Take a Stand Against Racism on April 25!

By Katie Stanton
YWCA USA Social Media Manager

Eliminating racism is at the center of the YWCA’s mission. That’s why each year local associations participate in Stand Against Racism, a campaign and ongoing public conversation about race and equality. On April 25, the YWCA USA will support our local associations and their activities to unite to Stand Against Racism.

Get involved! Participate in YWCA USA’s Stand Against Racism blog carnival.
This year, we want to know: How are the lives of women impacted by racism?

The YWCA USA will collect the blog posts and publish them throughout the day on April 25, the official day to take a Stand Against Racism. We will share the posts on Twitter using the hashtag #standagainstracism, and we welcome you to share on Twitter, too!

How to Submit Your Post:

Please email your submission answering our prompt to kstanton@ywca.org by Wednesday, April 23, at 5 p.m. Your submission should include the following:

  • The blog post author’s name and title
  • The link to the blog post OR the blog post in a Word document
  • Any photos or links to video that you would like to include
  • You or your organization’s Twitter handle (if you have one)
  • Please add the following language and logo to the end of your post:

Stand Against Racism logoThis post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival – we invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.


Racial justice is an integral and defining part of the work of the YWCA. Stand Against Racism is a signature event that furthers our mission to eliminate racism and empower women across the country. We hope you will join our campaign this year!

Posted in Empowering Women, Hate Crimes, Immigration, Racial Justice, Stand Against Racism, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join the YWCA Rochester & Monroe County to Stand Against Racism

By Jean Carroll, President & CEO
YWCA Rochester & Monroe County

Jean Carroll

Jean Carroll

This is the fourth year the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County has participated in the Stand Against Racism and we’ve got some pretty big plans this year. As you know, the Stand is an annual community-wide event to build awareness about racism. We reach out to businesses, higher education, houses of worship and government agencies to create greater awareness and to encourage conversations about race.

We are very excited to have YWCA USA CEO, Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., join us here in Rochester on April 25, the date of this year’s Stand. Dr. Richardson-Heron will be the keynote speaker at a special Stand Against Racism breakfast event we are hosting. Following Dr. Richardson-Heron’s talk, there will be a panel discussion featuring Rochester’s first female African-American Mayor, Lovely A. Warren and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman.

The topic of Dr. Richardson-Heron’s talk will be “Leadership Challenges in Achieving Racial Equity.” We have an amazing event planned with dynamic speakers, and conversations that are vital for us to move forward as a community. The critical nature of what is happening in Rochester was made abundantly clear recently with the release of a poverty report about our city. Turns out, we are the fifth poorest city in the country. The report stated that African-Americans and Hispanics are far more likely to be poor than whites. In our region, the poverty rate for African-Americans stands at 34% and for Hispanics at 33%. For whites, the rate is 10%.

There are some startling statistics about the racial disparities in our city and how they all relate to housing, education and health disparities. For example, the infant mortality rate for African-Americans is 13.2 per thousand, with whites at 4.9 per thousand. Children 18 or younger living below the federal poverty level is at 36% for African-Americans in Rochester, while it is 15% for whites. Graduation rates stand at 58% for African-Americans, and 86% for whites.

The study demonstrates the need for more dialogue in our city as it relates to issues of race. Rochester has truly embraced the Stand Against Racism, and our participation rates demonstrate a commitment to having these vital conversations about race. In 2011 (our first year hosting a Stand locally) we had the second largest participation in the nation with more than 100 sites! In 2012, we led the nation with the most participation, as 160 organizations signed up. Last year, we had 200 organizations participate, again coming in second in the nation. This year, we’re hoping to again lead the nation in participation.

The types of activities taking place are as varied as the organizations that host Stand events. Some of the past Stand events have included a dance performance at a local mall, a poetry slam at a local college, racial justice workshops, facilitated discussions and just making a commitment to having a coffee with a co-worker of a different race. Many of the events were private, taking place in individual organizations, but some were open to the public.

Having a conversation about race and taking a stand may make some people uncomfortable, but talking and discussing topics of race and inequality can often lead to great things. Having a discussion about race is what the YWCA Stand Against Racism is all about.

