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October 242014 marks the 69th anniversary of the charter of the United Nations (UN) .The purpose of the UN, with its 193 member countries, is to promote and maintain global peace, prosperity, and justice. (Check it out: http://www.un.org/en/events/unday/)

Although the UN Day is not a federally recognized holiday here in the U.S., it is a global observance day to highlight the progress of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Because the MDGs expire in September 2015, the UN will reflect on how it should improve moving forward as they work on the new set of goals right now.

Did you know that adolescent girls, ages 10-19, were left out of the original Millennium Development Goals that were created in 2001?! It’s extremely important that the range issues affecting adolescent girls are not forgotten in the new post-2015 goals.

Here are 5 reasons why the UN Day is important for all girls:

1.  This year’s theme for UN Day is Global Citizenship & Youth, which obviously includes adolescent girls. What better day to engage all youth from all different backgrounds and sexual identitites about what the girl youth face around the world?! #HeforShe. It also should just be #AllforShe like how we are at Advocates.

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2. UN Day is an occasion to really reflect on what to include in the UN’s global future agenda such as saving the world, which the boys can’t do alone.

3. UN day is half celebration, half reflection which is why I want to bring up one issue to reflect on: currently, there are no specific programs to help all youth girls (10-19 years old)—just infants or women over 20 years old. No in-between help at the critical time of puberty.
Post-2015 goals should definitely consider making programs that tailor to adolescent girls 10-19 years old.

 

4. UN Day is a chance for young girls speak up about who we are, what we want, and be heard. Let’s change the perception that girls are part of the issue because we’re actually the key to the Solution. #GirlDeclaration

 

5. Let’s be real. Girls are capable of being much more than what society thinks we can do. We have the potential to be agents of change.

 

So what can you DO in less than 5 minutes to show that you care? 2 easy steps!

  1. Go to http://vote.myworld2015.org/ and vote for the issues you want the UN decision makers to consider & emphasize in their next global agenda.
  1. Share your video on your social media network and please spread the word!

Categories: Young People
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There is a lot of discussion when it comes to body image. Everyone just wants to fit in. Barely anyone wants to be them self. Society has us wrapped up in a box and is just fabricating to us. It tells us that if we do not look a certain way then we don’t have the “look”. “The look”, what is that? I am ecstatic that you asked. It is an image that we must be or we are worthless. For example, if we do not have the latest styles and or trends then we are nobody. I have both female friends and male friends that go on diets because they ponder that they are overweight and they only weigh between one hundred pounds and one hundred seventeen pounds and they are high school seniors. Here is another example, I wanted to take a friend to the Homecoming Dance for my school but she turned me down because she didn’t have time to find a certain dress because she is really skinny and when contemplated on my invitation to the Homecoming Dance she changed her mind and went to go find a dress, she still turned me down because she couldn’t find a dress that has “The Look”. This body image situation is making people insecure, and I am not just talking about females. We were all created in a certain way and I don’t see why we have to hurt ourselves doing that? Yes, a model, I can not recall her name at the moment, but she died from dieting so long to make a photo shoot. This look also discourages people. Many people try so hard to look a certain way that is not them, to get a certain role but end up not even getting it. Also people do it to please their significant other, but I say if that person really likes/loves you she or he would have no problem with your body image.

Categories: Body Image
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Courts play a pretty big role in shaping the ways that we can – and can’t – make decisions about our lives, including about how we want to build our families and if we are able to access healthcare or to exercise our right to vote. But, a lot of these decisions can fall under the radar. Here’s a quick round-up of recent court decisions and how some of those decisions are playing out.

Hobby Lobby’s Fallout:

As you may remember, in June the Supreme Court decided Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The decision stated that a limited number of corporations have the right deny insurance coverage of contraception to their employees based on the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners. This was silly and stupid and the first time the Court had said any corporations have religious rights. Also, the Court was super unclear about what kinds of corporations have these rights, making all the lawyers go

 

The lawyers in the Obama administration are trying to figure out what the Court was talking about and how they can try to make sure birth control is covered for as many women as possible, so they are taking comments on new rules. We reached out to our youth activists in the last couple weeks to solicit comments that emphasize the importance of access to contraceptives for young people, and yesterday Advocates joined some of our partners to deliver 88,000 comments directly to the administration!

The Supreme Court Fall 2014

The Supreme Court has been having quite some fun this fall pulling a Ron Swanson.

 

Last Tuesday, in an unsigned and unexplained decision, the Supreme Court prevented key parts of Texas’ new abortion law, HB 2, from going into effect while the law is being litigated. This means that 13 of the abortion clinics that were shuttered by HB 2’s requirements can reopen (though not all of them necessarily will). So good news!! But also, all is still not okay in Texas.

