Dear Friends of the Fund,
As we round out what by any measure has been likely the most demanding year in our lifetimes, we ask ourselves how can we reconcile the current realities with the joy that traditional winter holidays can evoke: being with those we love, giving to others, shared and plentiful meals. Whether the holidays be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or the changing of the light with the Solstice, we collectively celebrate the bringing of light to the darkness.
For women especially, who are the primary caretakers of both children and the elderly, the demands of the season are daunting. Their choices are now more limited than before. For while COVID-19 has affected all of us, it is well documented that women have been disproportionately burdened by both the pandemic and the economic downturn.
One in four mothers who works outside the home — a record number, is considering leaving the workforce to stay home with her remotely-schooled children. Many who can afford to do so are taking up the task of homeschooling. Lower-income mothers, single mothers, mothers with special needs children, to name only a few, are already challenged to meet the needs of work and family. Members of our community who are women of color are the most likely to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in the Black and Brown communities are more likely to have suffered the death of a family member or have contracted the virus themselves. Due to the economic downturn, many are now unemployed or must continue to work in low-income jobs as essential workers, work that both puts them at increased risk and fails to pay enough to prevent the prospect of food insecurity as an ongoing concern. Simply put, more Black and Brown women are differentially affected than other women.
As a society we are woefully unprepared to address the realities of women’s lives that starkly interfere with our economic stability as well as our families’ stability. Without child care, paid sick leave, a sustainable minimum-wage, and access to healthcare, to name only a few, our communities are at risk of breaking. While no answers are obvious or easy, there is one fact we know: when a woman’s life improves, her children’s lives improve, and communities prosper.
For some women with the means, they are more likely to be less affected by our current circumstances. They enjoy a choice about how much they experience the realities of other women’s lives. If you are a woman who has such ability, I invite you to make this choice: rather than shrink from the very real threats, fear, and frustration, choose to embrace and undertake action in your home community for the greater good. Choose to demonstrate connection to our community and courage to reach out. For those who enjoy choice, choose compassion over fear and action over inertia. Choose to stand with others rather than to distance away in despair. Through these choices, we can build our own sense of hope while building hope for others.
This year, more than ever, many of us will sit at dining tables missing someone we love, food will be far from plentiful, and the metaphor of darkness will be pervasive. We must do more than await the coming light. We must bring it. An anecdote to this reality lies only a few miles away, with our neighbors.
Choose to make a difference!
Yours, for the Fund,
Joanne Murray, Executive Director