Category > International
Dec 17, 2015
Female Genital mutilation/cutting
“Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.” Genital mutilation has been around since B.C, yet many countries have stopped this procedure such as Europe and America. The fact that it’s still happening in other countries in this current time is honestly shocking and frightening. (FGM) has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs still, but the laws are poorly enforced and still continues on within behind closed doors. It is all over the world, such as Africa, the middle east, and Asia. Twenty nine countries in Africa are still using (FGM) to this day..
The process varies from culture to culture, but the procedure is very severe. Shock due to pain, and severe bleeding or infections kill 3,000 girls each year. Many girls are as young as five or six but it can vary up to fifteen years old. More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been victims in countries like Africa and Middle East where (FGM) it is mainly concentrated, yet the odds that there’s more than 125 million girls are very high. Mutilation is not so much of a religious factor, but it is more of a tradition. It is known to protect a girl’s virginity such as staying pure for marriage, but also to control sexual desires with masturbation as a girl will go throughout puberty. Other factors consist of the girls vagina being “dirty” if the labia is not removed, or that this procedure brings upon a girl’s adulthood, or even that it helps the girl to get her identity and personality. This process is supposed to teach the girl her role in society and in life, such as in societies in which the man controls the women’s sexuality when married.
Recurrent infections, chronic pain, cysts, an inability to get pregnant, complications during childbirth, and fatal bleeding are just some of the long terms of this procedure. Physiological effects may be post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Being a young teen girl myself I would hate to be put in that position of having this procedure. There are no benefits of this procedure, just harm and pure torture. It is an extreme form of discrimination against women, and also violating these young girls rights as children, and their health, security and physical integrity.
There has been many ways to help prevent Female genital mutilation by the united nations, activists,campaigns, organizations, and also charities such as Unicef that have helped bring awareness of (FGM) and help stop this horrible crime and torture. The main concern is that these young girls and women in these countries have no comprehensive sex education, or no sex education at all, it’s pretty much unspoken of. If these girls were able to get the right sexual education they could stand up and help prevent future generations and other girls from getting this procedure. Comprehensive sex education can show these girls that they have rights over their own body, and learn information about their genitalia and so much more. If you are interested in helping this cause there’s petitions you can sign to help, organizations you can join, or using your voice is one step closer to help make a difference!
Aug 17, 2015
I wanted to offer my opinion on this week’s question which stated: How can local and national governments better engage youth in decision-making?
I have been attending a leadership conference for the past two days at my University titled #UWILeads ‘Generation 2.0′ and we had discussions about youth and civic engagement nationally.
One of the means in which government can engage their youth in decision-making is creating a branch (or partnering with major student societies) of important government entities in Universities and High Schools. This would include key sectors of government. This would teach youth about the mechanisms of governmental operation without necessarily having to be affiliated with any particular party.
Another means of encouraging youth engagement is by having youth representative (in their teen or adolescent years) appointed on governmental boards. Many times, our government talks about reaching out to youth but never actually get the opinions from them in an official capacity. If you would have a youth representative for the governmental sector dedicated to youth, Generation 2.0 would more likely be interested in the policies and issues within the sector.
My final suggestion would be having a youth conference which would engage different clubs and societies from the secondary to tertiary levels to directly communicate the developments within every sector of the government. Having a youth friendly administration (similar to President Barack Obama’s strategy when running for his two terms of office) I believe would be a stimulus for youth being more interested with governmental matters.
Have a great weekend everyone and a belated Happy Youth Day! – Chrissie Parris Campbell, Jamaica
Aug 17, 2015
This week, we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to weigh in on the question: After the Post 2015 Development Goals are finalized, how can the international development community ensure the goals pertaining to young girls are implemented?
It is hard to change the laws of each country, but it is not impossible. With the help of NGOs and active people advocating girls’ rights we can make the changes we want to and that are needed. The campaigns will show other people the importance of these matters and hopefully it will make them think about it for a while, at least. The voice of the many is always stronger than the voice of one- especially if the many have the support of the people in charge of NGOs and ministries. The follow up from these actions could be changing the education plans by engaging the school system with more topics like SRHR of girls and women , which will be very important for encouraging future generations. Of course, you can not force individual decisions that are against these measures, but you can try. At the end of it all if the law changes in favour of young girls and women – the law is the law. It should not be broken. – Preslava Ivanova, Bulgaria
Through education and campaigns, people can learn about young girls’ rights. Even if laws protecting the rights of these girls are not implemented properly, people would give girls their rights because they would know the consequences of not doing so. For example, in Egypt, if FGM becomes illegal, people would still not refrain from it because they think it is a part of religion (which is not true). So, if we educate these people about the truth behind FGM, they might refrain from it completely even without passing a law that forbids it. – Mai Yassin, Egypt
It still boils down to education, information and continuous advocacy. As the saying goes “knowledge is power,” and the international community needs to support individuals, groups and organizations whose sole goal is to ensure that the goals of young girls in the world are achieved through continuous enlightenment on the consequences of those acts which the law speaks against.
You can force a donkey to the river, but you can never force it to drink water…that choice still remains with the donkey. We can create laws protecting the girl child but we can never force behavioral change. We can keep teaching the importance of obeying those laws and gradually achieve behavioral change. – Elizabeth Williams, Nigeria
Have legislation created immediately that really makes implementation a priority and have people educated and informed so that we all feel impassionaied enough to act! – Allison Pfotzer, U.S.A
Aug 17, 2015
Running a country successfully and efficiently requires everybody taking part. For a long time, the task of running a country was assigned to a specific group of people within the Government. But that way of thinking has to end. Many have tried to do their best to achieve that goal, but has it ever crossed anybody’s mind that involving or even empowering Youth could be the key?
Have you noticed the way Malagasy Young people behave nowadays? It seems like the country is not theirs, they do not feel involved or concerned about many issues that strike Madagascar.What do you think that is due to?
Let us not be afraid to acknowledge that in some way, we have inherited that “conservative way” of doing things. Adults rarely respect young people’s voices, because elders expect youth to listen and obey.
It is high time to think outside of the box and get rid of that old- fashioned way of thinking.
Development is only possible if its main actors stop being excluded, left apart and neglected. We all know that singers usually grab people’s attention on what is really happening in a given country, especially the bad governance. In her song entitled “The greatest love of all”, Whitney Houston highlights that point by saying: “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”.
What we all forgot is that it is a matter of interdependence. What is that?
Let us first have an overview of the current situation: no leader has ever been open to any comments or suggestions from any young leader. If young people dared to offer their thoughts, they’d be seen as boastful and disrespectful! Any leader who considered such ideas would be seen as an incapable, weak or ineffective. It is like that very leader is at the mercy of the young one. But the thing is,” the fear of change”.
However, there is a very different perspective:
Interdependence means that everything and everyone is connected. Being an active citizen is like being a piece of a puzzle, and you need all the pieces (ie citizens) to complete the picture. We, therefore cannot side with either the current leaders or the future ones, who are Young people, because the first depends on the second, and vice versa.
The current leaders of our country are experienced and open-minded. One day or another they will have to give the way to us to run the country. We, young, dynamic, and creative people are the hope of our Nation. It does not give us any right to disrespect and ignore what our elders have done. The development we strive towards depends on intergenerational co-operation. It is all about “Team work.” How? Their open-mindedness and their trust in us will enable us to be trained by THEM. And that is how it is going to work.
That was one way to reach the set goal. But that was not all: Madagascar has two main assets: our country is gifted with natural resources, which benefit the welfare of Malagasy people, and Madagascar’s population is full of young people who make another pillar for the Nation. No change will be brought without them. Personally, I have already taken some steps for that common goal by being part of The Girl Engagement Advisory Board. Maybe it is not a huge thing yet, but it is already a start. I think such activities should be more emphasized to motivate and inspire young people. -Patricia Boara Saida, Madagascar
Aug 12, 2015
We Did It!
Making the Inclusion of Girls in the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals a Reality
From July 26 to 31, I had the pleasure of attending the Post 2015 Inter Governmental Negotiations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was an incredible experience in which I was able to witness first-hand the shaping of the future world in the next fifteen years’ time.
I endeavour to provide a comprehensive review of the procedures and processes that occurred prior to, during and after my sojourn to the IGN’s in late July so bear with me as I may get a bit loquacious.
What is an Inter-Governmental Negotiation?
This takes place at the United Nations Headquarters amongst numerous member states, member groups and civil society or Non-Governmental Organizations. The current IGN, of which I was a participant is the final negotiation to be held concerning the Post 2015 document given that we are currently in its final year for its implementation.
Given that this is the final negotiation, most of the goals and targets have already been established and are no longer on the table for amendment. Bodies represented now have the task to query and offer suggestions for ‘tweaks’ in the language pertaining to the preamble and the introduction to ensure that it is inclusive of as many elements as possible. The preamble and introduction are not a part of the specifically outlined goals and targets but do however, act as persuasive elements that can be used when handling global disputes (should they occur).
Member states are the ones who generally have standing to speak on the language of the document and can offer their suggestions on paragraph formation and sentence structure.
What role do NGO’s have to play in the IGN’s?
Given that NGO’s do not have standing in plenary sessions, our role is primarily to liaise with the various member states along with participating in a number of press conferences and formulating creative ways to get the attention of the Co-Facilitators so that they can heed the suggestions being fielded to them.
What strategies are employed by the NGO’s and other members of Civil Society to get the attention of the Member States?
Along with liaising with the member states of their nationality and holding press conferences to outline their issues to media, NGO’s get creative to ensure that their points are seen, heard and understood by the member states along with the Co-facilitators. In my time at the IGN’s, some creative methods included wearing different coloured scarves (done by the Women’s Major Group) to represent different issues that they believed should have been addressed in the document, sending down ping pong balls (done by MGCY) with proposed goals printed on them to bring attention to these proposals along with introducing some mirth into the proceedings. Other concepts include creating selfie frames (titled #Whatwomenwant) along with proposed changes individuals who take the picture would want to see in the next fifteen years.
What is the Post 2015 Development Agenda?
The Post 2015 development goals are the revision of the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted fifteen years ago. This document consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 Associated Targets to be enacted in the next fifteen years. In 2030, the goals and targets would then be revisited and steps would be taken to plan for the next fifteen years.
The goals are generous in their use of language and seek to address issues that most hinder nations in their development and make them unequal in measure to other nations. However, a most important demographic that affects the development of all nations was noticeably excluded from the goals for 2015: the Girl Demographic.
Due to the notable absence of girls in the implementation of the development goals, the Girl Declaration was formed not only to point out the absence of girls and the necessity of their inclusion in the Post 2015 Development Goals, but to suggest the specific goals and targets that should be included to ensure that the future of girls everywhere are secured.
How is the Post 2015 Document formatted?
As aforementioned the document consists of 17 goals and 169 targets to be adhered to by all nations. The document also consists of a preamble, introduction and declaration that provides an overview of the purpose of the document and details in how the document will be implemented.
What is the difference between goals and targets?
Goals are the more broad-brushed objectives that we want to see fulfilled in the next fifteen years. Targets are the methods which will be employed to ensure that these goals come to pass.
Why is it important to involve Girls’ in 2030 Development Agenda?
Due to the various social, economic, political and cultural atmospheres in every country, in most scenarios girls are left as the most vulnerable demographic exposed to the most socially and culturally deprave practices in the country. Girls are also the best solution to many of the world’s issues if they were allowed to sit at the table and make the decisions.
The Girls Declaration highlights these discrepancies and as members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board we seek to make these points known and ensure they are remedied by the time the Post 2015 Goals document is adopted later this year.
What are the recommended goals highlighted in the Girl Declaration?
The Girl Declaration outlined five major goals with subsidiary targets to be implemented in the Post 2015 Development Goals document. These goals may be surmised as follows:
Goal 1: Education
Adolescent girls reach adulthood
with relevant skills and knowledge
to fully participate in economic,
social and cultural life.
I. Ensure all girls globally transition
to and complete free, quality
secondary school, prioritizing the
most marginalized (e.g. rural, poor,
married and at risk of marriage,
II.Ensure all girls achieve recognized
and measurable learning standards.
III. Eliminate violence, sexual
exploitation and harassment
Goal 2: Health
Adolescent girls have access to safe,
age-appropriate health and nutrition
information and services and possess
the confidence they need to make
healthy transitions to adulthood.
I.Reduce the number of girls who become pregnant before age 18 by 50% by 2030.
Nearly 13 million adolescent girls give birth each year in developing countries.
II. Provide, monitor and evaluate
universal access to youth-friendly
health information and services,1
including comprehensive life
skills-based sexuality education
and sexual and reproductive
health, for all girls – in and out
of school, regardless of marital
or pregnancy status.
III. End harmful traditional practices,
including female genital mutilation,
for all girls.
Goal 3: Safety
Adolescent girls are free from violence
and exploitation and are supported by
enforced laws, strong and adequately
resourced child protection systems and
I. Prevent and eliminate all forms of
violence against girls.
II. Ensure all girls have access to a
III. Ensure all states have national and
sub-national mechanisms to identify,
refer and report sexual violence
against adolescent girls.
IV. Stop trafficking and exploitation of
girls by passing and enforcing laws
and policies that hold perpetrators –
not victims accountable.
Goal 4: Economic Security
Adolescent girls know how to build
and protect their economic assets and
transition to adulthood with the skills,
including technical and vocational,
needed to earn a safe and productive
income. Governments, communities
and the private sector respect
and uphold girls’ economic rights.
I. Increase girls’ savings and access
to financial services by 50% by 2030.
II. Ensure all girls receive quality
financial literacy training.
III. Reform laws so girls can open
a bank account and have equal
rights to secure land tenure.
Goal 5: Citizenship
Adolescent girls have equal access
to services, opportunities, legal rights
and personal freedom, and thus are
able to fully participate as citizens of
their communities and countries.
I. Eliminate child marriage
globally by 2030.
II. Ensure all girls have access to
free and universal legal identity,
including birth registration,
formal identification, citizenship
and the right to pass citizenship
on to spouses and/or children.
III. Collect and disaggregate data
by age and sex.
IV. Ensure all girls say their views are
listened to, respected and included
in decisions about their lives.
Were these proposed goals and targets reflected in the final draft document?
I am pleased to say yes they were! It in fact exceeded our expectations as we were not only mentioned in the Introduction and Preamble of the document but we also were able to reserve an individual fulsome goal for ourselves to ensure we don’t only leave with an ‘honourable mention’.
Girls’ involvement in the Post 2015 Document Dissected
I will now dedicate this section to providing a breakdown of how girls were specifically included in the Post 2015 document (please note that the document being used is the draft sent out on August 1, the most recent one at the writing of this article).
