Tabassom’s Revolution: One Step Closer to the 21st Century

By: Gaisu Yari, Former FMF Afghan Scholar

Walking on a rainy day on Kabul’s streets is harder than climbing a mountain in the winter. I walked along Dashti Barchi, where the mass of protesters began marching, holding high above their shoulders the coffins of the seven innocent Afghan Hazara people beheaded by ISIS. I felt the frustration and anger reverberating through Kabul’s streets. I felt the strength and unity of the people. I felt the horror of the loss of seven innocent lives. There are many ways to look upon this large protest, which people have come to call “Tabassom’s Revolution,” named after the nine year old girl, the only child who was among the beheaded.

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First, this revolution is not solely about one ethnic group, the Hazaras. When the revolution broke out in the north of Kabul, it was expected to draw people from all sides of the city and from all ethnic groups. When the bodies entered from Ghazni province, a procession of one hundred cars was seen following the coffins. It was a night when even Kabul’s sky was crying; a night when the anger started taking shape. One could feel proud to be part of this night, while another could feel angry and scream for change. Hamid Raustami, head of the Justice Seeker Human Rights Organization in Afghanistan, said, “I wanted to be part of this protest from the beginning. I started the night before. I am a Sunni Afghan, but I wanted to prove that we are all one.”

Revolutions can be defined in many ways. Sami Darayi, a life-long activist and humanitarian in Afghanistan, blames the government for not keeping its promise to the people of Afghanistan. Darayi is one of the organizers of this protest who, alongside many other Afghans, “finished the 13km distance walk in order to get to the presidential palace.” As he followed the movement to its final destination, he was inspired by the courage of the multitudes of women and youth who were so passionately involved. “Women were the crucial participants in this revolution,” Darayi confirmed, they “screamed as loud as the rest of the crowd.” Darayi hoped the upcoming protests and the revolution taking shape in Afghanistan, spreads across the provinces. He believes that the Afghan people are evolving, as the level of education and acceptance of change grows among youth.

Second, this revolution does not only belong to the men of Afghanistan. Women participated and became part of a historic movement. In fact, this movement would not be possible without the inclusion and involvement of women. As women broke the taboo of bearing coffins upon their shoulders and showed their strength, they repeated history: they bore Shukria Tabassom’s coffin like they bore the coffin of Farkhunda before her. The distance between Dashti Barchi and the presidential palace was far and arduous, yet women were a crucial part of this long-distanced march, holding the coffins overhead. Nadira Bakhteyari, one of the women holding Tabassom’s coffin, said, “it was a historic day in Afghanistan. Women were part of this movement where we were screaming slogans, men were repeating after us. The body of Shukria Tabassom and her mother were given to the women in the protest. I stood for four hours under their coffins.”

This is not the first time men and women have been beheaded and killed in Afghanistan. This is not the first time that the people have been frustrated, and this is the not the first time men and women have worked together to build a better Afghanistan. I am certain it will not be the last time either. Those who are living outside the country, those who are merely reading the newspapers and watching the news on TV, may not be able to feel the positive changes that have occurred in Afghanistan over the past 14 years. Protests, movements, and revolutions are signs of progress, the practices of modernity, and the bearers of revolutionary ideologies that lead people to pour onto the streets and call for justice and change. Afghanistan will only change for the better if the educated people, particularly the youth and women, take part in the movements and decision-making processes that shape the country’s future.

Women and youth in Afghanistan are not the same as they were many years ago. They think differently and yearn for change. This protest has shown that different ethnic groups, different ideologies, and different people can came together to make history, and that women can be part of it. The beauty of these movements is their very diversity: different people with different beliefs and backgrounds, all coming together and holding hands, so that they can prepare Afghanistan for a greater future.

Taliban Takeover of Kunduz Hurt Women and the Media

By: Payk Investigative Journalism Center

At the end of September, the Taliban took control of the city of Kunduz. The Afghan government, with some help from the international community, kicked them out in a few days. But during this brief time of the Taliban takeover of the city, women were the first targets and once again paid the price for fighting for their rights.

The Taliban had a “hit” list of the women who were working for various governmental and non-governmental organizations. This especially included women who led some civil society and media organizations in Kunduz. Women who were involved in the civil society and media arenas fled the city to neighboring provinces or to the capital, Kabul. These women had received threats before the Taliban took over the city, but they continued their work. In an interview with the PAYK Investigative Journalism Center, Ms. Beheshta, who was reporting for a local radio station in Kunduz said, “the Taliban threatened me multiple times over the phone. They threatened my father as well, telling him to stop your daughter from working with the media and if not they will kill his daughters.”

Ms. Beheshta is not alone. Many other women journalists have moved to Kabul as well. Najia Khudayar, the Director of “Zohra,” another local radio station, is currently staying in Kabul and doesn’t know when she would move back to her city in the north. Khudayar’s radio station focused only on women’s issues and had employed around 20 people, mostly women. After the Taliban took over the city, all of the employees moved to Kabul. Frustrated and disappointed about the loss of her 12 years of work, she said, “the Taliban destroyed everything at Zohra radio station. They destroyed all the equipment.” Ms. Khudayar doesn’t know when she will be able to return to her city and to restart her work as a journalist. “I am dreaming of going back to my work,” she says.

Another radio and television station, Roshani, also suffered tremendous damage. Roshani is believed to be the radio and television station that suffered the most damage during this brief takeover of the city. A member of Roshani radio who did not want to be identified for security reasons said, “Roshani has suffered $20,000 in losses. All of the equipment is damaged. The entire building was set on fire.” Roshani was one of the first radio and television stations in Kunduz to focus on women’s issues and employ mostly women. The member of Roshani believes that because their radio and television channel supported the Afghan National Security Forces, they received multiple threats from the Taliban. The member also said that the Taliban had even placed a bomb in front of their house, adding “luckily it didn’t cause any fatalities.”

It was not only women who were involved in the public sphere that suffered. Young girls, who make up 40% of the student body in Kunduz, were not able to attend schools. The students missed three weeks of their education and it has only been a week since they have been back to school. The spokesperson of the Department of Education in Kunduz province says that “70% of the students and teachers are now back to their schools.”

Those who were staying at the protection houses (shelters) for women also had to leave the city. According to a member of the house, 70% of the women in shelters were also sent to Kabul. The Taliban referred to the women staying in the shelters as “sluts, whores, immoral, who are not wanted.” Women staying in the shelters had received threats before, too.

The Taliban does not want women to be seen publicly or be involved in social and political life. Women working in the media are a big threat to the Taliban because they speak against the oppression of the Taliban and their reactionary ideology. Women leaving their houses due to abuse are considered “whores and immoral” because they refuse to submit to the oppression from their husbands and other male members of the family.

In addition to women and women’s institutions, the media and journalists in this northern city were also the first targets of the Taliban. The Taliban did not only attack the different media outlets offices and equipment, but also threatened the journalists. In a statement by the head of the Information and Culture Department in Kunduz, Obaidullah Niazi mentioned that “prior to the Taliban takeover of the city; there were more 100 journalists working for the local, national and some international outlets.” Now most journalists have moved to other provinces and have not yet moved back to Kunduz city. During the Taliban time, there was only one radio operating in Kabul and only broadcasting the Taliban propaganda messages.

Why the 2014 Afghanistan Election is Bringing Hope Back to Afghan Women

Since the fall of the Taliban, and with the assistance of the international community, Afghan women have secured incredible gains in education, health, civil society, and government — all in a short period of time.  As Afghanistan moves through a new period of transition, we must work together to help sustain and expand on these gains. In this blog series, we learn about Afghan women’s experiences – as told in their own words – and remember that we must stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Afghan women in their fight for equality and for the peaceful redevelopment of Afghanistan. Share these stories, and your own, on Twitter using #ShoulderToShoulder; you can also take our pledge today to stand with Afghan women.


by Massouda Jalal 

Despite desperate efforts of anti-government elements to thwart the 2014 electoral process, the will of the Afghan people prevailed. We made it. We were able to show to the world that our security forces are robust enough to protect our infant democracy and our people remain worthy of international support.

via Canada in Afghanistan
via Canada in Afghanistan

This is not to say that the recent election had already solved the many issues that make life difficult for our people. Rather, it spawned a fresh surge of optimism and confidence in the future of our fragile democracy. For Afghan women, the election promises a chance to build upon the gains of the past 13 years. It should be noted that since the departure of the international security forces was announced two years ago, there have been a number of attempts to claw back the gains in the women’s front. Taliban-style cruelties against women has resurfaced, incidents of reported violence has increased, the validity of the decree on the elimination of violence against women (EVAW) was questioned by the Parliament, and Karzai signed the National Election Law which removed the 25 percent quota for women in the provincial and district councils. Furthermore, there have been a general apprehension that the on-going return of the Taliban in mainstream society and their increasing influence in national decision making would make matters worse for the female population.