To learn more about the Stand Against Breakfast event in Rochester on April 25, click here.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, CEO, Children's Health and Safety, Empowering Women, Leadership, Racial Justice, Stand Against Racism, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do We Mean When We Talk About the Wage Gap?

By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate for Economic Empowerment, YWCA USA

DanielleI talk about the wage gap a lot. Before coming to work at YWCA USA as the Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate for Economic Empowerment, I spent nearly 5 years working at YWCA Orange County (NY) developing and running programs to help women increase their incomes and close the wage gap. I often hear people on both sides of the aisle disputing the very existence of the wage gap. In honor of Equal Pay Day — the day in the year that women must work to earn what men did in the previous year — I’d like to set the record straight.

MYTH: The wage gap does not exist because women’s personal employment choices are responsible for the discrepancy.

FACT: “Pink-collar” jobs, wherein women outnumber men, tend to pay less than male-dominated jobs. Being a Certified Nursing Assistant or a Home Health Aid is really hard work. So is working as an electrician or a plumber. Yet CNAs and HHAs earn around half of what electricians and plumbers make. Occupational segregation is a real issue, but not the only cause of the gender wage gap. Women can certainly choose to pursue higher wage jobs in male-dominated fields, and this will elevate their income. However, doing so will NOT close the wage gap, as women earn less than men when they work in non-traditional jobs, and men earn more than women when they work in pink-collar jobs.

MYTH: The 77 cents data refers only to white women as compared with white men.

FACT: When all women are compared with all men, they make about 77% of what men do. However, this does not mean that there is not a racial wage gap as well. White and Asian men are the highest earning demographics, and when the statistic “77 cents to the man’s dollar” is calculated, those groups are making MORE than the total men’s average of $1. Notably, when similarly educated white and Asian men are compared, white men receive higher wages than Asian counterparts. Black and Latino men earn less than both white men and white women. Women of all races make less than their male counterparts.

MYTH: The wage gap exists because women work less hours and take time out to have kids.

FACT: The wage gap is calculated using only data from full time, year-round workers. The wage gap does not include women who work part time, or who have dropped out of the workforce. However, stereotypes about men and women’s contributions to the workplace, as opposed to their family lives, can affect wages and raises. Additionally, there are real pressures for women who often work a double and triple shift by working full time and then bearing the bulk of domestic responsibilities, care for children, and care for the elderly. Both men and women increasingly favor workplace flexibility for parenting and elder care. Men are spending more time with their families than ever before, yet their wages are not affected. Similarly, men’s incomes tend to increase after becoming fathers — provided they do not appear to take on many childcare duties — while women face a “mommy penalty” (regardless of contributions at home and work) of fewer opportunities and stagnating wages.

MYTH: There is an “ambition gap”. Women are less likely to self-advocate and ask for raises.

FACT: Women may be less likely to ask for raises, but they are also more likely to be stonewalled when doing so. Sadly, even in 2014, women are still penalized for being assertive while men are rewarded. While it may seem like double standards like these are a thing of the past, studies show that both men and women interviewers favored male candidates and were harder on female candidates. Furthermore, they were surprised that they had done so. Sexism is insidious and still permeates nearly every aspect of our society.

So, what are we talking about when we talk about the gender wage gap? We are talking about a variety of causes and circumstances that contribute to a disparity in wages and opportunities. Blatant sex discrimination is not the sole cause of the wage gap, as it is sometimes posited. However, just because an issue is complicated, hard to solve, and multi-faceted doesn’t mean it is a non-issue. If we ignore the vast disparities in wages between whites and most populations of color, we are failing to have a useful conversation about the wage gap. Likewise, when we talk about the manner in which women’s choices affect their earnings, we must also talk about the way that outdated policies and biases impact not only those decisions but also the outcomes.

The YWCA is committed to ending both sexism and racism and providing both quality direct service and legislative advocacy. There is no one solution to closing the wage gap; that’s why the YWCA supports a nuanced, intersectional approach to reversing historical economic oppression of women and people of color.

Join us today at 3 p.m. EDT on Twitter with the #wagesecrets and #STEMequalpay hashtags to talk more myths and facts about the wage gap!

