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.
By Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. CEO of the YWCA USA
On November 14, I had the incredible honor to travel to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Calif., to spend a wonderful afternoon with eight of my YWCA Sisters: Elizabeth Palmer, Mary Douglas, Dorothy Hartzler, Betty Jo Anderson, Lou Ann Parsons, Laura Fakuda, Mary Douglas, Barbara Mensendiek, Marilyn Brunger and Elizabeth Clarke. Each of these ladies played a significant role in shaping the YWCA, as leaders in our movement.
Bottom row: Dara with Elizabeth Palmer. Second row (left to right): Dorothy Hartzler, Betty Jo Anderson, Lou Ann Parsons, Laura Fakuda, Mary Douglas, Barbara Mensendiek, Marilyn Brunger and Elizabeth Clarke.
For 155 years, the YWCA has literally transformed this nation. The women of the YWCA have been at the forefront of many life-changing social movements in the United States—from the abolition of slavery to voting rights, from civil rights to pay equity, and today, from fair immigration reform to the prevention of violence. On all of these issues, the YWCA influenced outcomes that are a part of the foundation of who we are as a nation.
Why has the YWCA been such a transformative force in the lives of millions of women, girls and families for well over a century? Simply put: We know What Women Want and we do what is needed to get it done! The leaders of the YWCA are among the most talented, passionate and dedicated advocates this country has ever known. The theme of this year’s conference, What Women Want, is truly a testament to the accomplishments of our past, a mantra for the life-changing work we carry out in communities each day and a vision for our future.
By Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D.
CEO of the YWCA USA
Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D.
March 23, 2013 marks the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and presents us with a great opportunity to look back at the YWCA’s involvement in its passage, what the law means now to millions of women and families throughout the U.S., and what is still needed to ensure equal access to affordable, accessible and high quality health care coverage.
The YWCA played a very active role in advocating for the passage of the ACA. When the ACA was first enacted in 2010, its fate was unknown for some time, with lively “repeal and replace” legislative actions in Congress. When concerns about its constitutionality reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the YWCA spoke out publicly about the need for this coverage to be upheld. YWCAs across the country reached out to mobilize our more than 70,000 employees and tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the U.S. We asked them to be message champions, and to help educate women about how the ACA would decrease significant health disparities and make healthcare more affordable and accessible.
Now, three years later, this law has helped to make real and necessary advances to improve the health and safety of all women, including those who could not afford insurance before ACA took effect and those who previously paid more for coverage solely because of their gender. Many of the advantages of this relatively new health care law are still being implemented, and they have the potential to directly impact the women and families that the YWCA serves.
Here is a brief look at some of the positive impacts, three years later:
On January 21, I will be joining many Americans to watch the second Inauguration of President Obama – the first African American president of the United States. This is particularly exciting for me after having had the honor to personally meet the President during my tenure as CEO of the YWCA, and to work with his staff on issues impacting women and girls across the country.
As I reflect on next week, I realize the confluence of events is very significant. January 21, 2013 represents more than just the Presidential swearing-in; it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day where the lessons of racial justice – some painful and some triumphant – are crystal clear in the minds and memories of many. It is also a federal holiday in honor of one of our greatest civil rights leaders. With the legacy of Dr. King’s commitment to civic engagement, Americans now dedicate the holiday to volunteerism and service and use the time off from work as an opportunity to give back to the communities around us and to make the country a better place.
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.