By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
It’s Women’s History Month, and we should be celebrating accomplishments of women, but things aren’t improving for women in poverty. Black women are disappointed that a Black woman wasn’t chosen for the Supreme Court. Yet, many of us have forgiven that and moved on. We appreciate the fact that President Obama has appointed more Black women to lower courts than any other President in history. That’s admirable, but we wonder what we must do to make it to the highest Court.
An even more pressing issue is how the system has failed to find adequate resources to bring women out of poverty. Why are White men so angry when they have the good jobs and earn more money – even without a good education? Why are they angry when they make 50 percent more than many women – especially Black, Native and Latina women? I hear some on the news talk about why people are flocking to Donald Trump and the response often is they’re angry. If anyone should be angry, it should be the women who are often the breadwinners trying to make it on from 78 cents down to 44 cents on the dollar of what White men make.
Our system continues to fail women – just as it fails people of color. Being angry doesn’t change the short comings of our system. Women, must make this a time for passing an Equal Rights Amendment that puts our rights in the Constitution so everyone understands that Equal Means Equal, and gives women a right to sue when they are treated unfairly.
Imagine what a man would do if he were paid less than women, causing him to plunge into poverty. Women are twice as likely to retire still in poverty. That’s if they have the luxury of retiring because most of us have to work until we drop dead!
Imagine what a man would say if he took family leave when there was a new baby in the family, but when he tried to go back to work, his job was gone and his family suddenly had no medical insurance and no way to take care of the family. Suppose he’d been at home taking care of the children, but had no money saved in his name. Day after day, he suffers abuse from his spouse, forcing him to leave the home he’d worked so hard to help build. What would he do? How would he survive? All too many women have to deal with that because they don’t enjoy equality under the law.
We have the largest number of homeless women and children among industrialized nations. You’ve seen a woman living in some ungodly place in fear, praying she won’t run into an abusive spouse who’s currently enjoying everything she helped him to acquire. Let’s reverse the story. Wouldn’t a man want to change that? We’re told that one of every four homeless women is on the street because of violence committed against her. Some of it is domestic violence, but some of it is abuse suffered while serving our country! Among female vets, homelessness is rising.
On average they earn $10,000 less in civilian jobs than male vets, making it harder to afford a home. Less than 5 percent of homeless shelters run by veteran affairs offer women separate housing from men. Poverty brings down our nation. Studies have shown that what’s good for women is good for the entire community. Economic analyses by the World Bank, United Nations and Goldman Sachs demonstrate a significant correlation between gender equality and the level of development of countries. Let’s get serious about ERA. It will improve the quality of life that is a family value for the entire family. More Republicans need to step up to the plate.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women, www.nationalcongressbw.org.