LifeWire Communications and Events Manager Plays Key Role in Passing the Female Genital Mutilation Bill at the Washington State Legislature

In a significant victory for women’s rights and the global fight against gender-based violence in Washington State, the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Bill sponsored by Senators Keiser, Dhingra, Cleveland, Nguyen, Saldaña, and Valdez was successfully passed and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on April 20, 2023. This accomplishment was largely due to the tireless efforts of community members and state legislators who share a commitment to autonomy and bodily integrity for women and girls.

Sukai Gaye, LifeWire Communications and Events Manager

Sukai Gaye, Communications and Events Manager at LifeWire, is a member of the Washington Coalition to End Female Genital Mutilation, which consists of women’s rights organizations, survivor-led groups, and advocates who worked closely with lawmakers. The Coalition led a powerful campaign that emphasized the need for legislative action to protect girls and women from the irreversible physical and psychological harm caused by FGM. Introduced to the WA Coalition to End FGM by her friend Absa Samba, a survivor and leader of the coalition, Sukai’s relentless efforts, alongside the collective dedication of the coalition, advocates, and allies, led to the successful passage of the FGM Bill

Governor Inslee with members of the WA Coalition to End FGM

Female Genital Mutilation, a harmful practice that adversely affects millions of girls and women worldwide, has become a growing concern for human rights advocates. Recognizing the urgency to protect vulnerable individuals in Washington State, Sukai committed herself to raising awareness, driving legislative action, and mobilizing support for the bill.

The newly enacted legislation not only criminalizes the practice of FGM but also establishes comprehensive support systems for survivors and preventive measures to eradicate this harmful tradition. Under this law, severe penalties await anyone found guilty of performing FGM or assisting in its execution, thus ensuring a stronger deterrent against this human rights violation.

The enactment of this legislation represents a milestone in the fight against FGM, positioning Washington State as the 41st state and a progressive leader in safeguarding the rights and well-being of women and girls. It serves as a testament to the power of grassroots activism, effective communication, and collaboration between community organizations and lawmakers.

Sukai, driven by her dedication to promoting gender equality and ending violence against women, played a pivotal role in garnering bipartisan support for the bill. Her passionate advocacy helped shape a compelling narrative around the urgency of the issue, collaborating with the Coalition to End FGM and rallying lawmakers to take action.

LifeWire provided support to Sukai in raising awareness about FGM and its detrimental effects on women and girls within the organization. The organization ensured Sukai had the necessary support to carry out her advocacy work and amplified her voice. She kept the progress of the legislation at the forefront of organizational discourse in All Staff meetings and in LifeWire’s Advocacy Team which Sukai co-chairs with DEIB Manager Freddy Vega.

As LifeWire celebrates this momentous achievement, Sukai continues her crucial work in promoting gender equality, supporting survivors, and advocating for policies that safeguard the rights and dignity of women. Her commitment to social justice sets an inspiring example for individuals and organizations alike, reaffirming LifeWire’s belief that positive change is possible through persistent advocacy and shared action.


New Washington State Laws Relating to Reproductive Health Services and Gender-Affirming Care

LifeWire welcomes and supports the recent enactment of a groundbreaking law by the Washington State Legislature in 2023, aimed at safeguarding the rights of people seeking reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment. The legislation comes as a response to the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, emphasizing the importance of states having the authority to establish their laws pertaining to reproductive rights. The new law, known as HB 1469 or The Shield Law, aims to protect access to essential healthcare services in Washington.

Effective April 27, 2023, The Shield Law (HB 1469) provides comprehensive protections for providers of reproductive health care services or gender-affirming treatment in Washington state. This law ensures that these essential services are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their location or circumstances.

Protected healthcare services under HB 1469 encompass a wide range of medical, surgical, psychiatric, therapeutic, and preventative care related to the human reproductive system. This includes services such as pregnancy-related care, contraception, miscarriage management, termination of pregnancy, and gender-affirming treatment.

One of the key provisions of The Shield Law is its prohibition on complying with out-of-state legal processes concerning protected healthcare services in Washington. This protection extends to both civil and criminal processes, ensuring that patients and providers in Washington state are shielded from potential legal actions in other states that may threaten their access to these vital services.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office is empowered to intervene in case of violations and enforce the established protections. Healthcare providers, employees, or affiliates facing threats or harassment related to their involvement in protected healthcare services can now apply for address confidentiality through the Secretary of State’s Address Confidentiality Program.

The passage of HB 1469 reflects Washington State’s commitment to safe and inclusive healthcare policies by safeguarding access to healthcare services and gender-affirming care without fear of legal repercussions. This law helps to ensure that Washington will remain a supportive healthcare environment that upholds the well-being and dignity of all.

LifeWire fully supports these legislative measures, as they align with our mission to empower survivors of domestic violence and ensure their access to comprehensive and compassionate care. At LifeWire, we remain dedicated to fostering a safe and supportive community where all individuals have access to the services they need for a healthier and more fulfilling life.

References:

  • HB 1469 – Concerning access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment in Washington state.
  • Title 7 RCW – Sections 1, 2, and 13-17 of HB 1469 will be codified as a new chapter in Title 7.
  • RCW 9.02 – Reproductive Privacy Act

Meet LifeWire’s Dynamic Leaders: Housing and Services Directors

Alexis Harden, LifeWire Housing Director, and Liv Montgomery, LifeWire Services Director photographed with Valarie Buford and Karlah Ramírez-Tánori
Alexis Harden, LifeWire Housing Director, and Liv Montgomery, LifeWire Services Director, photographed with Valarie Buford and Karlah Ramírez-Tánori

We are excited to announce that we have successfully transitioned our Survivor Driven Services to a shared leadership structure between Olivia Montgomery, our new Services Director, and Alexis Harden, in a newly created position, Housing Director. By replicating our co-leadership model for our survivor-facing services, we have divided responsibilities between advocacy response and housing programs. Leveraging and braiding the wealth of experience in community research and racial and gender advocacy that Olivia brings to the role, with the extensive knowledge in local youth and family housing interventions Alexis holds, this partnership has been seamlessly working with our staff community to assess, align and enhance our shared commitment to survivors.

The benefits of this change have been quick and consistent over the last few months with a breadth of successes, including new and re-imagined partnerships with organizations like 4Tomorrow, the only culturally specific DV organization in Bellevue serving Latinx survivors, as well as For Goodness Cakes, an organization both feeding and feeding-into the development of youth in Washington. In addition, strategic changes have been made to our internal staffing structure to remove barriers, exponentially increasing response times for all survivors seeking services

For survivors, these changes show up as in-person family support for families in our housing programs. Families have enjoyed building community through outings to the aquarium, zoo, and museum, as well as participating in LifeWire’s survivor-centered BBQs, complete with food, games, and prizes. And, in our newly organized office space equipped with a resource room stocked with hygiene items, diapers, and children’s art supplies. We look forward to future developments and are thankful to Olivia and Alexis for their commitment to collective leadership and leading efforts to open a path to safety, stability, and healing for all survivors and their families.