My Name Is Not ‘Ma’: Why Street Harassment Is Everyone’s Problem

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post*

god bless u

Image courtesy of Rob Bliss/Hollaback

If you’ve ever walked down a NYC block it is likely that you’ve heard “Hey yo, ma, can I holler at you for a sec?” or “ Damn, ma, you’re fine,” or “God bless you, ma,” or “But why aren’t you smiling?” as if women walk around all day smiling for no reason at all. If you haven’t been the victim of catcalling, then consider yourself lucky, but the reality for many women is that they’ve experienced some form of street harassment.

We are disrespected almost every day by men who feel they have a right to talk to us, approach us, or even go so far as to touch us without permission. Men, who believe we should feel flattered because they’ve noticed us or given us a compliment. From the time a woman walks out the door of her home in the morning, be it walking to the corner bodega or to school, she is forced to dodge the unsolicited advances from men just to keep herself safe and we are taught do so from a very early age.

By the time a young girl hits puberty she is faced with having to deal with unwanted sexual attention and harassment by her peers and older men alike. As she gets older and enters womanhood the harassment continues, and instead of educating boys and men on how to treat women, women are taught to accept and deal with it. It’s the reason we cross to the other side of the street when we see a group of men together. It’s the reason why we’ll speed walk like we’re preparing for an event at the next Olympic Games when a man approaches and begins walking alongside us. We’ve been taught to ignore it while our male counterparts haven’t been taught anything at all.

Women are not afforded the opportunity to express their feelings when confronted with harassment. Why? Because a woman who defends herself or vocalizes her discomfort risks the chance of the incident escalating by either being verbally abused by the harasser or even experiencing a possible physical threat. Because you know, “You wasn’t all that anyway, b*tch.” The thing is, women have a right to defend themselves and click here to read the rest

The Mamí Chronicles: Family, Career, & Personal Fulfillment- How to juggle it all

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. Most of us want it all, but many women struggle with the idea of having it all and often find themselves having to choose between having a happy fulfilled family life and having an equally thriving career. As a woman who has both, I don’t subscribe to the notion that we have to choose. In fact, I feel strongly that we can have both. It is one of the principles that my organization The Fierce Woman is built upon.

The key to having it all, in my opinion, is:

  1. Time management
  2. Delegating
  3. Learning to set boundaries

No job/career should demand 24 hours of your time, even if you are an entrepreneur. There has to come a point when you are closed for business. There may be instances where something out of the ordinary arises that may require you to work after business hours, but that should be the exception not the rule. The same applies if you work for an organization and are in a leadership position. There will be times when an emergency occurs that requires your input or a last minute decision that needs to be made, but these instances should not be the norm. If they are, then some operational streamlining and revamping may need to be done. You have to start asking yourself “Why can’t this operation function without my 24 hour input?” As leaders, one of our responsibilities is to build a well functioning team (both in business and at a home). Meaning, that business should be able to run smoothly without your 24 hour presence being needed.

You have to learn how to put value on your time, delegate when necessary, and establish clear boundaries. Once you do, you then have to educate everyone on your team when it is acceptable and unacceptable to cross those boundaries. If you don’t start valuing and respecting your own time no one else will either. You know that saying “We teach others how to treat us”? Well, that applies to our time as well.

Building a great team is no easy feat, but once you do, it makes your life that much easier. You have to recognize the strengths of the individuals on your team (both at home and in business) and then delegate tasks accordingly so that you don’t get left doing all the work. At home, the household chores are split 50/50 between my husband and myself and as my daughters get older (3 yrs old and 5 months old) they will be assigned age appropriate chores and responsibilities.

When one person is left to do all the work you face the risk of burning them out and you also put at risk the quality of the work. Can you imagine if only one person was responsible for building a car or a plane? For one, it would take months possibly even years before one was completed and secondly the quality would also be affected because no one person has the expertise on every part that goes into making a car or a plane. Being able to leverage the expertise and talents of the members on your team is what will make your business successful.

When you divide the work, you as the matriarch and head of the family do not have to carry the load alone. Splitting up the work allows everyone to work as part of a team and helps to make them feel valuable. You want them to feel like their contributions matter. No one likes to be told what to do 100% of the time.

