The ANSWER Coalition actively supports the work of Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD)
On Feb. 1, WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) organizers from Los Angeles participated in the Raza Youth Conference held by M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) at the University of California - Irvine. The mission of the conference was to empower high school students who will one day be the leaders of their communities. WORD - LA organizers led a workshop to empower girls titled: “What Do You Know About the Revolutionary Woman?”
Eman Khaleq discussed the history of women’s militant struggle and how women have fought to gain rights. Eman presented on the importance of women during the labor movement of the industrial revolution, coving how it was women who went on strike at the historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. It was these women who were successful in their strike, which led to the 8-hour work day, and safety and labor laws we have today. In addition, Eman discussed the importance of other female organizers, such as Dolores Huerta, who was a leader in the farm workers' movement, Alice Paul, who fought for a women's right to vote, and Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, who fought for civil rights but are rarely mentioned in high school history books. The presentation reminded everyone attending the workshop that the rights we have today were not handed to us by politicians, but were a result of women organizing and demanding those rights.
Gisela Santiago presented on the issues women are still facing today. Women are still getting underpaid. There is an estimated $12,000 wage gap between what women working full-time year round earn compared to men. Not only are women being underpaid, but they continue to be victims of violence from domestic violence, rape, hate crimes against the LGBT community and police brutality. Gisela also spoke about how cuts to social services affect working-class women the most and how we have to stand up and continue fighting for equality.
Sarah Lee Samonte discussed tools in organizing and how everyone can become involved to fight back. Sarah urged all those in attendance to participate in a group like WORD and shared her personal experience of being motivated to organize with a feminist organization to win struggles for her daughter.
Pictures showing different actions WORD has led and participated in were shown throughout the workshop. Organizing tools like outreach, banner making and marches were discussed.
Sarah ended the workshop by covering with students a list of revolutionary women like Celia Sanchez, Leila Khaled, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis and Frida Kahlo, and asking if students recognized any names. A student raised her hand and stated she knew Angela Davis was an advocate against the school-to-prison pipeline and a political activist during the civil rights movement. Another student raised her hand and mentioned recognizing the name of Frida Kahlo and her artwork, which redefined expected female gender roles.
The workshop was attended by high school students ranging from ages 14-17. In addition, M.E.Ch.A organizers were also present and participated. Students spoke about women who have inspired them in their lives as well as issues affecting women today. One 14-year-old girl spoke about being raised by a single mother whose strength and hard work has fed her and taken care of her throughout her life. All those in attendance walked away with a packet with information on WORD and how to participate.