Students and members of the community gathered for a brief teach-in led by Ai-jen Poo and Cathy Betts outside the Richardson School of Law on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UH) campus mid-afternoon on Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Ai-jen Poo, founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award is the current Daniel and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals. She has been teaching at UH and advocating for the passage of SB534/HB607, the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance bill. She believes it will lay the foundation for the building of a care infrastructure to address the needs of Hawaiʻi seniors and their family caregivers. It could also be a model for the rest of the nation.
Cathy Betts is the Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status of Women and has testified in support of the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance bill. Unpaid caregiving in Hawaiʻi as elsewhere, falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women who experience most of the physical, emotional and financial impacts of caregiving. Betts has also been advocating for paid family leave in HI, another key component in ensuring everyone receives quality care and that people leaving the workforce to provide care have access to paid leave and job protection.
UH Mānoa, student, Catherine Taylon, shared her own anxieties about how she and her sister will manage caregiving for her mother when the time comes. Her mother currently works at two jobs while also looking after her parents. “The Kupuna Caregivers Assistance bill is so important as we think about the future that awaits all of us,” she said.
Both Ai-jen Poo and Cathy Betts spoke out about the intersectional politics of care work and gender justice. In the face of daily attacks from the Trump administration, they encouraged their audience to fight back for bold, progressive social change at the state and local levels.
All three speakers emphasized that caregiving is an intergenerational challenge in which women are bearing the heaviest load. “Caregivers are among the lowest paid workers and yet they do such important work for those we love. We need to begin to address that challenge by passing the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance bill this session,” said Ai-jen Poo.
For more information, please go to care4kupuna.com