Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York said it best, “New York women have new tools needed to fight discrimination and combat obstacles to personal and economic security. This historic accomplishment also spotlights that what is good for women is good for New York.” She was referring to  the historic Equality Act Legislation.
In a major show of support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, earlier this week Governor Cuomo signed into legislation new laws designed to protect and promote women’s equality. These laws will help achieve pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims and end pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces. These laws support basic needs and protect fundamental rights such as: equal pay, fair housing, accommodations during pregnancy, reproductive rights, and freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace.  “Many women’s lives and financial livelihoods depend on the passage of these bills.” Senator David J. Valesky

For many domestic violence victims the  biggest obstacle to breaking free of abuse is economic stability; they’re afraid that they will be unable to put a roof overhead, food on the table and provide medical care for the kids if they leave the abuse… and are even more afraid that they might lose custody of their kids because they lack these resources. Poverty doesn’t cause domestic violence (dv affects all socioeconomic groups) but there’s a correlation. An Allstate Foundation study concluded that 50% of women participating in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) had experienced domestic violence – more than double the percentage in the general population. Abusers use financial control (including preventing or interfering with their partner maintaining employment) to promote dependence. Economic stability is essential to reducing domestic violence… and since domestic violence disproportionately affects women, laws to promote pay equity and end workforce discrimination are key to reducing abuse.

Gary Dake, CEO, Stewarts Shop, said, “As a family and employee owned company we know the importance of long term relationships. Discrimination or exploitation are in direct opposition to the principles of long term strength and stability. Our work force is about two-thirds female and the stronger that group is, the stronger the company as a whole is.”

Locally Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, an international women’s service organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, advocates nationally and globally for women’s rights and equality…but they also roll up their sleeves to actively work for these goals here in Saratoga County through Project Hope and Power, a financial literacy program to help women attain economic stability. Now in its 11th year, Project Hope and Power has helped more than 500 women become more financially knowledgeable and self-sustaining… and in the process they’ve helped those same women reduce their risk of domestic violence. In the words of  the women who attend the class:

”Hope and Power has given me the strength and, as the name implies, hope for my future”

As a result of taking this class, I plan to be more confident in myself and always remember that I’m not alone.  I will get stronger as the weeks go by, emotionally and physically.  Nothing will ever stop me again.  No one person will ever bring me down again.”

Local Soroptimist members attend a training to facilitate Project Hope and Power financial literacy classes