I was afforded the opportunity to explore my passion for social justice this summer because of the World of Work fellowship. Although policy has a substantial impact on the everyday lives of many, it is common knowledge that this field is not as lucrative as other disciplines. For this reason, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, much like other government commissions, doesn’t have the resources needed to hire interns like myself. Instead, they rely on unpaid interns to carry out their operations year-round. Social justice work is pivotal and necessary, yet, it is often overlooked and taken for granted. Furthermore, such work arises out of a great need for change, like every great movement, followed by a turning point in legislation and then society.
Social justice acknowledges that the scales of life are imbalanced and tipped in favor of a Eurocentric and male majority, largely leaving out women, people of color, and impoverished individuals. As a result, many in these communities succumb to the systemic injustices of legislation, institutions, and perceptions that oppose those who are marginalized. The most memorable social justice movements have countered societal norms, like the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage movement, Brown v. Board of Education, and Obamacare just to name a few.
In the time I’ve been with the MCSW, I truly feel as though I have contributed meaningful work on the issues of maternal health, economic equality, and topics concerning women of color. I have been given a number of assignments aimed to track the progress of health-centered legislation, specifically maternal health and menstrual equity. Most recently, I wrote a letter on behalf of the MCSW to Senator Karen Spilka for the support of bill S.1332, widely known as the Midwifery Bill. The goal of this legislation is to expand and provide better avenues for holistic, out-of-hospital birth for families across Massachusetts.
In the same manner, I wrote in support of An Act to Ensure Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions, a bill that would require all commissions to reflect the diversity of our commonwealth, in addition to ensuring equitable representation in public boards, Moreover, I’ve been able to provide administrative support by organizing data and researching a variety of issues. One of them was creating a memo about women in Massachusetts that experience domestic abuse, and trying to come up with ways for the MCSW to support organizations dedicated to this work.
Before starting at the commission, I wish I would’ve known more about the legislative process on a state level and federal level. I found myself having to familiarize myself with new terminology, the process of passing a bill, and other caveats of policy work. Irrespective of that, I had the chance to learn about policy at a very peculiar time as COVID-19 rapidly altered the world. I was able to witness how priorities shifted to the extremely neglected needs of our most vulnerable populations. While this proactivity was necessary and needed, it exposed the extent of neglect our leaders and institutions have subjected these communities to, and there is much more work to be done.