Effective leaders know how to relinquish power and empower those who work for them. I find this to be particularly true at home raising my girls because even though my oldest daughter is only 3 she enjoys helping me. It makes her feel important and proud when she is assigned a chore and completes it. When she asks to help me around the house I let her. Even if I have to redo what she did, I want her to always feel like her contribution matters.

So when people ask me “how do you manage it all?” I say, “By making the most of every second of every day.”

Time management, delegating, and setting boundaries is how I have been able to accomplish everything I’ve always set my mind to do. I may not be able to do it all, but when I plan (as best as I can), delegate, and set boundaries I can definitely have it all and I’m enjoying life in the process.

Cedarmore Corporation’s Girlz Talk 2016


On April 30th,  I along with other equally inspiring women, had the opportunity to speak and share my work with over 400 young girls from the NY Tri-State area at the Cedarmore Corporation’s annual Girlz Talk event.

The Cedarmore Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving youth and families across Long Island, holds a youth empowerment event every year, that is strictly for young ladies. Through interactive workshops, dynamic keynotes and other creative executions, Girlz Talk, which is promoted as a day of critical and culturally relevant conversations, is designed to educate and empower young ladies from diverse communities, ages 12-18+.

Girlz Talk seeks to narrow the information gap that exists in their lives by addressing the most pressing issues that girls face as they continue to grow and develop.  Some of the topics on the agenda included Education Attainment and Income, College Preparedness, Self Esteem, Goal Setting, Decision Making, Personal Branding, Mental Illness and Developing Healthy Relationships and more.

When I arrived Saturday morning at Hofstra University I was very excited to meet the young ladies and share my work with them.  The Manifest Your Life Vision Board Workshop  I facilitated was full to capacity. Many of the young ladies who attended had never created a vision board before and those who had were only familiar with gluing images on a poster board, not realizing how important it is to actually write down their goals.

One of  the exercises I do at my vision board workshops is have the participants write out three goals they want to accomplish and then list the steps they think they need to take to accomplish them. I had the girls complete the exercise because I wanted to teach them that it’s important to create a road map of where they want to be and how they’re going to get there. Without a plan it is very easy to get sidetracked.

Most of us have dreams, but many of us don’t know where to begin or how to take that first step. This workshop was focused very specifically on helping the young ladies identify their dreams and then taking that dream and breaking it down into smaller,  more manageable goals.  Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, or annually all successful people set goals. They wake up each morning with a to-do-list and begin tackling each item until it is completed.

Successful people wake up and they’ve already planned their day, while unsuccessful people are scrambling to figure out what they need to do next. Their goals are very specific, big yet attainable and are aligned to their strengths. Knowing where your strengths lie is key to achieving success. Know what you are capable of and invest all of your efforts in it, avoiding your weaknesses. Your dream is your destination, your goals are the road map that will get you there.

For more info on the Cedarmore Corporation’s Girlz Talk event visit their Facebook page.

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2016 FIERCE Woman of The Year Honoree: Emani Davis

Emani Davis

Emani Davis


I’m excited to share that The Fierce Woman​ has selected Emani Davis as it’s third and last honoree for the 2016 FIERCE Woman of the Year award. 

Emani Davis is the co-creator and partner at Life.Beautiful Event Planning, serving Westchester County, NYC and the Tristate area. Over the years Emani has grown a commendable portfolio in social work relating to family counseling, rights of the child, rehabilitation and community leadership in New York and California. Staying true to her mission, Life.Beautiful is committed to serving clients whose work expresses the company’s commitment to social justice and equality.

Prior to launching Life.Beautiful, Emani was an independent consultant, providing criminal justice related consulting services to various agencies and programs in New York and California. She has been an advocate for the rights of children of incarcerated parents and in 2004 was the first American nominated for the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child for her work on behalf of children of prisoners.