Paragraph is the general term used to define the major point while lines are used to highlight the specific sentence.
Paragraph One Line Two: ‘We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.’
Interpretation: Although this is not a direct mention of girls, it does cover one of the main concerns that has been expressed; poverty becoming a fetter to young girls to achieve their fullest potential. Girls are covered in the paragraphs mention of ‘…eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions…’.
Paragraph Three Lines 3-4: ‘They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.’
Interpretation: This point generally encompasses the gist of the Girl Declaration. Girls and the demographic of women have been explicitly highlighted to be the key of social and national advancement regardless of cultural expectation. The only element that this paragraph did not specifically mention is education.
The Declaration Introduction
Paragraph Three: ‘…to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;’
Interpretation: This serves to be a declaration that seeks to reinforce the importance of the empowerment of girls in the upliftment of any society.
Paragraph Eight Line Four: ‘A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed.’
Interpretation: By specifying the means and avenues in which girls can receive opportunities, it limits the hesitation of other countries to adopt these methods along with providing a clear roadmap on how these changes should be implemented thus making them less easy to ignore.
Paragraph Fifteen Line Three: ‘Access to education has greatly increased for both boys and girls.’
Interpretation: This is the first mention of education for girls. This is not a pledge or promise but a statement of fact that traditional education has been on the rise for both boys and girls along with advancement of technology making avenues for education more readily accessible to boys and girls.
Paragraph Twenty: ‘Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities. Women and girls 6 must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision-making at all levels. We will work for a significant increase in investments to close the gender gap and strengthen support for institutions in relation to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global, regional and national levels. All forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls will be eliminated, including through the engagement of men and boys. The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Agenda is crucial.’
Interpretation: This is what I would informally term ‘The Money Statement’ as it relates directly to girls and their assured access to all avenues. It addresses all the goals that were explored and specified in the Girl Declaration excepting citizenship (which was specified generally in the section of the document termed ‘New Agenda’).
Paragraph Fifty-One: ‘What we are announcing today – an Agenda for global action for the next fifteen years – is a charter for people and planet in the twenty-first century. Children and young women and men are critical agents of change and will find in the new Goals a platform to channel their infinite capacities for activism into the creation of a better world.’
Interpretation: Unlike the MDG’s which all but ignored the importance of youth and disregarded girls, this document charges them with the responsibility to make these goals a reality along with providing them the various avenues in which they can do so.
Along with wide mention of girls and their rights within the preamble and introduction, women and girls have also reserved an individual goal for themselves.
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
5.a Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
5.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
Interpretation: This immortalizes the long known relevance of girls and women to society and the insurance of a better world through the provision of a manifest on what our limitations are and the methods that will be employed to ensure that the gender equality gap will be bridged.
What aided in the inclusion of girls in the final Post 2015 document?
Through the establishment of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board under Advocates for Youth, the issue of goals specifically tailored for girls became placed on the forefront of individuals globally through engagement of social media, personal interactions, distribution of materials and serving in official capacities to ensure that the message got across.
Along with the valiant efforts of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board, the immeasurable (and sometimes painful) contributions of other individuals and incidents that affected the cause of the girl I believe helped in strengthening the importance of girls being included in the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Other groups such as the Women’s Major Group also ensured that these important points were always at the forefront.
Such contributors include Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani Activist for girls’ education, Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and official signatory on the Girl Declaration) and her personal struggle with the Taliban due to her desire to pursue her education which resulted in her near death experience but allowed for the importance of ensuring a girls’ education and protection. Important incidents include the abduction of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram due to their ambition to seek a better life for themselves through education which launched the #Bringbackourgirlscampaign and brought attention to the basic need for girls to feel the freedom to dream and have ambition to excel.
My Personal Experience
I hope I have piqued your interest with the information I have just shared on the procedures of these IGN’s, however, I have not given you my own personal take on the entire expedition.
I had a whirlwind experience in the preparation and execution of my responsibility to represent the Girl Engagement Advisory Board for the week I was called to serve. The first task was knowing how one should present themselves at the United Nations in order not to draw negative attention as a delegate.
The next step was to ensure that I was appraised with my travel and event itinerary so that I would not be caught off-guard while I was serving in a formal capacity. In this instance, given that I was attending the final IGN’s for the Post 2015 agenda, the events were a lot less structured than past conferences given that this is the last chance to ensure that all goals were ratified for the next fifteen years to come.
I arrived in New York on Sunday July 26 at 8 AM after which I was picked up by a chartered car and taken to my hotel accommodation. I then met my liaison from Advocates for Youth and stalwart Girl Engagement Advisory Board facilitator M.A. Keifer who provided a warm welcome to New York.
I was immediately whisked away to a Women’s Major Group meeting (after first getting a quick bite to eat at the Shake Shack). This is one of the strategy meetings that were held in preparation for the final week of negotiations to provide a comprehensive review on the week prior along with getting into smaller cell groups to brainstorm new strategies to ensure that our voices were not dissented and that our key issues were streamlined and clear.
Afterward (after hailing taxis and pounding pavements), I then attended the Major Group for Children and Youth ‘Youth Blast’ which served a similar purpose as the strategy meetings held at the Women’s Major Group headquarters excepting that it was held at the hotel which I would make my home for the next five days.
On Monday I made my first sojourn to the UN Headquarters to attend the meeting with civil society along with the first plenary meeting for the last week of the Post 2015 IGN’s. Before entering the premises, I first had to make a stop at the UN Plaza to get my pass for the DESA meetings for the week. This seemed to be a fetter to many persons due to either their names being on the roster and not having a pass or having a pass and not being on the register. Thankfully, my aid for the week ensured that this was not an obstacle for me. For those who would likely frequent the UN for the various conferences held at the Headquarters in New York, they would have to get a year pass so that they could consistently access the area.
I then had to pass through the security checkpoint in order to gain access to the building. Entering the UN Headquarters was a surreal experience. Visiting the UN was a dream long held by my mother now being actualized by me and not only in a tourist capacity but also to serve a purpose and be an audible voice with a profound message to share. Needless to say along with the awe was also a feeling of intimidation given the amount of experience that my colleagues had attending these IGN’s and given the fact that it was not only my first time attending, but I was the only representative for Jamaica and the Caribbean Region. I was also the only representative that was solely focused on the rights of girls.
However, I was not the only one having their flagship experience as a representative at the UN. Later that night, further strategy meetings were held to determine who would be the keynote speaker at the press conference being held the following day. Some members of the group opined that an individual with more experience in advocacy and on the ground knowledge should be given the task to represent our major group given that they would be more appraised with the multiplicity of issues the MGCY seek to address and the format of press conferences in general. This was, of course an individual who was a member of the global north.
Another candidate was suggested who formed a member of the global south. She was felt to have less experience and ‘know how’ in terms of being able to handle an event such as this. I suggested to the group that given the fact that the press conference centered around one specific issue, we would not want to have too many perspectives included on the matter that may steer the conference away from its primary objective (which may happen if an individual has too wide a context in separate albeit important issues). I also opined that despite the fact that most members from the global north had the experience seemingly required to helm such a discussion (usually from some amount of privilege which allows for the availability of more opportunities to be afforded to them), she had the on the ground understanding coming directly from a region located in the global south to pinpoint the specific issues that are in urgent need of resolution to get the point across.
Tuesday held my first attendance of a side event at the UNFPA Headquarters of an event centered on formulating strategies that could appeal to youth with regards to proper healthcare practices. I was accompanied by Ariel Cerrud, a representative from Advocates for Youth who has bountiful experience with working for children and youth. It commenced with informative reports on two groups that have been making an impact in assisting children and youth from Argentina and India respectively with proper healthcare for their well-being.
We then broke into cell-groups to begin brainstorming a specific plan to make youth the champions of proper healthcare and provide adequate feedback on the issues that prevent youth from having proper access to said healthcare. This was to be presented later on in the day to the broader audience so that it could be dissected and strengthened. This would be followed by bringing these concepts to a UN Official (Mr. Babatunde) who would then discuss the feasibility of its implementation.
Interestingly, I was plagued with doubts of whether I was a suitable representative for the Girl Engagement Advisory Board and for my country as I had no point of reference as to what a proper foreign representative should be. During this time, my musings of doubt were shattered through making a Jamaican connection at the UNFPA meeting by meeting Dawn Minott, a representative from the UNFPA branch in Nigeria. She said she recognized me by my accent and admired my choice in representing girls through Advocacy. This gave me the shot of energy needed to continue to give my utmost in my representative capacity.
Later that day, Ariel and I returned to the UN Headquarters for the commencement of the plenary meetings for that day. I was able to have a more ‘tourist’ experience at the UN as I got my passport stamped to officially mark my visit to the UN (this is because the UN has no particular national ties and like an Embassy located on foreign soil, is seen as its own country). It was very interesting having an observer status in the plenaries as I garnered that although the dominant language used was English, translators were on hand to decipher the multiplicity of languages and allow for mutual understanding regardless of one’s country of origin.
I was also able to hear first-hand the recommendations of the CARICOM Member States being represented by Belize (sadly, there was no direct representative from Jamaica with whom I could liaise directly). It was interesting to observe the body language and speech of member states with more progressive and regressive objectives. It was also interesting seeing the Co-facilitators at work expertly managing the vast number of member state and state conglomerates interested in making statements regarding the final draft along with injecting the proceedings with some humour.
Wednesday showed me the more fluid nature of negotiations given that new versions of the draft document were being released after the first suggestions were taken into account. I was not able to see how NGO’s and Major groups negotiated and pulled apart the document to ensure that certain points of importance were reflected but also serve as a quick study through offering my own suggestions and creative assistance in ideating how we could best reach the member states to assist us in getting our points across. When drafts are released, it provides a very limited amount of time for all groups to dissect and reconcile the information to provide substantive and thorough recommendations on the newly released document. However, many member states were able to do this with expert skill and major groups had dedicated members willing to burn the midnight oil to ensure that everyone was appraised of the new changes and novel recommendations.
Thursday was the last official day of my serving in an official capacity and required a valiant effort in ensuring that our most important ideas were not only espoused but also reflected in the final draft document. This required all major groups pulling on their best creative resources to ensure that they were both seen and heard. This was shown by the WMG brandishing all the scarves worn for the past two weeks (which at one point added some colour to the microphone of Co-facilitator Kamau) along with attracting others with their ‘selfie frame’ and the MGCY producing a colourful pamphlet with the ‘5 Tweaks to the Document’ (which I was more instrumental in helping to design).
We were able to have more time to continue amending and perfecting the document given the delays with the release of the latest document which resulted in subsequent events related to the manuscript being pushed back due to the delayed release. I however, was not able to witness the reactions to our efforts in person as I had to prepare for my departure which would take place later on that day.
It felt all so sudden to conclude the day and shift my mind to preparing to leave New York, there was much left to be done and persons were still dubious of many points in the manuscript. Conversely, there was a feeling of joy given that the rights and provisions for girls was not a contentious topic within the document and now has been made an enduring pillar in the Post 2015 Development Manuscript. I also looked forward to relaying my experience to my family (some of whom I was able to encounter during my stay) and giving a fulsome breakdown on the proceedings and my experiences. This is truly one for the books!
Now that the final IGN’s for the Post 2015 Development Goals have been concluded, what is the next step?
The SDG’s for 2030 will now be formally adopted during the United Nations General Assembly to be held during the latter days of September. The document will officially come into effect on January 1, 2016. The clock will then be set to track the development and implementation of the goals over the next fifteen years.
Now that the recommended goals on behalf of girls are in the process of being adopted in the 2030 document, what’s next in our Girls’ Advocacy?
Our mandate for ensuring that girls are no longer the most vulnerable demographics in society has not ceased due to formal ratification in a globally recognized document. Implementation still must occur to ensure that these goals materialize. Although it is a great victory that the united efforts of girls globally has been recognized by the paragon of global betterment, the victory will lose its lustre if we refrain from joining our voices and efforts in ensuring that these efforts provide viable results.
We need to ensure that our pursuit of #Genderjustice is completed in its entirety and does not only remain a theoretic representation. The silent revolution must become a vocal outcry.
My experience as an advocate and representative for girls, my nation and my region is one that I can never forget and is definitely a highlight of my advocacy efforts. Having to quickly adapt to the environment I was placed in along with giving relevant assistance and recommendations is something that can only be perfected through practice.
The assistance I received from my ‘Advocate Alliance’ in New York helped me to get better acclimatised to the UN terrain and allowed for me not to get lost in the encompassing nature of the negotiations. My family also played a significant role in aiding me to stay grounded during the entire process and do my best in all circumstances.
I look forward to developing and implementing these newly gained skills in advocacy and be a better aid to my society, my nation, the region, the diaspora and the world.
Glossary: [Note: This will be organized Alphabetically and definitions provided will be in layman’s terms based on my understanding]
CARICOM: Caribbean Community
Civil Society: A conglomerate of interest groups not directly correlated with the United Nations. They instead constitute persons from everyday society with special knowledge on issues that can either benefit or hinder the progression of a United Nations Initiative.
Co-Facilitator: This is a United Nations official responsible for ensuring that plenary meetings are properly chaired and all interested parties are allowed to voice their opinion in an organized and cohesive manner. They are also responsible for mediating the draft processes amongst all interest parties (member states, civil society and United Nations officials) to ensure everyone is appraised of all relevant changes.
DESA: (United Nations) Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Girl Declaration: The Manifesto produced by members of Advocates for Youth and promoted by members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board encapsulating the main recommendations concerning girls globally for the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
IGN’s: Inter Governmental Negotiations
Major Group: These are conglomerates from Civil Society that form larger groups for the impact of numbers and to ensure that central messages are brought across.
MDG’s: Millennium Development Goals; the goals that preceded the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Member States: States of the world that are officially members of the United Nations; due to their membership status, they have standing to speak during official meetings
MGCY: Major Group of Children and Youth; Represents youth centered ideas and objectives from a combination of members from different NGO’s representing children, adolescents and youth.
NGO’s: Non-governmental organizations
Plenary: A meeting and session to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups.
Post 2015: Referring to the fifteen years after this present year in which the SDG’s should come into effect.
SDG’s: Sustainable Development Goals; ratified to ensure that the globe is a better environment for living for all who inhabit.
UN: The United Nations
UNFPA: United Nation Population Fund
WMG: Women’s Major Group; Represents ideas and objectives from a combination of members from various NGO’s representing women.
