By Claudia J. Gonzalez
Photo: Makayla Redding
San Jose, Calif.— Community leaders, professionals, experts, and women of all ages and ethnicities, convened last Thursday in San Jose for the first hearing of the California State Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Girls and Women of Color in California.
Around 150 people attended the event which was presided over by Chair of the committee, Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), and various elected officials of Santa Clara County.
The event, the first in a series of open forums to be held throughout California, focused on addressing the factors that impact the lives of girls and women of color and which either limit or promote their success.
Organized in partnership with California Legislative Women’s Caucus, the Santa Clara County (SCC) Office of Women’s Policy and the SCC Commission on the Status of Women, the hearing provided a platform for organizations and individuals to voice their concerns.
Over 40 testimonies were given, highlighting the major areas where girls and women of color are at are a huge disadvantage, thus making this demographic the most challenged: education, economics, health, and crime and violence.
Violence against women, in particular, was an issue that was raised repeatedly.
Angie Junk, Supervising Attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, stated violence against women of color was worse among undocumented women as fear of deportation and mistrust of police often prevented them from reporting crimes.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Paula Stanislaus also presented alarming statistics regarding sex trafficking in the county.
“From 2014-2015, approximately 87 percent of trafficking cases have involved women of color,” said Stanislaus while also declaring the 87 percent of cases involved minors.
Pay equity was also discussed.
According to Jennifer Reisch of the San Francisco-based civil rights group Equal Rights Advocates, women of color are impacted dramatically by pay inequity. Studies have shown that on average, women in California make 84 cents to to every dollar a man earns, but women of color earn far less.
“A Latina woman makes 44 cents to every dollar a man earns,” Reisch told the committee. “While in comparison Black women earn 64 cents to every dollar.”
Reisch additionally testified that women of color live in poverty even when working full-time and that the majority of this population lacks access to a living wage.
The event concluded with the presiding panel promising to take every testimony and research into consideration as they assess the status of this demographic in the state.
The Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Girls and Women of Color also includes seven additional Assemblymembers: Katcho Achadjian (R- San Luis Obispo), Autumn Burke (D-Los Angeles), Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) and Das Williams (D-Carpinteria).
Chaired by Assemblymembers Campos and Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino), the committee is a nonpartisan state agency committed to empowering girls and women of color with the goal of implementing policies to ensure the success of this vulnerable population.
The next Public Input Hearing is expected to take place within the next few months. The committee is hoping to schedule three more hearings between now and next January. For more information you can contact the office of Assemblywoman Campos at [email protected].