Emani has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with a concentration in African Studies from Manhattanville College, NY, certifications in health education and massage therapy from the National Holistic Institute (2005, CA) and is a certified facilitator of Framework for Breaking Barriers and Framework for Recovery, cognitive restructuring programs (2006, Gordon Graham and Company). She has taught parenting classes for fathers in New York State prisons and Rikers Island, and in various prisons throughout the U.S. Her training and experience has helped her to successfully prepare incarcerated fathers to take a responsible role in raising their children from prison and following release.

In addition to her academic and teaching portfolio Emani has led the implementation of new program initiatives nationally, including a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents in northern California and a defender-based advocacy program for parents in San Francisco, as well as C.A.S.A.’s Project Family Connect in New York City’s Family Courts. She has provided a wide range of youth and children’s services in East Oakland and Richmond, CA including direct case management services, violence interruption, and gang intervention. Emani also provided training and technical assistance to the Oakland Police Department on youth violence related issues.

When asked how she uses her platform to inspire and empower other women Emani says:

“Representation is a form of social justice, but that is where we start, it is not where we end. In the event planning industry, there are few women of color. Therefore, when any of us do anything, we have to be responsible for the precedent we set. Still, we are able to infuse a knowing about the people that our clients serve so that we can create an experience that is culturally relevant and necessary. Thus, we must be thoughtful of the work that we do and share. At the same time, we align ourselves with causes we believe in; causes that make our communities and ultimately, the world, better and more inclusive.

Every interaction we have with other women is based on possibility because we know that we’ve done something that many women do not give themselves permission to do. I never miss an opportunity to let a woman know that I am a business owner. I want women, especially women of color, to know that it’s for us, too. It’s not just reserved for well-to-do women. In doing this, I hope to inspire women to know that whatever their abilities and talents, business ownership is possible. We reject the gendered notion that women are supposed to think, live, dream and play small.

Similarly, our intention and presence gives others permission to see themselves living out their dreams while using their gifts for the greater good. I started this business as a single mother. As mothers, we are now responsible for the lives of others. I know that this responsibility often discourages women from taking risks. But even through the fear and financial anxiety, motherhood can serve as motivation and inspiration to pursue your dreams. It makes me proud that my daughter is growing up knowing that her mother is a business owner. She is provided with a firsthand example of what fierce dreaming and goal setting can mean for her own life.

2016 FIERCE Woman of the YEAR Honoree: Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado, is a Dominicana from Brooklyn who works as a College Counselor, helping to change the landscape for students of color attending institutions of higher learning. She works for the Young Women’s Leadership Network, College Bound Initiative program. Mariela chose to work at a middle school and high school located in the same neighborhood she grew up in. She was born in the Dominican Republic and raised between the Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She is able to pour her passion and experience into the work she does with students because she grew up with the same obstacles and circumstances they currently fight against.


Mariela Regalado2

Mariela was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” in Education in the series created by the New York Daily News. The Daily News presents the Hometown Heroes in Education to showcase NYC educators who display generosity, compassion, dedication, selflessness and ingenuity. She was nominated for the award by Johileny Meran, a former student, and homeless teen with Cerebral Palsy. Johileny currently attends NYU and lives on campus on a full scholarship thanks to the guidance of Mariela in helping her craft a winning application and apply for financial aid.

Mariela & student Johileny

Mariela & student Johileny Meran

Last Fall, she was presented the award by James Milliken, the Chancellor of CUNY. A large percentage of her students attend CUNY schools, while 95% of her graduating class attends college upon graduation. During her birthday she was given the honor of introducing Mayor Bill De Blasio for his press conference on “Education & Equity”. It was because of her personal story and her work as a college counselor.

She was inspired by her 7th grade ELA teacher to write. Recognizing the importance of giving students a safe space to create and find themselves through Art, she co-facilitates creative writing and poetry workshops.  She hosts these monthly workshops with “Brooklyn Gypsies” at the Brooklyn Public Library for teens to unlock their creativity and strengthen elements of style. She is also a member of the Full Circle Ensemble and has performed with them in several events at the National Black Theater in Harlem. Mariela is currently working on documenting her multidimensional experience through bilingual poetry and prose. She is a daughter, sister, friend, counselor, mentee and mentor, foodie, writer, Latina, and the proud mom of a Pomeranian Yorkie named Lola.