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Racial Justice, Upcoming Events, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The STEM Promise: Opportunities for Economic Empowerment

By Katie Stanton
Social Media and Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA

equal pay WH graphicNext week, the national conversation will turn to income inequality as we mark Equal Pay Day. This marks the day on which women must continue to work in 2014, in order to earn as much as men did in the previous year.

According to 2012 numbers from the Census Bureau, the wage gap is still 23 cents, with women earning around 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by white men. The wage gap for women of color is worse: in 2012, the earnings of African American women were $33,885, or 68.6 percent of all men’s earnings and Latinas’ earnings were $28,424, 57.5 percent of all men’s earnings.

Equal pay would mean income that women need to pay for health care, housing, child care and food. It would mean greater Social Security benefits, and greater financial independence.

At 3 p.m. EDT on April 8, YWCA and the YWCA National Capital Area are teaming up with the White House and the Department of Energy to talk about equal pay, and about how jobs in non-traditional fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) could provide new opportunities.

Via Energy.gov:

The YWCA and the Department of Energy are teaming up to host a panel and Tweet Up on The STEM Promise: Opportunities for Economic Empowerment. Join the conversation on April 8, 2014, from 3-4pm EST, by using #STEMEqualPay on Twitter and learn how STEM jobs can cut down on the pay gap between men and women.

The STEM Promise: Opportunities for Economic Empowerment, will be moderated by WUSA9 Weekday Morning Anchor Mike Hydeck. He’ll be speaking with Alice Madden, Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the Department of Energy; Florentia Spires, an Albert Einstein Fellow placed at the National Science Foundation; and Desiree Hoffman, Director of Advocacy and Policy, YWCA USA for a conversation on the wages of STEM jobs and resources to find jobs in STEM. Tamara Smith, CEO of YWCA National Capital Area, will kick off the conversation, and Julie Silard Kantor, Chief Partnership Officer with Million Women Mentors, will provide closing remarks on finding a STEM mentor.

We will discuss how STEM careers can mean more economic security for women and the families that depend on them. Panelists in STEM careers will share how they entered their career and offer advice and resources on finding entry-level STEM jobs and mentors in STEM. Additionally, the panel will explore the importance of ending occupational segregation in nontraditional fields, like STEM, as a critical step toward equal pay.

Tune in to the live discussion by following the #STEMEqualPay hashtag on Twitter. We hope to see you there!

Posted in Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Upcoming Events, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women’s History Month 2014: Celebrating The Nameless, The Faceless, The Invisible

By Yumhee Park
Program Assistant for the Health and Reproductive Rights Department, National Women’s Law Center

Which of these is not like the other?

Amelia Earhart, aviator.
Virginia Woolf, novelist.
Frida Kahlo, artist.
Kim Gun-ja, comfort woman.

While the first three women have been recognized for their achievements, oftentimes, women like Kim Gun-ja are left to fade as sad stories of women who have been subject to patriarchal violence. But why should their story and voice be any less important and recognized while we celebrate Women’s History Month? March marks Women’s History Month and the theme is a celebration of women of character, courage, and commitment. Many times, we are eager to recognize those who have achieved major milestones for women, but leave reports or stories of survivors of indescribable violence to find their place in posts dedicated to sympathies. Women survivors of violence deserve recognition and their heartbreaking stories should serve as a reminder that these are crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, instead of being recognized, some such victims are being systematically forgotten.

I remember being in my early teens when I first learned about how Korean, Chinese, and other Asian women were used as “comfort women” during World War II for the Japanese army. I was in my mother’s childhood home when my mom and aunts first taught me the terrible atrocities the Japanese army inflicted on these women. No names were mentioned; these women were rendered nameless, faceless, and invisible by their aggressors. The story of Kim Gun-ja is one just recently reported. She lives in a nursing home created for South Korean women who were forced into prostitution. The reporter writes about a picture she has taken (a gift from a local company) with a wedding dress and flowers that holds more bitterness than fondness for what might have been her life. Her life may not hold shining milestones for womankind, yet her story is an important one to tell. Her struggles are important to recognize for the future of womankind.