However, with any of the two looming Presidential winners, women have reasons to expect that the downward spiral of their struggle may eventually cease. It is a known fact that both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani made strong commitments to promote women’s empowerment during the campaign period. Abdullah Abdullah was well-supported by Afghan women in his campaign and he declared that he will pursue any agenda that will be collectively endorsed by the women’s sector. Ashraf Ghani, on the other hand, declared that women’s empowerment is part of his platform. Unlike Hamid Karzai, he raises the public profile of his wife (a Lebanese-American Christian) and even allowed her to deliver a speech in this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day. This is an indication that in case he wins, his wife may serve as a backdoor champion of women’s agenda and become a new role model for women in the country.

A new President will bring a fresh set of leaders and officials in government. There is a chance that the Ministry of Women, largely criticized for its lack of mettle and capacity, may get a new Minister who could shake up the entire government to work for women’s advancement. The long-standing commitment of the government to position women in at least 30 percent of decision making posts in government may also receive a much needed push. During his ten years of incumbency, Karzai never managed to have any more than three women in his Cabinet. This time, women could get a shot at campaigning for even 40 to 50 percent of new Cabinet seats for women. The first 100 days of the new administration could also be auspicious to pursue policies that are highly essential to women’s empowerment such as women’s right to property and inheritance, the right to travel, the enactment of the law on EVAW and the prosecution of offenders of women’s rights, which unfortunately include police officers and relatives of public officials. The 25 percent quota for women in provincial and district councils should also be restored and this may be possible under the new administration.

More importantly, the government could re-think its posturing in regard to the peace process with the Taliban. The women’s sector urges the government to negotiate peace from a position of strength by insisting that cessation of armed hostilities be recognized as a pre-condition to the peace process. Sites such as schools and markets should be declared as zones of peace. Women’s rights should be written off as a negotiation piece, and returning Taliban combatants should go through a mandatory de-radicalization process.

It is springtime in Afghanistan’s political landscape and hope springs liberally in the circle of the women’s movement.


Massouda Jalal served as Afghanistan’s Minister of Women’s Affairs from 2004 to 2006 and was also the only woman candidate in the 2006 Afghan presidential election. 

Carolyn Maloney Leads Charge for National Women’s History Museum

by Kathy Bonk

The nation’s capital includes museums for the postal service, textiles and spies, but lacks a museum to recognize the rich history and accomplishments of women in America. That could soon change with an upcoming vote on New York Representative Carolyn Maloney’s bill (HR 863) that would establish a Congressional Commission to plan for and study the museum’s creation.

via Boss Tweed
via Boss Tweed

Maloney has been working to establish the museum for nearly 20 years, first introducing a bill in 1997. This year, the commission bill finally gained traction and now has the support of leaders in both parties, including Republican Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Conservative Representative Marsha Blackburn is the lead Republican cosponsor.

“Whether you’re reading a history text book or visiting our nation’s historic sites and the museums on our national mall, women are largely missing,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “While the historical experiences of men are well represented in existing museums, women’s achievements are often omitted. The fact is that women played key roles in virtually every landmark event in our history. A National Women’s History Museum would help restore the balance by presenting their amazing narratives and highlighting the important contributions of the women who shaped our nation.”

The bill is likely to come to the House floor next week. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are leading the Senate effort (S. 398) with 22 bipartisan cosponsors. More information is available on the National Women’s History Museum bill can be found at Maloney’s website.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Realizing the Power of Education

Since the fall of the Taliban, and with the assistance of the international community, Afghan women have secured incredible gains in education, health, civil society, and government — all in a short period of time.  As Afghanistan moves through a new period of transition, we must work together to help sustain and expand on these gains. In this blog series, we learn about Afghan women’s experiences – as told in their own words – and remember that we must stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Afghan women in their fight for equality and for the peaceful redevelopment of Afghanistan. Share these stories, and your own, on Twitter using #ShoulderToShoulder; you can also take our pledge today to stand with Afghan women.


by Shogofa

I spent five years of my life at home in Afghanistan, without going to school. My book, my pen, and the rights I had were taken away by the Taliban when I was only 10 years old. It is painful to remember that I spent my childhood frightened. I was supposed to play, and study – but instead, I faced death and war.

I remember the morning I woke up to the sounds of gunfire and bombs. I didn’t know what was going on, but I could see my mother and father were very scared and afraid. I remember the morning when I was trying to get ready for school and my father said I couldn’t go any more. I was afraid that had done something wrong, but I could not go to school because of the Taliban.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

My mother hid my books and my school uniform, and my sister tried to hide videos, CDs, family pictures, and other documents. My father tried to break the old TV and video recorder and put them in the doorway, so if the Taliban got into the house, they would see that someone had already broken them. All these things looked mysterious to me since I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on. But, I could see and feel the fear on everyone’s face in my family.

I also remember the day when my brother shouted, “The Taliban are coming! They took over Kabul, and they are now heading to Mazar-e-Sharif!” I didn’t know what it meant, but I could see the tension and worry in my parents’ faces. My father immediately decided we had to leave the country, and we boarded a bus to Pakistan.

There were some other families on the bus with children. I was excited to go to Pakistan even though I was unaware of what was going on. Suddenly, the bus stopped. The driver said, “I cannot go farther,” and when my father asked why, the driver said the Taliban had blocked the road. No one could leave. We went back home with no hope; we could hear gunfire from far away, and it was getting closer and closer every day.

My father eventually decided to send us, with our mother and our one-year-old nephew, to Kabul because the Taliban had already taken the city. I will never forget the moment when my father looked at us and said goodbye – like he would never see us again.

We knew that the Taliban had blocked all the roadways to Kabul, so we planned to go on foot, behind the mountains. We also decided to change our identities. My mother told us not to speak Uzbek because it would be dangerous for us if the Taliban knew we were Uzbek. Luckily my brother knew Pashtun, the Taliban language.

While on our way to Kabul, my brother tried to rent a horse, so we could travel easier with my baby nephew. At that moment, one of the Taliban stopped us and asked my brother why I was not wearing a burqa. He yelled at me, “Look down shameless girl!” and told my brother that I must wear the burqa. So, my brother bought me a white burqa, but it was hard for me to handle because I could not walk quickly and we were still traveling by foot.

After two days, my family arrived in Kabul. And after two months, my father called us to say that Mazar was safe, and we should come back. This time, we traveled by car instead of on foot, but there was danger all the way. At every check point the Taliban stopped our car looking for non-Pashtuns. Again we pretended we were not Uzbek.

When we arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif, everything was changed. It was dead city—smoke all over the place. We didn’t see any people. But you could see broken videocassettes on the street and tape hanging everywhere. The Taliban had announced that if they saw anyone with a TV or electronic device, they would kill or put them in jail forever.

I had missed my father a lot and was trying to ignore the things around the city. But when we saw that the Taliban had killed people and left them in the middle of the street, I was scared. There were a lot of questions in my mind, and I didn’t know how to get answers.

The only thing I wanted was to see was my father. When we arrived at our home, he opened the door, but I didn’t recognize him at first. He had grown a long beard and wore a turban. The first thing I asked him was whether I could go to school. I missed my class and my teacher. But my father said no and told me that I had to stay at home because of the Taliban’s rules.

My mother had been a principal of girls’ high school, so she made a classroom inside of our house and started teaching my sister and me. Sometimes, I invited my friends, but we had to be careful that no one knew we were studying. I missed my school, my teacher, and playing in the schoolyard. I felt as if I were in jail.

But from that time, I began to understand that education is powerful and that the Taliban didn’t want us to learn because they feared that power.

My mother decided to send my sister and me to a private school where we could learn English. Each day we traveled a different way to school and worried about the Taliban finding out where we were going. We were risking our lives, our parents, and teacher to be in school – where we wanted to be.

Then 9/11 happened and changed everything. Afghanistan became free from the Taliban, but fear of them remained. While many people were happy, some families were still afraid to let their children go to school. Women started going back to school but it was hard because a lot of their documents were missing they had to start all over again.

Still, 40 percent of students enrolled in school in Afghanistan are now female. Thousands of schools have been built with the help of the international community, and women are now studying in schools and universities in Afghanistan – learning, once again, how to be doctors, lawyers, business owners, government officials, and more.

I was lucky to grow up in a family where education was precious and daughters were treasured. My mother’s main goal in life was teaching women so that they would have an education. My father didn’t complete his education, but he supported my mother’s efforts. Both of them tried very hard to educate their children, and they did their job successfully.

Seeing how hard my parents worked to educate us, I appreciate the value of education. During the Taliban rule, there were times I would feel so hopeless. Education had always been sacred to us, and I was not able to see the future. But my mother never let us give up. She filled the house with books and gave us beautiful thoughts. She always told us, “Education is something we never lose. We might lose everything, but education always stays alive, even after we die. The pen and book are very powerful tools.” She devoted her life to encouraging women to go back to school, and her work must continue.