2016 FIERCE Woman of the YEAR Honoree: Gloria Rodriguez

gloria rodriguezGloria M. Rodríguez, is the Founder & Director of DeAlmas Women’s Institute, a community-based organization launched in 1998. Literally meaning “of the soul”, DeAlmas is dedicated to providing women the opportunity to reclaim, honor, and express their divine feminine gifts and human potential through spiritual and personal transformation. Ms. Rodríguez presents workshops, keynote addresses & lectures to national and international audiences at major colleges, conferences and retreats.

Ms. Rodriguez is a tenured Professor of Psychology at Bronx Community College of The City University of New York and holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Her interests and ongoing research include women’s, multicultural, spiritual, positive and transpersonal psychology. She is also a Certified Spiritual Life Coach.

Gloria has authored articles for academic peer-reviewed journals and released her first published book, You Are More Than Good Enough in 2011, which won First Place awards in the Self-Help and Spiritual categories, and Second Place in the Women’s Issues category at The International Latino Book Awards 2012.  She has received numerous community awards by various women’s and community organizations, most recently being honored by The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Committee, Dedicate to Educate, Inc. and The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diasporic Institute.

Gloria practices New Thought/Ancient Wisdom teachings and is an initiate of the Diety Oshun in the Yoruba/Lukumi religious tradition.  She is a mother and adoring grandmother. Gloria enjoys travelling, the arts, and experiencing the infinite beauty that exists within the global community.

TFW Founder Nancy A. Ruffin & Gloria Rodriguez

TFW Founder Nancy A. Ruffin & Gloria Rodriguez               2014, Latina 50 Plus Awards Luncheon (Fordham University)



Quote of the Day

“Do not be afraid to color outside the lines. Take risks and do not be afraid to fail. Know that when the world knocks you down, the best revenge is to get up and continue forging ahead. Do not be afraid to be different or to stand up for what’s right. Never quiet your voice to make someone else feel comfortable. No one remembers the person that fits in. It’s the one who stands out that people will not be able to forget.”

― Nancy Arroyo RuffinLetters to My Daughter: A Collection of Short Stories and Poems about Love, Pride, and Identity

FIERCE & Fab Brunch: The 2nd Annual FIERCE Woman Anniversary & Awards Celebration


In 2014 I set out to create an organization for women by women designed to empower, uplift, and celebrate all the things that make us fierce, beautiful and different. For the past two years I have held workshops, brunches, and events that have brought women and girls from all walks of life, from all industries, and career levels together to learn from and celebrate each other. The connections that have been made through The FIERCE Woman is one of the reasons I created it.

Though still in her infancy, The FIERCE Woman Foundation is committed to changing the way women perceive themselves and each other. We are an unstoppable force. We are mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends. We are business women, entrepreneurs, leaders, coaches. We are the alpha and omega. The beginning and the end. And for a very long time we have been taught to believe that it is almost impossible to have both successful personal lives as well as professional lives. I am here to tell you that it is possible to have both and to also live the life that you’ve always dreamed of because I am living proof.

Please join me Saturday April 26, 2016 at the Mott Haven Bar & Grill as I celebrate the The FIERCE Woman Two Year Anniversary with a FIERCE & FAB Brunch & Awards Ceremony. This year’s theme is “Creating Legacies” because what we do and how we live our lives daily determines what our legacy will be. What will you leave behind for your children and your children’s children? What do you want your legacy to be? We have to start being intentional with our lives. We have to make every minute count. We must learn what it means to Live On Purpose with purpose. Women no longer have to choose between roles. We can do it all if we choose to.

We will be honoring three phenomenal women who are making great strides in business and education and embody The FIERCE Woman mission and values. . These women are FIERCE women committed to education, community building, and creating a legacy of their own that will live on for many years. Our honorees will share their personal stories of success and they will wow you with their sheer will to get things done by any means possible. Where most people find an excuse they find solutions. They will share with you their pearls of wisdom on how to make it in business and succeed despite the challenges that we as women face.