Too often, though, stories like hers are just passing ones, saturated with bitterness and anger — women continue to be left nameless and faceless, the way their aggressors meant for them to be. With only 55 South Korean women left as registered former sex slaves from the war, their voices will soon fade into a sad part of South Korean history, with not much global recognition of them as courageous women who had to endure such long periods of trauma. Kim laments and asks, “Once the victims are gone, who will step in and fight for us?”

Instead of respect and apologies, women like Kim Gun-ja are met with deplorable remarks from Japanese politicians. In 2013, Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka said, “In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives . . . If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that.” Then, earlier this year, a Japanese government spokesman stated that there was a need to re-examine the Kono statement, an apology from Japan acknowledging that it’s Imperial military had indirect involvement in sexual slavery during World War II, to reevaluate the background and evidence of statements made by comfort women. Finally, Gawker came under fire for making a tasteless joke comparing a dating website to Imperial Japan and their use of comfort women, which fueled a new hashtag #GawkingAtRapeCulture. All these responses indeed fuel rape culture and serve to belittle the experiences of these women while keeping them invisible and voiceless.

As March comes to a close, I would like to celebrate and recognize the comfort women of World War II. The countless girls who have endured gang rapes in India. And all victims of sexual assault for their hardship and their courage to continue on and their commitment to their lives. These women are examples of pure strength within terrible circumstances and deserve praise as well as compensation and apologies for all the trauma endured. This Women’s History Month, let us not only celebrate the famously influential women throughout history, but also the invisible survivors, such as Kim Gun-ja, and remember to continue persevering for a world that may one day be free of senseless violence.

Yumhee Park is part of the Health & Reproductive Rights department at the National Women’s Law Center. Follow her stream of thoughts on feminism, Korean American identities and DC life on Twitter: @parkyhee

Posted in Empowering Women, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women, Women's History Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rochester’s History of Strong Women Continues Today

By Jean Carroll, President & CEO
YWCA Rochester & Monroe County

Jean Carroll

March is designated as “Women’s History Month,” and I’m honored to live and work in a city that has such a rich history of strong, powerful, influential women. Rochester, New York is where Susan B. Anthony lived, worked and campaigned for women’s rights.

In 1872, Anthony and several other women voted (illegally at the time) in the Presidential election. She was found guilty and ordered to pay a $100 fine (which she never paid). 14 years after she died, women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. The goal of equality and empowerment for all women continues today, and a recent poverty report issued about Rochester shows we have a long way to go.

The poverty report, issued by the Rochester Area Community Foundation, showed that Rochester is the fifth poorest city in the country. The statistics get worse when you look at women of color, worse for female-headed families, and worse yet for female-headed families with children under the age of five. Our YWCA Housing and Teen Services programs get to see first-hand how the issues of poverty, race, education and housing disproportionately affect women. But I’ve also seen how, with just a little bit of support and help, women can accomplish amazing things!

Each year the YWCA hosts an event called the Empowering Women Luncheon. We invite speakers to come and share their stories of overcoming adversity and what it took to empower themselves to do better. In addition to these keynote speakers, we invite participants from our Housing and Teen Services programs to share their stories. The most moving and inspiring stories often come from the women we serve. Incredible stories, like the one told by Safari from our Teen Services program, who faced an abusive household, the sudden death of her sister and then became pregnant at 14 years old. Case workers from our Teen Services program provided support and guidance for her and she’s graduating this spring from high school and making plans for college.

A YWCA resident named Dellenna also shared her story at the luncheon about her journey. She arrived at the YWCA a recovering addict who had spent most of the past decade on the streets until she went to jail. She stayed at the YWCA two years, earned her Master’s Degree this past May, and is now the director of a prison outreach program here in Rochester. She told me, “I came here on my knees and I left standing, walking. I’m fully self-sufficient. I love the woman I am today.”

I think Susan B. Anthony would like her too.

Jean Carroll has been with the YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County since 1985, as its controller. She became the President and CEO in 1995. She is known for her strategic planning skills and her passion to improve the lives of women and girls, especially those facing personal challenges such as homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse or teen pregnancy. 

