clinics to meet rigorous standards—such as wide hallways and tall ceilings—that aren’t required of other medical practices that perform invasive and often more dangerous medical procedures, such as dental surgery, plastic surgery, or colonoscopies. These regulations, which single out women’s health centers, sparked the formation of Virginia Coalition for Women’s Health, a statewide coalition of health care providers and women’s health advocates. The coalition is hoping to reach out to Virginia law makers and communities to educate the public about this issue, as well as fight this legislation.

The day before the Board of Health is set to vote on these regulations, the Coalition hosted a Speak Out at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond to show support for women’s access to reproductive health care. Over 200 people showed up to the Speak Out to show their commitment to choice and access to reproductive health care for all. The energy and sheer number of people protesting these regulations was staggering, as you could hear the crowd yelling various pro-choice chants throughout the event. There was a diverse pool of speakers that came out, including Virginia state delegates Charniele Herring and Katherine Waddell, VCU students, and other reproductive rights advocates. One student, Natasha Yingling, spoke passionately, saying, “Women like me who are uninsured will be left with no care. At what point do the pro-life leaders start caring about women’s lives?”

Several Feminist Majority Foundation representatives helped organize the rally and were in attendance yesterday. Pro-choice signs and balloons were prominent in the Compass Circle, where the Speak Out was held. Although a few anti-abortion rights advocates came to the Speak Out, their voices and signs were barely audible or visible behind those of the pro-choice supporters. Passing students and community members were given the opportunity to fill out petitions urging the governor to stop this political game jeopardizing women’s health.

The Board of Health will vote on these regulations today starting at 9:00 am at the Wyndham Richmond Airport Hotel. Various medical professionals and community members will attend to urge the Board to consider the detrimental impact such regulations would have on women’s access to healthcare. The pro-choice community will also be present at the event as evidence of the vast number of people who are against these regulations. We hope that the Board of Health will see that the regulations are unnecessary and medically unsound.

There will also be another rally on October 15th to shed light on the issue and urge the governor to listen to his constituents about women’s health. It will be at 1pm in Monroe Park near VCU’s campus. To learn more about the TRAP laws, the October rally, or to sign the petition, please visit coalitionforwomenshealth.org. We have to do all that we can to fight these legislative anti-choice tactics and show our government that we will not stand for rolling back women’s rights, including our right to make decisions about our own bodies.

HERvotes: How the Youth, Women and Minority Vote are at Stake in 2012

By Francesca Witcher

This post is part of the #Hervotes Blog Carnival and was originally posted on the Feminist Campus Blog.

The Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine are partnering with other organizations that represent women and people of color in a Health and Economic Right or HERvotes initiative for the election in 2012. FMF’s Campus Team is gearing up together with HERvotes for its Get Out Her Vote (GOHV) 2012 this coming school year.

As we mark the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, and the anniversary of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, students are being disenfranchised with new state-based voter suppression laws.

Over 30 state legislatures introduced legislation, with 11 states enacting, Voter ID laws that will serve to disenfranchise votes by requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, on Election Day.

You may ask yourself, “What’s the problem with requiring a photo ID on Election Day?”

Many people do not have government-issued photo IDs. According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, 11 percent or 21 million United States citizens do not have government-issued IDs.

The millions of students, who attend college out of their parent’s home state, will have problems casting a ballot in the states that do not recognize college campus IDs because they often do not include an address or are not government-issued.

According to the 1979 Supreme Court ruling in Symm v. United States, students have the right to vote where they attend school.

Students can obtain a government-issued ID at their local DMV that is not a driver’s license, but it presents an extra step that students have to take to register to vote and/or to vote and extra problems in conducting student registration and voting drives. Plus, students may not know about these new requirements before it is too late.

There are also more young women in college than young men, making the young women’s vote at greater risk of being disenfranchised.

Finally, people of color, in particular, will be significantly impacted. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Twenty-five percent of African-American voting-age citizens have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to eight percent of white voting-age citizens.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven states including Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have passed strict voter photo ID laws. If a person showed up to the polls without a government-issued photo ID, she/he will be turned away from casting a ballot and given the option of voting a provisional ballot.

There are seven other states that require a photo ID when voting including Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota. However, in these states people can still vote if they meet other criteria, such as verifying a birth date or signing a form swearing his/her identity.

Several organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Project Vote are suing states with strict Voter ID laws under the Voting Rights Act. They may have success in some of these states, but lawsuits may not happen in time for the 2012 election.

There are several other election laws in states across the country that could have an impact on the voting process and voter registration drives. Florida for example, has reduced the number of days third party groups can submit voter registration forms from two weeks to 48 hours, and a $50 fine for each late application submitted. Third party groups, such as the League of Women Voters, felt that the risk is too high and have decided not to register as a third party organization for the 2012 election cycle.

