Held on September 19 and 20 in Washington D.C., the We Won’t Wait Summit gathered over 1,000 community leaders and organizers from across the country to be active leaders on the issues women face this election—with a particular focus on the intersections of race, class and labor issues.
“The goal of We Won’t Wait is to broadcast a comprehensive women’s agenda that reflects what women’s lives look like today and the range of issues that women are contending with on a daily basis,” said Vivien Labaton of Make It Work, an organization that fights for equal pay, rights for caregivers and convenience in work and family. “One of the goals of Make It Work and We Won’t Wait is to place women’s experiences at the center of the story, and position women as the experts on our own lives.”
Not only is the Summit highlighting these women’s voices, but also showing the intersectionality in different women’s issues. “At a time where everyone is talking about the black vote, or the Latino vote, or the women’s vote,” Labaton told Ms., “we want to say loud and clear that we don’t lead single issue lives and we need a comprehensive agenda that speaks to that interconnected reality.”
The act of gathering these women and allowing them to voice their concerns and stories reinstates their agency in their own lives.
Tamara lost her job while caring for her mother, who suffers from HIV. She’s also a member of 9to5 Atlanta, a group which supports working women and advocates for change. When Tamara was forced to take care of everything and everyone but herself, the advice and support from 9to5 helped her make sure she wouldn’t fall to old habits that may have caused dysfunction in her personal life. She explained:
“Sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re repeating a cycle of dysfunction in your own life… Because we’re women, society looks at it like ‘Hey, isn’t that what you do anyway? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?’ And it’s not. I’m supposed to breathe and sustain life. I’m supposed to eat. I’m supposed to take care of myself. Those are the things I’m supposed to do.”
Tamara is actively fighting for the Family Care Act in Georgia, which will help ease the process of taking care of family members without facing penalties at work. “I think fundamentally the issue of caregiving is about how we value work that has traditionally been done by women and often unpaid and it’s not historically work that’s been valued,” Labaton told Ms.
These women need assistance for the work they do outside of the traditionally respected workplace. At the end of the day, it is ridiculous that women have to ask for assistance in doing the impossible balancing act of keeping up with so many tasks and jobs as if it were a privilege and not a necessity. Government support and systematic change in the workplace are the keys to breaking these barriers.
You can make the pledge to actively advocate for progressive change in government for working women at WWW Summit’s website.