March is Women’s History month. As Women Encouraging Empowerment (WEE) marks this month, I am reminded of the courage, the commitment and the never ending support of the women I meet every day. The women I work with are all from Immigrant families and work tirelessly to advance the mission of WEE; to empower immigrant and refugee women.
Immigrant women, often working two to three jobs a day to provide for their families, are among the most vulnerable in our society. Working many hours in factories, homes, supermarkets, restaurants, many immigrant women just barely make it on the economic ladder. They are often discriminated against and are targets of sexual violence in the workplace.
Many undocumented immigrant women are locked in a continuous state of isolation and fear. They fear reporting any abuses they encounter because they fear they will lose everything they have worked hard for and or worse, they will face deportation and separation from their families. Learning English is just but the beginning and it takes courage to take that step.
The Affordable Care Act excludes undocumented immigrants from coverage. Many undocumented immigrants therefore have no access to decent health care. This means that hard-working immigrants are locked out from the same affordable health care programs they support through their taxes.
The women I meet here at WEE give their time tirelessly to provide support to immigrant women through teaching ESOL, facilitating community dialogue about these challenges that affect women, organizing workshops and helping women strategize for action.
As we celebrate women of character, courage and commitment this Women’s History Month, let us remember the many faceless, voiceless immigrant women who sacrifice for their families and this country every day. As well as the uncelebrated leaders who challenge the system and provide support to immigrant women to become leaders and champion their cause. - Jackie Okanga
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