A View from High School

As a sophomore in high school, my everyday consists of sitting in classes and discussing geometry, chemistry, English, medieval history, and Latin. I am lucky enough to go to a school where both teachers and students are concerned about current politics and events, and there is constant conversation outside of classes about these things. Unfortunately, classes on government are not always the highest priority. We students get small glimpses into the various ways government can work during our history classes (I’m sure that next year in U.S. History, I’ll have much more exposure), and there are some clubs which further the discussions that we begin throughout the day, but I wanted to get a closer look at what goes on at the State House for my annual required project. Shadowing at the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was particularly interesting to me because of my growing concern for women’s rights. As the time for college application slowly approaches me, I’ve become increasingly aware of sexual assault on college campuses, and the debate between pro-life and pro-choice supporters. I am quite aware that these issues could very well affect me or many of my friends in the near future, and so coming to the Women’s Caucus to take a look at how the legal process surrounding them has been wonderful and informative.

In addition to the concerns that I have about my future, my experience as a girl going to school also fuels my concerns over women’s rights. Though sexism is not a prominent part of my daily life, lit bits of it appear occasionally, and it always throws me off guard. This mainly manifested itself during my years in Middle School when I, and many of my female peers had concerns over the school dress code. Essentially, the dress code required that girls not wear tank tops with straps wider than the width of three fingers and that shorts should not be above a girl’s fingertips when her hands were at her side. Theoretically, I was completely fine with all of these stipulations, but when all of the girls in our grade were pulled aside and told that the reasoning behind the dress code was to protect us from boys who were “always watching our bodies,” I become seriously upset. The boys did not have nearly as strict a dress code, and if I had gone and complained about a boy’s body distracting me during class, those would have definitely been disregarded as my own problem to deal with. If a boy in my class couldn’t function because he was too busy staring at some girl, that should have been his own problem to deal with as well. I felt blamed for a problem that was in many ways out of my control; there were only so many places to buy clothes from, and only so many of those places which sold clothing that followed the dress code which I liked. Despite all of the problems with the dress code, all of the girls were resigned to not complaining about its reasoning, because we didn’t feel that we had any power to voice our opinions.

Young women in my age range have a greater opportunity than ever to connect with each other over women’s rights issues through social media and the internet, and I believe that the Massachusetts Caucus of Women can help to facilitate this interaction. I understand that the Caucus has accounts on both Twitter and Facebook, but there is a lot of variation in terms of what platforms girls me age prefer. For instance, I am always checking my Instagram feed but never use my Twitter, because the photographs I get to look at are often very powerful or moving to me (National Geographic and The British Museum flood my feed). I went to the Women’s March in Washington over the weekend, and their Instagram account provided easy access to important information about the event for me. However, I have a close friend who does not understand the appeal of Instagram at all, but is constantly checking her Snapchat because it is a much more lighthearted app. Funnily enough, National geographic also has a daily story on Snapchat, and I end up reading many more stories from that outlet than I ever did before I had social media. The Women’s Caucus may reach more people my age by expanding the number of social media platforms it is active on, and this process of managing multiple accounts may seem a bit gratuitous, but I think that it could prove very effective in gaining awareness from younger women.

By: Maia, Commonwealth School - Project Week completed at the State House

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

In order to commemorate Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11th) the Women’s Caucus held an event that both honored the survivors and helped to spread awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation industry. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito started off the event with an eloquent speech about the prevalence and outcomes of human trafficking in Massachusetts. She then presented the Director and Associate Director, Lisa Goldblatt Grace and Audrey Morrissey respectively, of My Life My Choice a certificate of achievement for their hard work towards advocating for survivors. My Life My Choice is a survivor-based organization based in the Greater Boston Area that provides a myriad of resources including: training workshops for health providers and law enforcement, prevention groups for at-risk girls, mentoring for younger survivors and advocacy training for the next generation of leaders.

After the speech from Lieutenant Governor Polito, the audience was able to hear from an actual survivor of human trafficking. Nicole spoke about her traumatic past of being addicted to drugs and being sexually exploited for money. Amazingly, she is now an advocate for human trafficking survivors and tells her story around the state in order to help spread awareness of this terrible industry.

