LGBTQ South Florida

Femme Agenda fights for social, gender justice in Miami

Juanita Santos, left, and Marcia Olivo will attend the Femme Agenda on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Juanita Santos, left, and Marcia Olivo will attend the Femme Agenda on Saturday, Oct. 1. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Marcia Olivo knows all too the well the plight of being an immigrant. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Olivo was 21 when she came to America and says she immediately faced the reality of being a woman in this country.

“I found myself with multiple identities that I never identified myself as,” Olivo said. “Suddenly I became a woman of color; I became an immigrant; I became many adjectives. To me, being a woman and all of those things were ways to keep me down. Those labels were hindering me from being able to live with dignity.”

Olivo began working in the public sector with survivors of domestic violence. The lack of resources often led victims back to their abusers. She worked unsuccessfully for four years trying to get Florida lawmakers to provide unemployment compensation for domestic abuse survivors.

Her latest project, Femme Agenda, is in collaboration with the Miami Workers Center, where Olivo is gender justice coordinator. The project is an attempt to take her voice and amplify it with those of othe women she’s worked with throughout the years. The Miami Workers Center (MWC) is a nonprofit that fights for social, racial, economic and gender justice in Miami.

In July, the Miami Workers Center organized South Florida’ s first domestic worker’s assembly, a long-term vision to create fair working conditions centered on women’s lives and change how policy is set up in Florida. Femme Agenda is a continuation of that work, in which domestic workers will be shoulder-to-shoulder with elected officials.

The idea is to have change-makers in the same room with change-seekers to shed light on women’s issues.

“In Florida, there are over 100,000 domestic workers, and we wanted to bring that sector together, especially now in this electoral year — so we don’t become just a vote, and elected officials work based on what we need not what they think we need,” Olivo said.

The assembly will take place Saturday and is free and open to the public with registration. Two confirmed leaders in attendance are Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Network, and Joanne N. Smith, founder and executive director of Girls for Gender Equity. Topics will include affordable childcare, reproductive health care, public housing, education, climate gentrification and domestic workers rights.

Olivo said they have a 10-year plan, and she seeks to turn the women’s words into actions reflected in the laws. She’s personally seen the difficulties women face when they lack resources and it’s inspired the work she does at the Miami Workers Center.

“I saw women in my family working in factories 13 hours a day, seven days a week and even with that not being able to afford rent,” she said. “There were women in my family that had been in the United States for ten years and hadn’t seen a gynecologist because they were undocumented and didn’t have health insurance.”

Carla Hansack a 39-year-old domestic worker and single mother of three, said she has dealt with many injustices and unfavorable conditions despite working 16 hours days in the homes of her clients.

Lack of benefits, such as paid sick leave and affordable childcare, caused Hansack to send her daughter for some time to her native country of Nicaragua so that she could work here. A friend took her to the Miami Workers Center where she joined the outreach events. Since then she said she’s gained a tribe and been able to help other domestic workers by sharing her story.

“When I found them I really felt good and confident in speaking about my issues. A domestic worker works in someone’s house but the work if often looked down upon. They think you’re not worthy of anything because you clean a house, but our job is so important,” Hansack said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, if you’re a doctor or congresswoman — any professional you can’t leave until the worker shows up to take care of your child. Generationally, this job comes from slavery but in America, slavery is over, and people need to start respecting us.”

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If you go

▪ What: Femme Agenda

▪ Where: Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Ave., Miami Gardens

▪ When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1

▪ Cost: Free and open to the public

▪ To register and for more details, visit http://www.femmeagenda.org/

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