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August 2011 Edition

Luncheon Tickets On Sale Today!
Be "Inspired by the Future" with us and America Ferrera
America Ferrera headshot, by Jeff Vespa
Tickets now on sale for our 26th Annual Luncheon on Oct. 3.

Earlier this year America Ferrera--our 26th Annual Luncheon speaker--guest- starred on the Chicago-based CBS drama The Good Wife. She played Natalie Flores, an ambitious economics graduate student who is also an undocumented immigrant. How might her story be different if she had access to the Illinois DREAM Act, which set up a private college scholarship fund for immigrant students--regardless of their citizenship status?

Ferrera, an actress and an activist, will address this issue and more at our Luncheon, so get your tickets now! And tables of 10 are still available--click here for the best seats.

Grant Deadlines

Letters of Inquiry:
Monday, Aug. 22

Renewal proposals (for Fall 2010 grantees only): Friday, Sept. 23

For forms and details visit

 Access: It's a back-to-school basic
President K. Sujata reveals this fall's must-have school supply for girls: educational access.

Back-to-school chatter is already building in Chicago.
Whether it's the length of the school year, Mayor Emanuel's children attending private school or the state's huge cuts to education, debates are as hot as the summer temperatures (which, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports, is having its own debilitating effect on summer school students).
School desk and chair
However, in the discussion of education reform and politicking, one facet is missing: access. Putting aside issues of curriculum or school board policies, it's unfettered access to educational opportunities that matters most to youth--especially girls.

One bright spot for educational access is the Illinois DREAM Act, signed into law by Gov. Quinn on August 1. This sets up a private college scholarship fund for Illinois immigrant youth--documented and undocumented (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has more information and resources).

Before students can have unhindered access to education, they need a safe environment in which to learn. Bullying and harassment aimed at students with actual orYouth leaders at Illinos Safe Schools Alliance perceived LGBT identity can result in physical attacks and hate crimes or, tragically, depression and suicide. The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance was instrumental in passing the Prevent School Violence Act last summer, which finally defined bullying in Illinois law and created the School Bullying Prevention Task Force. The Task Force's May 2011 report (PDF) recommends data collection, professional development and "overall school transformation in order to create ideal conditions for development and learning." The impact of the legislation will become evident from the data in the coming years. It is imperative for advocates to ensure that the legislation is implemented effectively.

Similar issues face young women who are victims of sexual or dating violence. Even if the victim reports an incident to school officials, they can exacerbate the problem by focusing on the victim more than the perpetrator, refusing to accommodate a victim's need for distance from the abuser or attacker or, all too commonly, disbelieving the victim altogether. The negative impact on the student's education and future don't need to be spelled out.

Anti-violence intervention and prevention programs Between Friends conducts its REACH program in a classroomaimed at teens (and educators), such as Between Friends' REACH program, are integral and should be built into the curriculum at every school. On the policy side, advocates are examining shifts in procedures and guidelines for schools through the Ensuring Success in School Task Force, spearheaded by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

This Task Force also looks at issues faced by young women who are pregnant or parenting. These students face a multitude of barriers to access, including dropping out but also so-called "push-out" when child care and health problems cause mothers to rack up tardies and absences that result in expulsion. Literature for All of Us hosts book groups for young mothers to create a safe, supportive environment for them Two girls reading at a Literature for All of Us book groupand encourage a love of literacy that will keep them in school. Participants also build self-esteem and develop better coping habits--crucial skills for parents as well as students.

The final barrier, perhaps the toughest of all, is poverty. While education can help young women succeed in life, they need to have their basic needs met so they can learn effectively and attend school regularly. A federal study defined "high-poverty schools" as having at least 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Students at these schools are less likely to graduate and attend four-year college than their peers. Using the Illinois State Board of Education's latest data, approximately 3 out of 4 Chicago schools (public and private) qualify as high-poverty.

This statistic points to a major issue for poor families: nutrition. Even with free meals at school, almost 400,000 Chicagoans Grocery bag with vegetables and fresh foodlive in food deserts--areas without mainstream grocery stores, mainly low-income neighborhoods--and 100,000 are children, according to researcher Mari Gallagher (PDF). On the bright side, this is a 39 percent decrease since 2006 (when Chicago Foundation for Women helped fund the original report), the Chicago Tribune reports. I applaud Mayor Emanuel for continuing this work by working directly with grocery retailers and allowing the fast-tracking of new stores in food deserts. After all, without adequate nutrition, how can children pay attention, let alone succeed, in the classroom?
mortar board and diploma
It's clear that broader problems of women's economic security, such as the persistent wage gap between men and women and the lack of women (particularly women of color) in burgeoning tech industries, cannot be addressed without examining educational equity. For girls, that means examining the root causes and identifying the barriers in their lives that keep them from attending--and enjoying--school.

