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A Letter from NewMexicoWomen.Org’s Director

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  The year 2016 has been significant for women's leadership in the United States. Not only do we have several female presidential candidates (one who is a forerunner), but women are also at the helms of some of the most impactful and high profile social movements of our time, from Black Lives Matter to the National Domestic Workers Alliance to the action to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. Concurrently, we have seen waves of backlash that seek to drown out and undermine the power of these women leaders, revealing the persistence and pervasiveness of structural racism and sexism in our country. This backlash is palpable, not only in the political arena, but wherever we see women taking a stand and speaking truth to power. Are we unattractive liars when we dare to break the silence? Are our bodies free terrain for those who want to grope and possess? Do we deserve to be demeaned in public life if we express an opinion that is 'too' strong?We know that for women of color, low-income women, and gender non-conforming folks, this kind of backlash and implicit bias is even more severe.

 

Throughout history, women have had to fight for seats at decision-making tables. Women, especially women of color, are still grossly underrepresented in high ranking political offices, corporate board rooms, and leadership positions. Even when women are at the table, we struggle to have our voices heard and respected. It is our responsibility to interrupt dominant narratives that deny the value of women and girls. We know women's ways of being and leading are powerful and effective. More than ever, women and girls need to understand their power, trust their voices, and know their rights.

 

During a year when we have seen sustained attacks on women, from their leadership to their health and reproductive rights, the work of NewMexicoWomen.Org and our powerful community partners becomes even more critical. From Tewa Women United working with men and boys on healthy masculinity through their Sengipaa Ing Vi Po (The Journey of Becoming a Man) mentor project, and Girls Inc. teaching girls about healthy sexuality and decision-making, to Mujeres de Adelante Cooperative providing job skills so that women can be in charge of their economic lives: these are just of few of the groups supported by NMW.O that are successfully advancing opportunities for women and girls in our state.

 

Madeline Albright, the first-ever female Secretary of State in the U.S., once said, "It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent." Women have been struggling to assert their collective voices in both public and private life for centuries -- and have that voice be heard. It took years of organizing, resistance, protest and collective action to achieve "wins" for gender equity in the U.S. However, the road ahead is still long in terms of the systemic racism and sexism we face. For those of us who have worked hard to "develop a voice," now is the time to use it so that these hard-won civil rights will not be eroded. To those who tell us women's ways of knowing and being are unworthy, we say our voices matter. And so does our leadership, now more than ever.

     

Sarah Ghiorse

Program Director of NewMexicoWomen.Org

A program of New Mexico Community Foundation

 

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