Latifa is a powerhouse, not a victim - Women's Foundation California


By Mary Ignatius, Parent Voices

Two weeks ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about Latifa Lewis, a Hayward woman who recently lost her job, is no longer able to pay for childcare for her daughter and is now moving out of her apartment and looking for something smaller and more affordable. (Latifa is pictured top right.)

The journalist who wrote the story rightly explains that Latifa, a college graduate and a model mother, is a casualty of the last five years of the state budget cuts.

Latifa Lewis is indeed a model mother and an extraordinary person. I should know; she’s a friend, a colleague and a member of the organization I work for, Parent Voices.

Parent Voices is a parent-led, parent-run grassroots organization that fights to make quality child care accessible and affordable for all families. But what Parent Voices ultimately offers is a supportive community for parents who are traditionally isolated, dismissed and ignored.

Even though I am glad that the San Francisco Chronicle took interest into Latifa’s life and exposed the dire situations many California women are finding themselves in, the article failed to capture Latifa’s resiliency and her ability to pick herself up time and time again and keep fighting.

Furthermore, the comments section at the end of the article is filled with vile judgments that show complete disregard for Latifa’s character and strengths. When mothers like Latifa courageously speak out and tell their story, they are often attacked for the “bad choices” they made, while very few try to understand their circumstances.

Not one of the people who commented wondered why a woman who holds a BA in Business, works full-time every day and is a reliable and accountable employee nevertheless can’t earn enough to support herself and her daughters.

The real question should be why isn’t Latifa being paid a living wage salary so that she can raise her kids? And what does a living wage salary look like? According to the Self Sufficiency Standard for California, a woman with two children would need to earn about $63,600 to pay for essential expenses such as housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

I dare you to follow mothers like Latifa from the moment they wake up to the moment they lay their heads down at night to sleep. You would not meet lazy or bad mothers, but women who work hard to put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads.

Latifa—like  many of our parent leaders I work with every day—would excel and thrive if only she had secure, well-paying employment, access to quality, affordable childcare and a safety net to help her out when she needed it the most.

Unfortunately, resources that would provide a bridge from poverty to economic security have been drastically cut, forcing parents back into the system and back into the cycle of poverty. We need to convince the Legislature to restore these vital programs so that low-income mothers can return on the path towards economic security.

mary-ignatiusMary Ignatius is the Statewide Organizer of Parent Voices (PV), a California Child Care Resource & Referral Network project and parent-led grassroots organization fighting to make quality child care accessible and affordable for all families.

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