CFW in the community
The Windy City puts wind in mothers' sails. When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he wants to provide paid maternity leave for all city employees, CFW President K. Sujata wrote an open letter to the mayor that ran in the Huffington Post Chicago. She praises his decision and also outlines the reasons paid leave is so important for mothers.

Fay ClaytonLaura TuckerWomen push back at the backlash. The recent backlash against reproductive justice, which has specifically targeted Planned Parenthood, has a silver lining: it has inspired local donors to redouble their efforts to support women's right to access legal, safe and necessary health care. Crain's Chicago Business profiled three dedicated and inspiring women, including Chicago Foundation for Women board member Laura Tucker (at left) and Alumnae Council member Fay Clayton (at right). 

Today's Chicago Woman released its 2011 list of 100 Women Making a Difference, Diane Primowhich includes many CFW grantees and community supporters. CongratulationsCFW's four co-founders to Access Living's Marca Bristo, Primo Center for Women and Children's Diane Primo (at left), Women's Business Development Center's Hedy Ratner, Women Employed's Anne Ladky and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago's Christine Bork, as well as to CFW co-founder Sunny Fischer (at right, bottom right of photo, with co-founders), Alumnae Council member Deirdre Joy Smith and donor Carol Lavin Bernick. Three cheers to everyone on the list, and to the countless other women making a difference in Chicago's communities!

Grantees in the news 
Paper fan that says COOL IT! Don't be a fan of violenceWhen the Pitchfork Music Festival announced that its July 15-17 Chicago show would feature Odd Future, a band known for violently misogynist and homophobic lyrics, our anti-violence grantees were there to respond. Between Friends along with Center on Halsted, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Rape Victim Advocates, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and others used this story as a way to start a public dialogue. They worked with festival organizers to set up an information table and hand out 7,000 purple fans saying "Cool it! Don't be a fan of violence" (at right). The groups called for a conversation about how we can create collectively a "safe future instead of an Odd Future." Read more in the Chicago Sun-Times, Huffington Post and CAASE's blog.

C. Angel Torres and Naima Paz of the Young Women's Empowerment Project published an article in the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women's Occasional Paper Series (PDF). It focuses on YWEP's Bad Encounter Line, which collects the problems that street-based young women report when trying to get help from hospitals, law enforcement and other institutions.

Elena Herrera, a student organizer with Women Employed who is also a first-generation adult college student, is featured in a Trib Local story about the College Changes Everything conference in Tinley Park.

ACLU of Illinois client Lauren Gray, a transgender woman, appeared on WGN TV to discuss the personal and political importance of trans people being able to correct their gender on birth certificates, even if they do not choose to have specific sex reassignment surgeries.

Community Organizing and Family Issues organizer Charles Bergman spoke out about the importance of using restorative justice more often than suspension and expulsion to discipline Chicago Public Schools students, the Chicago Tribune reports. Thanks to advocacy efforts by COFI's POWER-PAC parent leaders like Rosazlia Grillier (at left) who is quoted in Catalyst Chicago, CPS is moving away from "zero tolerance" policies that too often remove kids from school. 

In a Chicago Sun-Times article discussing the ups and downs of the sexual assault charges against French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Sharmili Majmudar of Rape Victim Advocates explains why it's unrealistic and harmful to base a case solely on a victim's perceived credibility.
CFW grantees: Want to be sure your news clips and awards get in the Blast? Email Blast editor Laura at or share the good news on our social media sites!

Upcoming events
Visit our website calendar to see all our upcoming programs and events.

AUG. 22 (Mon.): Letter of Inquiry Form deadline for new grant applicants, 5 p.m.
SEPT. 23 (Fri.): Renewal Proposal deadline (for Fall 2010 grantees only), 5 p.m.
OCT. 3 (Mon.): 26th Annual Luncheon: "Inspired by the Future" featuring America Ferrera

The Last Word: Free birth control
We applaud the Department of Health and Human Services for issuing guidelines that require new insPack of birth control pillsurance plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act that starts next year, to cover birth control without any co-pays or deductibles, along with other preventive health services. The Institute of Medicine made these recommendations, to which the HHS chose to tack on a religious exemption: nonprofits with a religious mission, if the people they serve and their employees primarily hold the same beliefs, may choose to exclude contraception in their health plans altogether. This is despite the fact that a majority of women from all religions and walks of life rely on birth control, including Catholic and Evangelical women, as the Guttmacher Institute pointed out this spring.

Our last word: Remember when Viagra was added to the Medicare program six years ago, without any fuss or fanfare? Ahem. (Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News for citing this fact.) 

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