This is a very intimate event and only a limited amount of tickets are being made available to the general public. Once all tickets have been sold there will be no additional tickets available and absolutely no tickets will be available for sale at the door. To purchase tickets please visit:

Your ticket includes a pre-fixed brunch and your choice of either unlimited mimosas or sangria (for the duration of the event), sweet treats provided by Cake Pops by Keyla, special gift bags and unlimited access to some of today’s most influential women in business. Bring your business cards and charm and be prepared to mingle with some very successful women. Please note that this is a FEMALE ONLY event.

Thank you to all who have supported us these past two years. I look forward to seeing you all and celebrating this milestone with you.

With love

Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

Founder & Executive Director

Live On Purpose: 2016 Vision Board Workshop

For the past few years vision boards have become very popular, primarily because they work. The reason they work so well is that they help to keep you focused on your goals. Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life. What we focus on expands. When you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualization exercises throughout the day.

I have been using vision boards since 2011 and since then have seen so many great things come to life for me. Everything that I’ve put on my vision board has become my reality. I manifested my greatest desires by remaining focused and committed and  I want to help others do the same.

Many of us live day to day without really giving much thought to our dreams and desires. Life seems to get in the way and between shuffling the kids back and forth to school and activities, being a wife, taking care of home, or handling business at the office many women just don’t pay attention to their passions. It’s time that we stop giving so much of ourselves to others and give a little bit back to ourselves. It’s time to stop  floating through life and learn how to live each day with purpose.

The theme for 2016 is LIVE ON PURPOSE. Discover your God given gifts and learn how to use them to create the life that you dreamed of. The power of INTENTION is real. What you focus on is what you call into your reality. Join me on January 24, 2016 at Katarina Bar & Grill in Queens and learn the secret to manifesting your dreams through the use of vision boards. I promise, you will leave the workshop focused and ready to conquer 2016. And if you’ve ever been to any of my events you know that I always make them fun and memorable. And you might even leave with some goodies.

Don’t know what a vision board is? Don’t know how they work or the benefits they provide? Vision boards have proven to be a useful tool to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on a specific life goal. I will teach you how to identify your vision/dreams/goals for the upcoming year. I will help you to set clear, specific, and realistic time frames. I will teach you how to reinforce your vision through the use of daily affirmations and how to use the vision board to help keep your attention on your intentions. Early bird discount registration is currently available so reserve your seat now by visiting our event page on Eventbrite.

All of us have within us this amazing capacity to manifest and attract anything we want into our lives, – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Below is some feedback we received from some of last year’s workshop attendees:

There is so much I would love to accomplish, but I need to take time and plan my future. The vision board will be my first step to start on my baby steps in achieving my goals. Thank you for empowering me and encouraging me. – Liliana Cintron

I really enjoyed this workshop. I felt like this is what I needed to hear to get myself refocused again. I’m definitely recommending these workshops to my family and friends. I have faith that I can achieve and I will achieve my dreams and set realistic goals to get me there. Thank you for the reaffirmation! -Xamayta Perez

This workshop gave me back dreams that I thought I lost. It also grounded me and put me back where I belong. The only person stopping me is me! – Amrita Ballard

I love the feeling of unity amongst women. We need to continue connecting with more women. We are a force to be reckoned with. – Alexa Vega

To read more about last year’s workshop click here The FIERCE Woman Vision Board Workshop

The FIERCE Girl 2015 Teen Summit: Raising FIERCE Women

Posted by Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

It’s not easy being a teenage girl now-a-days.  The teenage years can be some of the most challenging for a young person as they are trying to find themselves and how they fit in with the rest of the world. With a world full of mean girls, reality television, and fashion magazines full of photo editing, girls can easily fall prey to low self-esteem. The popularity of the internet, social media, and sites like Instagram further contribute and promote the #Selfie culture, with many young girls and women willing to bare it all just to see how many “likes” and “followers” they can amass. As if, these numbers somehow validate their beauty, worth,  their existence even. This obsession can be distracting and can lead young girls down the wrong path looking to celebrities and reality TV personalities for cues on how to look, speak, and act.

