South Florida

Oprah and her Hollywood friends raised thousands to help these women in Miami

This image released by NBC shows Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018.  During her speech, Winfrey highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace.
This image released by NBC shows Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. During her speech, Winfrey highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace. AP

Four Miami community organizations have received a grant from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, the multimillion-dollar fund spawned by the avalanche of sexual harassment allegations stemming from the #MeToo movement.

The Fund, managed by the National Women’s Law Center, helps women who have been sexually harassed by providing legal aid and financial assistance.

The Fund is an outgrowth of the Time’s Up campaign, orchestrated primarily by Hollywood stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek after thousands of women came forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and rape.

This week, the Fund announced it distributed $750,000 among 18 groups around the United States, working directly with low-income women and vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers and farm workers.

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United Voices | Vwa Ini, a coalition of four South Florida organizations, received $40,000. The four organizations are: WeCount! in Homestead; the Miami Workers Center; the Community Justice Project; and the University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic.

“We are very grateful to receive this support because it helps us to continue with the work we have been doing and to be able to help more women,” said Marcia Olivo, executive director of the Miami Workers Center.

Yuleidy González-Nieto, a victim of abuse since childhood, says she is glad that a lot of people have come forward with #MeToo, but the movement is "like getting punched in the face." “It’s just always there and it makes it harder to hide from it,

The Center organizes and assists local workers, especially women who clean houses and hotels and care for children and the elderly. Each week, they hold an event called the Women’s Circle, in which the participants talk about their traumas, especially related to sexual abuse, and share strategies to demand safer work places.

“This is an acknowledgment that in order to have healthy and productive societies, women, as pillars of the family and as human beings, need to be healthy, be safe and feel protected,” Olivo said.

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Marcia Olivo, director of the Miami Workers Center, during the Women’s Circle on Dec. 12, 2017. Alexia Fodere el Nuevo Herald

The coalition plans to use the funds in “know your rights” campaigns and to help women who have been harassed or abused at work obtain legal representation.

The #MeToo movement — which emerged after Hollywood stars publicly accused Harvey Weinstein, a powerful film producer, of harassment and sexual abuse — exposed the impact of harassment in virtually every industry.

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Activists say that #MeToo also highlighted the vulnerability of women employed as housekeepers, caregivers and farm workers, who do not have the resources to seek legal remedies.

“We know that there are many low-wage immigrant women workers day in and day out who suffer abuse, and this grant gives us the opportunity to go out in the community and help women fight for a safe and dignified workplace,” said Oscar Londoño, an attorney with the Community Justice Project.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund said in a statement that it has raised almost $22 million, and plans to distribute more grants in the future.

Fatima Gross Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Associated Press that since the group launched the initiative in January, some 3,500 people have contacted the nonprofit to tell their stories and ask for help.

“It’s a big reminder that harassment happens everywhere,” Graves told the Associated Press. “We are seeing women working in some of the lowest-paid fields contact us, and some of the highest-paid fields. Women in government or the military, women working in restaurants, as security guards. You’re seeing across over 60 different sectors.”

Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar and Facebook: @BrendaMedinaJournalist.
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