“There was a need for local voices,” said Margarita Luna, a program manager with The California Endowment. She funded the creation of the Women’s Policy Institute-County to empower women to advocate for social and economic change in the Eastern Coachella Valley, an unincorporated part of Riverside County where many residents are poor agricultural workers from Latino immigrant families. Twenty grassroots women leaders went through the inaugural local policy advocacy training program in 2015 and are now using their newfound skills, voices and personal experiences to create change for their communities.
When women control their fertility, they think about their lives differently. They make long-range plans for school, career and family. And they stay out of poverty. It’s no surprise that as soon as birth control became widespread in the 1960s, reproductive freedom translated into economic freedom. Today, Griselda Reyes Basurto is helping to create a radical health initiative—teaching Mixteco and other immigrants from indigenous backgrounds in Ventura County about their bodies and reproductive rights—called Cuidando mi Cuerpo, meaning “caring for my body.”
The very nature of their work keeps domestic workers hidden from view. It might have stayed that way but for the commitment of organizers like Katie Joaquin. In 2013 domestic workers used public policy and their powerful voices to win a workplace right they had been denied for decades: overtime pay. In 2016, they are advocating again to make that hard-fought right permanent.
California is the seventh largest economy in the world, yet it accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s homeless population—nearly 115,000 people. Women and children are the fastest growing homeless population today. Kim Carter, executive director of Time for Change Foundation, overcame homelessness, prison and addiction to start a visionary organization that supports women as they rebuild and reclaim their lives.
In fairy tales, justice prevails miraculously and everyone lives happily ever after. But in the real world, women must take leadership and demand the change they wish to see. Jessie Ryan joined our Women’s Policy Institute in 2009 and used her experience and voice to transform the California’s community college system through public policy change.
Violets, all juniors and seniors at Marlborough, have awarded over $200,000 in grants since 2006 to organizations that are working to improve the lives of underprivileged women and girls in the Los Angeles area through education. This year they awarded $10,000 each to four remarkable organizations.
Norma Alvarez is a member of the WomenGO! giving circle based in Silicon Valley. WomenGO! is one of six giving circles in our network. In this post, Norma describes an experience that transformed the way she thinks about her philanthropy and her contribution to the economic and gender justice movements.