Today, both my parents are gone, but what they did in life remains alive. Their memory has given me the courage to come to the US to study, and with my education, I pledge to always support human rights and children’s rights in Afghanistan.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Maintaining Commitment to Afghan Women and Girls

by Simin Wahdat 

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1983. In 1994, at the height of the war, my father decided to move our family to Pakistan because of the escalating danger for girls. In my family, there are five girls and two boys, and my father wanted to protect the girls from the Mujahedeen and the Taliban who were kidnapping, raping, and trafficking young girls. Girls who went to school risked having their faces sprayed with acid.

Moving to Pakistan was not an easy decision for my family to make, but we felt we had no choice because of the extreme conditions in my country. While the status of women in Pakistan was not significantly better than Afghanistan, the practice of abuse against women was lower.

After being uprooted from Afghanistan, our finances were limited. That, combined with social restrictions meant that my older sister and I couldn’t attend formal school. Fortunately, my father started a home school for us while my older brother went outside to school. Even though my father was exhausted after coming home from a long day at work, he never delayed our daily lessons. My father taught us several subjects including English, in which he is fluent. I loved learning English and worked harder than my other siblings to speak in the language. I started communicating in English outside my home after only a couple of years. After my father found a better job, our financial condition improved, and my younger sisters and brothers had the opportunity to attend better schools.

But things for my older sister and I did not change much because we had to earn a living in order to support our family. I started to look for job when I was 15 years old. It was not common for Afghans to learn English, so I was one of the few Afghan girls who could speak the three required languages. I got the job, and started working with Afghan women in the refugee camps of Pakistan. I received training on women’s rights, gender equality and equity, and peace building, and then conducted those same trainings for women in refugee camps in Chaman, Pakistan.

My family decided to move back to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. After we returned, I remained committed to working to improve Afghan women’s lives. I traveled to provinces to educate Afghan women about elections and help make their voices heard.

Then, in 2007, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. While at Bucknell, I increased awareness about the status of Afghan women by giving public talks and publishing articles on the importance of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In 2011, I graduated with a degree in Women and Gender Studies and International Relations and returned to Afghanistan to continue working on electoral reform and civic advocacy programming in Afghanistan, with close attention to increasing women’s participation in the electoral process.

Currently, I work as a Legislative Fellow in the office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4) where I focus on Afghan women’s political rights beyond 2014. Congresswoman McCollum was instrumental in publishing this month an Open Letter to the Women of Afghanistan from several members of the US Congress. The letter recognizes the enormous progress Afghan women have made in the areas of government, education, and health since the fall of the Taliban, and pledges continued support for policies and programs to benefit Afghan women and girls, especially as Afghanistan and the international community prepare for a new post-2014 era.

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Simin and Congresswoman McCollum

“As you continue to fight for equal opportunity, equal participation, and equal protection under the law,” the letter states, “we are committed to standing with you. We firmly believe that expanding women and girls’ access to education, economic enrichment, and social mobility will benefit not only the individual girl, but her whole community.”

In this spirit, I will return to Afghanistan after I complete my master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Transformation in 2014. Armed with in-depth knowledge of peacebuilding practices, and with the continued support of the international community, I will continue to work for Afghan women and girls.

Bread and Roses: 100 Hundred Years Later

by Andy Piascik.
Republished with permission from IWW

One hundred years ago, in the dead of a New England winter, the great Bread and Roses Strike of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts began. Accounts differ as to whether a woman striker actually held a sign that read “We Want Bread and We Want Roses, Too.” No matter. It’s a wonderful phrase, as appropriate for the Lawrence strikers as for any group at any time: the notion that, in addition to the necessities for survival, people should have “a sharing of life’s glories,” as James Oppenheim put it in his poem “Bread and Roses.”

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Though 100 years have passed, the Lawrence strike resonates as one of the most important in the history of the United States. Like many labor conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the strike was marked by obscene disparities in wealth and power, open collusion between the state and business owners, large scale violence against unarmed strikers, and great ingenuity and solidarity on the part of workers. In important ways, though, the strike was also unique. It was the first large-scale industrial strike, the overwhelming majority of the strikers were immigrants, most were women and children, and the strike was guided in large part by the revolutionary strategy and vision of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Beyond its historical significance, elements of this massive textile strike may be instructive to building a radical working class movement today. It is noteworthy that the Occupy movement shares many philosophical and strategic characteristics with the Lawrence strike—direct action, the prominent role of women, the centrality of class, participatory decision-making, egalitarianism, an authentic belief in the Wobbly principle that We Are All Leaders—to name just a few. During the two months of the strike, the best parts of the revolutionary movement the IWW aspired to build were expressed. The Occupy movement carries that tradition forward, and as the attempts at a general strike and the shutting of the ports in Oakland as well as solidarity events such as in New York for striking Teamsters indicate, many in Occupy understand that the working class is uniquely positioned to challenge corporate power. While we deepen our understanding of what that means and work to make it happen, there is much of value we can learn from what happened in Lawrence a century ago.

A town on the brink of labor unrest

The city of Lawrence was founded as a one-industry town along the Merrimack River in the 1840s by magnates looking to expand the local textile industry beyond the nearby city of Lowell. Immigrant labor was the bedrock of the city’s development. Early on, French Canadians and Irish predominated. By 1912, when Lawrence was the textile capitol of the United States, its textile workforce was made up primarily of Southern and Eastern Europeans—Poles, Italians and Lithuanians were the largest groups, and there were also significant numbers of Russians, Portuguese, and Armenians. Smaller immigrant communities from beyond Europe had also been established, with Syrians being the largest. Though very small in number, a high percentage of the city’s African-American population also labored in textile.

Mill workers experienced most of the horrors that characterized 19th century industrial labor. Six-day workweeks of 60 hours or more were the norm, workers were regularly killed on the job, and many grew sick and died slowly from breathing in toxic fibers and dust while others were maimed or crippled in the frequent accidents in the mills. Death and disability benefits were virtually nonexistent. Life expectancy for textile workers was far less than other members of the working class and 20 years shorter than the population as a whole. It was a work environment, in short, that poet William Blake, writing about similar hellholes in England, captured perfectly with the phrase “these dark Satanic mills.”
Living conditions were similarly abominable: unsanitary drinking water, overcrowded apartments, malnutrition and disease were widespread. Thousands of children worked full time and were deprived of schooling and any semblance of childhood because families could not survive on the pay of two adult wage earners. Constituent unions of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had no interest in organizing workers who were immigrants, “unskilled,” and overwhelmingly women and children. The local of the United Textile Workers (UTW) had a small number of members drawn, true to the AFL’s creed, exclusively from the higher-skilled, higher-paid segment of the workforce.

The IWW was also in Lawrence. The Wobblies led several job actions in 1911 and its radical philosophy resonated with mill hands far beyond the several hundred who were members. Faced with lives of squalor and brutally difficult work, despised by their employers, the political sub-class, the press, and mainstream labor, textile workers, once introduced to the IWW, came increasingly to see that militant direct action was both viable and necessary. Many had experience with militant working class traditions in their native lands—experience the IWW, in contrast to the AFL, not only respected but cultivated. Though there was an undeniable spontaneity to the Lawrence strike, the revolutionary seeds the IWW planted in the years before 1912 were also a catalyst.

Workers walk out on strike

The spark was lit on January 11, 1912, the first payday since a law reducing the maximum hours per week from 56 to 54 went into effect on January 1. Because mill owners speeded up the line to make up the difference, workers expected their pay would remain the same. Upon discovering that their pay had been reduced, a group of Polish women employed at the Everett Cotton Mill walked off the job. By the following morning, half of the city’s 30,000 mill hands were on strike. On Monday, January 15, 20,000 workers were out on the picket line. Soon, every mill in town was closed and the number of strikers had swelled to 25,000, including virtually all of the less-skilled workers. The owners, contemptuous of the ability of uneducated, immigrant workers to do for themselves, did not bother to recruit scabs, certain they would prevail quickly. By the time they realized they had a fight on their hands, the strikers were so well-organized that importing scabs was a far more difficult proposition.

Several days after the strike began, workers in Lawrence contacted the IWW’s national office for assistance, and Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were dispatched from New York to help organize the strike. Though Ettor would spend most of the two-month strike as well as the rest of 1912 in a Lawrence prison, the work he did in the strike’s early days was indispensable to victory. Radiating confidence and optimism, Smilin’ Joe had the workers form nationality committees for every ethnic group in the workforce. The strike committee consisted of elected reps from each group, and meetings, printed strike updates and speeches were thereafter translated into all of the major languages.

In addition to the democratic nuts and bolts, Ettor brought an unshakable belief in the workers to the strike. The IWW had a faith in the working class that is markedly different from the often self-serving proclamations of union organizers of today who are mostly out to build their organizations. In contrast to the all too common practice of organizers “taking charge,” Ettor displayed a fundamental belief in the ability of workers to do for themselves. He, Giovannitti, and, later, Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, made every aspect of the strike a learning experience. As the strikers worked to achieve greater power in the short term by winning their demands, many came to see that the society could not function without workers and that there was no job or task that was beyond the collective skill of the working class.

