Women’s Independent Press

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Women & Children First – Not Women & Children Overboard!

February 27, 2011 By: admin Category: Feature Article

By Heather Arnet, CEO, Women and Girls Foundation

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On Thursday, Feb 24, 2011, the Women and Girls Foundation co-hosted a press conference with the National Council of Jewish Women and Pennsylvania NOW at our offices at Station Square. We invited over a dozen social service agencies in our community to participate in this press conference to report on the impacts the proposed federal budget cuts, being suggested by the U.S. House of Representatives, will have on our local economy and the lives of millions of women and girls in Southwest Pennsylvania. We hosted this press conference because we were shocked by the drastic job cuts and service cuts being proposed by the United States House of Representatives. 

Representatives from the following organizations spoke at the press conference:  Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, Fair Housing Partnership, Just Harvest, WQED Multimedia, Women’s Center & Shelter, PennFuture, Planned Parenthood, Adagio Health, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Community Services, Action United, ACLU Pittsburgh, Women’s Law Project, New Voices Pittsburgh, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Health Care for America Now, and the YWCA.

Congress’s newest members arrived with a promise to focus on restarting the economy and creating jobs.  We are saddened to learn that the very first priority of this new Congress – H.R. 1 – is focused instead on eliminating millions of jobs in this country that will result in thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians.

This job cutting bill will throw American families even further into debt and poverty and then as these families find themselves in a free fall – they will find that there is no longer any safety net.  

This bill cuts nutritional aide for infants, housing assistance for our elderly and veterans, early childhood education, community and family health care centers, and environmental protection of our water and the air we breathe. Some of these programs were enacted under Republican presidents and have long had bi-partisan support. And it does so while leaving billions of dollars of subsidies for millionaires, corporations, and foreign wars unscathed.

The phrase women and children first, used to mean, in an emergency these groups should be the ones first given the lifeboats to safety. It did not mean, in a crisis, throw the women and children overboard. But that is exactly what this US House budget does. It makes the most vulnerable in our community bear the brunt of the sacrifice.

The recession had a devastating impact on millions of Americans, especially women raising young children on their own. In 2009 single female headed households with children made up 74% of those living in poverty in Pittsburgh. Unemployment rates for single mothers have doubled since 2007 and are TWICE that of their married male counterparts. (11.3%)

These budget cuts will not only result in decreased social services for the poor. They also will cut millions of jobs. Jobs in the health care, education, and child care sectors. The majority of which are held by women, many of them raising children on their own. The National Women’s Law Center, recently reported that women lost 86 % of the jobs cut in the government sector during 2010. And so if these cuts are approved by Congress not only will the women and children currently served by these programs suffer. But more families will be moved from economic self-sufficiency to unemployment and poverty.

This is not a job creation strategy. This is not an economic recovery strategy. This is an attack on society’s most vulnerable. As we watch our brothers and sisters in Egypt struggle to achieve freedom and equal access to jobs, healthcare, food, and education, American women should not have to fight to retain their rights here at home. Pennsylvanians need to become informed as to the local impact this job cutting bill would have on our local economy and local working families. And we must speak out against the passage of this bill through the U.S. Senate. Congress can be fiscally prudent without being cruel.

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