Jul 30, 2015
Citizenship is the identity of the person that mediates an individual’s relationship with the country and vice versa. In the context of Nepal, it is a gateway to enter many aspects of social and economic life. Apart from identification, citizenship is also considered as a gateway for individual entitlement of services and benefits to be provided by the state. The study done by forum for women, law and development found that 23.65% of the population aged 16 and above did not have citizenship certificates. The review was based on a review of existing data sources and records. Nepali citizenship act 2006 was enacted in 26th November 2006 which assured citizenship from either of parents but though law has changed, mind and system hasn’t. Nepalese women are discriminated at all levels, but they face a further obstruction on the issue of citizenship. Nepal could be among 27 other countries, including Libya, UAE, Qatar, and Sudan that prevent a matrilineal path of citizenship. It does bring up another relevant issue of Nepal: gender discrimination. The most inclusive elected national assembly in our nation’s history, before it was dissolved last year had a draft provision on citizenship that was even more regressive than the interim constitution. Under it, only children of Nepali mother who can’t prove the father will be eligible to citizenship which means a Nepali mother who cannot prove the father is Nepali ( because he left her, because she doesn’t have one, because she was raped) can’t have children who are Nepali. Recently Supreme Court made decision that children can get citizenship in the name of mother if the child is conceived because of multiple physical relationships by the mother and the mother cannot pinpoint the real father. But what if the children are born from mother’ relationship with a husband who has abandoned her? We punish the offspring who are already punished. There are thousands of Nepali mothers who can’t provide citizenship to their children. In Nepal’s gender apartheid, the very existence of women can be only certified by men: father, brother, husband. Gender activist have been fighting a lonely battle against a political bureaucratic and legal system that is weighted against women. Single mothers have to swallow their pride and go to the men who abused them and lied to them and ask for citizenship for their children. Women have to fight protracted legal battles and often force paternity tests on men just to give their children citizenships. The provision of and brings gender discrimination and nothing more. If Nepalese women and mother are to be given justice, if the youths of Nepal who are future of this country are to be shaped correctly and in right direction the provision should be included in draft. For this we need to support, raise voice and movement of all sector and people is of utmost need.
Jul 27, 2015
This week we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to give us a rundown of what they’d say if they had one minute to speak to a UN official about the inclusion of girls in the post 2015 development agenda.
There are lots of issues to be raised but the one I would speak about is the education of the girl child and the prohibition of early child marriage. Both are interlinked. If you want to empower the girl child then allow her to fulfill her potential by going- that potential is cut short by early marriage. And this is a root cause of so many other problems be it early/unwanted pregnancy, fisco vistula, abortion, poverty, etc….all of this are results of child marriage. If we want to empower the girl child, then let’s do all that is possible to ensure that she goes to school. How can this be achieved? This can be achieved by ensuring that the member states put laws against child marriage and making sure those laws are enforced. Specifically, continuous advocacy speaking against child marriage can affect behavioral change amongst the people involved, the parents, elders, town leaders and even the girls themselves.
Its a stated fact that every girl has the right to education. But how can they uphold this right when child marriage lingers on…..I wonder! -Elizabeth, 18, Nigeria
Though there are numerous problem that to be mentioned, child labor is also one of the prevailing problem. Regardless of gender, every child has fundamental rights which need to be considered. Talking at high level this issue might seem small but it’s roots are very deep. – Muna, Nepal, 20
If I had the chance to speak about something I would speak about the issue of sexual reproductive health and rights classes in schools. We don’t have this kind of classes in the Bulgarian education program, which makes it harder to spread the information among students who are one of the target groups of the problem. It is fundamental to know your reproductive system and to know how to take care of your health, too. – Preslava, Bulgaria
I will speak about inequality in terms of leadership, education and roles in the society. Women, especially those from rural areas, lack education, which leads to my country’s high illiteracy rate. Furthermore, women are not given equal chances with men in terms of leadership. Most roles in the communities are left for elders who are men. I think we should be equal. – Caren, 20, Kenya
Those of the essentials (reasons) that go behind the discrimination and the continual oppression of women cross culturally.- Ally, USA
I think that the issue which has been ignored the most is not the problem itself but the barriers that exist in face of possible solutions. Especially the cultural and religious one. If there are campaigns held against child marriage or early pregnancies, then they might influence the literate but not the uneducated. Their roots and beliefs are sacred to them and thus solutions that might convince people to adopt to these changes are critical. - Hamna, 17, Pakistan
Jul 21, 2015
Who is Lila Rose?
Lila Rose, the founder and President of Live Action, is the brain behind the “undercover” videos attacking Planned Parenthood. The latest series was launched last week with a video purports to reveal that that the healthcare provider sells fetal body parts on the black market. While this newest “sting” is the project of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, the project director David Daleiden is following in the footsteps of his former colleague and boss, Lila Rose. Both Rose and Daleiden were mentored by James O’Keefe, who’s Project Veritas attempted to use undercover videos to shut down ACORN a few years ago.
According to her own account, at just 13 years old, Lila began scheming ways to end abortion in this country. At 14, she started a “Pro-Life Club” in her parents’ living room in San Jose, California. And when Rose was just 15, that club turned into a bonafide anti-abortion fringe organization. With the support of friends and family, Rose began raising money for her efforts to “investigate and expose” the “abortion industry.” While studying undergrad at UCLA, in her freshman year Rose posed as a pregnant woman and walked into the student health center seeking “counseling.” Rose reported[AK2] that the campus nurse told her “UCLA doesn’t support women who are pregnant” and referred her to nearby abortion care providers. She was hooked.
In fall 2006, at the age of 18, she and James O’Keefe then set out on their first undercover video aimed directly at a local Planned Parenthood clinic. Rose posed as a 15 year-old woman who was pregnant as result of a rape. The resulting YouTube video gave her the attention she wanted, and even resulted in her first interview on the O’Reilly Factor.
Since then, Lila Rose’s place within the “pro-life” movement has solidified and grown to an almost celebrity status. Live Action’s budget has quadrupled to over $1,000,000 since first filing tax returns in 2008. And since graduating from UCLA in 2010, Rose has released more videos from her undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood clinics. Last year she appeared on CNN’s Crossfire , where she debated NARAL Pro Choice America’s Illyse Hogue.
But Lila Rose isn’t just interested in shutting down Planned Parenthood, she’s taking her show on the road. Rose is a part of a growing movement of young American activists opposing reproductive rights for women around the world. At this year’s annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York in March, Lila Rose was given a huge opportunity. The Holy See (the Vatican’s diplomatic arm and representation at the UN) reserved the largest conference room at UN headquarters and gave Lila the mic.
The event, titled “Young and Courageous Because Life Can’t Wait,” was widely attended by a couple hundred local youth activists and anti-abortion rights activists in town for the Commission. H.E. Archbishop Bernadito Anza delivered a statement at the event in which he thanked Rose for her “courage and vitality.” The International Youth Coalition (C-fam’s youth arm) promoted the event as an opportunity to hear Rose tell her story of “[taking] a passionate stand such a young age in defense of women and the unborn.”
Despite this being her first time speaking at the UN, Rose proceeded to speak for nearly an hour about her experiences working to “expose” Planned Parenthood through her undercover videos. She encouraged largely “pro-life” crowd to stand firm in their anti-abortion rights activism, even in the cases of rape and incest, saying, “do we take out the crime, the penalty for that crime, on the innocent third party that might be that child?”
Lila Rose received thunderous applause by the crowd after delivering her closing remarks. C-Fam praised Rose’s speech at UN as a welcomed sight to the Commission on the Status of Women which, according to the organization’s head Austin Ruse, “has traditionally been a kind of radical feminist jamboree.”
And at the United Nations, Rose one of many young rising stars coming up through the ranks of the international anti-abortion rights movement, under the watchful eye and support of the Holy See and far-right civil society organizations like Family Watch International, Priests for Life, and others. These groups are relentless in their attempts to undermine sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), especially access to abortion care, at the UN.
At the UN, Rose presents herself as a “human rights defender,” fighting for women’s rights and empowerment. But she, and her peers, use the human rights framing to completely remove autonomy and agency from women when it comes to their reproductive rights and access to care. Rose notes in her speech that right to an abortion is “against a woman in every way. Against a woman physically, emotionally, psychologically. It’s against a woman’s dignity to turn against her own flesh and blood.”
At the ripe old age of 26, Rose is the “darling” of the American anti-abortion rights movement. She’s a good speaker, she’s well-connected, and she’s ready to take her work to new heights. Lila Rose is on her way to join the likes of Sharon Slater and Chris Smith in exporting U.S. opposition to abortion rights around the world, at the expense of women’s lives and well-being.
Kryptonite – Expose the lies
Lila and her cronies, like David Daleiden, will stop at nothing in their attempts to deny access to safe abortion care here in the U.S. and around the world. The twenty-somethings opposing these rights are well-trained and well-funded by the Religious Right. Fortunately, they are no match for FACT-based, human rights-framed arguments that get to the heart of the SRHR movement. Young people in the United States advocating for universal access to SRHR must be loud in speaking out against those who seek to take their harmful rhetoric across our borders.
Jul 21, 2015
Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.
Children are working in agriculture, home-based assembly operations, factories and mining. Some worked night shifts lasting 12 hours. At the very young age instead of going to school, playing with their friends they are working as a labourer sweating all day just because of poverty. As we all know children are future of the nation still many children are been exploited. Imagine a child being deprived of his childhood, his happiness just because of poverty. Only a heartless human being can take all these for granted.
Though legislations and numerous NGOs and INGOs like UNICEF, ILO etc across the world are working in Europe, the United States and different parts of world to stop child labour and to protect their rights, still in many developing countries children have to work day and night just to feed them and help their family.
With the rise of household income, availability of schools and passage of child labour laws and active participation of various organizations in local, national and international level the incidence rate of child labour have fallen down to some extent. According to World Bank, child labour in the world decreased from 25% to 10% between 1960 and 2003. Though the result seems progressive it is not satisfactory. UNICEF and ILO recently acknowledged that still about 168 million children aged 5–17 worldwide, are involved in Child labour.
The mind of children is like raw clay. Its gets whatever shape we give to it. If we involve them in work at this stage, what could we expect from them in future in nation building?
Child labour deprives children from getting education; this stops positive mental development of them which leads to poverty through unemployment. Poverty will again result in child labour. This is a vicious circle. So if we want a developed and civilized society we should send them to school not to work place. We should do whatever we can and whatever it takes to stop child labour.
Jul 6, 2015
This week we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to share their thoughts on how media portrayals of girls and women in their countries affects how their communities view the role of girls. Check out what they said!
In Ramadan, numerous new Egyptian tv shows and series are released. Sadly, the image of the Egyptian women in these shows is a huge lie. I watched a few episodes of some shows and I was really shocked. Violence against women is portrayed as nothing but normal. Young school girls smoke and do drugs. Women have no respect, no voice, and are treated horribly by men. I do not even know how Egyptian actresses agreed to play these roles and ruin the image of women like this. Although there are young girls who smoke and women who are abused, this is definitely not the norm in the country. Moreover, these shows actually encourage men to disrespect women. They encourage violence and the use of drugs. They give the world, especially the Arab world, a distorted image of Egyptian women. Fortunately, there are some campaigns against this. One of them is led by a relative of mine who I support fully and am very proud of. The campaign asks people to use social media to discourage the production of such shows and to tell people to stop watching them. I really hope these campaigns succeed and Egyptian women speak up and be heard. – Mai, 16, Egypt
The Media! The Media! What a powerful tool in building a country. Everyone turns to the media for information and entertainment through its different forms be it via movies, music, soap operas, adverts etc. The negative media portrayals of girls and women in my country not only affects communities at large but also girls and women themselves. Low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders are the leading mental problems facing girls, and they are linked to sexualized advertisements of girls and women as slim and inferior beings, weaker vessels to the men. Girls are portrayed as sex objects in movies, videos, and advertisements. Yet, the media has been of great help in the promotion of advocacy programs centered at the promotion of youth sexual and reproductive health. Because most media depictions of women serve to sexualize, rather than empower, women, actions should be brought against media houses which portray girls as sexual objects. Meetings should be held with the leaders of the movie and music industry in ensuring that girls are seen as “potential leaders” in their movies and music videos and not “potential harlots.” If possible, laws should be passed to enforce high standards for media portrayals of women. But most importantly, all girls should put on the coat of high self esteem and continue raising our voices against this until we are heard!! – Elizabeth, 19, Nigeria
The media is a communication channel through which news, education, entertainment and promotional messages are disseminated. The media can either destroy or build a country. Many people really depend on media either to receive communications or give out messages. Our media of today has really portrayed women as very inferior creatures who doesn’t have a mind. And this has changed the way people look at women. According to most movies, soaps, and even music women are seen as prostitutes are even sex toys. If you want to see how a naked woman looks like u just tune to one of the stations on TV especially entertainment and there you go. Most jobs are given to men since the society thinks that women can’t handle such jobs, the work of women is to expose their bodies for money or being used as toys this has affected our country at large and I think the media should now see women.as superior creatures who can do amazing job and take the country to the next level. – Caren, 21, Kenya
The media, as we already know, is a very influential medium that is largely responsible for the inferior image of women. Let me give you some examples. A cooking oil ad is going around nowadays in Pakistan which shows how a women is cooking food for her entire family. Her daughter is playing with the dolls but her mother forces her to cook as well. As they serve the food to the male members of their families, they seek their appreciation desperately. The males eat the food and slowly nod. This acceptance of their food is followed by the females dancing around the house while washing the dishes. Another ad concerning a mobile company shows how a man goes into a mobile shop and is greeted by a dark fully covered woman. Whereas in another shop he is greeted by a dancing, fair and seductive woman. That’s right. We all know which mobile he ended up buying.
This is disgusting. These ads largely influence the general perception of the audience and I’m sure there are way worse ads/movies/tv shows out there showing how women are inferior to men or can only be posed as ‘sexy and seductive’. We cannot let these stereotypes float around us but efficient steps need to be taken in order to eradicate this mindset. Regulation of media with an insurance of equal gender roles showcased can greatly help. – Hamna, 17, Pakistan
The negative portrayal of girls in media in my country and abroad is actually one of the main reasons that I felt compelled to get involved in Girl’s Advocacy and sought to be apart of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board.
I watched the representation of girls change in my lifetime from being a situation where girls had the opportunity to prove themselves in any arena as skilled and qualified individuals to one where she became a flat stereotype of ‘hot or not’. This only worsened with the popularity of Reality television where the main focus shifted to a girls’ fashion choices and body image. Girls as young as six began desperately wanting to emulate what they saw on these television shows and were deprived of their childhoods wanting to be seen as adults.
Jun 16, 2015
This week we asked the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to weigh in on Nigeria’s new law against female genital mutilation/cutting. Here’s what they said!
I do believe that law is the cornerstone of all societies today. No matter how good one’s intentions are, it won’t mean anything unless a citizen can find solace in the law if their rights have been infringed. Therefore, I think that it is a leap forward for Nigeria to pass an Anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) law.