Ettor, Haywood, and Flynn also provided a vision of workers managing society, underscoring that it was an achievable goal. Without ever downplaying the particularities of the strike or of the strikers’ lives, they boldly proclaimed their opposition to the capitalist system and encouraged the Lawrence workers to explore what that meant. In practice, the vision of a new world played out in the decision-making process, the support services the strikers established with the help of contributions from around the country (soup kitchens, food and fuel banks, medical clinics, free winter clothing and blankets) and in direct action on picket lines, in the courts, during the strike’s many rallies and parades, and in the IWW’s insistence that all negotiating be done directly by rank and filers.

Perhaps the most important of the IWW’s contributions was its incessant emphasis on solidarity. The only way to victory, they emphasized, was unity and the only way to unity was to respect the language and culture of each nationality group. Ettor, Haywood and the other Wobblies understood that solidarity did not mean dissolving differences; it meant enriching the experience of all by creating space for each to participate in their own way. They encouraged the workers to view each other that way and emphasized again and again that the only people in Lawrence who were foreigners were the mill owners (none of whom lived in town). With each passing day, the strikers’ solidarity increased. They came to understand that solidarity was not just the only way they could win the strike; it was also the only way to build a better world.

So inspired, the strikers rose to every challenge. They circumvented injunctions against plant-gate picketing with roaming lines of thousands that flowed through Lawrence’s streets and turned away would-be scabs. After early incidents where some scabs were attacked, they embraced Ettor’s emphasis on nonviolent direct action without ever diminishing their militancy. When Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss—himself a mill owner—pleaded with them to return to work and accept arbitration, the workers refused, recognizing the offer as a ploy that would leave their demands unaddressed. Whenever strikers were arrested (as hundreds were), supporters descended en masse to Lawrence’s courtroom to express their outrage.

The involvement of women was absolutely crucial to victory, beginning with the rejection of the self-destructive violence of some male strikers. Though the IWW’s record on promoting female leadership was spotty at best, Ettor and the other Wobblies in Lawrence were sensible enough to let the women’s initiative fly free. The presence of Flynn, the “Rebel Girl,” was a factor, but the large-scale participation of women resulted overwhelmingly from the efforts of the women themselves. Knowing all too well that violence always reverberates hardest on those on society’s lowest rungs, women strikers called the men on their beatings of scabs and their fights with police and militia. It was women who moved to the front of many of the marches in an effort to curtail state violence against the strike (though the police and militia proved not at all shy about beating women and children as well as men). It was also the women who led the way in the constant singing and spontaneous parading that was such a feature of the strike that Mary Heaton Vorse, Margaret Sanger and numerous others remarked at length about it in their accounts of Lawrence. And it was the women who made the decision to ship children out of town to supportive families so they would be better cared for. A common practice in Europe unknown in the United States, the transporting of children drew much attention to the strike, first because it revealed much to the world about living conditions in Lawrence and later because of the stark violence of the police who attacked a group of mothers attempting to put their children on an outbound train.

State violence was so extreme that it may actually have aided the strikers’ cause, as there were outcries from around the country over the police killings of a young woman and a 16-year-old boy as well as the large-scale beating of women and children. There were also national howls of outrage when strikers were arrested for “possessing” dynamite in what turned out to be a crude frame (it was later determined that a prominent citizen close to the mill owners had planted it). Similarly, the Stalin-esque jailing of Ettor and Giovannitti without bail as “accessories before the act of murder” in the police killing of Annie LoPizzo, was widely criticized and served only to spur the strikers on.

In the end, in the face of the state militia, U.S. Marines, Pinkerton infiltrators and hundreds of local police, the strikers prevailed. They achieved a settlement close to their original demands, including significant pay raises and time-and-a-quarter for overtime, which previously had been paid at the straight hourly rate. Workers in Lowell and New Bedford struck successfully a short while later, and mill owners throughout New England soon granted significant pay raises rather than risk repeats of Lawrence. When the trials of Ettor, Giovannitti and a third defendant commenced in the fall, workers in Lawrence’s mills pulled a work stoppage to show that a miscarriage of justice would not be tolerated (the three were subsequently acquitted).

Longer-term, the strike focused national attention on workplace safety, minimum wage laws and child labor. Though change in these areas was still too slow in coming, it did come and it came much sooner because of Lawrence. Locally, patriotic forces campaigned vigorously against “outside agitators” in the years after the strike and IWW membership eventually slid back to pre-strike levels. Still, despite tremendous repression, the IWW maintained a solid local chapter in Lawrence until the state effectively destroyed the organization with a massive campaign of jailings, deportations, lynchings and other violence after U.S. entry into World War I.

But just as it was never the IWW’s objective to gain official recognition from employers, its accomplishments should not be measured by its membership rolls or the limited span of it organizational presence. The goal was to build a revolutionary movement of the working class and the Wobblies implemented the strategy for achieving that end in Lawrence. This is not to say the IWW was without weaknesses in building lasting organization; it was and there are lessons for Occupy and all future movements to learn from those weaknesses. However, the IWW’s weaknesses are ones that virtually every radical group from the Knights of Labor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) share. These weaknesses speak more to the difficulty of building a revolutionary movement than to specific organizational flaws. The fact that the Wobblies were not able to sustain the great work they did over a longer period does not detract from the thoroughgoing way they imbued the Bread and Roses strike with revolutionary values, strategy and vision.

Lessons from the Strike

There are several aspects of the Lawrence strike that may be helpful to building a radical working class movement today. One is the symbiotic relationship between the strikers and the IWW. Since at least the bureaucratization of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) 70 years ago, unions have approached organizing workers with the goal of building membership rolls, as opposed to building working-class power. The type of organization workers may want, not to mention what they may want beyond organization, has been largely irrelevant. The choices that workers are presented with are quite limited: join one or another top-down union, or else fight on alone. The best features of pre-union formations—direct democracy, easy recall of representatives, requirements that all officers remain in the workplace, widespread rank-and-file initiatives, and so forth—are almost always killed quickly after affiliation. Workers will reject top-down approaches and embrace unionism that speaks to their needs if they are given the chance. The fact that they are not presented such an option is neither accidental nor inevitable; it is because the union bureaucracy is as threatened by an independent rank and file as any employer.

Workers are not even really free to join the union of their choosing. Once an exclusive bargaining representative is chosen, no matter how that’s determined, the affected workers cannot easily join any other labor organization and only do so at the risk of expulsion and loss of employment. The IWW, rather than seeking to ensure itself a steady flow of dues revenue, sought to challenge capitalism. Through direct action, particularly strikes, the working class would learn how to fight capital and in so doing would discover and develop its own potential until it was strong enough to wrest control of work away on a massive scale. That goal remains. To build such a movement today and on into the future, we will either have to do away with many of organized labor’s entrenched ways or increasingly circumvent mainstream unions altogether, much as is happening so far with Occupy.

The flip side of the IWW/striker relationship in Lawrence is that the workers did not strike to gain unionization or even to get a contract. They struck over specific demands while understanding the need to change the balance of their relationship with mill owners. Early on, they sensed intuitively what they came to understand explicitly as the strike lengthened: that politicians and the courts were against them almost as completely as the bosses and Pinkertons were. When Governor Foss offered arbitration in an attempt to end the strike without addressing any of their demands, for example, the workers refused. Their distrust extended not just to the owners but to the machinery of the state, not to mention the top-down UTW—whose head attacked them relentlessly throughout and whose members scabbed from the outset. The strikers embraced the IWW philosophy of doing for themselves while utilizing its highly developed solidarity network because their experience showed them it was the only way they could win.

A second possible lesson from Lawrence is a feminist approach to organizing. Though the IWW too often adopted an approach premised on rugged (male) individualism that relegated women to secondary roles, that was not the case in Lawrence. Rather, its radical approach encouraged women strikers and supporters to act in highly creative ways. Whenever women workers in Lawrence struggled with the men for full participation, Flynn and the other Wobblies sided with them. It is impossible to imagine the strikers winning otherwise, and though Ettor, Haywood, and Flynn’s efforts on this score were not insignificant, it was the tireless work of thousands of rank and filers that proved decisive
The degree to which women took to heart Ettor’s declarations that striker violence would inevitably boomerang a hundredfold was also crucial. Few believed that a non-violent approach would cause the state to reciprocate, certainly not as the strike progressed and state violence escalated, nor did it necessarily mean that an absolute principle of nonviolence was appropriate in all situations. In Lawrence, however, it was clear early on that the strikers would lose if the physical confrontations that have been so prominent in the almost apocalyptic vision that many men through history have brought to the class struggle continued. The women, more than the men, understood that the complete withdrawal of their labor was the strongest blow the workers could strike. In the end, it was the ability to keep the mills almost completely non-functional for two months that won the strike.

Women were also at the heart of the singing and parading that characterized

the Bread and Roses strike. Surrounded by enemies, with death a very real possibility, the Lawrence strikers, the women most of all (much like the black liberation activists in the Deep South in the early 1960s, also mostly women), sang to foster strength, courage and solidarity. Their songs and that tradition echo as loud and true as a drum circle through Occupy.

