At its October Retreat and Policy meeting on October 24, the Veatch Board of Governors was honored to welcome and meet with Martha Maffei and Dilcia Erazo from new Long Island-based Veatch grantee, SEPA Mujer, to learn more about the organization’s important work. SEPA Mujer empowers Latina women, primarily immigrant women who have faced violence and discrimination to organize for systems change for themselves and their communities.
Martha Maffei has served as Executive Director of SEPA Mujer since 2008. Martha is nationally recognized for her research and analysis, and for designing and implementing SEPA Mujer’s model programs, which are dedicated to developing leadership skills through education and empowerment. She described for the Governors how SEPA Mujer moves women from: victims, to survivors, to leaders. They do this through an intentional process of meeting immediate needs with needed legal and other services, educating women to see their situations in the context of oppressive social and political systems, and training them to bring their needs and solutions to Albany and Washington D.C. Throughout this process, SEPA Mujer places a strong emphasis on engaging and uplifting its members through cultural programming and positive community building.
Dilcia Erazo, a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, witnessed her parents’ arduous journey to become naturalized citizens in the United States—helping spark her interest in the field of immigrant rights. As SEPA Mujer’s Equity and Community Empowerment Organizer, Dilcia conducts community outreach and develops leaders to support efforts to end violence against immigrant women and girls on the East End of Suffolk. She also oversees GIRLS A.C.T.—the organization’s youth empowerment program—through all five chapter locations in Suffolk County.
Dilcia shared stories with the Governors of SEPA Mujer members who gained opportunities to bring their lived experience to issue campaigns and to motivating other women to become a part of a growing movement for change. SEPA Mujer serves as a political home and safe haven for immigrant women to feel less alone, to learn skills, and to find their voice as organizers and advocates.
SEPA Mujer is an integral partner on Long Island with other Veatch grantees who are fighting for statewide policies to support immigrant rights. It has helped to win drivers’ licenses for immigrants and during COVID, unemployment benefits for undocumented workers. Veatch currently dedicates $1.5 million to 25 organizations in New York State, eight of which are on Long Island. SEPA Mujer is a former grantee of the regranting program supported by Veatch funds at the Long Island Community Foundation, the Long Island UU Fund. Its success, and the many ways in which it reflects UU values, is a wonderful example of how Veatch cultivates and sustains the power of leadership and social justice organizing right in our own backyard.