YW Boston advocates for VAWA alongside YWCA USA in Washington D.C.

2019-06-06 11.23.11

Earlier this month, YW Boston joined YWCA USA and YWCAs from across the nation at the 2019 YWCA National Conference. Held in Washington D.C. from June 5-8, the conference served as an opportunity for organizations to connect with and learn from one another. The conference theme was DARE TO BE POWERFUL, a tribute to Audre Lorde’s “words as a call to action, challenging each of us to use our strength in service of our vision to eliminate racism and empower women.” Beth Chandler, President and CEO, and Morgan Cowie-Haskell, Public Policy and Advocacy Manager, attended on behalf of YW Boston. Through the conference, YW Boston had the opportunity to speak with our elected Congresspeople in support of the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

All YWCAs across the country have the same mission: to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. However, no two YWCAs look the same; each organization puts the mission into practice in ways that fit their specific communities. The different YWCAs have a great deal of information to share with one another on how to implement creative, strategic, and effective programs. As YWCA USA Chief Executive Officer Alejandra Y. Castillo stated, “Together, we dare to unleash and leverage our collective power, building on our mission to strengthen our movement for generations to come.”

The conference opened with great energy from Castillo, who became the YWCA USA CEO in August 2017. In her welcome on Wednesday, June 5, she spoke of YWCA USA’s strategic plan and her vision of reciprocity between individual associations. She called for solidarity, especially in these politically trying times. That evening, the conference held an opening celebration at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. As YW Boston President and CEO Beth Chandler stated, “One of the most moving parts of the conference for me was the reception held at the African American Museum. The images from the beginning of the slave trade to today’s Black leaders in so many sectors were extraordinarily powerful and a reminder of the importance of the work of YWCAs.”

Representatives from eight of the nine Massachusetts YWCAs

On Thursday, June 6th, the YWCAs headed to Capitol Hill to speak with the offices of their districts’ Senators and Representatives. Each YWCA specifically advocated in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and of federal funding for the YWCA.

The YWCA advocates sought to educate the staff people about important improvements to VAWA which will hopefully be passed during reauthorization. VAWA was originally passed in 1994 to fund the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. The bill has greatly impacted the lives of women in the United States, ensuring that survivors of domestic violence from underserved communities have access to assistance and greatly improving the criminal justice and civil courts’ response to gender-based violence. The proposed improvements to the bill would 1) Increase funding for the Rape Prevention and Education Program, 2) add new definitions of abuse including Abuse in Later Life and Forced Marriage, 3) Strengthen public housing protections for survivors, 4) implement alternative justice responses focusing on victim autonomy, 5) acknowledge the trauma of incarceration on women and their families, 6) improve enforcement of current federal domestic violence-related firearms laws, and 7) expand the legislation’s ability to respond to sexual harassment.

YW Boston’s staff representatives, Beth and Morgan, met with the offices of Senator Edward Markey, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Ayanna Pressley to speak about funding and VAWA. They were joined by staff from eight of the nine Massachusetts YWCAs during their meetings with Senators Markey and Warren. They met with Representative Pressley’s office alongside Gail Fortes and Jordan Latham of YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts. Recently, the YWCAs created The Alliance of YWCAs of Massachusetts, working collectively to see the mission in practice across the state. Last year, the coalition successfully earned a budget line-item in the Massachusetts state budget.

Both Beth and Morgan spoke of the energizing experience of meeting and advocating alongside YWCAs from across the country. As Morgan stated, “It was powerful to see how adaptive YWCAs are and have been throughout history. We are just one piece in the puzzle.” Indeed, our work doesn’t look the same as a YWCA in Western Massachusetts or one in the western United States, but all of these YWCAs are putting the mission into practice. Looking back at the conference, Beth reflected that “YWCAs played and continue to play an important role in the fight for racial and gender equity. In addition to remembering and celebrating the work of YWCAs, the conference was an opportunity to hear different initiatives across the network.” Thank you YWCA USA for bringing us all together to share our passion for our work with one another.

Learn more about the Violence Against Women Act and how you can support its re-authorization with a number of important improvements.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services – InclusionBoston and LeadBoston – as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Advocacy at YW Boston

One way we work to achieve our mission of racial, gender, and social equity is through advocacy. Our advocacy work is planned and executed by a dedicated Advocacy Committee. The committee is made up of YW Boston staff and volunteers who are deeply committed to our mission. Learn more.