Lastly, Lawrence was the first major strike along industrial lines. Not only did the strike inspire other textile workers, it made real the IWW goal of organizing wall-to-wall. The violent suppression of the IWW forestalled capital’s day of reckoning, but the seed had been planted. When industrial organizing exploded two decades later, it was thoroughly Wobbly-esque, especially in the sit-down strike with its explicit challenge to private ownership. Again, the degree to which Occupy implicitly understands the importance of such approaches is one of its great strengths. The massive withdrawal of labor, the large scale Occupation of workplaces—these are lessons of Lawrence, direct and indirect, that Occupy (as well as movements of the future) carry forward and do well to consider more deeply. In so doing, we can perhaps begin to create a world where everyone has both sufficient bread to eat and “life’s glories” as vivid as the reddest roses.

This story will appear in the March 2012 issue of the Industrial Worker.

The Affordable Care Act Fits My Needs and Cut My Costs

by Bettina

Living with epilepsy since I was four years old – on and off until the most recent and permanent bout – is just a routine part of my life. Taking medication in the morning and evening is no different for me than brushing my teeth. When mild petit-mal seizures occur, I can generally hide them with my hand or a glass of water without even a break in conversation. I am truly lucky.

If I did not have access to good health care, however, I would not be a functioning adult. The mild and controllable seizures I have would increase in severity and frequency. Healthcare coverage is not a luxury for me; it is a necessity.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

But despite being fully employed since my graduation from college I have had trouble finding affordable coverage. I work at a small non-profit that gives me a generous stipend to help cover the cost of my health insurance; however, my best option for coverage came through COBRA extended from my family’s insurance plan at $593 per month. Prices under HIPAA, available to people who have exhausted COBRA coverage, could reach up to $1100 per month, which would take a sizable portion of my take-home salary.

Right after the launch of the state Health Insurance Marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I signed up on DC Health Link, the Washington, DC marketplace. It was perfect timing, as my COBRA coverage is scheduled to expire in February. I did not have any trouble logging in or connecting. Honestly, the biggest issue I experienced was remembering my password.

The process was seamless. I even thought it was fun. The website showed me a bunch of options with varying coverage, and I chose the best plan that fit my price range. I was most surprised by how quickly I got through and that I was never even asked about my epilepsy.

I kept waiting for someone to tell me I was not approved. I was convinced that would happen. But the only thing that came in the mail was a request that I send in my payment, which was $343 less per month than I was paying before. I kept waiting for someone to tell me they made a mistake and take it back. I never thought I could go through the process and feel like a normal person.

The launch of the new Health Insurance Marketplaces is a true blessing for me, and I know that there are many stories like mine around the country. The ACA is a groundbreaking and remarkable advance for millions of Americans whose current medical needs are not being met.

Healthcare should not be a privilege – it is a basic human right. I thank President Obama and the ACA for making that possible.

Our Constitutional Right to Abortion Regardless of Religion

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This post is Anonymous by request.

We must take back our Constitutional right to abortion because we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I was raised a Protestant fundamentalist during the 1960’s and the evils of abortion were never mentioned. Sex without marriage, drinking, cussing, and dancing were drummed into our heads as sins you could burn in Hell for, but not abortion. For years, I would feel a little tinge of guilt for drinking or dancing because it had been so deeply engrained in me how wrong they were. When I was a young, divorced grad student in a job that had potential but low salary, I obtained an abortion. I often wondered why I never felt guilty nor regretted my decision.

Sometime in the early 80’s, my childhood religion shifted to be political and strongly anti-abortion; that was why my younger family members felt abortion was evil like I had felt drinking and dancing were. It was engrained in them. Why the shift? Why wasn’t abortion something my church addressed while I was growing up? Was it not wrong then?

Back then, women were suffering since abortion was illegal. To me, the anti-choice movement isn’t about “life” at all – if it were, they would not have exceptions for rape and incest based on the lack of culpability of the woman. The Protestant fundamentalist argument against abortion is not consistent: they believe in capital punishment and abortion exceptions because these policies are about controlling women’s behavior and not about the sanctity of life.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

I was in the military in the early 70’s, and if you became pregnant and wanted to stay pregnant – no matter what marital status – you had to get out. When we were both 19, a friend of mine decided to get an abortion. She didn’t want to leave the military, and her other option was to return to the South, unmarried and pregnant with a bi-racial child. (Not a good option in 1973.) Before her abortion, the doctor came into the room to talk to her, bent over and said, “I have been ordered to perform this abortion, and I don’t want to because I am Catholic. I saw on your chart that you are Catholic too, so I want you to know before you go under anesthetic that we are both going to burn in Hell for this.” She was devastated.

We must fight abortion restrictions on Constitutional grounds. We should not be afraid to take the fight back to the Supreme Court. Our constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are being infringed upon by a segment of society that feels, in spite of what the Constitution says, that our laws should be based on their vision of morality. But it’s not about morals – it’s about rights.

I am much admired by my extended family. I was the first to go to college, let alone graduate school, and the only person in our family to make six figures. None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t had the option of abortion. If my family was aware of that, all that admiration would be out the window. The small “inroads” I make with them to become more open-minded because they admire me would be over. I am now happily retired and I have a wonderful 20 year old daughter. I don’t want my daughter’s choices restricted as mine were not.

If my country hadn’t allowed me my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I would be in a very different place today.

How US Policy Denies Life-Saving Care to Women Raped in War

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Originally posted by the Women Under Siege project. Reposted with permission.

Angelina Jolie doesn’t mince words.

“Let us be clear what we are speaking about,” the award-winning actress and humanitarian said in June as she addressed the United Nations Security Council session on sexualized violence in conflict. “Young girls raped and impregnated before their bodies are able to carry a child, causing fistula; boys held at gunpoint and forced to sexually assault their mothers and sisters; women raped with bottles, wood branches, and knives to cause as much damage as possible; toddlers, even babies, dragged from their homes and violated.”

 For years, Jolie has been a spokeswoman for refugees forced to leave their homes, and for the survivors of sexual assault in conflict. But while sexualized violence in wartime affects several populations and has a variety of consequences, one of its major, and often unaddressed, consequences, particularly for young girls, is unwanted pregnancy that can result from rape.

This is why the Global Justice Center created the August 12th Campaign, which seeks to ensure access to safe abortion services for girls and women raped in armed conflicts. August 12 is the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantees that war victims receive all the medical care required by their condition—medical care that should include the option of abortion for women who are pregnant from rape.

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Reliable statistics on pregnancy from rape can be hard to come by. In a 1996 report, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Rwanda Rene Degni-Segui estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped in the 100-day Rwandan genocide. An exhibition, “Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape,” put on by the Paley Center for Media in 2011, estimated that approximately 20,000 children were born from rape in that time. In Bangladesh, during the 1970s, approximately 25,000 children were born from rape, according to reports citing official sources.

Children gather in a makeshift camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Julian Harneis) Taken from original post.
Children gather in a makeshift camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Julian Harneis) Taken from original post.

Several studies have found that pregnancy from rape in wartime compounds the physical, psychological, and social consequences for the survivors. These consequences are severe, even deadly for young girls whose bodies have not adequately matured to deliver a child.

“Pregnancy is a leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19, most frequently due to complications of delivery and unsafe abortion,” according to “Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit,” a joint report published in 2009 by Save the Children and the UNFPA. “Adolescents aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth—as are those in their twenties—and very young adolescents, under 15 years of age, have a fivefold increase in risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth compared with women 20 and older.”

The report points out how young pregnant women are a high-risk group particularly in emergency situations, including conflict zones, when family and social support systems are disrupted. The report also says that countries that “have experienced recent war or civil unrest have especially high rates of newborn mortality.”

In addition to these serious physical consequences, the social stigma associated with becoming pregnant from rape is also severe—and for young girls, this can have a long-term impact. According to Save the Children’s 2013 report, “Unspeakable Crimes Against Children,” girls, particularly those who become pregnant from rape, “will often be forced to drop out of school, be prevented from accessing vocational training and face social exclusion and stigmatisation. Their chances of further education, livelihoods and marriage are severely diminished or completely eliminated.”

One girl, 18-year-old Marianne, spoke to the writers of a 2012 article, called “Women and Children Bearing Children through Rape in Goma, Eastern Congo: Stigma, Health and Justice Responses,” published in the Itupale Online Journal of African Studies. Marianne, who bore a child through rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, described her perceived value as a woman:

“I have nothing to give the child. How can I return to school? I am a woman with a bad reputation. I am a woman without value, they look down on me, are disgusted with me. How can I get rid of this bad reputation I have no future. I cannot go to study anymore. I am a woman without a future.”

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While experts have acknowledged that pregnancy from rape can exacerbate the consequences of the rape, little has been done to actually address and resolve this problem. The vast majority of women who become pregnant from rape in conflict lack access to safe abortion services. These women could resort to non-sterile or non-medical methods, which can lead to scarring, infection, sterilization, or death.

One girl, Angeline, told the writers of the Itupale Online Journal article about her attempts to induce an abortion.

