Women speak out on International Women’s Day
Domestic violence, prisoner and caregiver rights discussed
It was a jubilant day of activism and celebration Saturday as women from throughout California participated in International Women’s Day at the Southern California Library for Social Research.
The day focused on the struggle of women around the world to reclaim the funds and other resources spent on war and occupation and efforts to get the United States government to pay for caring for people and the environment. Entitled “Fund Caregiving, Not War and Occupation,” the day-long event kicked off with women holding a “Women Say No War” march in downtown Los Angeles, and culminated with a visual and multimedia art exhibit highlighting women artists.
“They talk about terrorism, but poverty is starving people out,” said Margaret Prescod, host of KPFK’s Sojourner Truth radio program and moderator of the event.
Panelists included Susan Burton, executive director of A New Way of Life; Rosa Romera of the South Central Farmers Women’s Collective; Michele Ibarez, a former victim of domestic violence; Milady Quito of the Gabriela Network; and Nell Myhand, of Women of Color and the Global Women’s Strike.
The U. S. Prostitute Collective also sent a letter to the event declaring that they are promoting and advocating the rights of women who work in the sex industry.
Burton, an advocate for women who are transitioning out of prison, declared that there are too few resources available to help formerly incarcerated women trying to rebuild their lives.
“I’m a former prisoner who was caught up in the criminal justice system for 20 years,” said Burton. “I had a tragedy happen in my life. My five-year-old son was accidentally killed by a policeman. After my son was killed, I went through grief and trauma, but there were no counseling services or resources to help me deal with the grief. In order to deal with my pain, I started drinking heavily and doing drugs,” said Burton.
Burton said that she was sent to jail five times for possession of a controlled substance. “But I never received any help in prison,” said Burton. “When I got out of jail, there were no resources to help me. In 1997, I went to the Clare Foundation in Santa Monica. It was there that I began to heal,” said Burton. “Then I thought about all the other women trapped in the criminal justice system.”
After realizing that there was no housing for formerly incarcerated women in South Los Angeles, Burton opened a home for women transitioning out of prisons and jail in 1998. Burton’s organization has since helped 250 women and 100 children transition back into society.
A New Way of Life offers a number of services for formerly incarcerated women. “We offer a safe, structured, sober environment at A New Way of Life,” said Burton. “We pick the women up upon release from jail, we provide doctor and school referrals, and we help the women with counseling.” Burton said she has also founded a project called Women Organized for Justice.
“We train former prisoners and residents to advocate on behalf of themselves,” said Burton. “We teach them about racism, classism, capitalism, and we teach them about the prison industrial complex.”
Burton, who frequently travels to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of formerly incarcerated women, said that the Board of Supervisors and the city council needed to create the support that will facilitate a successful re-entry for women. “There are too few resources and too many barriers for women leaving prison,” said Burton.
Ibarez said that she endured an abusive marriage before finding work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. “I married when I was 18,” said Ibarez, who said she soon realized she was trapped in a marriage of unrelenting mental abuse. “My husband would also hit me in my lower body. Then the abuse began to progress,” said Ibarez. “When I couldn’t take any more, I left my husband and moved back in with my mother,” said Ibarez, who said soon found herself on welfare. “I was referred to a domestic violence center to get help.”
At the domestic violence center, Ibarez became friends with Michele Lopez, another victim of domestic abuse. She said she soon realized that there were a lot of women who were trapped in abusive relationships and needed help. “A lot of women do not leave their abusive husbands or mates because they don’t have a way to support themselves,” said Ibarez. Ibarez said that her friend Michele was tragically killed by her husband. “She went back to her husband, and then she left him again,” said Ibarez. “One day her husband came to her job where she was the receptionist and shot her in the face, killing her,” said Ibarez.
Ibarez said she found a “lifeline” when she enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona and was referred to the CAL Works program. “They helped me and other women with employment and other resources,” said Ibarez.
Quito, an advocate for Filipino women at the Gabriela Network, said that although the numbers of women, especially Filipino women, has increased in the workforce, they still make less money than men. “Poverty keeps going up and up,” said Quito. “This year, 28 million people were reported living near the poverty line.”
Quito said that many women leave the Philippines to take jobs as caregivers in other countries.
“They leave their children behind. Many times, these women become the victims of abuse by their employers,” said Quito. “They endure the abuse so that they can send money back home to their children and husbands. I’ve heard cases of husbands taking up with other women while their wives are working in other countries. They still accept money from their wives,” said Quito.
Romera, who works with the South Central Farmers, pointed out that although there is an abundance of food in Los Angeles, the city throws out more than any city in the world. “We claim that food, which is tons a day,” said Romera. “We deliver it to homeless people on Skid Row and on Venice Beach.”
Pausing, she added, “It’s not that we don’t have enough food, we are not distributing it right.”
Romera also urged women to continue to advocate for peace. “Women are constantly saying, ‘We don’t want to go to war.’ By our natures, we want to take care of people,” said Romera. “We can go to marches all we want, but unless we have someone to take care of our kids, we will not be able to fully function. We must take care of each other and build solidarity,” said Romera.
Myhand recounted her fight to get in-home care for her ailing mother. “In 2003, I got a phone call from my mother who was hospitalized in Ohio. She was weak. I flew to Ohio and I cooked and cleaned for her. She got stronger and was able to stay in the home, but her memory and judgment were impaired. There were no resources in her community. In 2005, I applied for an in-home benefit.”
Myhand said it took two years to get the benefits to take care of her mother. Myhand said that the Global Women’s Strike and Legal Action for Women were instrumental in helping her secure the help that her mother needed.
“We all deserve a quality of life. We’re human beings. Let’s continue to get the powers that be to do the will of the people,” said Myhand.
PASADENA, Calif.—HIV testing will be administered by the Pasadena Department of Health in Parking Lot B of the Rose Bowl from noon-4 p.m. Sunday.
The testing consists of swabbing the inner cheek. Results are given about 20 minutes later.
Counselors will interpret the results and give details on how to stay HIV negative.
HIV Testing Day at the Rose Bowl will also include hot dogs provided by the Pasadena Firefighters Association and HIV and AIDS education materials and resource tables.
After the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, European nations made moves to control the whole of Afrika. They saw her resources as the building blocks of the European economy and growth. During the Berlin Conference, 1884 - 1885, European countries negotiated how they were going to divide Afrika into equitable portions among themselves. England was able to manipulate possession of Ghana, along with other territories. Families, clans and cultures were divided, no matter the consequences, as witnessed in Rwanda.
Florence Adams remembers when the Compton Camp Fire Council used to serve more than 2,700 children a year with a budget of $89,000. Today, the only minority owned and operated council in Southern California is struggling to stay alive and only has the resources to serve about 300 youngsters annually.
Adams, who has been affiliated with the council since 1984 when her son was a member, and currently serves as the executive director, is trying to revive the 62-year-old council.