When Gina Clayton founded Essie Justice Group with the mission to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones in 2014, she had one critical challenge. While the number of women with a family member in prison suggests prevalence—one in four women and nearly half of Black women have a loved one behind bars—isolation and the stigma made affected women hard to find. But a conversation with a man inside a prison sparked the idea for Essie’s most innovative and promising movement building strategy yet.
The son of an immigrant single mother, California state senator Kevin de León has an intimate understanding of women’s hardships, especially those faced by low-income women and women of color. “I have the political space and credibility to act upon polices that are critical for the overall wellbeing of families, particularly single mothers,” he said. As the highest-ranking Democrat in Sacramento, de León is now using his power to elevate the state’s economy by advocating for women.
Child care is not a luxury, but a necessity for working mothers. It is key to both women’s and children’s success, said Mary Ignatius, who organizes women to advocate for increased public investments in subsidized child care as an organizer at Parent Voices. For low-income and many middle-income women, subsidized child care is out of reach. At this very moment, some 200,000 children are on a three-year waitlist. In the meantime, their parents struggle to make ends meet, unable to find and keep full-time work.
Sabrina Johnson is a therapist with a vision: She wants San Francisco’s home care workers to be treated with dignity because their contributions to our society are tremendous. “[Home care workers] need to be valued like we value the tech industry,” said Johnson. “Tech cannot get elderly people out of bed and feed them.”
“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.
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.