However, through experiences with perception and reality, one will soon discover that passing a law is only one step in the process of changing the culture and mindset of a society. One may find that both sexes may still remain rigid for a number of reasons and, although the law may be present for a females protection, she may fear coming forward to press charges lest she be ousted from her community which may result in a loss of family ties and even livelihood.
Conversely, I would not encourage an autocratic approach to persons who still practice FGM as many genuinely believe in the practice and would likely change if they were to receive a more informed perspective. Therefore, the change in the law must be accompanied by a nationwide campaign and a strategic plan to eradicate the practice of FGM in a specific period of time (for instance in ten years).
Our Advocacy groups such as Advocates for Youth and the Girl Engagement Advisory Board should continue to externalize these issues in our communities so that we can galvanize support and turn our energies to assist in ending such a practice (like removing the stigma of Apartheid or freeing Nelson Mandela from prison).
Therefore, Nigeria’s efforts should not be dealt with solely in isolation but should also take on a global personality so that the world in turn, may eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. – Christal, 19, Jamaica
Nigeria has done it! After years of Female Genital Mutilation, Nigerian girls can finally breathe a sigh of relief as this brutal practice has been forbidden by law . Nigeria has accounted for a quarter of the FGM victims of the world. Furthermore, the health issues attached to this dangerous practice have led several girls to live a handicapped life. However, we also need to realize that certain cultural barriers do exist which can exploit this law. Several people believe this practice to be a part of their ancestors tradition and won’t let it go easy. Proper implementation coupled with people’s opinions is the key to eradicate FGM. It is necessary that health inspectors and doctors are sent in these villages to create awareness of this practice. Although, we know this is a barbaric act but, for millions of people, it’s just part of culture. Thus, instead of using force to implement this law, education and campaigning should be used. One day, hopefully, FGM will be eradicated from the entire world! – Hamna, 17, Pakistan
Firstly, female genital mutilation is thought to be a very harmful and unpleasant procedure which is one of the main reasons for banning this. Many young girls are being squeezed into doing this and they are not ready for this physically, not even mentally. The process is bound with heavy bleeding, urinary tract infections and cysts that are very painful and if they get worse they may be a reason for infertility. So the main idea of FGM is meaningless. People think that by doing this to their daughters they will remain virgins until the marriage, which is not a bad thing, but in the name of that I don’t believe it is worth it to sacrifice the ability of being a mother and giving birth just to avoid sexual intercourse and stay virtuous. That’s why I support the new Nigerian law banning the female genital cutting. Preslava, 19, Bulgaria
Apr 22, 2015
In honor of Earth Day, we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to tell us about linkages between the environmental and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in their countries!
If girls aren’t treated equally, if we’re continued to be put down, then so is the whole human race. And if the whole of humanity is fractured and suffering, how are we meant to help the planet? – Allison, 19, United States
Globally, people are consuming huge amounts of resources every day. Although many people and organisations are trying to reduce their consumption of resources and their carbon waste, the earth still faces imminent danger. This is because of the uncontrollable growth of population which makes the depletion of resources inevitable. The rate of growth of population is growing so out of hand that future generations may be deprived of many necessary resources. One of the main causes of this population increase is the deprivation of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Especially in developing countries, most people have no access to contraceptives and, for example in Egypt, people refrain from using contraceptives even when they are available. Moreover girls get married at very early ages and, consequently, have many children. Reproductive healthcare is nonexistent or very poor so women give birth to many children because they expect most of them to die. Also, people in poor villages think that their only contribution to society is by having more children. These issues exacerbate the population problem. However, these issues can be solved if governments start providing free healthcare and start focusing on the importance maternal health. They should also prioritize SRHR and make comprehensive sexuality education compulsory in schools. Also, they have to ensure girls are getting their education and pass laws that prohibit forced and early marriage. If we take all of the aforementioned measures we can definitely control population growth and save our environment. – Mai, 16, Egypt
International Mother Earth day is celebrated every year to remind each of us that the earth and its eco-systems provide us with life and sustenance.In Nigeria, there is a high misuse of natural resources and a nonchalant attitude towards waste disposal, although with the current government this is gradually becoming a thing of the past as Nigerians are becoming more conscious of their environment. Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effect of climate change worsens, our cities have to evolve. Changes have to be made. In relation to SRHR, more awareness needs to be created and enlightment made towards the gradual acceptance and use of contraceptives although the rate of acceptance here in Nigeria is slow, NGOs are doing all possible to arrive at the much expected change.
On a final note the UN Secretary General Banki-moon said and i quote “I appeal to all people everywhere to raise their voices. Speak out on behalf of this planet, our only home. Let us care for MOTHER EARTH so she can continue to care for us as she has done for millennia”. – Elizabeth, 19
I believe that there are intrinsic linkages between environmental protection and the SRHR movement. One of the more prominent elements is to preserve the resources of women and nature in order for our societies to survive. Just as we need to put safeguards in place to ensure that our environment is preserved and protected for generations to come, so safeguards need to be in place for girls and women in order to ensure that society is propelled forward.
However, in my country, I do not feel that both movements are symbiotic. Usually, depending on what is most pressing in news media, that tends to be the central focus of our government and the society at large. If there is a major environmental occurrence, then you will hear talks about prospective plans to be implemented that are geared to protecting the environment and bodies concerning those issues get brought to the forefront. Conversely, if there is a spike in teenage pregnancy for instance, then SRHR becomes a ‘Hot Topic’ and all the relevant bodies are brought forward and solutions are posited. There is not enough time spent on either major issue as the government seeks to remain current in their initiatives. We know that in reality, each issue needs their own individual protection and long term initiatives need to be executed and maintained.
Environmental concerns are inter-weaved with a girls’ rights to health, safety, education, citizenship and economic security in the following ways:
Health: If the environment surrounding us is not stabilized, then girls will be more susceptible to health deficiencies and will not be able to access clinics when needed. This will also trickle down to other members of societies. Also, if we do not sensitize members of society on the value of preserving the environment, then how can we effectively sensitize society on SRHR?
Safety: A safe environment aids in guaranteeing the safety of its members. Proper sanctions need to be in place to ensure that the safety of the environment and our girls are adhered to.
Education: It is generally countries that are not focused on education that tend to have environmental and SRHR issues. This is because persons practice what they see and if they are not taught about better methods to handle daily activities without taking proper precautions, this will lead to the degradation of society. Instances of this in my country is the burning of small amounts of trash (which is an environmental hazard) and not practicing safe sex (due to cultural beliefs).
Citizenship: Just as a girls citizenship and status in her country is a necessity to her feeling safeguarded, similarly, flora, fauna and natural resources indigenous to our own country must be sufficiently protected to ensure its posterity. Persons should not be able to destroy our natural resources in the same way that girls should not be commodified or seen as second class citizens in their respective societies.
Economic Security: Sufficient finances should be pumped into environmental initiatives to ensure their preservation for generations to come. In a similar vein, sufficient finances should also be provided to further SRHR initiatives in all countries and societies as these safeguards assist generations to come. – Christal, Jamaica, 19
The environment is tightly connected with the safety and health of the girls. What surrounds us could play a great role in people’s lives, especially in those of young girls. Clear water and fresh air are very important to people’s health, because otherwise it can cause many diseases. There are many small villages, cities and countries in the world that doesn’t have access to these essentials and that makes it harder to keep a healthy way of life. We should pay more attention to the world around us in order to make ourselves feel better and protect our children , so that they could have a proper environment for living. – Preslava, 19, Bulgaria
Apr 13, 2015
Part of my childhood was spent living with 14 other family members, not including myself. Growing up, a part of the conversation at my home was about not talking (at school,) about the times when my uncle would slap my aunt, or get so angry that the sofa would end up in his arms, and thrown across the living room. I remember that one time, I forgot and mentioned the violence to my teacher: tension at home grew when the elementary school called and wondered how safe I was in a home where domestic violence was “normal.”
Years later in college, I came to realize that it wasn’t O.K. for my uncles to throw chairs at their spouses, or that it was not normal for my aunts to cover up black eyes with makeup and sunglasses. Then I understood that my aunts were not in the position to go to the authorities, in a country where they are invisible and disregarded by police: their brown skin marks them as immigrants and targets, and because that – the same brown skin means they must do nothing more than be complacent, and survive.
I within the first year of college, I was exposed to the reality that the LGBT community experienced high rates of sexual assault, domestic violence and rape. I dreaded to even think of where the intersection was between the immigrant community queer communities, in regards to statistics of sexual assault. I then visited an immigration Detention Center and met an undocumented teenager (19,) named Saul. Saul was from Peru and made the journey through Peru, to Central America, to Mexico and finally to the United States. He chose to migrate because he was being assaulted in Peru due to his perceived sexual orientation. Now in the United States, the American guards sexually harassed him. Saul hinted at a possible assault, but couldn’t speak much because guards loomed over us while we had our conversation. When I spoke with him, he’d already been at a different detention centers, but was moved around because of the sexual harassment/assault(s) he was experiencing.
It broke my heart to think that this 19 year old was fleeing violence and prosecution, only to be prosecuted and assaulted in the United States. He was queer and an immigrant – and he was a reflection of myself: A queer immigrant (or child of immigrants,) who had seen too many scarred faces and bruised lips from his family members. As soon as I left the Detention Center, I made the decision to forever include both communities, when having conversations about sexual assault. Not too long ago, I delivered a “know your rights” training to the Latin@ Student Alliance at school – and made sure to include the LGBT community in the conversation short after. Understanding that there is power in storytelling, and in knowing that the U.S Constitution protects all people living in the United States brings a sense of relief to my already vulnerable and fearful heart: Fearful that I won’t be able to reach the hundreds of thousands of folks like Saul, or fearful that there are immigrant men and women who are survivors or currently experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence.
I think about the times when my uncles threw chairs at my aunts, or when I was strictly told to not mention the violence at home; now I also think about how powerful it is to talk about sexual assault in my immigrant community, in my queer community and in both: Making sure that folks like Saul, my family and thousands of others are represented and heard.
Apr 6, 2015
Health is a basic human right and a key factor in the Girl Declaration. Also, April 7 is World Health Day! So this week we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to tell us about health in their home countries, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The most important thing, I think, is that everyone gets a proper health education. In Bulgaria we have biology classes and we are talking about youth’s health, but it’s not that much. If there are se classes included in the education program of our country things will get better for sure. The percentage of young people who drop out of school will reduce and they will care more about themselves. – Preslava, 19, Bulgaria
While I am lucky to live in the US where there is great health care available, this “great” health care is not available to every person in the US. With educational programs in school, community centers and through doctor’s offices the US looks like it’s doing a swell job of providing girls the health information they need as they transition to adulthood.
Really though we’re doing a pretty sub-par job. With high rates of teenage pregnancy, STI transition, HIV/AIDS rates, and things like heart disease and diabetes rampant…the US does look that good compared with what we are doing compared to what we could be doing.
I think that by moving to a system that is truly a system for everyone, where every person can receive health information, care, and advice. And combining that with anti-stigma campaigns and truly non-religious and non-agenda based teaching and health-care provisions is what needs to be the focus of the USA for us to get anywhere in our mission to supply health care to millions, specifically millions of girls who are suffering tremendously because of this lack of access and availability. - Allison, 19, United States
Pakistan has vigilantly supported and worked for the spread of education and recent statistics from UNICEF show that the female literacy rate has risen significantly from a paltry 39.6 percent to a much improved rate of 61.5% for 15-24 year-olds, a highly significant factor given that 70% of Pakistan’s population is under 30. However, the schools are hesitant to discuss sex related topics and are embarrassed to talk about the problem girls face as they transition to adulthood. This ‘taboo’ needs to be eradicated as girls are unable to receive any information regarding safe health and nutrition.
Although there are several known and fully equipped hospitals with professional gynecologists to assist girls in urban areas, in rural areas, where 80% of Pakistan’s population resides, there is a dearth of efficient medical care for girls which results in girls giving birth at home and producing several children because of a lack of contraceptives available.
Campaigns and family planning agencies have helped to inculcate basic health knowledge in girls however the people of Pakistan are reluctant to make use of contraceptives and encourage child marriage which results in early pregnancies and deaths. Women are forced to use local methods to cure any sort of pain rather than ask for professional help.
Poverty is a major factor in determining if girls are able to receive information and access services regarding safe health care. Several poor girls can’t even afford sanitary pads. Their transition to adulthood is definitely not healthy and they are considered as adults as soon as they reach the age of 12 or 13, which is also the age they are married at in most cases.
NGO’s such as Aurat (Women) Foundation have been working vigilantly to ensure that each girl is given safe health care and also given an access to medicine and contraceptives. The government has set up several hospitals and gynecologist clinics where women can receive information; however, they are in horrible conditions now. The government needs to strictly implement already established policies and create new policies to ensure that each girl is able to access information and services related to healthcare whether she is poor or not. Furthermore, it is pertinent that sex education is taught in schools which is independent of any religious bias with emphasis on the ways girls hormones affect their bodies as they transit into adulthood so they may be more capable of handling their health problems. Campaigns highlighting the causes of certain diseases and health problems specifically in girls can help tremendously. – Hamna, 17, Pakistan
The health of adolescents is profoundly linked to their development since their physical, psychological and social abilities help to determine their behavior. Healthy development of adolescents is dependent upon several complex factors: their socio-economic circumstances, the environment in which they live and grow. In Nepal, adolescents comprise more than one fifth (22%) of the total population. As a result of population momentum the adolescent population will continue to grow for at least twenty years. According to Nepal Family Health Survey (NFHS), one fourth (24%) of adolescents are already pregnant with their first child. And also 50% of adolescents mother do not receive antenatal care and deliveries are done at home. In my opinion in order to decrease such problems government should increase the accessibility and utilization of adolescents health and counseling services and create supportive environment. – Muna, 19, Nepal
Although many efforts like the Millennium Development goals have been made to improve health globally, one of the biggest issues in my country is health, especially girls’ health. In poor villages, most girls do not get an education, not to mention education about their reproductive health and rights. Consequently, these girls get married at very early ages without having a clue about the consequences of early marriage. They have no access to contraceptives and they end up having so many children that they can not feed or look after them. Moreover, because most people in these poor villages are uneducated, harmful practices such as FGM continue to happen everyday. Many girls die after suffering for hours because of this practice and still, authorities turn a blind eye and society considers it the norm. Just because such practices do not happen in the city, doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that they happen in poor villages.
