What is a woman’s life worth in today’s economy? The price of a pap smear? Savings from cuts to HIV/AIDS programs? Unfortunately, policymakers across the country seem to be bartering in just this way with women’s lives.
Over the past year government has cut essential social services at all levels, denied women access to reproductive health, and laid off huge numbers of workers in female-dominated sectors in the name of austerity and deficit reduction. The specter of debt has been used time and again to attack women’s lives. Funding cuts to programs that help families have the potential to set women’s progress back decades, and make it nearly impossible for low-income women and their children to get a leg up in our economy.
Our grantee partners tell us how deeply cuts to social services affect women on the ground who are trying to survive in these uncertain times. As Attica Scott, Director of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, explains “today, 814,000 Kentuckians participate in the federal food stamp program; more than 1,000 homes face foreclosure in our state every month; and 576,500 Kentuckians lack health insurance.”
Our 2011 Community Voices on the Economy poll showed that Kentucky is not alone. The economic recovery never reached these women and families in Kentucky and it completely by-passed millions of other women nationwide. Rather than experiencing a real “recovery,” our economy is now in a “womancession.” Today, this already unstable foundation is being rocked by significant cuts to programs that sustain communities through tough times, helping to ensure their ability to recover, and hopefully, one day, to thrive.
Despite this dismal picture, however, there is reason for hope. Across the country, women are standing up for themselves, their families, and their communities, demanding that their voices be heard and advancing policies that protect their most basic rights.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance and Mujeres Unidas y Activas are working together with groups throughout California to fight for labor protections for the state’s more than 200,000 domestic workers. Family Values @ Work, a coalition of organizations working to make paid sick leave a universal labor right passed the first-ever state paid sick days legislation in Connecticut earlier this summer. And most recently, groups like Raising Women’s Voices convinced the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate preventive health services for women, including contraception, be covered by insurance without co-pays or deductibles as the new health reform legislation is enacted.
So while the rights and well-being of women and families are under attack in Washington and statehouses nationwide, let's not forget that strong women are holding the line. Against all odds, women are igniting change, standing up for the values of equity and inclusion, and the urgent needs of the most marginalized. The more we can share their stories of strength and power, hope and inspiration, the better equipped we will all be to defend our rights in the years to come.
Cross posted at the Ms. Foundation blog
This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.