Authors Posts by Sande Smith

Sande Smith

Sande Smith
Sande Smith is the Sr. Director of Communications and Advocacy at the Women's Foundation of California.

Agnes Uboma
Agnes Uboma


by Agnes Uboma, Executive Assistant

As a womanist I try my best to support film, research, music and all things in between that highlight the condition of women. Working at The Women’s Foundation of California, I am inclined to stay abreast of policy agendas that directly affect the condition of women so when I received an email about the documentary Paycheck to Paycheck it was a no brainer; go home, set my DVR, pour a glass of wine and prepare to take notes about a matter that I work on every day.

So I did just that – more actually. I went home, set my DVR, went to the gym, took a shower, warmed up some tasty leftovers, climbed into bed with my notebook and my glass of wine, and turned on my recording of Paycheck to Paycheck. While I knew that the topic was serious, I was taken aback by the overwhelming sense of despair and angst that filled me as I watched Katrina go about her daily life. I realized that I would have to somehow manage to turn my viewing into a call of duty.

In the documentary, Katrina, a single mother of three, takes the viewer on a journey of long dreary work days, hungry evenings, poor health, marriage separation as she cannot afford the actual divorce, child support woes, child rearing, ramifications of spousal substance abuse, dwindling food stamps, denied financial aid for college, and emotionally drained children. The one good thing she did for herself? Go to a neighborhood salon for a haircut. To top it off, as if things weren’t bad enough, the viewer is confronted with overwhelming despair as Katrina’s three children are tearfully forced to give their puppy away in the parking lot of Wal-Mart for forty dollars.

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Women Give SDHow thrilling to see the article, Giving Circles: More Impact to Go Around,  in The New York Times yesterday. It’s a great article about the impact of women’s giving circles. While this collaborative model of giving is on the rise, we’re proud to say that the Women’s Foundation of California has been hosting giving circles for the past 15 years. All told, our giving circle members have made grants totaling $10.4 million to benefit the lives of low-income women and their families!

One of these giving circles is based in San Diego. Women Give San Diego was started in 2010 by three visionary women – Linda Katz, Gayle Tauber and Jan Tuttleman.  Now 111 members strong, Women Give San Diego has awarded $198,000 to nine organizations that are working on increasing women’s economic security in San Diego County. Check out this profile of Women Give San Diego on page 11 of our recently released annual report, and find out what makes this circle so unique. We’re sure you’ll be inspired by what’s possible when women pool their resources and their passion.

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WPI fellowsWe’re thrilled to announce our 2013-14 class of the Women’s Policy Institute. This groundbreaking program brings  women’s expertise to the legislative process while increasing the number of policies that address the needs of women and families.  Women leaders who go through the program learn how to work with legislators on promising solutions to our state’s most pressing problems.

Over the past 10 years, the Women’s Policy Institute has transformed nearly 300 women into effective policy advocates and resulted in 20 legislative victories that strengthen California’s communities. In 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law three bills that Women’s Policy Institute fellows worked on, including the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which provides overtime pay to housekeepers, childcare providers, and caregivers. More than 90 percent of domestic workers in California are women.

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domestic workersA week and a half ago, the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB 241) was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now just a couple steps away from Governor Brown’s desk. 2011 Women’s Policy Institute graduates, Katie Joaquin (Campaign Coordinator, CA Domestic Workers Coalition) and Claudia Reyes (Worker Labor Rights Organizer, Mujeres Unidas y Activas) discuss their involvement in this state-wide movement during its most critical juncture.

Katie Joaquin: How long have you been involved in the campaign for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and what is your personal connection to this work?

Claudia Reyes: I’ve been involved since we introduced the first bill in 2006. We began with hosting workshops for our members to discuss the importance of creating this legislation. It was important for the workers to feel empowered to fight for their rights while doing such isolating work. My personal connection to this movement started when I was very young. Like many families, my parents relied on a caregiver to take care of me and my siblings during the summers. Actually, my first job in the United States was caring for a child. However, my inspiration for winning this campaign is my mother. She was a caregiver, and went through a lot of abuse, to earn money for our family. She received no overtime pay for working 14 to 16 consecutive days and she slept on an old couch while the family’s extra bedroom remained empty.

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Amelia Barnachea

by Amelia Baranchea

I hope that after you read my story, you will get a clearer idea of what caregivers like me have to endure just to earn a living.

My name is Amelia Bernachea, and I have been a care provider since 1992.  Since becoming a Certified Nursing Aide in 1997, I’ve worked in a convalescent hospital and have done one-on-one patient service.  I deal with different kinds of patients with varying needs—from ambulatory to bedridden, some of them requiring specialized care.

