MCSW Monthly: Where Women are Always on the Front Page

JANUARY 2024 EDITION

New Year, Same Tidings: Housing is a Human Right


Dear Colleagues:

 

Happy New Year from the MCSW! There's a lot to speak about together as we head into the new year and where it intersects with my work both on and off the MCSW Commission. As the executive director of Arise for Social Justice, a grassroots nonprofit that focuses on the rights of poor and low-income folks, we fight to change local and national issues and policy. As a state commissioner appointed by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators, I show up every day knowing that representation matters. It is important to me to see and be seen. To allow others to imagine themselves in positions of power, with the ability to make lasting change to the policies that guide our lives.

 

I often say, I live in the messy intersections where race, class, gender, politics, culture, and the law often collide. We work to advance the needs of all women and girls across the Commonwealth, and yet, all those needs are not identical and often land in that same messy intersection. When policy makers don’t understand or live in those intersections, entire communities can and have been harmed.

 

As the MCSW Treasurer & Chair of Finance Committee, it’s important to me to be clear about the reality that we’re facing right here in our own backyard. Statistically, women and children face the highest rates of poverty and in the Commonwealth. The 2020 Commission report which studied the Impact of COVID-19 and Related Policy On Massachusetts Women and Girls, the data showed that it is Black and brown women and girls being the most impacted across every sector we can think of – housing and food insecurity, child and elder care, and more.

 

While wearing my social justice hat, feeling the impacts in my community both in Springfield and at the Statehouse, and fighting to dismantle the systems and institutions that cause us harm, there is a deep understanding that to advance the needs of women and girls across the Commonwealth, we must start with those who are the most impacted. Only by centering those most marginalized can we ensure all of us can thrive. If we can make the conditions better there, the conditions of everyone else improves. While there are no trickle-down economics, there is a glow up in the care of those who find themselves at the bottom of our society. All boats rise when we invest in women and children as economic drivers of society.

 

But try as we may, I also know that we cannot out fund bad policy. Currently, our nation, which includes the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is the ONLY state to have a right-to-shelter law, is experiencing a housing crisis. Not because we have a shortage of housing, but because there is a shortage of policy that would protect tenants and keep people housed. The commission is not a partisan entity, and yet these are partisan issues. How do we advocate for change while remaining true to our objectivity? Only by working together, and hearing all voices, can we rebuild systems that work for real people to meet the needs of the modern age. It’s not partisan, it’s just good policy.

 

We must create the conditions that support people being housed, instead of upholding policies that don’t – which actually saves us money and builds wealth for individuals and communities in the long run. We can learn from other states and implement what works best for us – from rent control, to sealing eviction records, to holding slumlords accountable, by limiting property sales to out of state corporations and entities that require you to make 3x the rent to live there(yet the rent is 3x higher than a mortgage), - only then will we begin truly codify housing as a human right and treat it as such - not as a commodity.

 

Housing is a human right, and that’s why I’m proud that the MCSW is hosting our first public hearing of the year – entirely virtual – to discuss the housing needs facing the women and children of our state. Join us on January 25 to make your voice heard. Your stories and lived experiences directly inform the policy priorities of the MCSW, allowing us to make change to the systemic issues that impact us all. Register here now.

 

Happy New Year to all!

 

In Solidarity,

Tanisha Arena

MCSW Treasurer, Chair of the Finance Committee

Executive Director, Arise for Social Justice

Register Now for our Next Public Hearing

Housing is a crucial issue right now for communities all across the Commonwealth. We need your input to help legislators understand what problems we're facing - and what solutions we can bring, together. That's why our first public hearing of 2024 is entirely virtual - and it's happening in less than three weeks!


We want to hear from you - register now.


Join the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) and partners for a virtual public hearing focusing on issues affecting women and girls, highlighting housing in the Commonwealth.


Public Hearings are an opportunity for women across the Commonwealth to give testimony on issues that matter most to them, which directly inform MCSW's policy priorities for the 2023-2024 legislative session.


The event is free and open to the public – and entirely virtual. Leaders and residents from across the Commonwealth are invited to attend, and testimony is open to any member of the public, including elected officials. MCSW also encourages legislators and other community stakeholders to attend. We're asking anyone interested in housing issues that women, children, and families to testify and share their experiences to learn from one another and create change, together.


Register by Tuesday, January 16, 2024. If you register after the deadline, we cannot guarantee accessibility accommodations, such as additional language translation.

Register Now for our Virtual Housing Hearing
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Save the Date - GELI is BACK!

SAVE THE DATE - This year’s GELI interactive programming will take place in person on Saturday, April 20, 2024 at Simmons University. With so much going on this holiday season, mark your calendars and join us during April school vacation week! Participants will explore their leadership styles, gain confidence to advocate for issues within their communities and expand their legislative advocacy skills by attending the full day of in-person activities.