So much is at stake in 2012! Voting rights, social security for young and old people, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title X or the National Family Planning Program, Medicare, Medicaid, Title IX of the Education Amendments, Roe v. Wade, Violence Against Women Act, and the historical Affordable Care Act.

With women representing the majority of the population and the black youth vote leading the people of color youth vote in 2008, we must start mobilizing now! Our future and livelihoods depend on it!

If you are interested to learn more about taking a GOHV voter registration drive to your campus this coming fall and spring, please contact your campus organizer.

One Year Later: The Women of Haiti Cherie & an American Feminist

For a while there it seemed as if most of the world had forgotten about Haiti (again). This week, by all indications from the news media, the ongoing tragedy has not been completely forgotten. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel discouraged when nearly half of the people I speak to about Haiti are sure that it was a hurricane that occurred last January (?!) or believe that Haiti is an island near Africa.

Immediately following the January 12 earthquake I began searching for volunteer opportunities, but quickly found that without a medical or emergency response background, few organizations were interested in taking advantage of my willingness to help. In May, however, I was finally invited to join an amazing group of nurses and doctors to volunteer at a medical clinic run by the organization Raising Haiti. In total, I have traveled to Haiti 3 times, working twice in a general medical clinic and once in a cholera treatment center. I will return in 15 days (but who’s counting).

There have been so many issues complicating the situation in Haiti this past year, but given my background as a passionate feminist and advocate for women’s health & rights, I can’t overlook how these circumstances will always disproportionately effect the women of Haiti. Women head nearly half of all households in Haiti, and face a constant threat of gender based violence (GBV).

Prior to chaos of 2010:

  • An estimated 72% of girls have been raped
  • 40% of women suffer from domestic violence.
  • Contraceptive use is reported at a dismal 13.2% (including condoms)
  • Pregnancy rates among school-age girls is approximately 3% – compare that to the US, which has the highest teen pregnancy rate of industrialized nations at 0.07%
  • Abortion is illegal in Haiti – which leads many women to abandon education, enter into unsafe relationships, or seek risky illegal abortions
  • Maternal mortality rates remain high, estimated at about 0.006% (compared to the US’s relatively high rate of 0.00008%)
  • Only approx. 26% of births in Haiti are assisted by a skilled birthing attendant

And this is all prior to the chaos which followed the earthquake which claimed the lives of over 300,000 people, and lead to increased civil unrest as well as a cholera epidemic whose death toll is approximated to be 2-4 times worse than the official reports of 3700.

But the Haitian people are warm, grateful and funny. They persevere in the face of insurmountable odds and great obstacles, always seeking to do what is best for their families, their community and their country. Every Haitian, whether living in Haiti or building a life in the expansive Haitian diaspora, knows the greatness which lies beneath the surface in Haiti. I’ve fallen in love in Haiti, in so many ways.

From a Campus Organizer who assisted in a impromptu pharmacy and monitored cholera patients:
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” – Edmund Burke
[A quote which can be found on the legendary table of the MMRC HQ in Port-au-Prince.]

For more information on the women of Haiti:
We Advance: NGO in Haiti focusing on GBV and women’s health
Kay Fanm: “House of Women” Haitian non-profit focusing on health & GBV in Haiti
Ms. Magazine: Please also check related posts for information on rape & GBV. Additionally the Winter 2011 issue of Ms. has a story dedicated to the women of Haiti.
UNFPA: UN Population Fund work on GBV and maternal health

Originally posted on feministcampus.org by Meghan Shalvoy

From the Front Lines: A Warm Welcome in Charlotte

Last week, I went to Charlotte, North Carolina with Feminist Majority Foundation to help protect reproductive health providers from anti-abortion extremists Operation Rescue/Operation Save America during their national siege. This summer I’ve worked a great deal on with our NCAP project, and am following various anti-abortion organizations as part of my internship. Before this summer, I didn’t really know a lot about NCAP or the history of anti-abortion violence. I heard about the murder of Dr. George Tiller over a year ago, and that was about as much as I knew.

FMF’s National Clinic Access Project (NCAP) began shortly after FMF was founded and provides a great gamut of assistance to women’s health care providers targeted by anti-abortion extremists. Just to give you an idea of what we do – NCAP specializes in tracking anti-abortion extremists, works with federal, state and local law enforcement to protect abortion providers, provides grass-roots organizing support for clinics, recruits pro-bono legal help for clinics under siege, and even makes emergency grants to targeted clinics to improve security measures. So when the National Clinic Access Project heard Operation Rescue/Operation Save America announce a national siege of Charlotte-area abortion providers in July, NCAP immediately began to organize to protect the clinics, their workers, physicians and patients in advance of the OR/OSA week of harassment. Continue reading “From the Front Lines: A Warm Welcome in Charlotte”

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