The event ended with a presentation from My Life My Choice on their work in the Greater Boston area and their plans to expand to other parts of the state. They then answered questions from the audience on strategies to combat human trafficking and what is needed for survivors of the commercial sexual exploitation industry to not only survive their trauma, but to thrive. 

Recent news related to human trafficking in Massachusetts: click here

By: Blair Usedom

Justice Involved Women: Issues and Responses

Justice Involved Women-Issues and Response, a well-attended briefing, was hosted by Rep. Kay Khan and Rep. Ellen Story, Chairs of the Women’s Caucus Women in Prison Taskforce with guest speakers Erika Kates, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at Wellesley Centers for Women and Meghann Perry, a formerly incarcerated women in long-term recovery who is a nationally certified Recovery and Family Coach for Gosnold on Cape Cod.

The numbers are startling. While crime rates have decreased, the number of women in prison has risen dramatically.

Many of these women are being held in the Awaiting Trial Unit (ATU) at MCI-Framingham because of a lack of county facilities.  Overcrowding is a serious issue; the ATU at Framingham is more than 400% over capacity.  Women who are unlikely to receive a custodial sentence are detained on average 100 days, nearly twice as long as men awaiting trial, at an estimated cost of $134 million per year.  Nearly half of all women incarcerated at MCI-Framingham are awaiting trial, denied bail or unable to afford bail.  Between 77% and 88% of women were unable to pay bail of $2000 or less. 36% were unable to pay bail under $500.

There is very little difference between those denied bail and those who cannot afford to pay their bail.

Overall, women who are incarcerated:

80% are for non-violent crimes

75% are mothers

65% have difficulties with substance abuse

80% are suffering from trauma

66% have diagnosed mental health issues including PTSD, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder

Almost all are poor

 

The majority of incarcerated women have children and are the primary caregiver.  As a result, many children are not only separated from their mothers but living in unstable or foster care situations. The geographic isolation of MCI-Framingham also makes it very difficult for the children to see their mothers.

 

This contributes to a generational cycle.

 

Meghann Perry became addicted to heroin while in college.  Shortly after she entered treatment, she discovered she was pregnant.  Shortly after she discovered she was pregnant, she was visited by DEA agents because she had sold two bags of heroin to a “friend” while still addicted herself.

Pregnant and facing two years in prison, her bail was revoked when it was discovered that her husband had brought marijuana plants into their apartment.  Incarcerated and awaiting trial, because she was pregnant, she continued to receive methadone treatment unlike other women also in jail awaiting trial.  As her pregnancy advanced, she told of being overwhelmed with fear because pregnant women were routinely shackled during labor and delivery and immediately separated from their newborn. (In May 2014, Massachusetts became the 21st state to prohibit shackling of incarcerated women who are in labor or those in postpartum recuperation)

Fortunately for Meghann, she was in a Maine jail. A nonprofit, Maine Pretrial Service, committed to providing pretrial supervision services and diversion options took her case.  Three weeks before she gave birth to a daughter, Meaghann was released and able to give birth without being shackled and able to stay with her daughter during her recovery.  According to Meghann, the Drug Court was the hardest thing she had ever done and a gift to her and her daughter.

Unfortunately, five years later, Meghann relapsed and lost her daughter, her husband, her home, her job, and her freedom.  After so many chances, no one thought anyone would give her another chance but she asked and the judge allowed her to go to a faith based recovery program.  She is now in long term recovery, is a nationally certified Recovery and Family Coach, and has been reunited with her daughter for the last five years.  

She noted that without that first chance, she and her daughter would not have built a relationship during those first five years that carried her daughter through the years of turmoil. Without those first five years and her second and third chance, she and her daughter would not be together now and helping others.

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

Equal Pay Day 2015

On April 14, 2015, a standing room only crowd marked Equal Pay Day at the Massachusetts State House. Equal Pay Day 2015 symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn the same amount as a man earned in 2014. Due to the gender pay gap, a woman must work about 3 ½ months longer than their male counterparts. On average in the United States, women earn only 78 cents for every 1 dollar a man earns, a 22% gap.  In Massachusetts that gap shrinks to 18% - but it’s still a gap.  The gap is even bigger for women of color.  For every dollar a man makes, an African-American woman makes about 64¢, a Native American woman makes 60¢, and a Latina woman makes 54¢.