At 5 a.m. last Saturday morning, the Court issued an unsigned, unexplained decision Texas’ voter ID law to remain in place while litigation continues. This follows an unsigned, unexplained decision allowing Ohio officials to block the expansion of early voting for now, and another unsigned unexplained decision in which the Supreme Court actually sided with voting rights (!), temporarily halting Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

In better news, the Court decided not to hear appeals on several same-sex marriage cases, letting the decisions of the lower courts stand. By doing so, the Court allowed same sex marriages to go forward in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. As of October 21, the number of states with marriage equality is 32, with more on the way!

A lowlight from the lower courts: Alabama’s awful parental involvement law, and the Judges who are awful all on their own

 

The ACLU recently filed suit challenging Alabama’s new parental involvement in abortion law. The law created draconian rules that required young people under 18 to get parental permission before obtaining an abortion, or to request a “judicial bypass” by following a procedure that required the involvement of the District Attorney and allowed the judge to appoint an advocate for the fetus.  Even more depressing, Mother Jones has found that judges had been making the judicial bypass process horrifying and dehumanizing for young people all by themselves for years.

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Yana is a young single mother living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. When she was 15, she married a man 20 years older than her, because her parents wanted to protect her from sexual violence. Due to resettlement and chaos surrounding Yana’s refugee status, she has been separated from her close family. Now Yana and her very young child live alone with little health care services.
Young women and girls are often at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy due to a lack of sexual education and knowledge. In addition to that, Yana and other young people in post-conflict society have little health care support due to the chaos of refugee status. In crisis situations, when vulnerabilities are drastically increased, sexual and reproductive health care services are not always available or prioritized. During conflict, there is also an increased risk for sexual assault and violence. Combining these factors results in a time and place where young people are in serious need for sexual and reproductive health services.

Today, there is an urgent need for specific women and girls health services for Syrian refugees. These refugees are Syrian nationals who have fled Syria due to the Syrian Civil War. By the end of August 2014, the UN estimated that six and a half million people have been displaced in Syria, while more than three million people have fled Syria to neighboring countries including Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Throughout this conflict, and the resettlement process, many people, especially women, girls, and adolescents have been more susceptible to sexual and reproductive health problems including gender based violence and lack of health services.
Prior to the conflict in Syria, there was an absence of sufficient programs and laws to protect women and girls from gender based violence. The apathy for women and girls stemmed from the state, and now that Syria is in a civil war, the lack of support for gender based violence prevention and programs are radically large in scope. The government claims that in areas that are under regime control, it is combating discrimination and protecting women and girls from violence. However, multiple reports and statements by UN officials, as well as interviews with Syrian refugees, says that the government is doing very little to protect women and girls, and instead is propagating violence toward them.

The conflict has also had a heavy toll on access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health care. One young woman shares her experience with the UN:
“Lengthy waits at check points, fear of bombshells, rockets, and snipers create fear among women, which also plays a role in stopping women, including pregnant women, from accessing hospitals. A large number of women lost their lives and their babies due to the regimes targeting their cars while these pregnant women were on their way to hospital. Many women were afraid and were more comfortable delivering at home, even without anesthesia, which in return creates a risk to their health. I myself witnessed many women who died during home delivery.”
The government blames the lack of services on economic sanctions and armed terrorist attacks, without acknowledging its own role in the premeditated destruction of hospitals and clinics. The Syrian government fails in the prevention of persecution of gender based violence and lack of access to health care.
Even before the conflict, Syrian women and girls faced high levels of gender-based violence and received inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health services. The conflict exacerbated those levels through general chaos and the government’s lack of support. Now, with the surge of violence from Islamic State (IS), Syrian women are at an even greater risk.

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Period form conception to child birth is called pregnancy. Its range about 280 days or 9 month and seven days. The estimate date when baby’s natural birth takes place is known as expected date of delivery (EDD). It is calculated by adding 9 month and 7 days to the date of last menstruation.

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So quite often being a lesbian I hear, “so are you the boy or girl in the relationship?” I have a rather great sense of humor so I laugh and explain that I chose to not live with stereotypical gender roles. My girlfriend and I are the same. We dress the same, talk the same, we just have very similar characteristics. Being characterized by our community of friends as “tomboys” neither of us play a role. I grew up with mainly guys so you could imagine that most of my friends are guys, and when I look to them for advice I am told the same thing, “See you’re lucky you’re a girl who likes girls, you two could just fight forreal about anything.” I hear this way to often. Just because I am in a same sex relationship does not mean I have the right to hit my spouse, nor does she have the right to hit me if we are in a domestic dispute. The stereotypes associated with same sex relationships are becoming more and more ridiculous as well as insulting and its come a time where us as young people need to show that LGBTQ youth was not made out of a sack of stereotypes.