One of my patients has Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, the patient becomes harder to handle. Their needs and demand increase, and I barely have enough time to sleep.

For only $70 per day, I feed my patients three times a day, administer medicine after every meal, change diapers every two-three hours or whenever necessary, cook, wash dishes, do laundry, water the flower garden and perform other household chores.

I get no overtime pay, no rest breaks and no meal breaks.

Despite all of this, I try to muster up the strength to keep going, to remain calm, understanding and to provide the best care for my patients.  It’s not an easy task, but I have to endure it all to support my family financially.

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Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen (center) and her two children

by Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen, Member of Hand in Hand, San Francisco, CA

Three months after my second child was born, I began preparing to go back to work three days a week. When I couldn’t find a nearby day care center that had a part-time program, I decided to look for a nanny.

As I started to interview people, I had several questions. Do I trust this person to care for my child? What can we afford to pay? Does the schedule work for both of us?

I also started to ask myself difficult questions about myself. How can I be a good employer? How do I balance my obligations to my employee with my obligations to my family? And, is it possible for me to be a responsible employer even if I can’t afford to pay the salary I know my employee deserves?

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The California Institution for Women in Corona was one of two state prisons where female inmates were sterilized without required state approvals. (photo from Center for Investigative Reporting).
The California Institution for Women in Corona was one of two state prisons where female inmates were sterilized without required state approvals. (photo from CIR)

By Katie Egan, Program Assistant
Last month, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) released a devastating article, revealing that between 2006 and 2010 nearly 150 female prisoners in California were coerced into sterilization surgeries without required state approval. These numbers reflect documented tubal ligation surgeries performed on female prisoners during that five year period; however, CIR’s Corey G. Johnson reports that that an additional 100 women could have also been subjected to sterilization between 1997 and 2010.According to the report, pregnant women were signed up for the procedure while serving time at either the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona or the Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison. Although defenders of the program, which may have existed without any state official’s formal approval, argue that they were providing female prisoners with “the same options as women on the outside,” former inmates and prisoner advocates assert that prison doctors targeted pregnant women deemed “likely to return to prison in the future” and pressured them to agree to tubal ligations.

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We recently produced a short video to share some of the stunning testimony we heard about California’s rising poverty level. The testimony includes stunning facts about the impact of poverty on children’s brains. We encourage you to check out the video and share with others. The link is here.

childrenCalWORKs, a program created to help children and families get out of poverty, has been decimated by budget cuts over the past five years. The result? One in four children in California are living in poverty.

The most that a parent with two children can expect to receive from CalWORKs today is $638/month. That is almost exactly the same amount as in 1989. But guess what? The purchasing power of that $638 today is HALF of what it was 24 years ago!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Assemblymember Holly Mitchell has put forward a plan that will get us moving in the right direction.

The “Mitchell Plan,” also known as the CalWORKs Child Poverty adjustment, recognizes that the majority of people benefiting from CalWORKs—three out of four—are children. And the plan asks for a 12% increase in the CalWORKs grant starting January 1, 2014.

We know that the Budget Conference Committee will meet today to discuss this issue. PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL THEM right away to say that you support the Mitchell Plan.  Time is of the essence and every call matters. Our legislators are counting and recording call and emails to see how many of us care.

The Budget Committee members are Robert Blumenfield, Holly Mitchell, Nancy Skinner, Jeff Gorell, Mark Leno, Kevin de León, Loni Hancock and Bill Emmerson. Here is their contact info:

Robert Blumenfield916.319.2045,

Holly Mitchell916.319.2054,

Nancy Skinner916.319.2015,

Jeff Gorell916.319.2044,

Mark Leno916.651.4011,

Kevin de León916.651.4022,

Loni Hancock916.651.4009,

Bill Emmerson916.651.4023,

Thank you!

make poverty historyIt’s stunning to realize that California, the “golden state”  has the highest rate of poverty in the country. In fact, our poverty rate has grown seven times faster than the country as a whole.

While California’s level of poverty has been growing, CalWORKs grants have been reduced by 12% over the last three years. The purchasing power of CalWORKs grants has dropped by more than half since 1989 and 1990.

It doesn’t have to be that way. While the Foundation is concerned that California be fiscally responsibile and not “overspend,” we also recognize that the past five years of budget cuts during the worst recession in decades has led to our skyrocketing poverty rate. It is critical that we begin an anti-poverty strategy to avoid further negative economic impact on California’s families who are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why we’ve been working on two very important budget issues that will help improve the economic security of low income women and families. One is regarding a 12 percent increase to the CalWORKs grant, and the other is concerning childcare funding. We know that these two issues will be going to the Budget Conference Committee today and perhaps early next week. (See below for details of how to contact the Budget Committee members and what to say).

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