The event was moderated by Victoria Budson, Chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and Founding Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard, who provided insightful information while introducing each speaker.

Senator Anne Gobi, Senate Co-chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, welcome the assembled audience pointing out that the pay gap was not only about individual women and individual families but also about the businesses on Main Street. She noted that it is important for Massachusetts to attract and keep a talented, educated, and skilled workforce and that closing the pay gap is important to Massachusetts companies where women spend their money. Sen. Gobi also noted that the first equal pay bill introduced in Massachusetts passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation (It did not pass the House) in 1923, 92 years ago.

Representative Gloria Fox, House co-chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, encouraged all women, ordinary women, to come to the State House and make their voices heard in the People’s House. Rep. Fox noted that ‘It’s always good to see women and girls in the House…and in the Senate.”

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg stated he was looking forward to the day when pay equity was not a goal but an accomplishment.

Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo maintained Pay Equity is a about dignity and respect.

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg spoke about of fairness, history and initiatives to ensure pay equity in the Office of the Treasurer. She recently created the Office of Economic Empowerment.

Auditor Suzanne Bump noted that Congress had passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 to allow women who experienced pay discrimination to file a complaint, but three successive U.S. Congresses have failed to pass the Pay Equity Act.

Senators Patricia Jehlen, Karen Spilka and Linda Dorcena Forry and Representatives Jay Livingstone and Ellen Story called for action in all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts to close the pay gap sooner than the currently estimated 2058. They called for wage transparency and the tools to measure and close the gap.

The final speaker representing the business community was Kip Hollister, Founder and CEO of Hollister, Inc. and Member of the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Business Leadership. She echoed all that had been said: pay equity is good for women, good for families, good for men, good for business, and good for Massachusetts.

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

Women's History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, Representative Gloria Fox  hosted a screening of the movie Iron Jawed Angels and panel discussion with Renee Dabbs from the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Fredie Kay from the League of Women Voters and Mary Tuitt, Chief of Staff to Representative Fox. The audience was reminded that women are 53% of the U.S. population. Women are not a special interest.

Iron Jawed Angels is the award-winning film that tells the story of Alice Paul, the National Women’s Party (NWP), and the campaign by militant suffragettes to win the right to vote for women.  As part of the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Alice Paul and others formed the Congressional Union, a semi-autonomous group to work specifically on passing a Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote despite the objections of NAWSA  President Carrie Chapman Catt, who preferred to work on a state by state level. The Congressional Union split from NAWSA and became the National Women’s Party, possibly one of the earliest political action committees in the United States.

The NWP organized “Silent Sentinels” who stood vigil outside the White House from January 10, 1917 until June 4, 1919 when the 19th Amendment passed the U.S. Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. More than 1000 women stood in silent protest holding banners with messages such as “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty? and “We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest to our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.” (quotation from President Woodrow Wilson). During their two and a half year protest, 213 women were arrested and sent to Occoquan Workhouse, a prison in Virginia.  Iron Jawed Angels dramatizes the horrific conditions at Occoquan. In actuality, conditions at Occoquan were worse than depicted The Night of Terror, November 15, 1917. During their time in Occoquan, Alice Paul and others began a hunger strike and the government unsuccessfully attempted to have her declared insane. “In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity”. 

When word of the maltreatment was smuggled out of the prison to the newspapers, all the women were released on November 27 and 28, 1917. In March 1918, the Court of Appeals declared that the arrests, trials, and imprisonments of the suffragettes were unconstitutional.

The term “iron jawed angels” was coined by anti-suffragette Congressman Joseph Walsh of Massachusetts who referred to the protesters as “bewildered, deluded creatures with short skirts and short hair”.

Viewers should watch for Civil Rights activist and NAACP founder Ida B. Wells who joins the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 early in the movie.

Massachusetts ratified the 19th Amendment on June 26th.

The film ends with the 19th Amendment being ratified by one vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives on August 18, 1920.

The Constitution of the United States

Amendment XIX

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

For more information on the film Iron Jawed Angels: Iron Jawed Angels - Lesson Plans from Movies and Film - Women's Suffrage; Alice Paul, National Women's Party.

