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.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when you realize that one in three women worldwide will experience violence at some point during her lifetime. Or to feel powerless when you hear about the use of rape as a tool of control and humiliation in the Syrian civil war or the consistent violence against young girls living as child slaves in Haiti.
But these horrifying statistics and anecdotes are only one side of the story – the other side is one of resounding hope.
Kasar Abdulla, Board Member at the YWCA of Nashville for three years, has been making a difference in her community for nearly two decades. Through her work with Welcoming America, Kasar helps immigrants and the new communities they are joining to find cross-cultural understanding and an appreciation for their new neighbors. In September, Kasar was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change, and we sat down with her for an interview about her work and her life in the United States.
As we reflect during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to take a moment to lift up the work of advocates and organizers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities who have championed the cause of ending intimate partner violence (IPV) in LGBTQ communities.
On this fifth day of Week Without Violence, we turn to focus on an invisible epidemic that many in our country don’t believe can even exist in today’s time: sexual trafficking. This modern day form of slavery impacts billions of women and families in communities both domestic and international:
There are an estimated 12.5 billion people trafficked globally.
Of that, 1.2 million are children, and globally, the majority of trafficking victims are between the ages of 18-24.
The YWCA of San Diego County invites San Diegans to take a stand against intimate-partner violence by donning pumps and “walking a mile” in the shoes of survivors. The annual Walk A Mile fundraiser supports the YWCA’s Becky’s House® Domestic Violence Programs, residential and supportive services for survivors and their children. The event brings together our community in a show of support for victims and to raise awareness about an issue that is still too often minimized. Women and men, young and old, survivors and advocates join the YWCA of San Diego County to march through the streets in a mass of high heels of all shapes, heights and outrageous colors. In so doing, they make a statement with every step: a statement that women and men can take a stand against domestic violence.
I was in the 9th grade at Benjamin Banneker Junior High School in Washington, D.C. when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Riots were breaking out one block away from my house, which was located at the intersection of 14th and U Street. I remember hearing Stokely Carmichael telling the crowds to burn the store fronts (run by white suburbanites) down, and so they did. I thought the world was coming to an end. I really thought it was going to be World War III. The National Guard troops barricaded the neighborhood, tear gas was thrown into the crowds and fires broke out. People were putting signs in their windows that said, “Soul Brothers Live Here,” in order to keep the looters out. Even white people were putting signs in their windows. In just a matter of hours, I saw my neighborhood burn down.
When I think back to what caused the residents of the 14th Street Corridor to react in the way they did, the only logical reason I can think of is economic disparity. Racism, in my opinion, is born out of economic disparity. Limited resources always create tension. Access to capital – a necessity for starting a business – needs to be available to everyone, not just a select few, in order for peace to exist among the masses. Racism is born when this access is given to only a chosen few. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, the black residents in the 14th Street Corridor turned on the shopkeepers, who were predominantly white, and they looted the shopkeepers in an act of revenge.
2013 is nearly here, so let’s take a step back and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. For the YWCA, looking back helps us remember what we can achieve together, and to plan for how we will continue to empower women and eliminate racism in coming years.
YWCAs across the country have truly made an impressive difference in their communities. Our local associations worked hard to serve the two million women and families who participate in our programs every year. Here is just a sample of their many achievements:
The YWCA York, as part of a Human Trafficking Task Force, increased awareness about the widespread trafficking taking place in their community at their Cocktails for a Cause event. YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., discussed the YWCA USA’s commitment to empowering survivors of violence.
Janet Marcotte, YWCA Tucson Executive Director, presented the 2012 YWCA USA Women of Distinction Award for Civic Engagement in honor of Gabrielle Giffords to her mother, Gloria Giffords. May 4, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
The Annual Conference is a time to build strong bonds with your colleagues from other YWCAs and to learn best practices from YWCA staff and workshop leaders. I had many favorite moments from the 2012 YWCA Annual Conference. One was seeing Gabrielle Giffords’ mother, Gloria, accept the Women of Distinction Award for civic engagement on behalf of her daughter. To hear a mother speak so sincerely about her daughter and her accomplishments in the face of tragedy was very touching. Another highlight was a valuable workshop session that provided me with a new perspective on women with ambitions to be elected to leadership positions in government. It offered a realistic view of the components that go into building a successful campaign and was eye-opening and very intriguing. And, the experience of meeting with our Congressional legislators was very empowering. I would love to see that sea of YWCA persimmon marching up Capitol Hill again.