The shocking truth about economic insecurity is that it will, at one point or another, affect most Americans. According to a 2013 report from the Associated Press, “Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty and reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”
Not only that, but economic insecurity is incredibly toxic to both children and adults. Children living in poverty face a myriad of economic, emotional and familial stressors—all of which have been proven to cause poorer academic achievement and higher dropout rates in high school, poverty and unemployment as adults, higher likelihood to become teen parents as well as higher likelihood to suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness.
Furthermore, according to a report published by the journal Science in 2013, poverty is alarmingly harmful to adults. The researchers found that poverty and its effects—worrying about the utility bill that is due, thinking about losing food stamps or cash benefits, stressing out about not being able to find a job—impose a massive cognitive burden akin to losing 13 IQ points. That means that adults living in poverty, due to stress and constant
worry, end up having less brain bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty—such as concentrate in their night school class, search for a new job or even remember to pay bills on time.
This research shows what most of us have inherently known: poverty creates a vicious cycle. Without effective intervention, the condition of poverty causes more poverty. A life filled with hardship, disappointment, worry and discrimination can lead to hopelessness and an inability to see oneself as a change agent in one’s own life and in the lives of one’s children.
That’s why it’s so life-affirming to see women like Lourdes and Maria Luna who, with superhuman strength and in spite of poverty, depression and domestic violence, are able to imagine a better tomorrow and lead
movements for change. Because of their work and passion, thousands of women are uplifted.
Maria Luna remembers the moment she learned that she mattered and that she had the right—and duty—to change the condition of domestic workers like herself.
“At first I thought: The government? What are they going to do for us? So what if we propose a law to help domestic workers? They won’t listen to us. Who would ever listen to us? But then, through Mujeres Unidas y Activas, I saw firsthand that we—individual women, communities and society—can make a difference and help ourselves to claim our rights.”