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

Poverty: A Look at Massachusetts

Each year, the United States Department of Health and Human Services uses Census data to update the Federal Poverty Guidelines used to determine eligibility for many social safety net services.  (2015 Federal Poverty Guidelines http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm)

There are roughly 322 million people in the United States and 45.3 million of those people (14.5%) live below the federal poverty line and half those live in deep poverty, or below 50% of the Federal Poverty Line. More than half of those live in female headed households. 14.7 million children or 1 in 6 children live below the Federal Poverty Line and 1 in 10 senior citizens.

Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in specific expenses like childcare and healthcare and supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps, poverty rises to 15.4% or nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty.

In Massachusetts, 11.9% of the population lives below the Federal Poverty Line with 5.5% living in deep poverty and 8.8% of senior citizens living below the poverty line. However, a greater percentage of children live in poverty in Massachusetts (16.3%) as compared to the United States as a whole. 15.3% of Massachusetts’ population live under 125% of the poverty line, in near poverty. (Under 130% of the Federal Poverty Line qualifies for SNAP benefits of food stamps and 185% qualifies for nutritional assistance for Women, Infants, and Children)

The Poverty Line in Massachusetts

11.3% of all families

17.8% of all families with children

30.6% of households headed by women

40% of households headed by women with children

46.9% of households headed by women with young children

Nearly half the female head of households below the poverty line work. 15% receive Social Security Income.

1 in 6 children in Massachusetts live below the poverty line.

1 in 4 children under the age of 5 live below the poverty line.

Boston and Springfield Public Schools have so many families living in poverty that students receive universal free breakfast and lunch under the USDA and the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

 

The Poverty Line – Selected Counties in Massachusetts

Berkshire County

9% of all households; 15.7% of female headed households

With children: 25.8% of all households; 37.2% of households with children

5.3% of senior citizen households; 5.8% of households headed by women over 65

 

Bristol County

11.3% of all households; 29.7% of female headed households

            With children: 17.9% of all households; 37.9% of female headed households

7.5% of senior citizen households; 17.6% of households headed by women over 65

Hampden County

14.9% of all households; 25.3% of female headed households

            With children: 34.1% of households; 47% of female headed households

4.1% of senior citizen households; 5.7% of households headed by women over 65

Norfolk County

4.4% of all households; 6.6% of female headed households

            With children: 14.7% of all households; 24.1 % of female headed households

1.5% of senior citizen households; 1.8% of households headed be women over 65

Plymouth County

11.6% of all households; 18.5% of female headed households

            With children: 30.9% of all households; 41.0% of female headed households

5.5% of senior citizen households; 12.1% of households headed by women over 65

Worcester County

9.7% of all households; 15.9% of female headed households

            With children: 28.7% of all households; 39% of female headed households

3.5% of senior citizen households; 5.9% of households headed by over 65

Because the Federal Poverty Line does not include regional differences in cost of living, trying to make ends meet at the poverty line in Massachusetts with its high cost of living is harder.

To find out if you could survive with financial resources just above the poverty line (FPL: $980), try www.playspent.org.

To find out what you need to make ends meet in Massachusetts by town, visit Crittenton Women’s Union’s Economic Independence Calculator at http://www.liveworkthrive.org/research_and_tools/economic_independence_calculator

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

Close to Home: Reflections on Poverty, Perseverance and Promise

The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and Crittenton Women’s Union hosted a memoir release event, Close to Home: Reflections on Poverty, Perseverance, and Promise, on Wednesday, April 1st.

Caucus Co-Chair, Representative Gloria Fox, opened the event by describing her own journey of perseverance, rising from growing up in foster care to becoming a State Representative. She is currently the longest serving woman in the legislature and the only woman of color in the House of Representatives.

Crittenton Women’s Union partnered with author Michael Patrick MacDonald, the author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellions, to guide five CWU clients through memoir writing process to foster self-empowerment and social justice. Mr. MacDonald noted he grew up hearing communal attitudes blaming single mothers but that was not his experience.  The child of a single mother who grew up in South Boston’s Old Colony Housing Project, he participated in the project in honor of his mother who he called vital and resilient.

Speaking at the event were memoir writers and two CWU clients, Lauren, a US Army veteran who served in Iraq and who joined CWU’s Career Family Opportunity Program and Pamala, a 2011 graduate of CWU’s Woman to Woman program and 2012 graduate of the University of Massachusetts.