Lunch, snacks and transportation will be provided!


For more information on the MCSW Girl's Empowerment Leadership Initiative, learn more at our website or email MCSWgeli@mass.gov.

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CALLING ALL LEGISLATORS: Nominations for the Class of 2024 Commonwealth Heroines are now open! Celebrate the new year by honoring and recognizing an amazing woman in your community today. Commonwealth Heroines are women who don’t always make the news, but truly make a difference in their communities, businesses, or volunteer endeavors.


Each year the Commission partners with state legislators to identify women who make outstanding contributions to their organizations and communities. Each legislator is encouraged to submit one woman from their constituency as a means of recognizing their invaluable community efforts. To date, the MCSW has awarded over 2,100 women since 2004 when the program launched.


MCSW accepts recommendations solely from Legislators, but commissioners and constituents are encouraged to reach out to their legislators if they would like to offer a constituent as a suggestion. The Commonwealth Heroine Initiative begins in January and continues until the Commonwealth Heroine Celebration in June.


The nomination portal will close on Monday, April 1, 2024 at 5pm ET.


Honorees will be notified of their nomination in mid to late April and the 2024 celebration will take place on June 14, 2024 at the Statehouse.

Nominate a 2024 Heroine
Commonwealth Heroines FAQs


Highlights of the Month


Thank you to one of our newest Commissioners, Dr. Kim Shea, for hosting the #MCSW at #MWCC! Dr. Shea, appointed by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators is the Dean of Nursing at Mount Wachusett Community College. Did you know that more than 1,000 have applied to MWCC via MA Governor Healey's new #MassConnect program? According to Marcia Rosbury-Henne, Associate Vice-President for Enrollment Management, 84% of applicants are women!


We know that education drives economic development all across the Commonwealth. We also learned that community colleges are providing innovative solutions when it comes to internet access, groundbreaking childcare programs on campus, and other large scale policy issues that the MCSW prioritizes. Thank you to President James Vander Hooven for welcoming us to the Leominster campus, and a special thank you to Susan Templeton, District Director to Senator John J. Cronin for joining us. Together we are removing barriers one at a time for all women, children, and families in MA to thrive! Be sure to join us for our Gardener Public Hearing on Thursday March 28th, 2024. Save the Date!

What an inspiring day the #MCSW team at the Massachusetts Conference for Women! This years’ theme: “Be bold, be brave, be daring” is central to our mission of taking action in support of women and girls all across the Commonwealth. The former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, discussed policies she implemented that changed the lives of women, children, and families. The connections we’ve made are invaluable to building a network of women who thrive.

Massachusetts was well represented at the National Association of Commissions for Women (NACW) Annual Members Meeting. Two of our very own were elected to leadership positions! Commissioner Tuitt was elected to serve another term as the NACW President. MCSW Executive Director Shaitia Spruell will serve a 2-year term as NACW Director-at-Large. Congratulations!

In the News

Gov. Healey Talks Migrants, North Adams Storm Aid, and Minimum Wage in Pittsfield


Healey, the nation’s first openly lesbian governor, was in attendance for the swearing in of Peter Marchetti — Pittsfield’s first openly gay mayor. After pledging her administration’s support for Marchetti, Healey took questions from the press.



Listen to the Full WAMC Episode

Mass. Commission on the Status of Women Gathered in Leominister


MWSC Commissioner Kim Shea, Leominster City Councilor Claire Freda, MCSW Executive Director Shaitia Spruell, and Assistant Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences Lisa Steskal.


Learn More


Regional Commission Updates


Above Photos:

Regional and State Commissioners from all across the state at our December Convening!

Our Regional Commissions wrapped up the calendar year with their December meetings and our semi-annual Regional Convening on Wednesday, December 6th at the MassBay Community College campus in Wellesley. Twice a year leaders and representatives from all 11 #MCSW regional commissions come together to listen and learn from each other at our Regional Convening. It was a wonderful evening of camaraderie, networking, and training. It was also a great opportunity for state and regional commissioners to connect with a spotlight being placed on the good work of our regional commissions. Many spoke of their efforts with their youth leadership councils, building relationships with each other and elected officials across the state, and a special highlight was the sharing of “period kits” - from the MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women for their upcoming Period Palooza event with their Athena Youth Council.


Grateful to our State and Regional Commissioners who joined us both in person and online, as well as Dr. Lynn Moore and our hosts at MassBay Community College. Save the date for our Spring Convening: May 1, 2024.


