On a rainy Thursday morning, May 10, more than 2,300 women came together at the New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) 25th Anniversary Celebrating Women Breakfast Honoring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Al-jen Poo and Merble Reagon. The inspiring breakfast included a choir performance, speeches from various NYWF board members, local NYC officials, and of course the guests of honor.
The New York Women’s Foundation is a cross-cultural alliance of women, serving as a voice for women and a force for change. The Foundation identifies innovative organizations that are effecting change in the communities they serve for women. NYWF funds programs that promote economic security and justice, anti-violence and safety, and health, sexual rights and reproductive justice for women and girls in New York City.
The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir energized the audience at the start of the breakfast with uplifting songs like “We are Family” and “Celebration,” followed by brief remarks by Christine Quinn, NYC Council Speaker and NYWF Board of Directors member. Quinn praised Obama for his recent stance on gay marriage as she shared with the audience that she is getting married next week. Quinn also shared a story of how organizations part of the New York Women’s Foundation are helping to inspire women in their own businesses. She shared a story about a partnership with Center for Family Life in Sunset Park which has empowered women to start their own businesses. One young woman in particular shared with Quinn upon her recent visit to the institution that seeing her mother start her own cleaning business in Brooklyn inspired her to go to college and changed her vision of who she can be.
Merble Reagon, one of the Celebrating Women Award recipients, worked to create self-sufficiency standards to calculate how much income it takes for families to live in the five boroughs, which is now used by thousands of case workers across the city to assess poverty levels. She noted how she was deeply honored and humbled and acknowledged the outstanding leadership of the organization and work of the organization for creating change. The tool she created for self-sufficiency standards was not just to assess poverty levels, but empower families to know what they need and give them some semblance of financial stability – economic security. The tool today reaches more than 30,000 families and $350 million in work support and tax credits.
Al-jen Poo, also a Celebrating Women Award recipient, defends the rights of women around the world. She led New York state to pass the first Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights. She also organized the International Labor Foundation. She dedicated the award to the more than two million women who are caregivers. She noted, “Despite the important role these domestic workers play, society does not adequately value the work that these women do on a daily base.” As a result, Poon shared the fact that New York passed the first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and three lessons:
- In New York, we don’t believe in the impossible – we are ever expanding the realm of what’s possible.
- When you look at the world through the eyes of women, you see the world more completely – both problems and solutions.
- The NYWF does not place domestic worker’s rights as a minority issue – it is central and the NYWF believed and supported the cause. When women come together to lead change, we can make a huge impact.
Poon has also worked to create “Caring Across Generations,” a campaign designed to focus on race, generation and experience around a simple notion that each of us should have the care and support we need to live with dignity – dreaming bigger to build better.
Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the NYWF also presented to the audience. She remarked, “Change is a moment for us – and a special one now with the 25th Anniversary.” She noted that the NYWF is no longer a possibility, it’s one with a lot of responsibilities in New York to enact great change in creating a better New York.
Robyn Brady Ince, Anne Delaney and Anita Channapati, NYWF board members and breakfast co-chairs presented remarks following Oliveira. Ince shared inspiration from her mother on how important it is to be part of the solution and create community wherever it is you call home and to stand with women. She said, “It’s not enough to know about the challenges, but we must do something about them.” Delaney shared that there is nothing more important than our collective best ideas and practices as a model to change our world. Channapati noted that everything happening on stage the morning of the breakfast is the reason she became part of the New York Women’s Foundation. She was raised to believe in the value of community service and be engaged as part of a real community – to make the city liveable for everyone and it takes all of us to do so.
Following a brief introduction, Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted the Century Award (a large walking stick) and shared how great it is to be in New York celebrating the foundation and all that it has done for women. She noted how pleased she is to travel around the world and go to countries where she has the business of state to conduct and do the best we can to promote American values and interest. She noted, “I try whenever I have time to meet with women to find out what they do which is often under very difficult circumstances. In places around the world, it’s almost unimaginable that there can be an organization that supports women making their journey through life.” She also referenced inspiration from her mother noting that her mother shared with her that it’s the someone who shared the kindness, those little steps of kindness along the way that truly make a difference because people need each other more than ever now with the stresses of today. She ended the breakfast saying, “For me, it is a great delight to be back in the city I love, wonderful to see you all here supporting the foundation, but your being here is in the best traditions of American caring. A lot of places in the world are just learning about volunteerism. They are finally understanding that the government can’t support them in everything. This space for civil society is growing everywhere. I am thrilled to be with you, proud to have this fabulous walking stick – either leaning on it or wielding it – but I mostly was looking forward to coming to be in my own country for a change to encourage you and be encouraged by you. Let’s get re-energized for the work that lies ahead and I would like to express, on behalf of my mother, great gratitude for reaching out that hand, providing that safe place and giving hope and love to so many in need.”
Please visit www.nywf.org for more information.