Lauren and Pamala, along with fellow writers Lauretta, Anne and Jennifer, told their stories in order for others to gain a small window into the experiences of countless families trying to escape poverty.

Crittenton Women’s Union takes a dynamic approach to lifting people out of poverty and empowering them to economic self-sufficiency by addressing the complex needs of families.  Bridge to Self-Sufficiency

The personal stories of the memoir writers and Representative Fox are what Michael MacDonald called examples for a broken world.

Close to Home: Reflections on Poverty, Perseverance, and Promise can be read as an ebook on Crittenton Women’s Union Website www.liveworkthrive.org.

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

2015 Women's History Month

Women’s History Month takes place each year during the month of March. This idea has traced back to 1911, when the first International Women’s Day took place. Women’s History Month is a recognition of the fights women have made for equality and the celebration of their accomplishments and contributions to society. Ever since 1995, United States Presidents have made a declaration each year to recognize the month of March as Women’s History Month.

Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Timeline:

1850: The first National Woman’s Rights Convention took place in Worcester, MA

1851: The second National Woman’s Rights Convention took place in Worcester, MA

1869: The Woman Suffrage movement split off from their alliance with the Equal Rights Association over the issue of voting rights for African American men. The American Woman Suffrage Movement (AWSA) was formed and Massachusetts members created the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA).

1879: Massachusetts Women were granted the right to vote in school committee elections

1882: The Massachusetts Anti-Suffrage movement began with the founding of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to Further Extension of Suffrage to Women (MAOFESW). This organization was founded and led by women.

1911: The anti-suffrage movement became so popular that there was a National Anti-Woman Suffrage Association

1915: The Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association claimed 58,000 members

1915: Massachusetts placed a referendum on the ballot to allow women the right to vote

1915, October: Prior to this vote, the MWSA held a parade in support of the ballot referendum, which would remove the word “male” from the voting rights regulations. The parade route began on Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street, moved through the city through the public garden, the Boston Common and the State House, before ending at Mechanics Hall, where a pro-suffrage rally was held.

1915, November 2: The vote for woman’s suffrage in Massachusetts failed with 35.5% of the men voting “yes” and 64.5% voting “no.”

1915, November 16: Massachusetts Suffrage Activists decided to focus their efforts on supporting the national campaign to amend the federal constitution in support of woman suffrage.

1919: Women gained the right to vote federally with the passing of the 19th Amendment. Massachusetts was the 8th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on June 25, 1919.

1923: Massachusetts elected the first women to the state legislature: Sylvia Donaldson (R-Brockton) and Susan Fitzgerald (D-Jamaica Plain)

2015: Fifty women serve in the Massachusetts Legislature, making up only 25% of the legislative population

Written and researched by Caucus Intern Samantha Shapiro

UN Women HeForShe Campaign

HeForShe was launched in 2014 as a United Nations campaign working toward gender equality by encouraging men and boys to join the fight. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, commonly referred to as UN Women, is the founding entity for this campaign. In July 2014, UN Women appointed Emma Watson, most famously known from the Harry Potter franchise, as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. They recognized her humanitarian work in Bangladesh and Zambia, as well as her Ambassadorship for Camfed International, an organization to help educate girls in rural African countries.

The central idea to the HeForShe campaign is that gender equality is an issue that affects both men and women alike, and that the fight will never be won unless both men and women are working toward equality of the sexes. Emma Watson helped to launch this campaign by giving a moving speech regarding feminism and gender inequality at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2014. In her speech, Watson encouraged men and boys to become more knowledgeable about gender issues by nothing that men can and do suffer from gender inequality, as well. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho,’” said Emma. “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

This campaign spread fast through social media, by using the hashtag ‘#HeForShe’ as a way to signal their support and participation in this fight. Many celebrities and public figures quickly showed their support for this campaign, including President Barack Obama, Kiefer Sutherland, Harry Styles, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mark Ruffalo, Jared Leto, Sophia Bush, Kerry Washington, Peter Gallagher and many more.

Many women and men believe in equality of the sexes but shy away from using the word “feminism.” The unpopularity of the word has caused many to distance themselves from association even if they believe in feminism. This is most prominent when female celebrities or public figures are interviewed and asked if they would call themselves feminists; often times, they do not, instead citing their belief in equality of the sexes and saying they do not believe it should be a “man vs. woman” thing. However, feminism is simply “the social, political and economic equality of women and men.” In its simplest form, feminism believes women should have the same advantages, opportunities and treatment as men.

