Women and Girls of Color: Year One Is in the Books

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“The Year of the Woman” was a popular label attached to 1992. On Election Day of that year, more women were elected to Congress than ever before. Since then, the contributions of women, even beyond politics, have impacted our culture and continue to move the social needle forward. I’ve heard the whispers of 2017-18 being coined “The Year of the Woman” yet again. Even though the successes of women continue to be a consistent theme of our social culture, this time, that same popular label represents 2017 being an unsettling and fraught year for women as well. From the growing war against reproductive rights, to the catastrophes of sexual harassment in the workplace and the #MeToo movement, the battle for women’s equality is just as present as ever before. Women of color deal with different and compounding issues with the layers of social and economic disparity that they face. There is work to be done.

In Pennsylvania, women of color make up 10% of the population, but we begin the 2018 legislative season with only 3% of representation in the General Assembly.

As we welcome Women’s History Month this March, we also celebrate the first anniversary of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus’ Subcommittee on Women & Girls of Color. Throughout our first year, we’ve been committed to making strides in the way Pennsylvania approaches legislation, policy and implementation that impacts women on a daily basis. We are here to celebrate and empower women and girls of color throughout Pennsylvania, making sure our seat at the table is not forgotten.

In November, the Subcommittee on Women & Girls of Color kicked off a listening tour throughout the state to gain more insight on the needs and issues surrounding the women we represent. Women of color are overrepresented in our prison systems and underrepresented in areas of economic growth and development.

Because of this, we traveled to the State Correctional Institution at Muncy to meet with incarcerated women to ensure their needs are not forgotten. We’ve hosted roundtables for women in business and pursued legislation on increasing diversity in grant awards for women. Wanting to create new outlets of economic stability, we’ve hosted multiple tours of labor unions and apprenticeship programs to get an understanding of how we can show young girls there is a place for them in the trades. Earlier this year, New Voices Pittsburgh hosted us so we could take a deeper look at women’s health and reproductive justice from the lens of underrepresented women.

Follow me through the month of March as I continue this journey, diving deeper into the issues affecting women of color around the state.

State Rep. Morgan Cephas represents the 192nd Legislative District and is the chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus’ Subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color.

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