February is Black History Month, and this year, as we look towards the progress still left to be made towards racial and economic justice in this country, we are recognizing the gains that we have achieved with the dynamic support of our Southern partners. We understand that it is imperative to work closely alongside and follow the guidance of Black women leadership in assessing the structural change Black working women and their families still need in order to thrive.
As our partners at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia highlighted during a Maternal Health Awareness Day event we joined last month, supportive policies like paid family and medical leave, maternal mental health supports, and access to quality healthcare play an important role in supporting the health and economic wellbeing of Black mothers—many of whom serve as key breadwinners in their families. Research clearly shows that access to paid leave following childbirth is beneficial to both infant and maternal health outcomes, and yet these lifeline policies still remain inaccessible to many working Black women.
This lack of structural supports for working Black women can also contribute to disparities in health outcomes during pregnancy. “How do we make sure that we continue to address those negative maternal health outcomes? We do that through advocacy,” said ABB Senior Staff Attorney Kameron Dawson in her remarks at the Georgia event, pointing to the recent passage of the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which guarantees reasonable accommodations for pregnant and postpartum workers nationwide and will go into effect later this June, as one critical victory exemplifying the power of working with Georgia-based coalition partners to highlight the need for this law in Southern states lacking state-level protections.
Last month, we also joined the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable for their annual legislative advocacy day at the Mississippi State Capitol, where we spoke alongside other advocates and leaders about the need for supportive workplace policies to protect the health and economic security of families in the South, particularly families of color. “Families shouldn’t have to choose between taking care of their child and their loved ones, and putting food on the table,” said Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, who highlighted the need for paid family and medical leave and paid sick time for all workers. It remains clear that making these workplace supports accessible to all workers is a key building block for ensuring health and economic wellbeing for working Black women and their families, as well as for generations of children to come.
As we celebrate Black History Month and look ahead towards Women’s History Month in March, we remain committed to working closely with our Black women-led partner organizations as we fight for a more just and equitable future, now and year-round.