Posted in Children's Health and Safety, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Women's History Month, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Value of Young Women’s Participation at the United Nations

By Devan Drabik
YWCA Greater Harrisburg

Devan Drabik

Devan Drabik

On March 10, the 58th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women launched into official meetings at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. As a young woman serving as a YWCA delegate, I came to the UN with three goals: to advocate for women’s rights on a global platform; to become a stronger ambassador for the YWCA movement; and to gain a global perspective of the inequalities facing women and girls around the world.

My journey began at the World YWCA’s Advocacy Institute, where I received valuable training on UN advocacy efforts and lobbying techniques. I was also given the unique opportunity to build solidarity with women from the YWCAs of Palestine, Japan, Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, Samoa, Great Britain, Mexico, Taiwan, and Switzerland. Although we came from different backgrounds, cultures and careers, all 70 delegates shared a common passion for gender equality.

The 58th session on the Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW58) priority theme — “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls” — offered the UN a chance to assess the MDGs’ progress and gave NGO delegates the opportunity to lobby for strategic framework in the Post-2015 agenda. With goals including achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering  women, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health (just to name a few), the UN has very little time until the 2015 deadline.  “Women’s rights have come a long way but there is still much to do and little time to do it in,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented.

CSW58 offered not only an incredible platform for the YWCA delegation team to advocate for the rights of women and girls; it also presented valuable mentorship opportunities. I was honored to serve on the World YWCA’s lobbying team for governmental side events, where I was mentored by a remarkable delegate from the YWCA Australia. In this role, I met with delegates from Afghanistan, El Salvador, Burundi, Zambia, and the United States to lobby for the dignity and rights of women and girls in relation to education, ending violence against women, economic opportunities, fulfillment of sexual reproductive health and rights, and ending child and forced marriages.

Additionally, I advocated for implementation of the World YWCA’s first priority: young women’s leadership. Young women are not only the leaders of tomorrow; we have an important role to play in shaping our world today. The Future Young Women Want document, created by the World YWCA, points out that “the experiences of young women are different from the experiences of young men, and women as a gender category; a ‘one size fits all approach’ undermines the efforts to effect change and recognition of diversity.” This valuable document was shared with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the days leading up to CSW58.

The Young Women’s Caucus offered young delegates the opportunity to raise our voices. Together we drafted an oral statement to be presented to the member states of CSW58, declaring “we (young women) are more than statistics — we are a valuable asset to the nations, a critical population group for achieving sustainable human development, but more importantly we are people whose human rights have to be at the core of any transformational agenda. Our voices must count in shaping the future of humanity.”

Over the last 10 days, I have lived this message and advocated for the rights of women, young women and girls around the world. I achieved my original goals and joined an incredible network of amazing women who dedicated their time and resources to ensure that gender equality and the priority themes of the World YWCA are put at the front of the Post-2015 Development agenda. I am honored to have been a part of this amazing group and look forward to bringing the valuable skills I learned at the UN to my local YWCA.

Devan Drabik is the Fundraising and Publications Manager at the YWCA Greater Harrisburg. Read her post on the World YWCA Women Leading Change blog: The Sexualisation of Women and Girls.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Empowering Women, Leadership, Violence Against Women, Women's Health, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creative Solutions to Difficult Issues: Working Around the System

By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate

This week, I had the honor of attending the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). While the CSW occurs over the course of two weeks, NGOs from around the world lobby their representatives in support of the issues most impacting the women they represent. And, while the CSW debates these points, NGOs plan “side events” where they gather to discuss women’s issues from every perspective – safety, poverty, health, political rights, etc.

Danielle (third from right), with panelists from YWCAs in Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, and Palestine, discussing young women's leadership.

Danielle (third from right), with panelists from YWCAs in Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, and Palestine, discussing young women’s leadership.

As I attended side events and heard perspectives from women who had traveled from seemingly every corner of the world, I noticed one prominent theme: women and the NGOs who work with them are incredibly creative at working within and around systems that do not meet their needs. Here are a few of the innovative solutions I heard for empowering women and girls in challenging environments:

  • When girls were kept out of secondary school by their parents, who were concerned for their safety during a lengthy walk to school, a program was created to allow families to rent bicycles so the girls could cycle to school together – increasing safety.
  • When schools were not commutable for rural communities, education programs were set up close to home so that girls could continue their education.
  • In communities where sexual and reproductive health and safety topics were taboo, doctors and advocates worked to overcome taboos by talking with women directly and working with influential religious leaders.
  • When girls were the first in their families to access secondary education and higher, advocates found that including parents in discussions about the opportunities education creates helped to ensure support at home.

