By Naeisha Rose
Trailblazers were honored Saturday Douglaston Manor by the Center for the Women of New York during the non-profit’s 30th anniversary celebration.
Ann Juliano Jawin founded CWNY in October 1987 to empower women and support their career goals by providing essential resources.
The luncheon honored six “Women of Distinction” and three “Good Guys” who are committed to making significant contributions to equal rights for women.
“We aim to be a one-stop resource center for women,” Jawin said. “We serve women of all ages and diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The center seeks out to help women in a holistic way.”
The center, which is based in Borough Hall, provides legal services, support groups, clinical services, job help, financial services and equal rights advocacy. In addition, it aids female veterans, women who have been forced into sex trafficking and women who have experienced domestic violence.
One of the guest speakers at the event was Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Little Neck).
These women are “doctors, they fight for reproductive rights, work on financial issues, they work in education and politics,” Suozzi said.
Two women’s rights pioneers were among the honorees.
Helping women in the financial sector was Carole De Saram, who worked on Wall Street and participated in the Women’s March in 1970.
The next year, she joined the National Organization for Women and asked what she could do to help.
“It only took two years for these institutions to realize that women make up 52 percent of the population,” De Saram said. “They were terrorized that unions will organize, so they started making changes.” Fighting for women’s healthcare was pioneer Merle Hoffman, who in 1971, established one of the country’s first abortion centers, Choices Women’s Medical Center, in New York City.
“We see up to 40 thousand people a year,” Hoffman said. “But I can’t say I am for choices if I only give abortions. We also have one of the largest prenatal care programs, too.
For 14 years former state Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carrozza designed bills to protect seniors against consumer fraud and provide quality longtime care. She also fought for consumers against insurance companies.
“What I learned from Ann is that she refuses to acknowledge the word ‘no’,” Carrozza said. “I found strength from Ann.”
Malini Shah, a teacher in New York by way of India, also had a powerful woman in her corner that stirred her into joining the women’s movement.
“I was very inspired by a very strong woman, Indira Ghandi,” said Shah, who spent time with the former Indian Prime Minister and discussed what they could do to help others.
Breaking ground for women in medicine was Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur.
She had one year to prove to her medical professors at Mount Sinai that she was meant to be a doctor.
“After three weeks, one professor pulled me aside and said, ‘You are female, you are foreign, and you are Jewish. How did you get to be this great?’ I said I don’t know, but now I have been there for 40 years.”
The sixth woman to be recognized at the event was Yoselin Genao-Estrella, who serves as the executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services.
“I am grateful to so many wonderful women who have fought, and now we are sitting on their shoulders,” Genao-Estrella said.
The “Good Guys” honored at the event were Rev. Ned Wight, who has fought for progressive social change; Queens civic leader Harbachan Singh; and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills).
Hevesi has proposed legislation to use $2.5 billion in capital funding for affordable housing programs. He was also newly appointed to the Domestic Violence Task Force and is working to stop human trafficking in the city.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose