We build women’s collective power in the U.S.

July 21, 2022

Grantee Partner Spotlight: National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

by Isra Pananon Weeks

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) Interim Executive Director & Chief of Staff Isra Pananon Weeks.

NAPAWF works to build a movement for social, political, and structural change for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls. NAPAWF is a Safety, Health, and Economic (S.H.E.) grantee partner.

What brought you to this work?

I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, which is why I’ve dedicated my career to all forms of service: military, government, and nonprofits. My dad passed away three years ago and I recently lost my grandmother last December. Their lived experiences and stories live on through me, and I want to make sure I honor their lives through advocacy and education. When I think about our work, I see my grandmother, my mother, and all the strong aunties who raised a generation of fighters.

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Key partners?

Our organizers are the heart of our model, leading canvassing teams that reach out to our communities in their native languages. NAPAWF brings reproductive justice expertise to the AAPI community and strives to ensure that the most impacted and vulnerable are represented in spaces like meetings with the White House and elected officials. Recently, we organized an abortion solidary petition where anyone – individual and organization – can show support for our right to reproductive justice and the freedom to grow the families of our choice, to thrive, and to live healthy lives.

What are you learning or what are you teaching?

These past few years have been so hard. We’ve dealt with the pandemic, racial violence, and a world that is extremely volatile. I’m still learning lessons to this day, however, these past few years taught me that system changes require emotional labor, time, vulnerability, and trust. We have to dig deep and get messy and try new things. Challenges need to be met with openness, reflection, and boldness.

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

The Dobbs decision is something we’ve been preparing for over the course of a few months. I’m proud of our team for springing into action and getting the word out about how this will impact AAPI women. To me, a victory is not always a concrete achievement. It’s the day-to-day work and effort, in difficult circumstances, when the stakes are high and so personal.

What do you need from funders or how can people help?

Funders have the power, capacity, and capability to bring people together. Leadership and movement work can feel lonely, which is why we need to come together and have a forum to tackle problems in community and solidarity. We also need to be funded for multiple years to ensure our programs have the time and resources to succeed. Our work doesn’t start and end in a year, it takes time to develop relationships with the most impacted and vulnerable.

What gives you hope?

Hope is easy to lose, but also not hard to find. My colleagues give me hope. We live in dark times and they’ve shown they are ready and willing to fight the good fight knowing it may end in a loss. They don’t quit, as this is deeply personal for them. Hope is fueled by teamwork, joining side by side to protect our right to govern our own bodies.