In 2015, UN Women launched the HeForShe IMPACT 10X10X10 Initiative at the World Economic Forum. This initiative is an effort “that aims to engage governments, corporations and universities as instruments of change positioned within some of the communities that most need to address deficiencies in women’s empowerment and gender equality and that will have the greatest capacity to make and influence these changes.” At this conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed his support for gender equality by saying “The HeForShe campaign is based on solidarity and a different insignt into sustainability. It ‘flips the script’ so that men speak out for what we all know is right.”

Currently, the HeForShe movement has seen 220,839 men around the globe take a stand for gender equality. For more information about this movement, visit www.heforshe.org

 

Written by Caucus Intern Samantha Shapiro

International Women's Day 2015

Sunday, March 8th marks International Women's Day.

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of women’s achievements through the years. It is a day where we, as humans, can look back on women’s struggles and look forward to the future accomplishments in women’s rights and gender equality.

The turn of the twentieth century brought about the fight for women’s rights and equality among much of Europe and North America. In 1909, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York. In 1910, the Socialist International established a Women’s Day to start a movement for women’s rights. This proposal found approval from over 100 women in 17 countries, including the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. In 1911, International Woman’s Day was held in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million men and women attended rallies. These events, along with many others throughout the early twentieth century, brought International Women’s Day to global recognition.

In 1975, the United Nations declared March 8th to be International Women’s day, and in 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognized the role of women in peace efforts and urged an end to discrimination. In 1945 the Charter of the United Nations was agreed upon, and thus became the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between the sexes.

Currently, International Women’s Day is recognized as a holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

Each year, events are held in celebration of women around this day. There are many events held in Boston and the surrounding areas for all to attend and celebrate the women in their lives. For more information, visit www.internationalwomensday.com

 

Written by Caucus Intern Samantha Shapiro

HPV/Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

On January 15, 2015, In commemoration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators sponsored an informational session on the prevention of Cervical Cancer. House Caucus Chair, Rep. Gloria Fox a bold, forward-thinking advocate for women’s health welcomed representatives from Team Maureen Team Maureen - Our Mission and Christine Baze from The Yellow Umbrella The Yellow Umbrella .

10,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3700 die of the disease each year. That’s only part of the story. The incidence of cervical cancer in Latina women is nearly twice that of non-Hispanic white women Our Issues: Cervical Cancer | National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

African American women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have the lowest 5 year survival rates and are twice as likely to die of cervical cancer as non-Hispanic white women. Black Women's Health Imperative - Black Women & Cervical Cancer – The Unspoken “Other” Cancer

While rates of cervical cancer have declined in white, African American and Latina women, the rate of cervical cancer has actually increased in Asian American women. Cervical cancer is the number one cancer to develop in Vietnamese women. In this group, incidence rates are five times higher than those in non-Hispanic white women. Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum Cervical Cancer Wiki Alert

January Monthly Spotlight: Cervical Health and Cervical Cancer Disparities - National Cancer Institute

The good news is Cervical cancer is nearly 100% curable when detected early and nearly 100% preventable through vaccination.

Because there are no early warning signs of cervical cancer, it is important for women to have regular screenings.  There are two tests used for cervical cancer screenings.

Pap Test is a screening that checks for abnormal cells on the cervix. A Pap test can usually detect changes in a cell before it becomes cancerous. It is recommended that women have a Pap test three years after their first sexual intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. National guidelines recommend a Pap test each year until age 30 and then every two or three years if there were three negative tests in a row.

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) test is a test to detect the presence certain types of HPV. The HPV test is appropriate for women over the age of 30. All women over the age of 30 can benefit from getting the HPV test along with their Pap test, regardless of their Pap results.

With early detection, cervical cancer is one of the most curable cancers.

Unlike most cancers, we know what causes cervical cancer.  99% of all cervical cancer is caused by the HPV.  HPV is very common - 80% of all sexually active women will be infected at some point in their lifetime. It is not known why some people develop health problems from HPV and others do not.  HPV can remain dormant for months or even years which is why even women who are in monogamous relationships or are no longer sexually active continue to get screened.