As a very active user of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter it can be a very lonely and scary place to be if you’re not confident and sure of who you are. Social media has made it very easy for someone to become a target of bullying leaving oneself open to criticism and ridicule by people who have no clue of who you really are. As a mother of a little girl and aunt to two pre-teen girls I worry about the images they are exposed to. I worry that they will allow this fixation with Instagram and the media to influence how they see themselves and place value on the wrong things. One of my responsibilities as a mother, aunt, and self proclaimed #FIERCEWoman is to make sure that I raise #FIERCEGirls and cultivate the same values in other young ladies.

I believe that the key to creating F.I.E.R.C.E Women is to create F.I.E.R.C.E Girls. By engaging our young girls between the ages of 12-19 in discussions about positive body image, self-esteem, dreams, goals, and how to accomplish them we begin to expose them to the qualities and traits that The F.I.E.R.C.E Woman embodies. These include self-confidence, kindness, empathy, strength, humility, gratitude, and a responsibility to give back to our communities. We as parents, guardians, and role models have to give our young girls other images to aspire to. We have to be the models they look to for their cues as young women. We have to exhibit the qualities we want them to embody.

Carolyn Danckaert, founder of A Mighty Girl, an online resource for parents to find media, books, clothing and toys that feature girls as leaders, heroes and champions that save the day, rather than just damsels in distress, says:

“The types of media a child is exposed to — books, films or music — have a tremendous impact on how they see their place in the world. Girls can’t be what they can’t see, so exposing girls to these types of empowering messages from a young age is essential.“

They may  not always see positive images online and so we have to be the messengers of the types of messages we want them to see, learn, and adopt.

This past Saturday, August 29th, The FIERCE Woman held it’s first annual FIERCE Girls Teen Summit. It’s purpose was to prepare  teen girls for the upcoming school year by providing them with the tools necessary to set goals and achieve them. The event program included a

  • Vision Board Workshop – vision boards have proven to be a useful tool to help clarify, concentrate, and maintain focus on a specific life goal. We will teach the teens to identify their vision for the upcoming school year. We will help make their vision clear, specific, and set realistic time frames. We will teach them how to reinforce their vision through the use of daily affirmations and to use the vision board to help keep their attention on their intentions.
  • Self-Esteem/Body Image Workshop – For many young girls entering their teens and starting high school, self-esteem and body image becomes very important. This workshop will focus on helping to foster positive self-esteem, learning to love ourselves wholly and completely despite our differences. We will talk to the girls about embracing their uniqueness and the things that make them stand out from the rest. We will briefly discuss how to handle unwanted sexual attention and harassment
  • Skin Care and Make-Up presentation – A professional make-up artist will talk to the girls about proper skin care, offer make-up tips and product recommendations that are suitable and appropriate for their age group.

The event proved to be a success with over 40 attendees. Despite starting a little bit behind schedule the event was everything I hoped it would be. It allowed these young women to come together, network, and be inspired.

Our 18 yr old guest speaker & 2015 FIERCE Girl of the Year, Miczjhane Clay spoke to the girls about the importance of planning ahead and setting goals.  She  spoke to them about how she started her fashion design company, Destined Designs and how her grandmother was the inspiration behind the name of the company. Destined Designs is founded upon knowing your self worth & embracing it through your sense of style. Micznhane’s mission is to design clothes that make women feel beautiful whenever they were them.

As I walked around the room and spoke to some of the mothers and young ladies in attendance  they thanked me for putting the event together and stressed the importance of building up our young girls and speaking success into them.  We have to take an active role in the success of the young women we are raising .Together, we can take over the world. That’s how you raise FIERCE Women.


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Don’t forget to follow The Fierce Woman™ on Facebook to stay updated on all future events and workshops.


Writer Bio: Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is an award winning author and motivational speaker. Her work has been cited and published online at The Elephant Journal, The Daily Voice, La Respuesta Magazine, For Harriet, Duende Literary Journal, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Sunday Tribune-Spectrum, MUTHA Magazine, Moms Magazine and CentroVOICES. You can follow Nancy on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram @IAmNancyRuffin, on Facebook @ Nancy Arroyo Ruffin or by visiting her blog at