Rita Henley Jenson on The Women’s Beat: Rape, Murder, Sex for Hire, Lousy Pay and Power Trips

By Koedi Shakir, Contributing Writer

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Rita Henley Jenson spoke about women in the media last week.
Photo Credit: Koedi Shakir

Rita Henley Jenson, founder of Women’s eNews, paid a visit to the Montclair State to share her personal journey with students and spread the word about women’s injustices on Oct. 28.
She started the program by telling the audience about the day that she hitchhiked to Ohio State University with her two young children to enroll as a student. She was a low-income single mother who had faced domestic violence for six years.

Still, it took Jenson some time to get back on her feet after experiencing a lifestyle that could have torn her family apart. She worked towards earning her journalism degree from Ohio State University and later went on to receive her graduate degree from Columbia University.

“We had programs at Ohio State University, programs to support low-income people who might have the capacity to got to college,” said Jenson. “So, I took some tests and my tuition was paid for by the state. I majored in journalism because it was so much fun.”

Jenson had a fire burning inside of her. She was determined to be a successful journalist and work hard. She landed her first job not far from the campus of Montclair State, in Paterson, N.J. From her life before and during college, she had so much experience in the real world that many people confided in her.

After discussing her background, Jenson went on to describe the details of women who are struggling financially. “85 percent of adults on welfare are women taking care of children,” said Jenson.

In such regard, Jenson had the opportunity to create a website that would cover news about women’s issues, a job that she found perfect for her background. “If you talk about women in poverty and federal legislation that fails to recognize and support their needs, you have to talk about violence against women, lack of childcares and wages,” she said. From this opportunity, Jenson was able to bring her news website, Women’s eNews, to life in 2000.

Women’s eNews has a program called “Teen Voices,” which is partnered with a school in Kenya called Daraja Academy. There, the students are able to write about what they are going through. “It’s always powerful,” said Jenson.

She then continued her presentation by straining the importance of black women’s health. “Too many young African American women die giving birth or [in] birth-related  [incidents] and it’s preventable,” she said. “50 percent [of childbirth-related deaths] are preventable.”

In the end, Jenson called for action on behalf of her fellow woman sitting in the audience.

“Young mothers are the heart and soul of the community,” said Jenson. “You don’t want young mothers to die. It’s not poverty. It’s preexisting conditions. It’s probably poor medical care.”

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