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We’re all just human, right?

When you live in the US, from the time you are born, you often hear messages about our nation’s obsession with equality and justice.

America is a melting pot.

We all bleed red.

Freedom and justice for all.

We take pride in our country because it is so diverse, and because we have overcome challenges related to race. Lincoln freed the slaves, and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks ended whatever racism was left over from that. We have come so far that even our president is Black, and white folks are scared of minorities rising to power.

Freedom. Equality. Justice. Tolerance. Diversity. America.

When you hear this rhetoric for your entire life, it’s difficult to think any other way. You start to internalize these beliefs because they feel right. It’s easier to believe that there is racial justice in our country because there is a black president in the White House, than to know that a black person is killed by a police officer or vigilantes every 28 hours. It’s more comfortable to see Oprah, Pharrell, and Tyler Perry’s success than to think about how the wealth of the average white person exceeds that of a black person by $80,000. It’s even less comfortable to think about the policies that were put into place by the US government that kept black people from accessing wealth. It feels better to believe in the great melting pot, than to recognize a history of genocide, slavery, eugenics, medical experiments, internment camps, and mass incarceration that have plagued people of color for centuries.

Several months ago, Pharrell received much criticism from the black public for talking to Oprah about what he calls the New Black. According to him, the New Black doesn’t blame other races for the problems that black people face, and he explains that he also doesn’t want to be given a handout based on his race. Recently, Raven-Symone received backlash for saying that she rejects labels, and would rather not be called African American. Instead, she says, “I’m an American, and that is a colorless person.” And last year, actress Zoe Saldana said in an interview that “people of color don’t exist.”

When young people such as Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown are being murdered because of their race, it is useless, and even counterproductive, to downplay the role that race has in our lives. When young people of color are being discriminated against because of their race, they aren’t able to choose to be colorless. The path to justice for youth of color is through confronting racial issues head on, and to do this we must recognize the importance of race.

As comfortable as it must be for the followers of the New Black to ignore racial oppression, pretending that racial justice exists, and that racial identity does not matter, does not make it so. The problem with the New Black is that it’s about colorblind racism, or using ignoring racial injustice under the guise of accepting racial differences. The New Black doesn’t do anything to improve race relations in our country. Because as much as we are all human, we are not yet all equal.

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Like a shark, I am a person who must constantly be moving. In high school I had the access and ability to be incredibly involved in LGBTQ activism in my state and my life became a blur of committee meetings and organizing. I am so thankful for that part of my life but in retrospect there are some things I wish I could go back and tell myself.
Organizing might be empowering and fun, but it’s not necessarily the same as self-care. For a long time, I refused to admit that my schedule had a problem. Yes I was busy and stressed all the time, but did it really count if I loved every minute of it? In my senior year of high school, I realized that my hectic schedule was beginning to take a serious toll on my mental health. I encourage you to find out what you need to feel healthy and stable and to schedule as much time as possible to take of yourself.
It’s ok to turn down engagements. Your health always should come first, and while it’s fine to have a three week period where you have back-to-back meetings and protests, continuing with that lifestyle for years is not always sustainable. Take a moment to evaluate each group you’re involved with and how much time you dedicate to that work. If you see that something isn’t a great fit or an area where you can step back, do it.
Being a token isn’t healing. I have frequently been the only young person (and the only transgender person) at the table. It took me a long time to realize how unhealthy some of those interactions were. I recommend looking critically at your relationships with adults and other organizers. If they value you as representing an identity and not as an organizer, working with them can leave you exhausted and unhappy.
Leaving toxic spaces doesn’t make you a failure. In November of my senior year of high school, a good friend and I both resigned as a youth leaders from a queer youth support group I had been leading since 10th grade. In the five months leading up to that decision, I felt so conflicted. Leading this group was such a big part of my life, even though I had grown to hate every moment of interacting with the deeply problematic adult leadership. My friend and I both decided that as young trans people we were not safe in that space and we didn’t have the power to change it. And we resigned.
Leaving that group was one of the best decisions I ever made for my mental health. If you are constantly disrespected and belittled, making the choice to leave can be so empowering. In organizing you will come across organizations and spaces that you cannot fix. It’s ok to step back and take of yourself. And, my friend and I went and started a cooler less racist/transphobic queer youth group! Closing one door isn’t the end of the world.
Remember that you have time. Sometimes organizing can feel like if you miss one meeting or one event that you are being left out of the loop. Believe me, the movement will wait. If you need a week or a year to take care of yourself, everything will be ok.