To end this injustice, the government has to start by educating girls about their reproductive health and rights. Campaigns can be used to make the society aware of the dangers of early marriage and practices like FGM. The government should pass laws that make education for girls compulsory and make practices such as FGM illegal. The implementation should also be effective by hiring officials to work in poor villages and not just big cities. The
world has to work harder to improve health globally. – Mai, 16, Egypt
Mar 30, 2015
I can see the first smile my parents have in their face as I am born. As the time passed I grew up with my brother , crawled with him, walked with him, ate with him . My brother is very happy as he is going to school for the first time and I am crying as I too wanna go school wearing uniform. My society and my parents said only boy can go to school . This was the first time they made me realize that I am a girl. At this time I can do nothing than cry. It’s my 18th birthday and I can utilize my rights as the rule permits. But my parents are talking about my marriage. I tried my level best convincing them about what I want from my life . At that time they made me realize that daughters are workers not dreamers. I am in new home where everything is new to me. They made me do all works and i was treated as servent. This time i relized that womens have to give respect to others even if she has to loose her dignity. I am in hospital with severe pain doctors said whether mother can live or the child . My in laws said save the child. From my birth till the date time and people never let me forget that I was a girl . I am taking my last breathe just wishing that if my child is girl she doesn’t have to face these all.
Mar 23, 2015
Let me share how I start my day everyday lately. I wake up in the morning grab the newspaper and skim through the news. In the last month, the newspaper that I read has reported at least one case of sexual violence and mostly the cases of rape. Not to forget the case of Seema and her friends who suffered devastating acid attack. With the rise of inhuman acts like these, the activists have started voicing for the death penalty for the perpetrators of incidents like these. These voices really force me to think – has the society become so cruel that we need to end the life of criminals to end the crime?
The opinion of the people whether the culprits should face capital punishment or not is largely debated. Let me walk you through what the capital punishment really is: Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime.
Capital punishment is given to a person who has been involved in serious and inhumane crimes such as murder, rape, treason, war crimes etc. Similarly, traditionally it has been practiced by most societies, as a punishment for criminals, and political or religious dissidents. It is the biggest or the most dangerous punishment any criminal can possibly receive and is given with the belief that there would be no other offensive mistakes that a criminal would make.
The debate is whether we should incorporate capital punishments in Nepal or not. It is very normal to see people reacting to the incidents of Acid attack’s case and demanding for the death of the culprit. But my question is will hanging a person to death be able to reduce crimes like this?
I in any means have no sympathy for the culprit of the case, but I do not want to see these criminals have an easy death. Seema will have to leave her entire life carrying the scar on her face, in the same way the culprit must live with guilt of committing the crime until he dies. Early death in the form of capital punishment will just allow him to escape from the guilt that he must live. Our justice system should be able to create the scar in the heart of culprits so that they have to live their life with guilt. It is the biggest punishment that a person can get – living a life of a dead person until he dies.
We are giving the birth to criminals in our own societies. The discrimination, the hatred and intolerance that is increasing in the Nepalese society is the root cause of many crimes. We need morale education than the capital punishment.
Just a reminder that death penalty has been argued to be illegal by many international organization and humanitarians. More than 98 countries had already abolished it formally there by under no circumstances a criminal is sentenced to death.
Since, capital punishment or death penalty is the punishment in which a person is hanged, electrified or tortured till death it seems it is not so viable since it also reflects the inhumane and animalistic characteristics of the judiciary involved to drag the result.
Similarly, capital punishment is the worst violation of human rights, because the right to life is the most important, and judicial execution violates it without necessity and inflicts to the condemned a psychological torture because a person suffers a lot of physical and mental depressions because to wait from the moment of result to the moment till execution is to wait for death and since a person has such a situation then he would surely panic and burns mentally every moment. An execution is not a simple death and everybody has the right of life and mental freedom, so executing a person means violating his rights.
There might be arguments that the criminal violated the human rights of other people so, he must be punished. Definitely, the criminal must be punished not through the death penalty. If a dog bites, we don’t go and bite the dog.
Our focus should be on the robust judicial system where the victim doesn’t have to wait long for the justice. Justice delayed means justice denied. We should have the provision for fast-track court that processes the cases related to gender based violence, rapes, or acts like acid attack. The laws should be made strong, the criminals can be sentenced to jail for long time with heavy financial fines. The problem with us is that we take too long to give justice to the victims as a result the pain that the victim goes through amplifies.
I repeat again that ending the life of a criminal doesn’t end the crime. The crimes are deeply rooted in the society and we need to identify these roots and focus more on that.
#GirlDeclaration #post2015 #globaldev #girlsandwomen#girleffect #investingirls #generation2030
Mar 21, 2015
When me and my friends visit to organize the “Oral Cancer awareness” Program to the local people of Hattimuda, VDC-2 in Morang district of Nepal to Local Tharu Community, then we see many health facilities are not provided by the government, people are illiterate it’s very difficult to sensitize them. We listens Nepal’s health sector is slowly increasing towards standards as comparison with internationally but I think this is not happening in pragmatically. We take a view of local people and most of them speak the same words “the cost of using the facilities is very expensive and can’t be afforded by poor people”. In my view the government hospital must run smoothly to provide health facilities to the poor people now government hospitals that exist are often poorly run and slow in delivering their service from this many people are no getting proper health facilities. Most of the hospitals are located in urban centers, away from rural areas where the poor often originate. We people of Nepal need to sensitize in this.
Mar 16, 2015
The first case of HIV in Ukraine was reported in 1987, since then, health records suggest that the estimate of all Ukrainians who were HIV positive in 2010 was about 360,000. In the country and the surrounding area, HIV has spread rapidly. In some parts of the Black Sea region, there are up to 100,000 new cases of HIV each year. Economic crisis and armed conflict are factors that are provoking a surge in the virus. “We are all concerned about the rise of HIV/AIDS in the region” Director of the World Bank’s Global AIDS Program David Wilson says “this is perhaps the region where HIV is growing fastest.”
Historically, the majority of people living with HIV in Ukraine were infected with the virus via sharing needles when injecting drugs. Public health professionals and NGOs saw an opportunity both to reduce the number of people addicted to drugs and the incidence of HIV through a needle exchange and opioid substitution program. (Based on international practice, three interventions are needed to reduce the rate of transmission: needle exchange, substitution therapy, and treatment for people with HIV.) Substitution drugs act like a nicotine patch, they are used in place of the injection drug. After the introduction of this program, as well as other harm reduction and education initiatives, the incidence of disease has decreased in the country. Transmission still continues to occur, and most often occurs in the southeastern section of the country. Most people living with HIV live in this part of the country.
Conflict in Ukraine’s east and the annexation of Crimea by Russia has heightened health disparities for people living with HIV. The central government decision to cut off humanitarian aid to the separatist-held east in November has resulted in urgent shortages of narcotics substitutes for people who inject drugs. Supplies of substitution drugs are due to run out in east Ukraine at the beginning of 2015. When they run out of drugs they will be forced to migrate or can regress to taking illegal drugs, and sharing dirty needles. This policy could undo years of progress in curbing Ukraine’s HIV epidemic.
As the global community discusses and debates the new set of benchmarks in international development, we need to prioritize and guarantee access to healthcare services in conflict zones. Humanitarian access is crucial in situations of armed conflict where civilians are in desperate need of assistance. As young people, we have the power to advocate for issues that are important, and accessibility to HIV treatment is a high priority, and a human right.
Mar 13, 2015
There seems to be a common themes here at CSW – love, adherence to human rights, and protecting human dignity. However, one particular issue seems to be very polarizing – whether or not women all over the world should have access to abortion services.
During a CSW side event hosted by the Center for Health and Gender Equity, I had the opportunity to speak with a group of young women who so happened to be anti-abortion. Because I am very grateful for my right to free speech and freedom of beliefs, I also respect someone else’s right to disagree with my belief. However, I do believe it is my responsibility as a pro-choice, pro-woman, individual to clear up any misconceptions others may have about my beliefs and the work that I do…and that is what I did with these young women.
Because those at CHANGE (and myself), believe post-rape care includes access to safe abortion services, the group of anti-abortion young women were very upset at the conclusion of the event. Along with some inaccurate “Googled” statistics, I overheard them voicing concerns about the care of women who do choose to end their pregnancy. I decided to go over and speak with them to clarify any misconceptions. Based off the discussion, here are the questions the anti-abortion group seem to have for us:
1. “Why are they pushing women to have abortions? What about adoption or parenting?”
We’re not. The pro-choice movement believes women have the right to choose the trajectory of her pregnancy. We believe in providing women with evidence based, comprehensive information so she may be able to make a well-informed decision that fits her beliefs, needs, and situation. We support women regardless of whether they choose to continue with their pregnancy or terminate the pregnancy. If a woman decides to terminate the pregnancy, we believe she has the right to access safe abortion services. If a woman does not have access to safe abortion services and decides to terminate a pregnancy with unsafe procedures, we believe she has the right to post-abortion care services. If a woman decides to continue with her pregnancy, we believe she has the right to prenatal care, safe childbirth, and postnatal care. We also believe women should be supported in their decision to adopt or parent their child as well. No matter which option a woman chooses, she should come to her decision without coercion.
2. “But I saw on Google that 80% of women suffer psychosocial trauma from having an abortion!”
First and foremost, Google is not a citation. Secondly, when I Googled this I did not find a reputable, unbiased source reporting this figure. And when I mean reputable, I mean I did a search on Google Scholar and skimmed through several pages of search results from research journals and could not find this figure. What I did find is that most women do not regret their choice to have an abortion. In the spirit of fairness, I did say most – not all. I am sure there are women who do struggle with their decision. However, denying all women the right to bodily autonomy, health, and individual beliefs is not the appropriate response to those few women who made an autonomous decision and now feel unsure about it (but we should definitely support them as well). Finally, if we are able to provide comprehensive post-rape care in conflict zones, such services would ideally include access to both short-term and long-term psychosocial counseling for women.
3. “Well I was a victim of sexual assault and I’m okay. If I ended up pregnant, I would never terminate the pregnancy.”
Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I’m really glad to hear you were able to overcome what happened to you. I also respect the choice you have made for yourself. However, as important as your experience is, please respect the diverse and numerous experiences of women all around the world. Please respect that some women may find other options better suit their lives – both in the moment or in the future. Please realize that every woman is not you, and every woman does not believe what you believe. Please come from a place of love and empathy and support fellow women instead of trying to impose your individual believes on entire populations.
4. “So at what point do you consider what’s inside a woman to be a baby? Why don’t you just say baby!?”
In the United States, 24 weeks – because that’s when a fetus is able to live outside the womb. Otherwise, I am not here to change your ideology on when a human life begins – that’s your choice to decide. I am only here to make sure you understand that women will choose to have abortions regardless of when you think life begins. My job is to advocate for people who are born, living, and may suffer. Unfortunately, making safe abortions inaccessible does not keep women from having them. However, keeping abortions safe ensures that all women maintain the right to choice, meaning you can continue to believe what you believe without imposing your beliefs on others.
5. “Why do you all keep saying unsafe abortion? What does that even mean?”
I’m glad you asked. Unfortunately, the anti-abortion movement has failed to acknowledge the difference between unsafe abortion and safe abortion by simply deeming all abortion “bad”. Unsafe abortions constitute any method of terminating a pregnancy that leads to complications. Unsafe abortions are usually performed by an unskilled person in an environment lacking minimal medical standards. An unsafe abortion may be induced by sticks, wire hangers, caustic chemicals, or throwing one’s self down the stairs to end a pregnancy. Such methods can lead to uterine perforation, sepsis, hemorrhage, and death. Women living poverty, women living in rural areas, women in developing countries, and women living in countries where abortion is illegal are at most risk of undergoing an unsafe abortion. On the contrary, safe abortions ensure the lives of women are preserved. Safe abortions are performed in medical facilities with skilled providers using evidence-based practices. Facilities where safe abortions are provided ideally offer contraceptive counseling to ensure women are able to prevent a future pregnancy if she chooses.
In conclusion, the anti-abortion movement fails to protect the lives of women in the name of personal beliefs that everyone may not hold. It impedes freedom of beliefs and the right to maintain health and life. It devalues women all over the world and fails to respect their diverse experiences. Imposing your belief to deny women the right to choice is unjust and dangerous. Ensuring abortion is legal, safe, and accessible for all women will not only prevent death and morbidity; it will also ensure all are able to make self-determined decisions for the trajectory of a pregnancy.
Mar 11, 2015
The Commission on the Status of Women is the United Nation’s premiere meeting on the issues women face around the world. Soon after the inception of the UN, women (and men) from all Member States and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come together to share experiences and develop goals for women. In earlier years, CSW contributed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drafted the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Commission has also charged itself as the body that collects extensive data on a country-by-country basis to determine the position of women and girls as support for the Commission’s efforts.
This year, The 59th Commission on the Status of Women focuses on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the Beijing Platform for Action became the “most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.” Though there were already many women (and sometimes men) on the ground fighting and advocating for women, the meeting gave participants a common plan to achieve the goals outlined in the Platform for Action. To this day, we use this document as a framework to continue the fight for gender equality and women empowerment in all corners of the world.
The Beijing Platform for Action outlined 12 critical areas of concern:
- Women and the environment
- Women in power and decision making
- The girl child
- Women and the economy
- Women and poverty
- Violence against women
- Human rights of women
- Education and training of women
- Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
- Women and health
- Women and the media
- Women and armed conflict
Though we are far from achieving the goals outlined for each critical area, we have definitely made great strides since the Beijing conference in 1995. More girls have completed primary school. More women hold positions of power in their political bodies. More women own businesses. More member states have passed laws to protect women from gender based violence. More women live in nations where laws guarantee equal treatment. More women and girl adolescents have access to contraceptives. Fewer women die in labor.
However, we have not finished the agenda outlined in Beijing. Around a third of all women still face violence – and even more in conflict zones. About 2 million girls under age 15 each year are forced into commercial sex work. Women still face obstacles in accesses sexual and reproductive health services, including safe childbirth, modern contraceptives, and post-rape care. Nearly 37,000 girls are at risk of entering a marriage before age 18, leaving them at risk for early pregnancies, domestic violence, and lost educational opportunities. About 20 million women undergo unsafe abortions every year.
In the words of Dr. Angela Diaz, a medical doctor and advocate for adolescent health and rights, “Is this dignity for all? Is this social justice? What do you think?”
During the opening ceremony of the 59th Commision on the Status of Women, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that our work is not done – and it’s not. He states that “our goal must be 50:50 by 2030.” Women deserve more. Women deserve a world where we don’t even have to discuss gender equality and fight for women’s empowerment because it will become an unconscious action; it will become a reality.
