All girls and young women must have a fair chance to succeed, and our city must be proactive when it comes to ensuring their success, well-being and safety. That’s why the Speaker and Council have developed and invested in new policies and initiatives over the past year aimed at producing better outcomes for them and, in turn, our entire city.
Our commitment to gender equity must be reflected in our government structures. In 2016, the Council passed legislation to make the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity a permanent part of the Administration. The Council’s bill calls for the Commission to study the nature and extent of inequities facing women and girls in the City, as well as the impact of these inequities on their economic, civic, and social well-being. The bill also requires that the Commission submit an annual report to the Mayor and Speaker on its activities for the previous year, goals for the following year, and recommendations for the reduction of gender-based inequality.
All young women have the right to feel safe and must have access to opportunities and services that will help them succeed. Speaker Mark-Viverito launched the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) to convene young women, service providers, and city agencies in producing recommendations to address the unmet needs of young women of color, ages 12 to 24. Last year, YWI released a report with over 100 recommendations and the Council committed $10 million over two years for implementation. Our financial commitment was matched by philanthropic partners and this model is being replicated in other parts of the country.
Mothers who are breastfeeding also have a right to express milk in a clean and convenient enviornment. That is why we passed legislation to provide additional lactation rooms in the City and to require the availability of these rooms at job centers, SNAP centers, health centers, and medical assistance program centers. The City is also required to create a list of all public spaces with lactation rooms and to make this list available at nyc.gov.
While New York’s violent crimes rate has steadily fallen, domestic violence has remained stubbornly high. As a means of identifying better solutions, the Council passed legislation requiring improved data reporting related to domestic violence, including domestic violence committed on New York City Housing Authority properties.
In legislation that drew national attention, the Council passed a bill requiring that feminine hygiene products be provided free of charge in public schools, homeless shelters, and NYC Department of Correction facilities. We also successfully petitioned the State to exempt feminine hygiene products from state and local sales taxes.