WOMEN”S ISSUES UPDATE
Sheila DeLany, Women’s Issues Committee Chair
On July 1, I took part in the #Bring Back Our Girls rally in front of Santa Cruz City Hall. The rally was organized by Stephanie Milton, UCSC Women’s Center Director, and sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission, among others. Speakers addressed a range of topics related to the kidnapping of over 200 women and girls in Nigeria, as well as trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse elsewhere. Mayor Cynthia Mathews, Ann Simonton of MediaWatch, Kymberly Lacrosse from the Women’s Commission, and I were among the invited speakers. Also, the Commission is sending a letter to the Board of Supervisors requesting their support for actions to be taken on behalf of women and girls worldwide. (See draft of letter below.)
Then, on July 15, Donna Ziel and I attended a VET-NET event at the VFW post on 7th Avenue in Live Oak. Donna, a former VWC Board Member and Member of the Women’s Commission, is a Cabrillo College Trustee and serves on the college’s Veteran’s Affairs Committee. VET-NET is an alliance of community veterans’ service providers, networking to ensure that all community services are in partnership to provide the best “web” of resources.
Shawn Cervantes, who established the “Seeking Safety” program for military women at Walnut Avenue Women’s Center, was a main speaker. Donna and I met her when she spoke at the Women’s Commission film screening of “The Invisible War,” the film about military sexual assault. Shawn is also working to bring the Sunergos Institute’s “Leading with Resiliency and Grace” to Santa Cruz in March 2015. The program was created in response to the different needs of military women. For example, female veterans are more likely to commit suicide, become homeless and be unemployed than their civilian counterparts. They are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault as civilian women, and the PTSD effects of such trauma are greater for women veterans than for men in combat.
This was the 6th VET-NET event at which veterans, providers and others are welcomed: to attend, share information, and network. The goal of the meetings is to improve services and access to services for veterans in Santa Cruz County. The focus of this VET-NET meeting was on women veterans, and a record crowd of about 60 women and men attended. The women included veterans who served as nurses during WWII, were in the Coast Guard during the Korean conflict, and on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. One was in the corps of Army nurses who followed the D-Day forces all along the advancing European front.
Representatives of the VA’s Women Veterans Services, Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Walnut Avenue Women’s Center, Santa Cruz Homeless Services, the Watsonville Library Veteran’s Stories project, the Employment Development Department, and Marina Veteran’s Services, as well as many other providers described their organizations, agencies, and services.
Women serving in the military are not encouraged to bond together the way the men are, yet the men who are their colleagues and superior officers too often betray them in the deepest way. It is no surprise then, that the women often do not seek services they need and to which they are entitled. One woman described the “boy’s club” atmosphere of the veteran’s clinic waiting room; another spoke of the difficulty of finding a mammogram provider anywhere near her home; a third of the humiliation of having her reason for being at the clinic shouted out in front a roomful of men.
These are women who have protected and defended our country. What are we doing to protect and defend them? One way is to support the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. Another is to pressure our legislators to support women on active duty and in the VA.
Draft of letter to the Board of Supervisors:
Dear Members of the Board:
Daily, throughout the world, there are acts of violence against women and girls, based simply on gender; acts grounded in cultural and religious assumptions that girls and women are not as fully human as boys and men. They are not entitled to own their own bodies, make their own decisions, or take part in public life.
Girls and women are mutilated, kidnapped, raped, tortured, sold and murdered. Those who dare to learn, to work, to choose their own partners, to plan their families, to go out of doors, to show their faces, to breathe – are shunned, shot, stoned, hanged, disfigured, imprisoned.
Here is just one example: More than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped in April by an Islamic group whose name, Boko Haram, translates as: ‘Western education is sin’. Islamic law does not offer hope of good treatment, since the very fact that the girls are students makes Boko Haram deem them the spoils of religious jihad.
These things don’t happen just in places we might not go to on vacation.
Five of the US Supreme Court Justices have decided that the owners of private for-profit corporations can claim their personal religious ideology as reason to deny contraception coverage to their women employees – only their women employees. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out that the men of the court’s conservative religious majority have allowed irrational religious objections equating contraception with abortion to trump laws guaranteeing a woman’s right to full health care.
Once again, women, who make much less, will have to pay much more, or suffer.
More than 20 years ago Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania said: “The problems of women do not vary from country to country – they vary only in intensity.” It is just as true today.
The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) has been introduced for the fourth time in Congress, both in the Senate and in the House, by elected women legislators.This bipartisan legislation would make reducing the levels of violence against women and girls across the globe a top diplomatic priority for the United States. IVAWA needs support to not only clear committee, but to get to the floor and be voted on.
The Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission is urging your Board to take a stand to Bring Back Our Girls; to support the International Violence Against Women Act; and to restate your previous support for full Senate ratification of CEDAW, the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
BRING BACK OUR GIRLS – AND OUR WOMEN!
Sincerely yours, Sheila De Lany, Co-Chair & Kymberly Lacrosse, Co-Chair