Women, Poverty & Justice: Community Leaders Discuss over Breakfast

By Steph Machado

Published 04/14 2014 05:25PM

Updated 04/14 2014 06:16PM

BURLINGTON - Community members came together for a talk over breakfast Monday morning. The event centered around women, poverty and justice, especially the concept that women's rights and poverty are not separate issues, but integrated.

Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna was the keynote speaker, and talked about U.S. policy history and how it's shaped the current economic status of women.

"So we have people working on hunger, and people working on housing, and people working on childcare, and people working on welfare, but we don't have integrated systems in the way that we should," Hanna said. "Because the whole premise was to keep women and families economically dependent, and to not provide policies that were pathways to women's independence." She referred specifically to the widow's pensions, one of the first state-supported programs for women, which she says aimed to keep women out of the workforce by replacing the deceased husband's paycheck with state assistance.

A panel of female leaders also spoke, including Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont Marissa Parisi, Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission Karen Richards, and Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women Tiffany Bluemle.

Parisi spoke about a "benefits cliff," which affects many women she works with.

"As your wages increase, even just a little bit, you start losing food stamps. You start losing childcare subsidies, you start losing Reach Up, you start losing this host of benefits that's really keeping you health and well. And often what you lose is more than what you've increased in wages," she explained.

Some statistics back them up:

- 1/3 of single-mother households are in poverty
- 80% of Reach Up participants are women with children
- 55% of minimum wage workers are women, and 72% of tipped workers are women
- Women are twice as likely to have 3SquaresVT, the food stamps program
- Vermont women make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men

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