“When I came from the forest I had the idea of aborting the pregnancy as I also had other children so I could not afford feeding them. My decision was to abort and stay with the other children. I had friends who advised me to take some tablets. I can’t know the name of the medicine. There is also Aloe leaves which I took but I did not abort unfortunately. I was not happy as my decision was to abort and stay with the other children as at the time I was unable to take care of them and it was what I wanted to do but it wasn’t successful and I was hurt.”

Angeline is not alone. Research has shown that women who have become pregnant from rape do sometimes attempt to administer their own abortion. In Bangladesh, according to Susan Brownmiller, author of a groundbreaking book on rape, women who became pregnant from rape would “put up their babies for adoption … [or] resorted to crude self-administered abortions, suicide, or infanticide.”

In the majority of cases, the humanitarian response has been simply to include the provision of emergency contraception. But this has often proved inadequate due to the very short temporal window in which it can be administered. In order for the emergency contraception to be efficacious, the woman must present up to 72 hours to 125 hours after the rape. Yet research has shown that very few women are able to present to a medical facility within this period.

An in-depth study of women raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, found that the percentage of women who sought medical care within 72 hours ranged from 0.6 percent to 3.2 percent. The study, which was conducted from 2003 through 2009, showed that the majority of victims of rape in wartime who seek medical care, or wish to prevent or terminate an unwanted pregnancy, would not be able to benefit from emergency contraception.

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These stories underscore the importance of providing safe abortions from a practical—not to mention humanitarian and legal—perspective. The Global Justice Center has been working with major humanitarian donor states, including the UK and the Netherlands, to ensure that their aid can be used to provide safe abortion services. Access to safe abortion services, after all, is a right under the Geneva Conventions for girls and women who have been raped in wartime.

The Conventions, also known as the laws of war, includes the right to be provided with comprehensive and non-discriminatory medical care and to be free from cruel treatment and torture. What this means, in practice, is that as war victims, girls and women must be offered all necessary care as dictated by their condition. In the cases of girls and women who become pregnant from rape, this should include the option of abortion.

But despite the existence of this right under the Geneva Conventions, and despite the humanitarian imperative to provide access to safe abortion services, such services are rarely, if ever, available during times of conflict. In places like Bosnia and Sierra Leone, women were deliberately held until it was too late to obtain an abortion or were denied abortions in order to effect forced pregnancy.

A major obstacle to the provision of safe abortion services in conflict zones are U.S. abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, including on humanitarian assistance to war victims. These restrictions, which originate from Congresscan be interpreted to include exceptions for life, rape, and incest, because the restrictions apply only to “abortions [provided] as a method of family planning.”

But the Obama administration imposes these restrictions on all foreign assistance funds without the permitted exceptions (continuing a policy that was administratively put in place by the Bush administration).

And they don’t have to.

President Obama is well within his authority to take executive action to include these exceptions—exceptions that are generally, albeit grudgingly, also included in amendments by opposing policymakers in their efforts to curb abortion access domestically. The U.S. leader has already made the prevention and response to gender-based violence a cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy.

In 2011, President Obama signed an executive order for the institution for a National Plan of Action on Women, Peace, and Security, pledging to “respond to the distinct needs of women and children in conflict affected disasters and crises, including by providing safe, equitable access to humanitarian assistance.” More recently, in February, the U.S., as the penholder on sexualized violence in conflict at the Security Council, was integral in drafting and passing a resolution that called on all donor countries to provide “comprehensive and non-discriminatory” medical services to girls and women raped in armed conflict.

We called on President Obama to lift these abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid for war rape victims, ensuring that girls and women are granted their rights under the Geneva Conventions. The administration’s admirable pledges should translate to helping girls and women in conflict zones and providing them with a choice they deserve after they have been raped. Yet current U.S. policy denies life-saving care to these women.

The U.S. is laudably one of the world’s largest and most committed humanitarian donors. President Obama, it is within your power to end this inhuman policy. What are you waiting for?

Graduate Baby Blues: When Pregnancy and College Don’t Mix

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Originally posted at Filthy Freedom. Reposted with permission.
Author’s identity is anonymous by request.

It was the winter before I started graduate school and I was in the first term of my pregnancy. Between waiting to hear back from prospective campuses and working a full time job that paid below a living wage, I was spent. Many women face this decision with fear of what others might think. This piece is my story about my journey to choice.

I could not arrive at a reasonable plan to make it through my first year of graduate school as a single mother. The programs I had applied to were full time, elitist and predominantly white. How would my classmates treat a single pregnant woman? Higher education already posed a series of ubiquitous challenges. Adding a newborn to the scenario was going to be exponentially trying. During my only ultrasound, I sang a childhood melody to my baby. After many tears, embraces, conversations and prayers, I decided to bid my farewell.

My choice to forgo being a mother is bittersweet. I could have struggled through graduate school and the truth is that I did not want the stigma that is attached to being a single mother. Graduate school came and went but not without constant reminders of the economic viewpoints surrounding pleasure, pregnancy and parenting. I sat through countless conversations about how women and families who cannot afford children should not have them. Only the babies with two parent household incomes were worthy of being born and only women who could access contraceptives should engage in sexual behaviors that might lead to pregnancy. Where did I fit in?

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Every fall I honor my baby by placing a single blossom in a flowing river to symbolize my love. When I close my eyes to pray, I thank the creator for allowing us to greet one another here on earth. When my soul settles, I allow myself to imagine what my life might have been like had I chose another path. Then I open my eyes to reveal the life ahead.


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The Equal Rights Amendment Needs You – Now!

by Martha Burk, Money Editor, Ms. magazine; director, Corporate Accountability Project, National Council of Women’s Organizations

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances. If you think fact that after 225 years the Constitution still does not guarantee women equal rights with men is a grievance in need of redressing, then you can do something about it with a click.

The Equal Rights Amendment? Are we still talking about that? Don’t we already have it?

Though most people think women are already equal in the U.S. Constitution, they’re wrong. The only constitutional right specifically guaranteed to women on an equal basis with men is the right to vote, affirmed by the 19th Amendment in 1920 after an arduous 72-year political struggle.

The campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has been even longer and at least as grueling.

Written in 1923 by suffrage leader Alice Paul, the ERA was introduced into every session of congress until it passed in 1972 and went to the states for ratification. Paul died in 1977, months after the amendment got its 35th state ratification — three short of the necessary 38. Well-funded conservative anti-ERA forces stopped the drive in its tracks before the clock ran out on a 1982 ratification deadline. Some main objections? We might have unisex toilets! Women could be drafted!

Now that people are used to unisex airline toilets and combat jobs are at last open to women, why bother with an ERA? Let us count the ways: the pay gap between women and men remains at 78 cents on the dollar, women can be charged more for all kinds of insurance coverage (though the Affordable Care Act puts an end to that practice in health insurance), and those same women who will be leading the charge in combat still can’t get full reproductive health care while in the military, even if they’re pregnant as the result of rape.

But the main reason we still need an ERA is that none of rights women have – except the right to vote — are enshrined in the constitution. That recently acquired right to serve in combat and therefore have a shot at the highest military jobs is just a rule that can easily be changed again.

And all the other rights women have under the law are merely statutory. That means there’s no guarantee that we can’t lose the right to equal credit, equal shots at jobs and promotions,  protection from being fired for being pregnant, and equal access to school and university programs including sports, law, and medicine. All of these forms of discrimination were once legal, and are now outlawed by statutes — laws that can be overturned by hostile legislators.

But they wouldn’t do that, would they? Need I point out the current push to deny birth control under the Affordable Care Act?

Lack of an Equal Rights Amendment has already hurt generations of women. Luanne Smith of Burke, Virginia, who retired as a Commander from the U.S. Navy in 1995 after a 21-year career, believes that the country’s failure to add the ERA to the constitution is the reason she never achieved one of her most desired goals — assignment to a sea-going ship.

Luanne set up the Facebook group ERA Now and joined forces with Tammy Simkins of Chillicothe, Ohio, to lead the ERA White House petition drive, posted on the White House We the People website on January 11th, Paul’s birthday. Even though the administration upped the required number of signatures for action to 100,000 on January 17th, theirs was “grandmothered in” at 25,000. If that goal is reached by the midnight February 9th deadline, the White House will issue an official response.

Not sure about signing on to something that’s undoubtedly full of legalese and probably impossible to understand? Here’s the ERA in it’s entirety: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

Roberta Francis, co-chair of the ERA Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, says the signature count is over the halfway point, but needs to grow faster to reach 25,000 by the deadline: “Everyone who supports basic equal rights for women needs to spread the word as widely as possible, through organizational communications, websites, email, Facebook, and other social media.”

Petitioning the government is easy these days — all it takes is a click. Sign the petition urging the Obama Administration to “vigorously support women’s rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).”

And pass on the request — your future rights may depend on it.

Know Your November Ballot: Undocumented Immigrants

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, we will be outlining state ballot initiatives and referenda of major significance to women.