January promises to be a busy and productive month for our regional commissions with several hosting legislative meetings, community conversations, and networking events focused on their legislative priorities. We'll have more details on these activities in our February newsletter.  


We’re off to a great start for 2024!

Updates from the Coalition Corner

On January 12th, 2024 - for the first time EVER - all of the Massachusetts State Universities will be FREE to apply!


For just one day, use fee waiver code REACHFREE.

MCSW Commissioner Leslie-Ann McGee was representing at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly known as COP28. This was the 28th United Nations Climate Change conferenceheld in December at Expo City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This year's COP28 Agreement Signals “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era.



Legislative Updates


Massachusetts is the only state in New England without updated parentage laws. It's time to protect MA children and families. The MCSW recently signed on in solidarity to a coalition letter offering testimony in support of this crucial legislation. Read the Letter and learn more here.

Good news: The Senate has UNANIMOUSLY passed the I AM Bill!


We’re thanking our Senators for passing the bill today, and tomorrow we start calling our Representatives to encourage them to bring the bill to a vote in the House!


Lean more: https://bit.ly/passIAM

The Common Start Coalition has great news from GBH News - backers of this bill are poised for transformational change in Massachusetts. But it'll take all of us working together to make legislators hear our voices!


Contact your legislator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill https://bit.ly/CommonStartVision

Women and people of color account for 52% and 28% respectively of the state's population, yet are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions.


An Act to Ensure Gender Parity on Public Boards and Commissions (H.2711 | S.1878) hopes to change that! Learn about how you can get involved with the #ParityOnBoard coalition here.


Want to take action?

Contact your Legislator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill!

MCSW Committee Meetings

Constituents and partners are welcome to join us at any of our monthly committee meetings.

Legislative & Public Policy Committee:

First Tuesday of every month, 5:30-6:30pm



Regional Chairs Meeting:

First Tuesday of every month, 7:00-8:00pm


Program & Planning Committee:

Second Tuesday of every month, 5:30pm-6:30pm.


Finance Committee:

First Thursday of every month, 3:00-4:00pm


Executive Committee:

Second Thursday of every month, 4:00-5:30pm


Full Commission Meeting:

Third Thursday of every month, 4:00pm- 5:30pm

Visit our Events Webpage here!

MCSW State Commissioners


Dr. Sarah Glenn-Smith, Holliston

Chairwoman


Mary-dith Tuitt, Boston

Vice-Chairwoman

Legislative and Public Policy Committee Chair


Tanisha Arena, Springfield

Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair


Christine Monska, Auburndale

Secretary


Denella Clark, Hyde Park

Immediate Past Chairwoman


Rebecca Bact, Auburndale


Carol Campbell, Amherst


Divya Chaturvedi, Wilmington

Finance Committee Vice-Chair


Guimel DeCarvalho, Natick

Legislative and Public Policy Committee Vice-Chair


Marianne Fleckner, Westford


Jean Fox, Freetown

Program and Planning Committee Vice-Chair


Liz Friedman, Northampton


Allison Goldberg, Marblehead


Audrey Hall, Framingham

Finance Committee Secretary


Nina Liang, Quincy


Leslie-Ann McGee, Kingston

Legislative and Public Policy Committee Secretary


Dr. Aisha Miller, Mattapan

Program and Planning Committee Chair


Sonia Shah, Natick


Dr. Kimberly Shea, Winchendon

Legislative and Public Policy Committee Secretary

MCSW State Commissioner Bios

Networks and Resources

The Office of Economic Empowerment - Economic Empowerment for Women

The Office of Economic Empowerment provides several programs geared toward women of the Commonwealth, covering financial literacy, wage equality, and more.


Under Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, the Office of Economic Empowerment (OEE) focuses on creating and implementing programs and initiatives that give women the tools to succeed at home and in the workplace. They provide quality workshops and opportunities for women to learn strategies for financial success and free resources.


Mass 2-1-1: This online directory is an information resource for emergency food, rent, help to pay your heating and utility bills, mental health counseling, health programs, public health and safety services, child care referrals, job resources, and other help for individuals' parents, and families.


Massachusetts Girls in Trades was launched in 2015 by a partnership of educational, governmental and union organizations with a shared goal of supporting and encouraging female career and technical education students and alumnae to pursue careers in the building trades. Directory of Joint Apprenticeship Training Centers in Massachusetts.


Find LGBTQ Youth Resources: A comprehensive list of LGBTQ resources for youth throughout the state of Massachusetts, updated frequently, from our partners at Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth.


Local Women’s Commissions

There are currently 10 local Women’s Commissions that represent various cities and towns in the Commonwealth. While these Commissions are independent of MCSW, the Commission serves as a resource and partner for local commissions:


Additional Statewide Resources
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