Complicit in The Oppression of Your Constituency: Open Letter to the New York State Department of Health and New York City Council

Ynanna Djehuty
Posted June 24, 2016 from United States

To The New York State Department of Health and New York City Council:

The Bronx needs doulas. There is a serious lack of access to these services for women inthe Bronx for a multitude of reasons, the main one being that they live in some of the poorestcongressional districts in this country. For this fact and more, the Healthy Women HealthyFutures programcame as a welcomed solution. Women from the Bronx and other boroughs weremoved to receive birth and/or postpartum doula training so that they could serve women in theircommunities. Many of us are mothers ourselves and understand the necessity of having thisinvaluable support in communities that do not foster healthy families. All of us have givencountless hours helping women through this significant part of their lives. To be able to continuegiving quality care to our fellow women, we demand the agreed upon compensation for our workimmediately, both retroactively and currently.

My understanding since the winter of 2014is thatbureaucratic barriers have kept this project from reaching its full potential, which includespaying the doulas recruited for the initiative in a timely fashion. I have also understood that the New York City Council agreed to provide this funding and the Department of Health is responsible for releasing the money to the appropriate organizations. Therefore, everyone involved is responsible for this delay by their negligence. We are infuriated with the lackof progress, and find it inappropriate to be continually asked to volunteer our time forcompensation that will be given at some undetermined time. First and foremost, it isunprofessional to offer compensation to anyone and lack follow through nor a set timeline forexpected payment. Secondly, the women that this project seeks to help can easily be one of thedoulas. We are community members and experience the same financial barriers that ourconstituents do. Because of the systemic disparities, we also are surviving on public assistanceand struggle to make ends meet. To block and delay our rightful compensation is to keep everywoman and family connected to this project at a deficit. Intentionally or not, this type of behaviorkeeps the very boroughs and people meant to be assisted impoverished and with no resources. Why do you claim to want to uplift the Bronx if you cannot properly see to it that we all get our basic needs met? Furthermore, repeatedly asking for our rightful compensation is dehumanizing. It has been painful to continually show up to meetings and get inadequate answers about our compensation. “Eventually” would never work for any of you. If your biweekly checks were held up, you too would be up in arms. What’s the difference? Is it a class issue? Do you see us as less valuable and less human, or less deserving of ensuring our own survival in such difficult conditions?

This great project has not been given a fair chance to thrive ­ and you are all responsible, be itwith your silence or having no sense of urgency.We are demanding that the funds be released to the partnering organizations, includingBronx Health Link, within 24 hours of receiving this letter. If the grant money is for some reasonunavailable, we demand the discretionary funds of every organization involved, and this includes the Department of Health and City Council, be tapped into tosolve this problem immediately. To even dare ask ethnically diverse women to volunteer theirtime and effort is offensive given the legacy of violent colonialism, racism, economic exile fromour homelands, and insidious man­made impoverishment. This type of exploitation is cheatingboth doulas and families of the potential of this great program. We demand our humanity behonored by ensuring our means of survival, in this society being money, is made available so thatwe doulas can in turn contribute significantly to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality,cesarean sections, postpartum depression and restoring humane treatment in labor and childbirth.

Comments 1

    Jun 26, 2016
    Jun 26, 2016

    This was so beautifully written and your statement "To even dare ask ethnically diverse women to volunteer their time and effort is offensive given the legacy of violent colonialism, racism, economic exile from our homelands, and insidious man­made impoverishment" is so powerful.

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