Wareham forum highlights struggles of women on variety of topics
Women’s voices were heard loud and clear on issues such as immigration, a living wage, the opioid crisis and others during a Tuesday night hearing on “The Status of Women.”
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women hosted the event, which was held in the Wareham Free Library and featured Representative Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham).
“This is a place to share your views, thoughts and concerns with the commonwealth,” she said, before taking a seat in the front row.
Commission Chair Victoria Budson of Wellesley encouraged all women in the audience to give testimony, even if they had come planning to stay silent and observe.
“I know a lot of people want to speak, but they don’t feel they should because they don’t think they’re an expert,” said Budson. “I’m telling you, if you live in Massachusetts and you care what your life looks like, if you care what other peoples’ lives look like, you’re an expert.”
Various women spoke out, some as they had originally planned to do, and others joining as they heard the others speak. Topics included mental health, living wage, climate change, immigration, affordable healthcare, and discrimination. The opioid crisis was a topic which many of the testifiers were concerned about. Several requested better sexual health education and drug education for young women.
One of the more stirring testimonies of the night came from Katia Dacunha, who traveled to the forum from Hyannis. Dacunha immigrated to Massachusetts from Brazil several years ago with her husband and children, and her mother also joined them.
She spoke to the commission in the hope of finding better access to English education for immigrants.
“When I came here I didn’t know any English,” she said. “My mother is at home now, trying to learn. She’s on a waitlist to take a free class, but the waitlist is so long that she won’t be able to take the class until September of next year. She’ll be out of the work force until then.” Dacunha said that the limited access often makes immigrants feel left out of a new country, when they want to be useful and productive.
The testimony given by members of the public was collected by the commission, and it will be used to shape and influence the Commission’s legislative advocacy work.
At the end of the meeting, Budson thanked all of the people who spoke for their insight and testimony, and led the room in a round of applause for all the speakers.
The commission was formed in 1998. Its mission, according to its website, is “to provide a permanent, effective voice for women across Massachusetts.” The commission is made up of 19 women, acting in a voluntary capacity, who are appointed by various legal bodies in Massachusetts.