We shall persevere guest columnists stlamerican.com education level 5

As I sat down to put my thoughts about women’s history month on paper, one word came to mind. “perseverance.” is there a better word to describe how women have not just survived all these years of subjugation but have managed to keep alive the desire, and the demand, for equality? Perseverance.

Long before there were hash tags, there were matriarchs. Strong women who set the example. Some of these women are memorialized in the history books but most are legendary only in the worn and tattered bibles and journals of their families. For women of color, as always, it was more complicated. But even slavery and jim crow couldn’t silence all of their voices or erase their legacies. We stand on the shoulders of all those women today, women like frankie muse freeman, dorothy height and maya angelou to name just a few, and we owe them our own perseverance.

We should persevere until all women have safety, security and stability.Domestic violence those are the three pillars which support the programs of YWCA metro st. Louis – the largest agency providing services to at-risk women in st. Louis – and the three pillars we all can use to prioritize our actions. And act we should!

But it took dozens of famous or well-connected women coming forward to accuse harvey weinstein of horrific sexual assault and harassment before the #metoo movement caught the attention of the nation. This, even though #metoo actually was born a decade earlier by black activist tarana burke as a way to reach fellow survivors in impoverished communities.

It took more than 150 young athletes accusing larry nassar, and criminal prosecution of his sexual crimes, before U.S.A. Gymnastics and michigan state university reacted.

It took two ex-wives speaking out about their domestic abuse (one with irrefutable photographs of her injuries) and a national outcry before white house staff secretary rob porter was forced to resign.Safety security

These women persevered, they told the truth, and there was believability, if not safety, in numbers. But even a lone voice should be heard. It is up to all of us to support survivors, believe survivors, and hold perpetrators responsible regardless of their standing in the church, the community, or the workplace. The YWCA sexual assault and domestic violence programs served 2,921 survivors last year. That is one sad st. Louis statistic. We must educate our sons and daughters about healthy relationships, we must demand safe workplaces, and we must insist that those who commit violence are held accountable.

Security. Security from homelessness is not a given, according to the national low income housing coalition. On average, in missouri, you have to earn $15.67 cents an hour working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year to afford a two bedroom residence without paying more than 30 percent of your income for rent.Hours week if you make minimum wage, get ready to work 117 hours a week, or nearly three full-time jobs! And if you need more than two bedrooms …. Well, work even more.

Other issues, like mental illness, substance abuse, medical bills or domestic violence further darken the picture and that’s where our YWCA mission kicks in: providing housing and case management for the chronically homeless. But what about the others? Safe, affordable housing must be a priority for our region if we are to avoid becoming a city, literally, of haves and have nots.

Stability. Women comprise 47 percent of the workforce. Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children. More women than men obtain a college degree by age 29. Yet, women make only 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. If these trends continue, according to the institute for women’s policy research, it will take 41 years, or until 2059, for white women to reach parity.Case management black women must wait until 2124 and hispanic women must wait until 2233 for equal pay.

The YWCA women’s economic stability partnership provides stipends and case management to help single mothers complete their education and obtain higher-paying jobs. While some of the women obtain four-year degrees, many of the degrees obtained are in vocational areas and the increase in salary for these women is substantial. Breaking the cycle of poverty is powerful for generations to come. But it shouldn’t be so hard. Apprenticeships, paid internships, on-the-job training, and continuing education are pathways that too often elude those who need them the most.

Yet we, and the women we serve, persevere because we know the struggle is worth it. We are worth it. Our children and our children’s children are worth it. If you agree, here is your call to action: look around and see what you can do to create a reality of safety, security and stability for all people.Hours week on a macro level, educate yourself about candidates and issues and then vote. Vote in every election. On a micro level, surround yourself with people who lift you up and then repay the favor, think about every child as if she or he were your child, and by all means, persevere.