These are only a small sampling of the brilliant work women and advocates around the world are doing to promote gender equality. YWCAs in the United States and abroad are no different – they work against the odds, with limited resources, in communities that may have little desire to change and move toward equality.

Created with flickr slideshow.


At a time where 1 in 4 women in the US will be the victim of gendered violence, when sequestration cuts threaten our ability to provide critical direct service, and when women and their families are torn apart by racially-driven immigration policies, the YWCA USA and YWCA’s across the United States stand in solidarity with our sisters around the world in the fight for gender equality.

For more, read:

Posted in Children's Health and Safety, Empowering Women, Leadership, Women's Health, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live from the 58th UN Commission on the Status of Women

By Desiree Hoffman
Director of Advocacy, YWCA USA

It’s that time of year again. Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) from around the world, Representatives of Member States and UN entities have arrived in New York City to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The UN CSW was established in 1946 – 1 year after the UN was created. The YWCA has been involved in the UN CSW since its inception.

CSW photos

YWCA participants at the UN CSW

Every year, leading up to opening day, the World YWCA hosts an Advocacy Training to prepare YWCA women from around the globe to be effective advocates for the year’s priority theme. This year, the theme is Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Women and Girls. The eight MDGs include:

  • Halving extreme poverty rates,
  • Halting the spread of HIV/AIDS,
  • Providing universal primary education,
  • Promoting gender equality and empowerment,
  • Reducing child mortality,
  • Improving maternal health,
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability, and,
  • Global partnerships for development.

The MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by UN countries and leading development institutions, and will expire at the end of 2015. The World YWCA provided all of its attendees with ample information to urge UN delegates to include language in the draft conclusions to end violence against women, access to sexual and reproductive health, encourage meaningful participation of young women, and be able to access education, economic empowerment and resources. The position paper, Her Future, is the framework that we use to deliver this message.

Another event the YWCA attends is NGO Consultation Day, wherein advocates join together and hear from experts about the MDGs, share priorities on issues impacting women and girls, and begin thinking about the theme for next year’s CSW. What I took away from this session is that the 1980s through the 1990s were viewed as the “decade of women,” with numerous world conferences taking place in those years. The first UN Conference was held in Mexico City in 1975, and the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. However, we haven’t had any World Conferences in nearly 20 years.

The question is, why haven’t we had another world conference when today there are urgent problems facing women and girls, in the US and abroad, that deserve attention? Some of the speakers expressed that it is because of a lack of political appetite from member states, and that there is fear that, if another Conference were to be held, it may not further the Beijing Platform for Action. I can see why that is the case. If you look at the Beijing Platform for Action, the 12 areas of concern that were laid at are still relevant to the issues we continue to face today. However, without a new convention, many women like myself who were too young to be present in 1995 will not have an opportunity to raise new and emerging concerns affecting our communities. LGBT, immigrant women, young women, Millennials, Gen X and Gen Y are all ready to come to the table, and to build on the work of previous Conferences.

After the NGO Consultation Day, the YWCA USA hosted a reception that included World Service Council members, staff from YWCAs from around the world, YWCA USA Board Members, and leadership from our local associations. It was a wonderful way to wrap up a day and ponder on the objectives, dreams, and goals before us.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Domestic Violence, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Leadership, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women, Women's Health, Young Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Men Must Commit to Ending Gender-Based Violence

By Patricia Glaser Shea, President and CEO
YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee

Patricia Glaser Shea

Patricia Glaser Shea

Violence against women and girls is a men’s issue. While most men are not violent, it is men who commit the majority of violence against women and girls. The engagement and education of men and boys is the best long-term solution to solving this widespread criminal behavior.