And finally, as youth, we hold a special responsibility. We are the most educated, the most involved, most connected and the biggest generation ever in our world’s history. We must hold the world accountable for the goals set out on the international agenda. We must not wait until we’re “old enough” or “experienced” as our experiences, our desires, and our vision for the world is more than enough to build the world we want for women and girls.
Mar 8, 2015
The theme of this year, International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen”. Women’s day was celebrated in the world and in Nepal too it was celebrated in different way by different forums and organizations. But while I was in my way to reach to program spot I found many girls and women in different activities like they are in clamant to save their lives and to live, some used to carry the boxes for their fulfillment of their family needs. In Nepal every year every people focus and keep raising awareness to show everyone the importance of empowering women and investing in girls, but this is not happening in lucid way instead people are in prodigal.
I think the voice of the women should be heard by every authorized policy makers and should make it happen in good time in a good way, such like increasing the number of working women in every field. In Nepal women’s presence in work, business and schools is still not equal to that of men. Women are still paid less than men in Nepal I believe this is also a kind of violence. Even when I asked to the people they are not aware of the International Women’s Day. There’s still a lot of work to do in Nepal, especially when it comes to getting women into educational leadership roles and stopping different kind of violence against women. I want people to stop and take the time to realize the amazing women and girls in the world every boy should understood mothers, sisters, friends, wives, girlfriends, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, and every amazing woman out there and should stop violence and let’s treat all equally!!
Mar 4, 2015
The following post was written by Christal, one of the members of Advocates for Youth’s Girl Engagement Advisory Board, who advocate for the important of prioritizing girls’ rights in the post2015 development agenda.
On Tuesday February 10, 2015, I went to my Alma Mater to advocate on the rights for girls. I was invited to go by my University’s recruitment team as my high school has the highest amount of applicants and attendees at the university. However, through my personal experience, one out of two girls suffer some amount of depression.
This is from the hands of other girls, through divisive tactics, peer pressure and cliqueism. Although it is a girls’ school, we are never taught the benefit of team work and comradery. We are instead, set against each other to compete in academia, extra-curricular activities and anything thing else popular just to get some brownie points and be better than another. Honestly, this made me a bit hesitant to revisit my Alma Mater because I knew that culture had not changed.
However, going with the objective of promoting the Girl Engagement Advisory Board gave me purpose a means in which I could address these issues without sounding like I was attacking or blaming anyone which has never been the intention.
We first began by discussing why they should consider tertiary education especially as females. Jamaica is more favourable toward women with regard to education. In most tertiary institutions, the females outnumber the males 70:1. This is because girls are taught the value of education and most schools push girls to perform at a higher level. Conversely, this results in disunity and disharmony amongst most girls due to the competitive nature of education.
I used the materials given to speak about the fact that we as girls are not represented on a global level.
Through speaking out on a cellular level on what rights girls should have, and through visiting the Girl Effect website along with becoming appraised with the Girl Declaration, we can become appraised on the global short-fall on girls’ rights along with the steps being taken to rectify these ills.
I then proceeded to hand out the material which quickly finished after about a minute. This was followed with having to tell disappointed youth that I had run out of material but that I would return with more.
I believe that the girls seeing a familiar face allowed for them to be more receptive to the message being shared. I truly hope that the materials I passed on would really rest in them and that they will become more proactive in showing others about the Girl Declaration.
#Girlsreachinggirls #Girlsteachinggirls #Girldeclaration
On the same day that I was reaching out to my past school-mates about the Girl Declaration, an act of gender-based violence occurred on my campus. A girl was viciously assaulted on campus at night due to an altercation between herself and a male that lived on campus (what we term ‘living on hall’).
The actual event did not come to light until the Thursday of the same week. Many stories began to circulate about the reasoning behind the attack (a relationship gone sour perhaps). Stories then circulated about the male attacker being very upstanding and passive aggressive. Whichever, proved to be factual, it invigorated the youth on campus to boycott the homecoming parade to be held on that day.
The pair who were involved in the altercation are both living on conflicting halls of residence. Due to that, the homecoming parade had to be postponed indefinitely to diffuse any anomy that could’ve occurred due to there being a large gathering. The protests however continued.
I used this opportunity to advocate that there needs to be open discussion about the signs of gender-based violence and how to vitiate against it. I also spoke on the fact that although there is a greater number of girls on campus, this still doesn’t mean that they are not susceptible to attacks on campus.
A point of intrigue was the fact that the hall mates of the offender (who lives on an all-male hall), joined the protest to say that they, as well are against gender based violence. This shows that there is room for debate and opportunities where our advocacy can effect change.
Mar 3, 2015
Too often, young people’s voices aren’t respected or included in decision-making processes that affect them. That’s why Advocates for Youth (Advocates) is proud to support the Girl Engagement Advisory Board (GEAB), a team of adolescent girls aged 15-19 from Cameroon, Bulgaria, the United States, Kenya, Pakistan, Madagascar, Jamaica, Nigeria, Egypt, and Nepal. GEAB members engage in advocacy efforts to advance adolescent girls’ rights internationally and to inform, guide and advise Advocates’ efforts to elevate and secure prioritization of adolescent girls’ rights in the global post-2015 development agenda. This week we asked them: Why did you join the advisory board? Here’s what they said:
In Egypt and unfortunately in many other countries, women are always less than men. They are expected to have kids and do housework and nothing else. Some are not even allowed to have a basic education or a decent job. They are also blamed for any violence against them. For example, girls may be blamed for being harassed or raped because they’re not wearing what the society thinks is “decent” clothing. Domestic violence is also justified and blamed on the woman for not being an “obedient wife”. Girls are pulled out of school and forced into marriage at a very young age because the society believes their only job is to be mothers and wives. I joined the girl engagement advisory board because people have to understand that women are not less than men, that women can be successful in many jobs and that women can be leaders. I joined because girls’ voices have to be heard. I joined because this injustice has to end. – Mai, 16, Egypt
I’ve lived in a society where is it difficult for me to walk on the street alone in the morning, let alone at night. The males make all the decisions and the woman is pushed to spend her life ‘cooking and cleaning’. As soon as she has mastered this task, she’s married to a complete stranger whom she is supposed to love and support and sacrifice for.
She isn’t an individual. She is considered a dependent load. She doesn’t have a voice. Her husband/brother/father speak for her. She’s caged, she’s oppressed and she’s internally dead.
I joined this board to change all of this. When will this oppression end? When will this unchecked harassment and sexism fade away? Only if girls could come together and unite to speak against such practices. It was a tiring task to raise the rights of girls singlehandedly in a state where the ‘Mullahs’ (Islamic Extremists) dominate the mindsets of the people. Even after collecting support for this opinion, I was criticized from society and started fearing for my future here. All I needed was a safe international platform where I could voice the opinions of the oppressed girls in my society to hope for some productive action. I’m lucky to be a part of this board which has provided me with such an opportunity to play my part to advocate the basic rights of girls to make them realize that they are not alone in this fight. - Hamna, age 17, Pakistan
“Oh look she is fat”, “Noo she is ugly”, “look at her thighs”, “look the way she walks. ” These are the things that a girl in my society has to listen and go through every day. Things like this made me realize how our society treats a girl. To overcome all the ups and downs that girls like me face every day, I joined Girls Engagement Advisory Board to empower girls and young women around me. – Muna, age 19, Nepal
There is a girl I know who is very intelligent, brilliant and smart. She comes from the northern part of my country specifically Kaduna state, Nigeria. She comes from a humble and not well to do home. Despite all challenges and problems she encountered, she finished her primary and secondary education with distinctions. After her secondary school education she traveled for x-mas celebrations in the village and while talking with her cousins her grandmother asked, now that you have finished your schooling “when are you going to come home and get married”. She was dumbfounded by the question and said nothing in reply. I am that girl. And this is the reason why I joined the Girl Engagement Advisory Boar – so that I can advocate for girls right and keep empowering young people wherever I might find myself to make sure they fight and stand up for their rights. I wish for that day where every girl in my village, my country and the world at large would be able to go to school and not be schooled in early marriage. – Elizabeth, age 19, Nigeria
“But you can’t ever really say ‘no’…”
–Young girls in North Carolina
“But you’re a woman, you can’t be alone.”
“But you’re a girl, you need a man, and you need to have babies.”
“Women are only good for making sandwiches.”
–The running joke at my high school
I joined GEAB because of the young girls I met in the mountains of North Carolina who thought they had absolutely no say in having sex with someone. I joined because of the disregard I was given while traveling, that I was only worth a bride price and that I NEEDED to have a husband. That I was a waste if I wasn’t a wife and a mother. I joined because we, women, can do a lot more than make sandwiches. I joined because no person with or without religious authority can make me think that I should be placed below men.
I joined because from my own few experiences I have seen that as a girl, as a young woman, as a female I am not regarded with the same weight as a male. And I joined because that has to stop right now. – Allison, 19, United States
My upbringing consisted of growing up in a commune of women (namely my mother and sister). Sadly, in my country, women have always striven to be self-sufficient and could not always depend on men to support our life endeavours.
My mother has always advocated for pursuing our dreams and ambitions and had always been supportive of anything we participated in. She laid the foundation for me in empowerment, ambition and diligence.
However, I soon realized that this was not a common thread for most women in our society. Many in my country suffer from financial challenges that preclude them from pursing their education. Many girls are also told from a very young age that in order to go to school you have to ‘find a man to mind you’ (i.e. a man who will finance your education for sex). Many persons are also hesitant to use protection. Needless to say, shortly after the relationship begins and girls are able to go to school, they drop out shortly after due to underage pregnancy.
To add salt to the wound, the same persons that encourage the girls to get into relationships with men and not to use protection, demonize them for getting pregnant and isolate them from their community. The schools also bar them from continuing their education at the same institution and the girls are forced to compete to enter the only school in the country that caters to pregnant underage mothers. The males however, are not inconvenienced in their pursuits nor are they compelled to take care of their children.
My own friends became a part of this system and had very limited amounts of recourse when they are faced with challenges. My family tried to assist in the best ways we could but there are very limited avenues for advocacy for youth.
When I became aware of the opportunity to join the Girl Engagement Advisory Board, I found that it was an extraordinary opportunity to help girls who are at risk of falling into the same system due to not knowing their rights. It has invigorated me and given me a voice, platform and avenue in which I can provide solutions for girls who are at risk along with reaching out others who have the capacity to assist them. – Christal, 19, Jamaica
I have a group friends – girls, we are 8 of them – and we share everything with each other. One of my friends had a really strange relationship with her boyfriend. He chased after her for like 4 or 5 months, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get involved with him yet. Eventually he proved to her that he cared about her and that he wasserious. Everything was going very well in the beginning when we met him and he looked like a really nice guy, but everything went bad a few months after they got together. He started calling her names, lying to her and he was very rude to her without a reason. He didn’t let her see other guys because he was very jealous and on top of everything he started to be violent against her. She had bruises at her arms and chest and he slapped her a few times as well. When I saw this I decided that the something should be done and that might be happening not only to my friend, but also to other girls.
I know that I am one person and I cannot change what happens to a lot of people, but when I know that there are other girls like me, caring about this, it makes me feel encouraged to help people like my friend. – Preslava, age 19, Bulgaria
Not only was the Girl Engagement Advisory Board a way towards self discovery and a way to make use of my potentials but also an opportunity to share what I have been through , my struggles to be right where I am now. I joined the GEAB because I don’t want other girls to live what I lived. I want to be there for them ,and make them know that they have a friend who cares for them and be ready to make a stand by being their voice. – Patricia, age 16, Madagascar
Feb 25, 2015
Big Steps Outreach Network (BONET), a youth-led organization in Cameroon working relentlessly to fight marginalization, inequality, HIV/AIDS and other social problems pertaining to young people hosted for three days, starting February 8th-10th 2015 , 30 young people from the North West Region of Cameroon alongside their teachers in a capacity building seminar which they called a “Reboot Camp” with the theme ”Imparting young people today for a better future tomorrow”. The Camp was a leadership and capacity building program that aimed to impart in its participants leadership skills, sexual and reproductive health rights training , entrepreneurial drive, knowledge of information and communications technology (ICT), and the importance of community-building as part of their commitments to drive the post 2015 development agenda.
BONET understands that when given the opportunity, young people can be intrepid innovators, productive workers, and enterprising entrepreneurs. However, the challenge for all societies is to generate sufficient opportunities for all young people, especially young women, OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) disabled youth, and young people from low income communities to obtain decent and productive work that makes use of their talents, experience and aspirations, and does so under conditions of freedom, security, equality and human dignity.
Very often young girls and women are married off too early and their sole purpose is make children, depriving them of an opportunity to an education or proper job training that can allow them to be gainfully employed. There are two choices: take appropriate action now and reap the rewards in terms of productive, stable, secure, inclusive and sustainable societies; or do little and continue to pay massive human, social and economic costs. Providing training and subsequently generating employment opportunities for the above mentioned categories of young people among all others, is a widely shared goal. However, there has been little movement beyond rhetoric to concrete and effective actions.
It was in that light that BONET gathered 30 primary school pupils in Bamenda, Cameroon for its inaugural Reboot Camp with the conviction that if these young people are introduced to these skills early enough, by the time they arrive an age that they seek to gain employment and be independent, they would have the skills and knowhow to navigate the ever challenging job market , get a job and be able to keep it or better yet be able to be enterprising entrepreneurs, starting up their own business and being self employed thus considerably reducing the strain and reliance on government jobs which barely even exists.
Working in partnership with Zuiox, People to People international and and Global Inc, all cameroon based and Youth led organizations and company, participants , of whom a majority were young girls(19 of the 30) were drilled in sessions on entrepreneurship, leadership, unemployment, self-employment, time management, decision-making and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), and were given an opportunity to learn some practical and entrepreneurial skills in basket weaving, making soaps and body lotions, operating video and digital camera, setting up projectors for presentations, painting, writing shortcodes and introduction to programming, just to name a few.
They also had sporting activities(sugar and thread, egg and spoon, sac race, football and handball, softball, sprints, relay races, tug of war) that broke gender barriers/labels and allowed these young people who hitherto had been led to believe certain sports or activities/ jobs were to be executed by a particular gender-Male now realized that the women/young girls could equally excel in these disciplines and did even better than the boys.
The Reboot Camp closed with a ceremony graced by important community leaders, the Regional Delegate of Education, community members, teachers from all participating schools and their pupils who had participated in this historic initiative. The participants shared with their parents and community members what they had learned and the impact it made on their worldviews and their desire to meaningfully engage in the development of their communities. Conclusively, the Reboot Camp was an event of significance to its participants and their communities, as it taught these young leaders of tomorrow useful life-skills and ignited a passion that BONET hopes will drive them to be leaders of the change they want to see.
