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LA Ladies & Women's Equality Day
On the 93rd anniversary of women's suffrage, Louisiana ladies are still facing injustices in the home, the workplace, and in D.C. In honor of Women's Equality Day, officially known as Women's Suffrage Day, NoDef talks to experts about the issues facing New Orleans' women.
When asked what issues the Declaration of Sentiments (Seneca Falls, 1848) raised are still of concern today, Newcomb College Institute Center for Women’s Education and Research Executive Director, Sally Kenney, said, “Gosh, everything almost except the vote, which was the one non-unanimous resolution. Women can own property in marriage, and obtain divorce, but so many issues remain: violence against women being one of them. Women still hold few positions of political power. They vote at a higher rate than men, and live longer, and there are more of them. They have greater rights to education, but are still devalued.”
Kenney added that of particular interest is the fact that the Louisiana State legislature is actually decreasing in the number of women and has the lowest number of women in state legislature of any other state. According to the Center for Women in Politics, out of 144 seats in the state legislature, only 17 are held by women. This means that when it comes to policies, laws and budget cuts concerning women’s issues in our state legislature, it’s 17 against 127.
Due to budget cuts, domestic violence programs lost $2.4 million of the $6.2 million the state was spending on services and emergency shelters across the state lost more than 38 percent of their funding from DCFS within six months.
Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV), Executive Director Beth Meeks cautioned the state legislature during the last round of cuts, saying the situation was unstable and further cuts would greatly weaken an already underfunded system.
Meeks said, “In the last round of cuts, programs laid off about 10 percent of their staff and many used up any rainy day reserves they had set aside. At this level of cuts, programs will be forced to reduce and eliminate services in some areas, if they can survive at all.”
Louisiana has led the nation in domestic homicides since 1997. According to the September 2012 Violence Policy Center report, "When Men Murder Women," Louisiana ranked 4th in the nation in the rate of women killed by men in 2010.
Meeks further adds that “In the long run the research proves it won’t save money, only increase costs to local communities who don’t have the funds. It’s dangerous and it’s fiscally irresponsible, the absolute worst of both worlds.”
This case is just one example of the harm that the lack of political power can do. The more women involved in the decision making means more attention paid, not just to women’s issues, but to all issues concerning the family. As Julie Schwam-Harris, IWO member and co-chair of the Legislative Agenda for Women (LAW), states, “Women’s welfare affects the entire health of the family. That’s why our issues are so important.”
Rosalind Blanco Cook, Vice President of Independent Women’s Organization (IWO) and political science professor states in a Women’s Equality Day press release, “We have a long way to go politically. Though women make up over 50 percent of the population of the United States, the number of women elected to serve in all levels of government is still small. Only 20 percent of the United States Senators and only 18 percent of the House members are women. At the state legislative level, 24 percent of those elected are women across the country. Louisiana is lower than the national average once again. In Congress, Louisiana has a rate of 12 percent female representation with Senator Mary Landrieu as the only woman in our Washington Delegation.”
In Louisiana women make 69 cents for every dollar a man makes, lower than the national average of 77 cents to the dollar. These figures are taken from a study conducted by the American Association of University Women. “The ability to earn equal pay gives one the financial ability to take the time to be involved civically and since the burden of family is greater on women than on their male counterparts, it greatly affects the ability for women to be involved civically, both as a candidate and electoral volunteer.”
Schawm-Harris further adds, “Women bring different perspectives to all avenues of government responsibility, and so do all minorities. It is very important that we get those perspectives so that the decisions that are made help all.”
In this vein, Schawm-Harris advises women voters to keep trying to increase their engagement outside and inside the home and to support candidates, laws and policies that affect their lives. “Inspire and support, no matter how small. Emails and phone calls do make a difference.”
She urges women voters to keep in mind as we turn the corner on yet another coming election to stay in tune to who is going to support the kinds of government programs and regulations that will affect them and their families and try to proactively get those people elected. “Don’t just look at the federal level. Who is elected to Congress greatly effects who is elected at the state level as well.”
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