Violence against women won’t stop until men take an active role in creating a culture that refuses to tolerate it. Most men (our good guys) aren’t really aware of the enormity of problem. Maybe it’s not part of their daily life, or so it seems. Here are the facts in our own community, which is everyone’s reality:

The evidence is clear: violence against women in the U.S., in Tennessee and in Nashville is a huge problem. No matter how successful, educated or evolved you are, violence perpetrated by men is happening around you. A lack of awareness and knowledge about violence against women supports the violence. Silence benefits the abuser. Silence is affirming. When we choose not to know, not to speak out, we are in fact supporting the violence. At the YWCA, we believe that once the “good men” realize the size and complexity of this problem, they too will be committed to reducing violence against women and girls.

That’s why we have launched a new, long-term, grassroots initiative to attract men who are committed to changing this culture under the leadership of two of the YWCA’s male board members.

Our goal is simple—reduce ALL violence against ALL women and girls in Nashville and Davidson County by:

  • Raising awareness about violence against women,
  • Giving boys and men the tools to manage the current culture, and
  • Changing the future through the education of young men and boys by men they admire.

In early 2013, the YWCA began working with Tony Porter, co-founder of A CALL TO MEN, to assist us in our efforts to develop a program for our unique community. A coalition was formed, and an initial planning session to make Nashville the safest city in the nation for women and girls was held. This session involved a small, intimate group, with key community leaders in attendance, including Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson.

“The message Tony Porter gives us can be very unsettling,” says Chief Anderson. “Tony’s words bring about painful awareness of things you already know, but probably don’t talk about. You will have thoughts you do not want to acknowledge. Tony will help you understand those thoughts and put them into perspective. Tony’s message will lead you to an understanding of why domestic violence occurs and how we can provide a way to prevent it.”

On August 7, the YWCA sponsored the first public awareness event on the campus of Belmont University to announce our plans to engage men and boys in our efforts to reduce all violence against all women and girls. 400 community leaders including the Davidson County sheriff, several Metro Public School Board members and the president of Belmont University attended. In addition to Tony Porter’s presentation, Chief Anderson and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn spoke in support of the YWCA’s efforts.

The YWCA, in partnership with the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, hosted a 3-day training institute with A CALL TO MEN in mid-February.  Organizations working in field of violence prevention and advocacy from across Tennessee came together to learn, engage and unite in the effort to reduce all violence against all women and girls.

On April 10, the YWCA and Vanderbilt University Athletics Department is hosting “A Call to Coaches” in conjunction with A CALL TO MEN. This event will bring together 500+ coaches, youth advocates and mentors from middle school to professional sports. The coaches will hear from Tony Porter, coaches and athletes as they discuss the topic of healthy manhood and respect and how influential they are to the next generation of men. Coaches and mentors will leave “A Call to Coaches” with a “playbook” for the first steps in ending violence against women and girls by promoting healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.

As our efforts begin taking root in the athletic community with the help of coaches, we will begin to focus on our other two key target areas: the clergy and corporate CEOs. The YWCA continues to research the best practices and what will work for our community. Dr. Jackson Katz, creator of the MVP Program and internationally known author, speaker and trainer, and Dr. Michael Kaufman, co-founder of The White Ribbon campaign are advisors. Dr. Kaufman co-founded the White Ribbon campaign, one of the oldest and largest anti-violence movements led by men. The White Ribbon is a universal, unifying symbol of men ending men’s violence against women.

Women have been at the forefront and carrying the burden of this social ill for generations. The YWCA in Nashville & Middle Tennessee has spent the last four decades offering shelter and supportive services for domestic violence survivors and their children. Other non-profits have been there for women who have been raped, trafficked, prostituted. Although we have all done great work, we know the problem is not getting better for our mothers, sisters, girlfriends and daughters. We must have the help of the “good guys” who want to prevent violence. The YWCA will always serve women and children fleeing domestic violence, but it is time to start investing in a prevention program that will change the statistics of violence in our community. After all, aren’t all of our mother, sisters, girlfriends and daughters worth it?

Pat Shea has more than 30 years of experience in for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare and human services organizations and has led the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee since 2005. Pat is the founding chair of the Nashville Chapter of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which is hosted by the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee. 

Pat is a frequent speaker on domestic violence issues. Her editorials on women’s issues, including equal pay and violence against women, regularly appear in Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper.

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