Since the spring of 2010, when Arizona enacted S.B. 1070 (the harshest immigration law in the country), lawmakers and immigrant rights advocates have worked both to weaken the controversial law and to ensure that the rights of immigrants are protected elsewhere. In June 2012 the Supreme Court blocked much of the Arizona law on the grounds that it interfered with the federal government’s ability to determine immigration policy, but upheld the provision requiring state police to determine the immigration status of any person they stop or arrest if they have any reason to suspect the person may be in the country illegally.

June 2012 continued to bring positive developments. On June 15, the Obama administration announced that it will provide “deferred action” to immigrants who entered the United States as children and who meet a series of requirements that would allow them to temporarily stay in the country without risk of deportation. This action will help undocumented youth remain in the U.S. while they await a more longterm solution promised by the proposed DREAM Act.

In the upcoming November election, voters will make life-altering decisions affecting undocumented immigrants at the state level, either extending their rights or diminishing them. If you live in Montana or Maryland, the following issues will be on your ballot:

 

Montana: Legislative Referendum 121

Referendum 121 would deny state services such as financial aid, state licenses and disability aid to undocumented immigrants. Under this legislation, any individual seeking a state service–such as unemployment, disability benefits or aid for university students–must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship. If the person seeking services is not a citizen, he or she must provide proof of lawful immigrant status or have his or her status verified through a federal database.

If the referendum passes, state agencies will be required to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of immigrants who have entered or remain in the country without documentation and who have applied for state services.

Vote: AGAINST

 

Maryland: Question 4

Question 4 is a referendum petition on a newly passed state DREAM Act. If passed, it would establish in-state tuition fees at community colleges in Maryland for all individuals living in Maryland, including undocumented immigrants, provided that the student meets specific conditions regarding attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school. It would also make such students eligible to pay in-state tuition fees at four-year public colleges or universities if they have completed 60 credit hours at, or graduated from, a Maryland community college.

In addition to providing in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, Question 4 would extend the time during which honorably discharged veterans qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Vote: FOR THE REFERRED LAW

This blog is by and originally appeared on the Ms. blog.

Flickr photo by the Korean Resource Center via Creative Commons 3.0.

Candy Crowley in the Spotlight

Much of the buzz around today’s presidential debate does not concern economic policy, foreign affairs or the War on Women. No, much of the hoopla centers on a third party: the debate moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Debate moderators have been given particular attention this election season, and their performances have been rated as intently as those of Pres. Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. Martha Raddatz, an ABC News war correspondent who also served as NPR’s Pentagon correspondent for five years, was praised for her sharp moderating of the vice presidential debate, even dubbed the debate’s winner by CNN. In contrast to the docile, relatively ineffectual approach of PBS reporter Jim Lehrer in the first presidential debate, Raddatz’s tough questioning and active involvement in the Biden/Ryan discussion garnered her much attention, mostly good.

Crowley, the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in two decades, faces different challenges than Raddatz. Firstly, she will select from an audience the candidates’ questions rather than form her own. However, in response to suggestions that she will engage in a limited role, she said that she hopes to still be able to add to the conversation: “Once the table is kind of set by a town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’”

That comment prompted concern from both the Obama and Romney campaigns.  Writes, TIME’s Mark Halperin,

In the view of the two campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the debate moderator. The questioning of the two candidates is supposed to be driven by the audience members–likely voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

The language of the document expressing these agreed-upon terms reads:

In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic. … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.

Though this memo has been signed by lawyers from the respective campaigns, Halperin notes that there is no evidence suggesting that Crowley has signed, intends to sign or was ever even asked to sign.

Crowley, a seasoned journalist and political correspondent, is also in the spotlight because of her gender, of course. The last woman to moderate a presidential debate was Carole Simpson, who refereed for the trio of Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in 1992. In response to the brouhaha surrounding Crowley’s position, Simpson says she feels women moderators are being marginalized, and expressed disappointment over the fact that Raddatz and Crowley were respectively delegated to the vice dresidential debate and the town-hall format, the latter of which “does not give a woman the chance to ask questions.”

Simpson also acknowledges that questionners at the debate will likely ask basic questions about crime, schools or their neighborhoods and might ignore such issues as reproductive rights. “I’m sure Candy might like to ask … more questions about reproductive rights for women,” she says. “I was going crazy the other night when Martha [Raddatz] was an hour and 15 minutes into the debate and there were no questions about women’s reproductive rights being perhaps set back.”

Simpson also acknowledges the obvious: As was Raddatz, Crowley will be treated differently simply because she is a woman. In a letter of advice to Crowley this past August, Simpson wrote, “There is still a double standard. People will be hypercritical of you no matter how professional or fair you are.” Simpson urged Crowley to ignore those wishing to tell her how to do her job:

Before my debate, people came out of the woodwork to tell me how to speak, how to stand, how to walk among the audience, how to dress and how to style my hair. I don’t think any man has gone through that.

It comes as no surprise that Crowley feels she is up against a great deal of pressure, as many have made clear that as many eyes will be on her as on the presidential candidates. Regardless of which candidate “wins” Tuesday’s debate, we hope to see Candy Crowley take a leaf from Raddatz’s book, make her voice heard and raise questions regarding issues pertinent to women and their rights. Good luck, Candy Crowley! And, as Simpson wrote in the closing of her letter, “Hopefully it won’t be another 20 years before you advise the next female moderator of a presidential debate.”

The second 2012 Presidential Debate will be televised from Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Tuesday, October 16 at 6:00 pm PST.

Photo via Mark Knight and Jordan Miller licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

Post by , originally posted on the Ms. blog.

Remember in November: Scenes from We Are Woman Rally

The video that inspired the founding of the group We Are Woman is titled “We are Warriors,” and as the the national rally for women’s rights that the group organized came to a close last Saturday in Washington, D.C., the members of We Are Woman did indeed feel like warriors.

Saturday’s rally attracted more than a thousand people to the west lawn of the Capitol grounds. Opening with an impassioned speech from beloved Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), it continued for a full five hours of inspirational words, music and comedy.

Planned Parenthood was there. NOW was there. CODE PINK danced on the sidelines in their furry vagina costumes.

Though it was billed as a rally, the event ended up taking on a fair-like atmosphere. ERA banners flew and decorated umbrellas dotted the lawn. Participants browsed tables staffed by Rock the Slut Vote, Cooch Watch, the National ERA Alliance and other organizations. Some danced in the sun to crowd favorites “Girls Poop, Too!” and “Take Your Vagina to the RNC.”

By the end of the day, organizers were tired and sore but had done what they set out to do. A small, grassroots group of women from various corners of the U.S. had pulled together a rally that left people feeling excited and inspired. And before they even had time to restore the West Lawn to its proper state and wave as the portable restrooms were hauled away, they began making plans for the future of We Are Woman.

As election season gathers steam, We Are Woman will continue to promote the message emblazoned on official rally signs: Remember in November! Encouraging the election of women and men who support progressive policies is top priority. In other words, this Woman’s work has just begun.

 

Check out the slideshow over at the Ms. blog!

 

Guest post by — cross-posted from the Ms. blog.

Thanks to the organizers of We Are Woman and Meg Randall of the Feminist Majority Foundation for sharing their photos.

Photo at top from We Are Woman rally in Washington, D.C., by Meg Randall.

NEWSFLASH: A Woman Will Finally Moderate A Presidential Debate Again

After a 20-year absence, a woman will finally take the moderator’s seat in a U.S. presidential debate. CNN’s Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent and anchor of “State of the Union With Candy Crowley,” is the first woman since 1992 to take on the role. Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News, will moderate the vice presidential debate.

Crowley and Raddatz will make history: For the first time, the moderators of the four debates (three presidential, one vice presidential) are split evenly by gender, with men moderating the second two presidential. Crowley will take her turn on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., in a town hall debate focused on foreign and domestic issues. Jim Lehrer of PBS’ “Newshour” will moderated the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3 and Bob Schieffer of CBS’ “Face the Nation” will moderate the third debate on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. The VP debate, with Raddatz at the moderator’s mic, will be held Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky.

Carole Simpson of ABC News moderated the 1992 presidential debate among George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot, the last time a woman filled the role.

In June, three high school sophomores from Montclair, N.J., launched a campaign on Change.org petitioning the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to appoint a woman moderator for one of the debates, garnering more than 120,000 signatures. They had learned about the lack of women debate moderators in their high school civics class. Today, petition organizers Elena Tsemberis, Emma Axelrod and Sammi Siegel expressed their happiness on their Change.org homepage, with Tsemberis stressing the importance of the issue beyond partisan politics:

This was about equal representation, regardless of political party. When Candy Crowley takes the stage to moderate the debate between Obama and Romney, it will be a victory for all Americans.

There have been three presidential debates every election cycle with the exception of 1996, when Bill Clinton and Robert Dole only debated twice. So why has there been such a shortage of women moderators? Why were savvy interviewers such as Christiane Amanpour and Diane Sawyer passed over in each election cycle? Considering just two of the CPD’s 17 members are women, perhaps the 15 men out-voted them.

