Martha Maffei, Executive Director of SEPA Mujer, Services for the Advancement of Women. 

SEPA Mujer is a community-based non-profit dedicated to the empowerment of Latina immigrant women through education and advocacy, legal rights and leadership skills training, and community organizing.  It was founded in 1993 by a group of Long Island women, both immigrants and advocates, to educate, support and organize with a single purpose – to improve their conditions as one of the most vulnerable groups on Long Island and across the country.

Our grant from WFLI has supported SEPA Mujer’s Women’s Network in Action, a program that educates, empowers and connects Latinas on Long Island. Few Long Islanders know how much immigrant women on Long Island are suffering, especially in isolated areas like the East End. They experience discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and domestic violence. They’re unaware of their rights, suffer from embarrassment and fear their legal status. They think being harassed at work or being paid $5 an hour is normal. These women are very much on their own and feel alone. Through our grant we transport these women to meetings, provide training and give them an opportunity to open up about their experiences. Working in groups of 10-15 women has proven to be so effective – they learn the laws, become empowered and learn how to protect themselves.
Four of the women recently traveled to Albany to lobby for the Women’s Equality Act. We were so proud of them as they made a compelling case for the minimum wage, domestic violence protection and passionately discussed human trafficking and discrimination. They are now senior leaders in their communities. One of them has a 4th grade son who was so proud of his mother and impressed with what she did that he told his teacher, “My mom went all the way to Albany and spoke with important people who will help my people to be better. She is helping to protect us.
Through our work and the help provided by WFLI’s grant, women are learning to stand up for themselves while helping their families and their communities. WFLI has empowered our women with pride and knowledge.