Representatives from four women’s organizations discussed the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on low-income women in a Congressional briefing held earlier this week by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The organizations represented were the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), Digital Sisters, and YWCA USA.
The panel spoke to a number of issues central to low-income women affected by the storms. Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever of IWPR noted that while women make up 14 percent of the nation’s poor, that percentage jumps to 25 percent in New Orleans, where 1 in 3 African-American women lived below the poverty line before Hurricane Katrina. Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sisters spoke of the importance of fostering technological literacy amongst low-income women, in order for them to research education and employment opportunities as well as social services.
Looking forward, Joan Kuriansky of WOW, along with Dr. Jones-DeWeever, emphasized the importance of providing training in trades that will be essential to the reconstruction of New Orleans as a means of empowering women to take leading roles in their community. Randi Schmidt of YWCA USA decried the budget process that will cut into social programs necessary to so many low-income women, criticizing a trend she called “tax cuts for some, program cuts for others.”