While many count this as a victory for diversity, Tampa Bay Times‘ Eric Deggans points out that the CPD focused on only one kind of diversity, because for the first time since 1996 there won’t be any non-white moderators. There’s certainly more work to be done to represent the diversity of American voters.

Change.org has been the catalyst for several successful petitions started by young women this year, including 14-year-old Julia Bluhm’s appeal to Seventeen magazine to stop digitally retouching photos of women in its pages.

Though the CPD has not said whether the three teens’ petition influenced its decision, the rest of us can’t help but feel inspired by their action–and, perhaps, it will inspire more young women to do something when they face inequality. May we also suggest that, in October, Crowley and Raddatz grill the candidates with some questions related to women’s rights.

Blog by · Cross-posted from the Ms. blog
Photo of Candy Crowley via Wikimedia Commons.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: A Feminist Look at the Olympics, Part 2

Thumbs Up for Kayla Harrison, who won the first women’s gold medal for the U.S. in judo on August 2 and who overcame great personal challenges to triumph at these London Games. Even though American Rusty Kanokogi, who fought for years to make women’s judo an Olympic sport, didn’t live to see Harrison make history (she died in 2009), we’d like to believe she is smiling down on her proudly.

Thumbs Down for the New York Timesharsh piece by Jere Longman, who chastised Lolo Jones for getting endorsements while claiming she is not a serious contender for a medal. Thumbs Up to Slate for taking Longman to task and calling out his unwarranted judgements. Jones also spoke out against her haters on the Today show this morning, defending her rigorous work ethic.

Thumbs Up for the Saudi Olympic Committee for allowing Saudi Arabian female athlete Wodjan Shahrkhani to wear a hijab while competing in her judo competition. There had been much debate between the International Judo Federation and the International Olympic Committee, but an agreement was reached in time for Shahrkhani to make history as the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in the Games.

Thumbs up for women’s all-around gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas calling out her critics for their ridiculous comments on her hair. Francesca Witcher and Oneka LaBennett defend her on the Ms. Blog. 

Thumbs Down for Fox News for its criticism of Gabby Douglas’ Olympics outfits. Fox host Alisyn Camerota and Tea Partier David Webb believe that some of Douglas’ outfits are not patriotic because they have been pink or silver, not red-white-and-blue. First the comments on her hair, now the insults of her outfits: Can these misguided critics leave Gabby Douglas alone?

Thumbs Up for Usain Bolt and his sportsmanship. He paused an interview with a reporter to show his respect for U.S. athlete Sanya Richards-Ross, as she was awarded her medal for the Women’s 400 meter.

Thumbs Down for the sexualization and trivialization of the Dutch field hockey team. Despite the team’s accomplishments during these Olympic Games, many are taking to the web to declare their fandom not of the team’s athleticism and success but for their “hotness.”

Thumbs Up for hurdler Lashinda Demus. Not only did she win a silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles, but she has openly discussed her struggles to overcome postpartum depression and compete in the Olympics.

Thumbs Down for women athletes being criticized for their body types. American weightlifter Holley Mangold faced haters who called her fat, as did Australian swimmer Leisel Jones.

Thumbs Up for women of all shapes and sizes competing. The BBC’s Olympic body match calculator, which matches your body to one of an athlete competing in this year’s Olympics, illustrates how a plethora of different body types is the norm.

Photo of Lolo Jones at the 2010 World Indoor Championships via Wikimedia Commons

Guest post by cross-posted from the Ms. blog.

HERvotes Blog Carnival: Celebrating the ACA and New Coverage for Preventative Care!

By Cindy Pearson, co-founder, National Women’s Health Network

HERvotes is joining our voices together in a blog carnival to celebrate and defend women’s preventive services, including contraception.  Starting August 1, all new insurance plans have to cover seven preventive services with no extra fees.  That means women won’t have to put off their well-woman exam because they haven’t met their deductible, struggle to pay for the cost of a breast pump, or use an inappropriate contraceptive method just because the co-payment is more affordable.

These new rules, part of the Affordable Care Act, are opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others who believe that contraception is always wrong.  After failing to stop the implementation of the new rules through political pressure, opponents have turned to the courts, where they argue that requiring insurance companies to include contraceptive counseling and methods violates the religious liberty of businesses.  We won’t let these attacks stop us from speaking out, because we know that the availability of these preventive care services will make a positive impact on the health, well-being and economic security of women.

Through this blog carnival and our organizational campaigns, we will raise our voices to educate and support all women’s access to health care that meets their needs, no matter where they work or go to school.

Join us by sharing the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtag #HERvotes), and other social media.  And be sure to follow @HERvotes on Twitter!

#HERvotes, a multi-organization campaign launched in August 2011, advocates women using our voices and votes to stop the attacks on the women’s movement’s major advances, many of which are at risk in the next election.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Read More:

At Long Last, Preventative Care Will Be Affordable for All Women, Thanks to Health Reform – Judith Lichtman, National Partnership for Women and Families

Taking Care of Women – Elisabeth MacNamara, League of Women Voters

The Value of Extending Preventative Care – Carole Levine, National Council of Jewish Women

Celebrating New Access to Birth Control for some Latinas, and Continuing the Fight for the Rest – Verónica Bayetti, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

No more struggling to find co-pay dollars for Contraception! What’s in it for Women? – Keely Monroe, Raising Women’s Voices

Saving VAWA

By Rev. Dr. E. Faye Williams, Chair of the National Congress of Black Women

If you have ever been beaten, kicked, punched, slapped by a partner who claims to love you, it is not difficult for you to understand why it’s mandatory to have the Violence Against Women Act.  If you’ve ever had a daughter, a sister, a cousin who experienced the terrifying thought of being abused for no reason, then you understand why VAWA is necessary.

More women than you can imagine live in real fear of repeated attacks just because their partners feel nothing will be done if they abuse a woman.  Some still live under that old assumption that a man is king of his household and the women therein are his property and that the law is on his side no matter what he does.  We cannot allow that belief to prevail.

Like so many women, I have bruises that will never go away—some physical, some mental.  For years after getting a divorce and getting away from my abuser, I looked over my shoulder believing my former spouse meant what he said when he said he would find me and he would kill me.  Until the day he died, I had recurring thoughts of what he promised, and to this day, I cannot sleep without locking the door to my bedroom.

I don’t want other women to go through what I did when calling a policeman only meant you’d have him tell you, “He’ll have to practically kill you before we can do anything to him”.  That’s the way it was before VAWA and generations of women were told the same or similar things.  Many women did die praying for help that never came or came too late.  Let’s make every effort to save VAWA and save lives.  VAWA must be reauthorized.  We must do all we can to make it happen.

Cross-posted with the National Congress of Black Women and #HERVotes.

 

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Perpetrators Don’t Discriminate, So Why Does Congress?

By: Maggie Fridinger,  Program and Policy Intern
National Council of Women’s Organizations

Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States.  One in four women are subjected to violence during their lifetime.

Perpetrators do not discriminate in their acts of violence. Women are exposed to domestic violence regardless of race, sexual orientation, income level, and age. Abusers do not differentiate among women of legal residency status and undocumented immigrants. Violence touches all women.

I repeat: Perpetrators do not discriminate in their acts of violence against women.

So, why is the House of Representatives picking and choosing who should be protected?

 

Initially signed into law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) improves the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, as well as strengthens the resources and services provided to survivors. Congress reauthorized the bill during the Bush Administration in both 2000 and 2005 without any hang-ups.

This year VAWA is up for reauthorization, but has become a divisive and relentless partisan issue. Why? The Senate reworked aspects of the bill (S. 1925) to expressly include protections for LGBT identified persons, Native American women, and undocumented immigrants.

House Republican leaders removed these additions (H.R. 4970).

Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) is the lead sponsor of H.R. 4970. Politico reports Adams’ response to the questioning of her decision to omit the Senate provisions, “If you look at the bill and what’s in it, you will see that it is centered around our victims.” Which victims, I ask?  Definitely not all of them.  Maybe citizens who are white and straight.

On the whole, VAWA is a success story. Since 1994, domestic violence rates have dropped by 58%. The positive progress aside, domestic violence is still a widespread reality. Successful pieces of legislation (like VAWA) are often strengthened through subsequent revisions, amendments, and inclusions.

Evidence of such is apparent in the evolution of federal equal employment opportunity laws. Title VII of 1964 initially prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibited discrimination on the basis of age. Similar protections were extended to “qualified individuals with disabilities” in both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA in 1990. Currently, ENDA proposes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (yet, we still need to alert Congress to pass it!).

So, what is the hold up? Does the House realize that inaction and H.R. 4970 indicate an implicit acceptance of violence against women? Despite VAWA’s accomplishments, more can be done to provide services and protection to specific identity groups.

If you believe that all women should be protected from violence, pick up the phone and start calling Congress today, (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. Capitol Switchboard. Urge your representatives to pass the inclusive version of VAWA (the Senate version, S. 1925) and mention that their help or hindrance will influence your vote in the fall.

Pass Senate VAWA, now!

Cross-posted with the National Council of Women’s Organization.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

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