Categories: Young People
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As an Asian-American person, particularly a South Asian-American, I often find myself fighting an internal battle with the part of myself that still clings on to the idea that any representation is good representation. I grew in the early 2000s, when the only Indian on TV was Apu from The Simpsons, and when post-9/11 fear sometimes makes living in this country with brown skin a fatal experience. Despite the fact that Indian-American representation in the media has dramatically increased in recent years, I often get the feeling that Indian-America is highly misunderstood. So, when I heard that the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center had an exhibition called “Beyond Bollywood”, I was excited to finally see myself represented in the media I have always felt excluded me. The actual results, however, were incredibly disappointing.

What I expected was an in-depth look at one of the largest immigrant populations in the United States, stories of immigration starting in the late 1800s and leading up until today. I expected documents from the first Indian-Americans to claim citizenship in the US. I expected objects from interracial Punjabi-Mexican households in California. Instead, what I saw was an that exhibition features a wall of Indian-Americans that somehow prove that we have “made it” in this country – Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, spelling bee winners, a former NFL player. There is also a section on occupations typically performed by Indian-Americans, all of which help to feed into the model minority myth, that Indian-Americans are hardworking (motel owners or taxicab drivers) and intelligent (doctors and engineers). The exhibition did have some high points, though they were few and far between. The most poignant of these was a display case containing a turban worn by Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man who was murdered in the weeks following 9/11. This part of the exhibition, on oppression and violence faced by the Indian-American community and what we have done to combat it, was tucked into a corner, far away from the larger wall of our “successes.”

Indian-America deserves better than to be reduced to these few images of our successful assimilation into this country. We deserve better than to make our 200-year history in this country palatable to the average visitor, than to talk about Kal Penn but not Jamil Singh, the first queer Indian-American in official records. Most of all, we deserve better than to try to forget the violence that happened and is still happening to our communities, no matter how hard it may be at times.

Categories: Racism
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When we invest in the education of young girls, we invest in families, in communities and in a brighter future. That is the message of the “Let Girls Learn” campaign. #LetGirlsLean is a movement to invest in the 62 million girls in the world who are currently not in school.

 

 

 

Currently, there are 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty today. While there have been important strides towards increasing access to education for girls, there are still 31 million girls who are denied education. The lived realities of young girls in northern Nigeria or the South Sudan is that they are more likely to be sold as a child bride or die in childbirth then they are to get a secondary school education. The investment in girls, and in all children’s education, needs to be more of a global focus, with special attention paid to education in refugee camps. But this focus cannot just be money thrown at various causes and governments; it needs to be tailored to the country, to the region and to the population. The Finance Minister of Nigeria, Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala echoed these priorities earlier late last month while in DC.
As Africa’s largest and most diverse economy, Nigeria has been working to end the inequality gap men and women, specifically with regard to finanaces. Minister Ngozi discussed in length the controversy over Nigerian’s reaction and intervention to the 300 school girls taken this past April, specifically highlighting that the government did not handle the situation well. The main goals of the Nigerian government are to increase the safety and security of girls in schools, through school quality and safety and economic incentives.
This event at Georgetown university, was put on the by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. It began with Dr. Shah of USAID talking about the recent developments in the UN Human Rights Forum around changes for the girls of the world, in direct connection to the USAID Let Girls Learn Campaign. After his introduction of the campaign, whose efforts are towards the education of girls in the global south supported by a $250 million dollar endowment, with specific efforts in Nigeria, the South Sudan, Guatemala, Afghanistan and Jordan. With the announcement of “[with the] $91.3 million program [USAID] will partner with the Government of Nigeria to strengthen the education system, increase enrollment and improve early-grade reading for at least 500,000 children, including 250,000 girls in Northern Nigeria,” in conjunction with a specific focus on the math and reading courses for the children in traditional Qur’anic schools. This led to the introduction of Minister Ngozi, who then discussed how this program would specifically impact her country, and the wider world.

The event coincided with the UN General Assembly Special Session last week and the work on the Girl Declaration. The Declaration highlights the need for the investment in girls globally. “The best investment in the developing countries is in girls,” the World Bank so famously declared—with research to back it up!

 

“Bringing together the thinking of 508 girls living in poverty across the globe with the expertise of more than 25 of the world’s leading development organizations, the Girl Declaration is our tool to stop poverty before it starts.”
The Goals:
1. Education
2. Health
3. Safety
4. Economic Security
5. Citizenship