As a fellow beneficiary of the services of BONET through their outreach activities to our school(Wokoko school for the deaf since 2012 till date) I strongly commend these efforts and say more grease to your efforts BONET!
By Naomi Allison Nana
Feb 25, 2015
On February 4th 2015, four civil society leaders(CSOs) from Women for A change Cameroon(WFAC), Big Steps Outreach Network(BONET), Hope for orphans foundations(HOFNA) and Vision in Action, representing 15 of the most active and committed youth led organizations, gathered in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon bearing a statement signed by all 15 of these leaders to the Director in charge of Demographics at the Ministry of Planning, Economy and Rural Development (MINEPAD), Director in Charge of Women Empowerment and Social Development at the Ministry of women Empowerment and the Family and the Director at the Ministry of External Relations, which was a consensual statement demanding the prioritization and integration of youth issues and a gender responsive language into the sustainable development goals (SDG’s).
This statement was the product of several consultation and preparatory meetings organized and held among several youth groups and CSOs with pre-occupation and determination to ensure better strategizing policies and proper engagement and representation of Cameroonian youths in delivering for the post 2015 development agenda. Given that there are approximately 13 million youth under 35 years among whom over 8 million of those are adolescents and of the 8 million close to 65% are young girls whose lives shall drastically change for good if Cameroon supports key priorities on health, employment, education and sustainable agriculture, this call to action could not be more timely.
The statement took into account possible ways of the realization of the President’s Three (3) Years Emergency Plan for Cameroon, the Vision 2035, the GESP, the ICPD PoA, Beijing Platform for Action, amongst several others that transcend the post 2015 Development Agenda.
As part of the President and government’s call for collective efforts in driving Cameroon to become emergent by 2035 as well as to ensure maximization of Cameroon’s strides towards the realization of the global post 2015 development they presented their expectations as summarised below.
-Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights as well as Comprehensive Sexuality Education (SRHR & CSE): They mentioned that ‘Health was Wealth’ and that every society or country can only thrive with a healthy population. While saluting the government’s health policies and efforts that have helped to curb prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal mortality, morbidity rates and so on,they still had concerns about the slow progress recorded when it comes to youths and access to information and services pertaining to their SRHR in Cameroon. The desire to include and foster CSE in schools and other institutions with young people remained highly imperative to ensure a Cameroon with healthy and responsible youths capable and ready to join collective actions to drive the country’s development agenda. On that note, they emphasized with a cry for help to see government committed to integrate existing agreed language on youth and women sexual and reproductive health rights, as reflected in the African Youth Charter, the ICPD PoA, the Maputo Agreement, the Addis Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action.
Youth Employment: The statement also highlighted youth employment and how it is essential in achieving sustainable development. Even though there is enough literature supporting the fact that when young people, men and women are provided with decent and respectful jobs, they live to their full potentials and also help to shape society’s development path, youth employment in Cameroon still remains one of key challenges and the government still fails to see how this very important tool can be used in eradicating social cohesion, ending violence and restoring peace and security. They mentioned that there was no doubt to say that by integrating and prioritising youth issues during the post 2015 negotiations, particularly around ensuring that they are provided with decent jobs, and receive nondiscriminatory treatment based on their gender, the country economy would eventually witness a rise and emergence by 2035.
Youths and Good Governance: They went further to say as far as they were concerned Cameroonian youths were conscious of their rights and responsibilities to protect and promote their national heritage, and believe that the time to serve their country better is now so as to leave a befitting future for other generations to come. Despite their huge population in the country(over 65-70%), they are continually under represented and less engaged by government at various strategic levels of decision-making and policy implementation in Cameroon. While they do and cannot undermine current government efforts to boost youth employment and curb underemployment in the country, they still saw more potentials and possibilities that the government could adopt to do better as far as justly involving and engaging youths is concerned.
They believe government should get them on board as key partners and stakeholders to represent young people in on-going processes to foster good governance practices in Cameroon especially through ensuring youth participation, respect of human rights, transparent and accountable management of state resources, rule of law, and above all consolidation of state institutions and democracy.
Financing Development Agenda: The statement also stipulated that for Cameroon and Africa to realise the demographic boom, sustainable financing for development agenda must take into consideration the needs of youth, young peoples and women’s sexual and reproductive health rights and needs because unhealthy active population reap inefficiency and unsustainable development. Financing for development models must have transformative approaches that is people-centered and driven, and that ensures access to credit and gender sensitive trade policies.
Environment: As far as environment was concerned , they stated that without a clean and safe environment, young people, women and girls in particular won’t be able to reach their full potential, or live an active healthy and productive life.As such they need to galvanize actions towards a clean and sustainable environment.
Peace and Security: ‘‘There can be no peace without security and no development without peace’’ as stressed by the President during his recent end of year speech and while the members of the CSOs agreed totally with the President, the youths equally believed that there can be no such security, peace and sustainable development without youth, women and girls who constitute majority of population in Cameroon. Given the fact that those most vulnerable to security threats and challenges are the youth, women and young girls whose rights are often being violated and deprived or being lured by opportunistic terrorists’ offers while co-opting and recruiting young fighters from the Northern Regions of our country, it was of utmost importance to get them involved in these negotiations and protect them thereof.
It is worth noting here that Cognizant of the strategic and timely role youths stand to play towards achievement of the post 2015 agenda for the SDGs, and reiterating the fact that Cameroonian youth constitute over 65-70 % of Cameroon’s total population representing enormous potentials for government to harness and utilize in maximizing expected development results, they cannot therefore shove their responsibilities away for nation-building- the more reason why they channelled this commitment statement to these Stakeholder and with highlights of their expectations. They were warmly received in all three ministries and all Directors made commitments to ensuring that key elements of this statement would be in their messages as they draft country specific recommendations towards the post 2015 development agenda.
By Naomi Allison Nana
Feb 25, 2015
I am really shocked to hear and to see the news that two two school girls were attacked by acid in the way to their tuition class by unknown boys in the capital city, Kathmandu. The victims of acid attack are overwhelmingly increasing everywhere in the world, women and children are mostly targeted and attackers target the head and face in order to injure, disfigure and blind as they do same to Sangita Magar, and Sima Basnet, in Kathmandu . Acid has a devastating effect on the human body, often permanently blinding the dupe person and denying them the use of their hands. As a consequence, many everyday tasks such as working and even mothering are rendered extremely in difficult condition. The number of acid attacks is so rampant these days in the world and its growing in the Nepal too. I believe that this acid attack crime is worse than murder because the victimize has to continue to “try” and live with constant pain and they are disfigured and they become an “outcast” for the rest of their lives so this is far worse than death itself. So it must be stopped and Nepali government should configure and confine the attackers, new policy, laws with regarding this should be implemented and attackers should sent lifelong to the custody with regarding this type of crime immediately and we all the youth should overcome with all of crime and we shouldn’t make it mystery.
Feb 19, 2015
“Where did I put my keys?” “Where’s my left sock?” “Did I remember to lock my room before I left?” “Oh My God! I forgot to pay my electricity bill.” “Oh no! I forgot my friend’s birthday.” We’ve all done it.
Absent-mindedness is a mental condition in which subject experiences low level of attention and frequent distraction. Absent-mindedness is not a diagnosed condition but rather a symptom of boredom and sleepiness which people experience in their daily lives. When suffering from absent-mindedness, people tend to show signs of memory lapse and weak recollection of recently occurring events.
Absent-mindedness can have 3 causes:
i)a low level of attention
ii) Intense attention to a single object of focus, i.e., hyper-focus
iii) unwarranted distraction of attention from the object of focus by irrelevant thoughts or environmental events.
Lapse of attention are clearly a part of everyone’s life. Some are merely inconvenient while the others often lead to loss of time, efficiency, personal productivity and quality of life. It can also lead to depression, boredom, bad grades at school and lead us to trouble a number of times.
But absent-mindedness can also be seen as a blessing at times. The case of a Russian journalist, Solomon illustrates the point dramatically.
Solomon’s memory was so perfect; he could remember everything that was said to him and maybe everything that had ever happened to him. Tested by the neuropsychologist, Alexander, no limit could be found to his memory.
But this amazing gift had its down-side. He found it too difficult to ignore insignificant events. As a result, a simple cough would be imprinted in his memory forever. Also, all his memory were so highly detailed that he found it difficult to think in abstract. It can be difficult to think about the idea of, say, a bridge, if your memory is immediately assaulted by the hundreds of specific examples of bridges.
It was reported that Solomon became so tortured with the accumulation of memories that he developed a special technique to help him forget. He would imagine the memories he wanted to ditch written on the blackboard and then erase them mentally. This seemed to work for him.
Perhaps we should all be thankful for our absent-mindedness. It saves us from remembering our life’s crushingly dull moments and helps us live at the present.
Feb 19, 2015
I am a Resident Advisor to about 65 residents at my university. As a youth activist, I can’t help myself but to spread sexual and reproductive health information to my residents. Last week was National Condom Week, and in its honor, I provided both male and female condoms to my residents. My residents came to the program expecting free male condoms and various edible goodies. However, they were also bombarded with a new, unknown-to-them method:
“OH MY GOD! What are those?”
“I stick this WHERE?”
“Why would anyone use those?”
“Wouldn’t this scare a guy away?”
“Who uses those anyways? I’ve never heard of them.”
I’ll admit the first time I ever heard about female condoms I had the same reaction – until I was able to fully understand the power of female condoms. Female condoms are exactly what they sound like they are – but are inserted inside of the vagina (or the rectum). If you’re interested in a visual on how female condoms work, watch this informative video from Planned Parenthood.
As the reactions of my residents suggest, female condoms are not very popular in the United States. In fact, out of about 50-60 students who stopped by the program, only one knew about female condoms prior to the event – and he was a guy. However, they have proven popular with both men and women all over the globe. In many countries, female condoms have become one of the preferred methods of choice. Their growing popularity in some places have left health departments unable to keep up with demand! There are several reasons why female condoms are a great method and why they have maintained their popularity among those who use them:
#1 – They are the only method that prevent pregnancy, STIs, and HIV/AIDS that a woman can control and initiate herself – and they’re just about as effective as male condoms. Though there is an array of contraceptive methods for women, only male and female condoms can protect against STIs and HIV/AIDS. With male condoms, a woman must depend on a man to agree to use a condom and use it appropriately. With female condoms, a woman can put her health into her own hand and ensure she’s protected from not only pregnancies but STIs and HIV/AIDS as well.
#2 – They are not made with latex, so allergic reactions are not a problem. Unlike the typical male condom, female condoms are made of nitrile, which is non allergenic. Therefore, a woman does not have to worry about herself or her partner having a bad reaction to female condoms.
#3 - They come pre-lubricated. Particularly among women in menopause, vaginal dryness may be an issue that makes sex uncomfortable. Female condoms are lubricated both on the outside and inside, which provide both partners with comfort and pleasure. If more lubricant is required, users of female condoms can opt for either oil- or water-based lubricants.
#4 – Many men do not enjoy wearing male condoms. Female condoms can allow men to forgo wearing condoms while also receiving pleasure from the design of female condoms, particularly from the rings on either end. In addition, male condoms require a man to be erect before putting it on, which can interrupt the heat of the moment. Female condoms can be put in before any sexual activity even begins – up to 8 hours before!
#5 – They empower women. Due to the very nature of inserting female condoms, women must become comfortable with their bodies and understand their anatomy. In addition, commercial sex workers do not have to worry about the possibility of a client refusing to use condoms; she can take her health into her own hand and discreetly use a female condom. Finally, HIV/AIDS is affecting more women than ever – 60% of all new diagnoses in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Therefore women deserve access to a reliable, effective method that is made especially for them.
Though countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Kenya, and Zimbabwe have been effective in promoting the use of female condoms, other countries haven’t been as successful or do not promote them as heavily. To increase the awareness and use of this relatively new and exciting barrier method, we must:
- Advocate for the sale and/or placement of female condoms wherever male condoms are available.
- Work with manufacturers, private donors, and government ministries of health to make female condoms more affordable.
- Include men in the discussion so that they have the the information necessary to have candid conversations about female condoms with their sexual partners.
- Educate woman on female condoms in schools, places of worship, hair salons, etc.
To learn more about female condoms, visit femalecondom.org
Feb 9, 2015
This is the modern scientific age and the use of technology is gradually increasing by leaps and bounds. Social Medias and other web services and the internet itself have become the favorite of all people. It is totally impossible to find someone who has not been familiar with internet these days. The use of internet has skyrocketed these days and internet has become a common home for all the people. Internet if used properly can be a boon but we are even facing various criminal activities committed through the means of internet. Some of the serious crimes involve hacking, cracking, etc. But the crime which has created devastation among the youths is Cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is the use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.
Cyber bullying involves repeated behavior with intent to harm and repeated nature. Cyber bullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mails or text messages harassing someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. Thus these are subjected to harm other people due to various tension created among the youths themselves. It may also include public actions such as repeated threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech) or defamatory false accusations), ganging up on a victim by making the person the subject of ridicule in online forums, hacking into or vandalizing sites about a person, and posting false statements as fact aimed humiliating a targeted person. It is a serious criminal offence which can even be considered as a crime without blood though it has even pushed various people to the circle of death. Cyber bullying could be limited to posting rumors about a person on the internet with the intention of bringing about hatred in others’ minds or convincing others to dislike or participate in online denigration of a target. Similarly it can also be done to distract people, defame them or even to defame them. It may go to the extent of personally identifying victims of crime and publishing materials severely defaming or humiliating them.
The recent use of mobile applications and rise of smart phones have yielded to a more accessible form of cyber bullying. It is expected that cyber bullying via these platforms will be associated with bullying via mobile phones to a greater extent than exclusively through other more stationary internet platforms. In addition, the combination of cameras and Internet access and the instant availability of these modern Smartphone technologies yield themselves to specific types of cyber bullying not found in other platforms.
Cyber Bullying has been more common these days within Social Medias. People are found more likely to be creating rumors about those people whom they dislike. Nowadays due to the more use of various forms of Social Medias people share even their personal things or even let the cat out of the bag and such people are more likely to be the attack of cyber bullies. Cyber bullies may disclose victims’ personal data (e.g. real name, home address, or workplace/schools) at websites or forums or may use impersonation, creating fake accounts, comments or sites posing as their target for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames, discredits or ridicules them. . Text or instant messages and emails between friends can also be cyber bullying if what is said or displayed is hurtful to the participants. In such a condition it won’t be a fault to say that cyber bullying is also major challenge for the authorities to solve.
So it has presented itself as a burning issue and these types of problems should be eliminated by various programmes. Awareness programmes and various laws that protect victims should be specialized by the concerned authorities. Not a single intruder or offender should be left out free. They must be identified and various code of conduct should be established so as the bullies will be discourage to harm other people. So it is a major issue and a problem which must be eradicated and uprooted form internet for now and ever.
