Women’s Week to start today

by Nancy Ngo

Women’s Week, which begins today at the University, focuses on the social connections between women and poverty.
This year’s theme draws speakers to talk about topics including welfare, women’s health care, sexual exploitation and environmental racism.
Pat Gowens, co-founder of Welfare Warriors in Milwaukee, will speak tonight on myths about welfare. Welfare Warriors works to guarantee that the government ensures that all children have adequate financial support until they reach age 18.
The group also recognizes care-givers, defined by Gowens as mothers taking care of children, the elderly, sick, injured or terminally ill without receiving compensation.
She said that one big myth surrounding welfare is that only women are dependent on it. Gowens explained that women are often accused of not wanting to work while it is children who are greatly affected by welfare legislation. “The problem is children are dependent. They need a support system until they are 18,” said Gowens.
Gowens said that often women on welfare do work, such as care-giving, even though the government does not recognize what they do as work.
She said officials focus on women not going to work, but the relevant issue regarding welfare is how it functions as a child support system.
Though Gowens said the group hasn’t had a big impact on stopping legislation, the group has definitely affected how legislation progresses through the system. “I think we’ve slowed it down and put some dents in some areas.”
Instead, the group focuses more on those affected by the legislation. “Our main impact is on the women themselves. One of our struggles is to help the victims themselves not believe the stereotypes.”
She said moms on welfare make up about 5 percent of the population and more than half of them are women of color.
Rebecca Wandrei, a junior majoring in psychology, a member of the University Young Women and an organizer of the week-long event, said that some films throughout Women’s Week will address ways in which women of color can be more susceptible to poverty.
In addition to the serious approach of focusing on certain issues, the week’s events will also provide more lighthearted methods to discuss the issues.
“It’s also important to celebrate women and focus on the positive things, not just about oppression,” Wandrei said.
“The main emphasis is fun,” said David Golden, director of health education at Boynton Health Service, which helped sponsor the Minnesota Women’s Center Health Fair planned for Wednesday. The fair will not only provide information on women’s mental and physical health, but also fiscal health.
More than 60 Twin Cities organizations that provide resources for women will display their services at the fair. The exhibits are designed to be attention-getting as well as informative.
Exhibits of self-defense, yoga and massage will be on one stage, while another venue will feature entertainment from groups like the ska band, The Jinkies.