Why We Still Work. An op-ed from YWCA Brooklyn.
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I often meet people who want to know where YWCA Brooklyn is located. Our organization was founded in 1888 and our current building has been standing on the corner of 3rd and Atlantic Avenue since 1927—a stone’s throw from the Barclay’s Center. It’s very simple to locate our space. Although we believe finding our building is important, we encourage each person we encounter to locate and follow the directions of our mission.

YWCA Brooklyn is committed to “eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice and dignity for all.” Want to know where exactly you can find our work? We are located at the intersection of race, class and gender. Our structure is strongly built on the foundation of social justice. It is as much our root today as it was in 1888.

We have participated over the years in countless marches, rallies, and civil rights initiatives. We have campaigned for equal pay, for school disciplinary reform, and against racial profiling. We advocate for affordable housing and stand up against  gender-based violence. In this current climate, we are even more dedicated to raising our voices for the protection of our constituents’  rights, safety and values. We work tirelessly to elevate the voices of women and girls of color and empower our community to advocate for themselves as we advocate for them. We work, we persist, and we resist any injustice to the members of our community.

On January 21st, YWCA Brooklyn proudly stood alongside our sisters and allies in the Women’s March with our bright, persimmon-colored signs emblazoned with our mission held high. On International Women’s Day, we are prepared to be even bolder. International Women’s Day, falling on March 8th each year, summons people all over the world to celebrate women’s achievements and campaign for gender equity. We still have a long road ahead  to obtain  our goals of achieving full gender equity in the workplace, eradicating gender-based violence, and ending racism and xenophobia, though we remain fiercely committed and optimistic. Given the challenging climate in which we live, this year’s theme seems both applicable and relevant: #BeBoldForChange.

According to the Department of Labor (2014), women make up 57% of the labor force and hold jobs ranging from  home health aides, scientists, teachers, doctors, receptionists, lawyers, housekeepers, childcare providers, nurses, law enforcement, office clerks, and CEOs. YWCA Brooklyn works to protect the rights of all these women who work in diverse fields and experience unique day to day challenges.

On March 8th, organizers of the Women’s March are calling upon all women to take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor; to  avoid shopping for one day; and to wear red in solidarity. The YWCA Brooklyn stands with the women who have the privilege and opportunity to participate in the strike, and therefore supports and appreciates the women who will choose to strike. However, as an organization that meets and serves the needs of all women and girls, we recognize that striking may not be an option for low income women and women working in non-traditional roles, and are cognizant that striking is, in fact, a choice. Our organization’s mission rests on understanding intersectionality, power, and privilege. For us, like many of our sisters across the United States, taking a day off is not an option. In solidarity with the women we serve, and have always served, women of YWCA Brooklyn will go to work on March 8th and we will continue to go to work for these women every day thereafter.

YWCA Brooklyn recognizes the importance of a movement like this, one that sheds light on the contributions of women in the workplace and the injustice of unequal and unfair treatment of women in society, whether in a corporate setting, a neighborhood block or within a home. While YWCA Brooklyn supports the women who are able to observe this day by staying home from work, we also recognize other ways that women can #BeBoldForChange.

We encourage every woman to acknowledge this day in their own way. Women deserve to recognize the enormous value they bring to our socio-economic system. They can start conversations for fairer wages in the workplace, promote workplace accommodations for women, and support educational equity for women and girls of color.

YWCA Brooklyn encourages women everywhere to be their BOLDEST selves on March 8th, and every day to come! Our goal for this day will be to celebrate women in a way that feels powerful, relevant, and safe – we hope that every woman can do the same for herself (even if it’s just thanking a woman you love!)

Written by Martha Kamber, CEO and President, YWCA Brooklyn

 

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