The other good news is that there is an HPV vaccine. HPV vaccination would prevent more than 20,000 HPV-associated cancers diagnosed each year in women; cervical cancer is the most common. About 12,000 HPV-associated cancers occur each year in men; oropharyngeal cancers are the most common. (Cancer of the back of the throat, tongue, and tonsils)

http://www.nccc-online.org/images/pdfs/HPV_Fact_sheet_new.pdf

According to the CDC, all girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old should get the three dose series of HPV vaccine to protect against HPV. Teens who did not get the vaccine or did not get all three doses when they were younger are advised to speak with their doctor about receiving the vaccination. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21.

Massachusetts is ahead of the United States in our children being vaccinated against HPV with 62% of girls and 53% of boys having had at least their first of the three vaccine doses. That is still far from the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% of the population vaccinated but our numbers are rising.

HPV Vaccination Initiative | Dedicated to the Health of All Children | The Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program - Massachusetts

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin

National Wear Red Day

Today, February 6th, is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke in women. The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, with the support of many male legislators, recognized the Go Red For Women movement on February 4th by donning red attire and organizing a speaking program. Stroke survivor Jessica Diaz, a local Boston resident, shared her personal story of stroke in her early 30s. A healthy mother of two, Jessica never thought that she would suffer a stroke. After speaking with her doctors and doing research, she found that an estimated 43 million women in the US are affected by cardiovascular diseases and that she wasn’t alone.

Go Red For Women, sponsored and organized by the American Heart Association, is about making a change, providing education and raising awareness. Almost 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.

FACTS ABOUT CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES

From the American Heart Association

FACT 1: Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.

            ♥ An estimated 43 million women in the US are affected by cardiovascular diseases

            ♥ 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke

            ♥ 80% of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented

FACT 2: Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease & stroke.

            ♥ Fewer women than men survive their first heart attacks

♥ The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood – even by some physicians

♥ Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men

♥ Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke

FACT 3: Heart disease and stroke affect women of all ethnicities.

♥ Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for African-American women, killing nearly 50,000 annually

♥ Only 43% of African American women and 44% of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, compared with 60% of Caucasian women

♥ Of African-American women ages 20 and older, 48.9% have cardiovascular disease. Yet, only 20% believe they are at risk

♥ Only 50% of African-American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack

♥ Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women

♥ Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk

♥ Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options

FACT 4: Women who are involved with the Go Red For Women movement live healthier lives.

            ♥ Nearly 90% have made at least one healthy behavior change

            ♥ More than one-third has lost weight

            ♥ More than 50% have increased their exercise

            ♥ 6 out of 10 have changed their diets

            ♥ More than 40% have checked their cholesterol levels

            ♥ One third has talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans

FACT 5: When you get involved in supporting Go Red For Women by advocating, fundraising and sharing your story, more lives are saved.

            ♥ Today, nearly 300 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke each day

            ♥ Death in women has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years

 

For more information on heart-healthy choices and statistics, visit: GoRedForWomen.org

189th General Court of Massachusetts Inauguration

Today is the official first day of the 189th General Court of Massachusetts with the swearing in of all elected State Senators and State Representatives. Each chamber was sworn in by outgoing Governor Deval Patrick and they elected their leader for the 2015 - 2016 legislative session. Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D - Amherst) was elected Senate President and Representative Robert DeLeo (D - Winthrop) was re-elected as Speaker of the House. They are the two highest ranking members of the legislature.

The Women's Caucus is happy to welcome five new members: Representative Christine Barber, Representative Kate Campanale, Representative Michelle DuBois, Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Susannah Whipps Lee. With the departure of Senate President Therese Murray, Senator Gale Candaras, Representative Denise Andrews, Representative Christine Canavan and Representative Rhonda Nyman, and the election of our new members, the Caucus will maintain a membership of 50. Women will continue to represent 25% of the legislature.

Compared to other states across the country, Massachusetts ranks in the middle for women serving in the legislature. Although our numbers in the legislature have stayed the same, we are pleased to see four of the six Constitutional Officers be female. We welcome Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer and Receiver General Deb Goldberg and Auditor Suzanne Bump. In addition, Massachusetts is represented in Congress by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

For more information on state-by-state statistics about women serving in elected office, please visit the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University website.