Jan 31, 2015
Hey guys! This is Hamna Tariq from Pakistan. I\’ve recently noticed that the streets in my city are mostly crowded with males and hardly do I spot a woman nowadays. This has concerned me greatly as girls tend to stay home, hidden from society, to prevent them from being harassed. As a result, several women leave their jobs and their families become a target of poverty. In today’s society women are not even safe enough to walk to a nearby market alone. They are trapped within the four walls of their house so they remain ‘secure’.
Adolescent girls, who dream of success, are forced to do household chores or marry someone so other men are not able to harass them. This disrupts their education and they are not able to live their life the way they want. This caged oppressive life causes psychological problems for adolescent girls and not only do they have to carry the burden of maintaining a household but also endure the pain of childbirth and an age when they should be studying.
Two years ago, I had a girl in my class, Mishaal. We were good friends and had the same subjects. However, she was forced to leave school. Why? Because her ‘brother’ felt that by coming to school, she came in contact with males thus she should sit home and do what women are supposed to do; household chores and get married. She had to sacrifice her education and her dream of becoming a doctor because of a certain mindset inculcated in our society. But why does this mindset exist in the first place? This is because of the lack of laws and regulations ensuring women’s safety. It is believed that women are ‘supposed’ to be harassed when they leave their homes. Why else would they come out?
This trend of adolescent girls being barred from society is on the increase. There should be strong and adequately resourced child protection systems which do not only secure girls from all kinds of harassment but allows them to live their lives freely without fear. Thus, safety is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed and hopefully by working together we can protect adolescent girls all around the world from violence and exploitation.
Jan 31, 2015
What is love? Definition may vary from person to person. For someone love may be family, friends, food, shopping etc. But have we ever just thought about love for our body? Many of us want a fit and well figured body but have we ever thought of over sized body? Every single person is unique due to individual physical trait.
Body image is how you view your physical self including whether you feel and whether other like your looks. In present context it is seen as one of the major problem among teens, especially girls. They think that body image is all that matters which is playing major role in decreasing their self confidence. Does confidence only come when you have a perfect body? We should not change our body to get respect from the society; instead let’s change the society to respect our bodies.
#GirlDeclaration #post2015 #globaldev #girlsandwomen#girleffect #investingirls #generation2030
Jan 22, 2015
Women who cover half of the population of the world are comparatively backward in many fields than the men. They are the one who continue the existence of human race on earth with their power of creation. Women’s don’t only have maternity power within themselves but they also have the capacity to lead the society to literacy and enlightenment. Men and women are considered as the two wheels of a same cart, so it is necessary that the both wheels should function properly to run the cart smoothly. So if men have basic right to education, so as should be given to women.
In the context of Nepal, in spite of having skills and capacity women’s are backward because of the conservative thoughts prevailing in the Nepalese society. Apart from those educational rights, they are also deprived of their basic rights and thus are compelled to be backward and are considered as physically and mentally weaker than male. It is said that if a male is educated then a person is educated but if a women is educated then whole society is educated. It also signifies that what capabilities and skills a woman can develop if she is provided with proper education. If a female is educated then she can give good morals and disciplinary and civilized knowledge to her children, who are the infrastructures of the future nation. Similarly an educated woman can enlighten her family, society and the whole nation with her light of knowledge. It is the essence of present time to provide equal opportunities to both male and female.
If male and female are not treated equally then it is a means of pushing the whole nation and society to devastation and deprivation. An intellectual mother gives a birth to a intellectual child. It is also clarified by Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous quotation “give me a good mother; I will give a good nation to the world”. Various world famous women figures such as Madam Curie, Mother Teresa, Benazir Bhutto, Condoleezza Rice etc are those women who lead their society and country to a more sophisticated way. They are such exemplary figures who are the evidence that women, if provided with education and knowledge, can lead the world forward.
So, it is time to develop positive attitude towards women and provide them with their rights and education. It has become an essence for today that the society and nation need equal role of both male and female for the sustainable development. So women education has become a very essential factor today.
#GirlDeclaration #post2015 #globaldev #girlsandwomen#girleffect #investingirls #generation2030
Dec 30, 2014
In Nepal, talking about sex and sexuality is taboo. Imagine not being able to get basic information, or even ask questions. I started working with a local organization so young people, especially young women, could talk about their sexual health and get the lifesaving information they need. With support from Advocates for Youth, after a three year campaign, we got comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education into schools in Nepal.
It didn’t happen overnight. It took years of meetings with policy makers, and the first online activist petition ever used in Nepal to get better sex ed in our schools. Now students can get information on topics like contraception, safe abortion, sexuality and sexual health services.
Advocates invested in me. They brought me to the U.S. for intensive 5-day training where I could learn and meet other youth activists and find family in the issues and challenges that connected all of our activism across the globe. Now when adults in Nepal know that I have been to the U.S., and have met with U.S. government officials, they have confidence in me and our work together becomes easier.
Advocates changed the course of my life and now, my country. Now, it’s your turn.
With thanks for all that you do,
Advocates for Youth
Donate $10 today and you can be an ally for young people across the globe fighting for change in the policies affecting their health and rights in their communities! http://bit.ly/18ygFCx. http://bit.ly/18ygFCx
Dec 20, 2014
I start my normal day at 8.30 AM to go to my university. The distance between the university and my home is merely 4 KMs, however due to the congested traffic and poor management of road it takes me more than 30 minutes of time to cover the distance. The public transportation is so inconvenient that I change two buses within a mere distance of 4 KM to reach my university.
These 30 minutes of the day are the hardest minutes of my day and I face the hard time every day…every morning. I start living a humiliated life, life like a second class citizen as soon as I leave the compound of my house. The moment I hit the road, I feel that I live a life that I am not supposed to leave.
By the time I reach the bus stop, I would have been eve teased several times. The eyes of the passerby would have penetrated through my body several times, yet I move on.
The story doesn’t end here. The story begins now. The moment I try entering inside the micro-bus, whose door is quite smaller than my body size, I would have already been touched by the conductor of the bus even though I would not want him to touch me. He would take the privilege of touching everyone who enters inside the bus.
It gets worst when you enter inside that small moving box called “micro bus” where people are packed and loaded as if they are some goods without life and feelings. Let me tell you how a young girl experiences when she enters inside that box, she would be literally checked out by the eyes of the people who are inside the box.
Let me give you this particular example of one day when I was literally poked in my private parts of the body by a person who would be of my father’s age. At first, I didn’t confront because I was scared but after getting that unwanted gesture for quite a time, I caught his fingers and twisted them bad. But I still didn’t dare to speak…. And I didn’t speak. Today, I regret for not revolting that in front of the public.
Here, I am not just yelling my personal story. As data from the World Bank suggest more than one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime around the world. This is the story of each and every girl who uses the public transportation in the Kathmandu valley. Everyone faces this but we hardly speak out…. The silence that we keep motivates people who treat us like second class citizens more.
Having faced the situation multiple times, I have started using this customized technology that I know as “Pin the fun”….I will use a safety pin to pin the fun that people try to have with me in the public transportation.
However, this is not a permanent solution of the larger problem of eve teasing in public transportation that we face. Improving the public transportation system and making sure that we are not dumped in the moving box like objects could be one of the solutions… But not the fulfilling and only solution.
Solving the problem of gender based violence needs a deeper understanding of the problem. It needs to analyze the dynamic nature of society and the changes that are going through. We need to ask ourselves at home on what kind of culture are we transferring to the younger generation? Are we teaching them to respect women? At the meantime we need to see whether we are silencing women too much in the name of patriarchy and culture so that they cannot protest back even they are exploited.
The answers to these questions need to be asked at personal level and the person asking the questions should be satisfied with the answers!
Many times, we try to escape leaving all the blames on governments and say that we need stronger laws. However, one thing that we should not forget is that morality and ethics are more powerful and stronger than externally imposed law and regulations. The time has come that we ask ourselves that are we creating a world that learns to respect the womanhood.
These are some questions that needs to be answered within. When we get the answers to the critical questions that have been posed above, I think girls like me will stop inventing technologies like “Pin the Fun”. I firmly believe that Together, we can overcome gender based violence and create a better world for ourselves, our loved ones, and future generations.
Dec 19, 2014
Dec 18, 2014
On December 9, the day before International Human Rights Day, CHANGE and 20 other human rights, women’s rights, faith-based, and youth organizations rallied at the White House to call on President Obama to take executive action to ensure that U.S. political barriers no longer stand in the way of access to safe abortion services for women and girls overseas who survive rape or incest or whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy.
Above is a video of me speaking at the rally – I was very excited to deliver remarks on the behalf of Advocates for Youth! I shared powerful stories of our brave and inspiring international youth advocates on the ground. In case you aren’t able to watch the video, here are my remarks:
My name is Imani Marks and I am a member of the International Youth Leadership Council, a project of Advocates for Youth. I am an undergraduate student at The George Washington University here in DC, studying Public Health. I am so honored to be standing here today with all of you and to be among this diverse and influential group of speakers who are all here calling on the President to provide access to post-rape care for women and girls.
I am inspired and have learned a great deal from Advocates’ young women and adolescent girl activists and peer educators working in the global south to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality. Whether it’s Helena in Namibia who suffered sexual abuse growing up, resulting HIV infection, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, including untreated fistula post-partum; Hamna in Pakistan who experiences and is faced with witnessing constant sexual harassment of girls in her town on a regular basis; Shanti in Nigeria who did not have access to information about contraception and experienced complications from an unsafe abortion; or girls in rural Burkina Faso in the town of Leo who have undergone female genital cutting, it’s time for all young women and girls to have complete access to the full-range of sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services, including safe abortion.
Helena in Namibia is trying to make this a reality in her own way by establishing a community-based organization to support young women living with HIV. Hamna in Pakistan is visiting schools to educate girls and boys about sexual harassment and the importance of respecting both girls and boys rights and dignity; and in Burkina, girls already having experienced FGC are standing up for their younger sisters, asking their parents not to subject them to the same harm. Girls and young women around the world and in the direst situations are fighting for their reproductive rights. They are fighting for access to critical health services, including safe abortion.
Now it’s time for the President to step up. To stand with them. And to eliminate barriers to safe abortion care for women and girls.
For more information on the Break Barriers Campaign, visit breakbarriers.org.
Dec 11, 2014
Distance from my house up to my college is about 1 hour. I have problem with transportation as i don’t possess my own vehicle and there are no alternatives for me rather than catching public vehicle. Riding in public vehicle especially for girls is being problematic day by day, i can feel harassment that i am suffering while traveling in it. People harassing us usually don’t realize the mental pressure we are going through. Touching , using slangs and making fun of the dress i wear are the major problems that i am facing right now. These are just the few examples of harassment that i have been facing . Moreover each girls in average of two me are facing the same problem like me in every single minute. Today i want to ask people , what should we (girls) blame whenever we are harassed ? Its either governments loose policy or peoples respect towards woman.Who will be responsible for our security ? Either our family,we ourselves,our self esteem or who else other.
Nov 3, 2014
When we figure out our most embarrassing
moments in the era of solitude, we begin to see
reasons why hope and faith is of utmost
importance to the benevolence of prosperity and
growth. Sometimes, we say our words cannot
rouse our current situation to a glorious height,
and our feelings for vague reasons is not good
enough to strike a deal with change.
The question is: are we giving twice as much or do
we live in nightmares?
For so many reasons we–youths, have failed to
understand why certain things happen: most
youths attribute unpredictable events to “chance
and luck”. I don’t believe that prosperity happens by
chance, or that unexplainable scenarios take place
when the mind is at rest. I put my trust in destiny:
as it is written, so shall it be.
Well, it may interest you to know that there are two
kinds of attitude towards life–when we are almost
on the verge of giving twice as much to hope and
faith for a new beginning.
*There are those who will never figure out that
They were used to achieve a purpose,
*There are those who will, at a late time figure out
That they were exploited to achieve a goal.
Do you know how it feels to be trapped in this
scene,–“It is like going to heaven on bare feet.”
The most profound aspect is understanding the
essence why ones life is useful in a particular field,
the environment or why it is important at all.
The first portrays the picture of Understanding ,
and thousands of youths have faulted in this act.
Understanding the reasons why you are needed for
an objective to work out, why purpose is necessary
to harness the goodwill of change, and why ones
environment plays a huge role in the
transformation of his “Mutual Being,” signifies the
understanding of self.
The latter, exemplifies purpose: why is it the way it
is, what is the objective on the one hand, and why
is it necessary–will the course change? And if it
does, will we?
Grace provides youths with the leverage to do
more with less, to raise boundaries with little
effort–it doesn’t work without a thorough
understanding of why certain things are needed.
The best way to get ahead, and dwell in the throne
of grace is to “Understand Purpose.” It is what
differentiates the major from the minor.
We are youths for change–let it remain the way it
Oct 11, 2014
Today the world celebrates the third annual International Day of the Girl Child, a day to recognize the position of the girl and her unique challenges she faces around the world. This year, the focus is on ending the cycle of violence.
But why focus on violence? Don’t girls face other problems around the world?
Yes, they do. Girls lack access to basic rights, such as education, access to health, political and economic opportunities, amongst others. However, violence against girls intersects all other disparities girls may face. As the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action states, “violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms…In all societies, to greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.”
Unfortunately, girls around the world face violence every single day. The UNFPA estimates that about 1 in 3 girls and women have experienced violence at least once in their lives. Much of this violence stems from the socialization of the boy and the reinforced societal position of girls and women; girls are taught to keep quiet while boys must dominate and treat girls as their inferiors.
Fortunately, there are ways to stop and prevent violence against girls. All across the world, creative solutions are not only protecting girls, but empowering them.
Boys- and Girls-Only Discussion Groups, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The DRC currently faces an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The conflict has excited the problem of sexual violence, genital mutilation, and other forms of gender-based violence. Within displacement camps, UNICEF and Association of Volunteers in International Service have created Adolescent Discussion Groups to give young people a safe place to discuss violence and gender equality. Girls discuss issues pertaining to safe sex, healthy relationships, and sexual violence. Boys are empowered to act as allies in the fight against gender-based violence. Since 2009, the program has supported about 2300 participants. To learn more about the program, watch this video.
Engaging Girls in Sports, Multiple Locations
Engaging girls in sports gives girls a safe place. While playing a sport, girls gain confidence, they learn how to use their voice and they become more aware of their bodies. Coaches can sit with girls, talk with them, and provide counseling for survivors of gender-based violence and can provide girls with any other resources they need. Currently, programs exist in all over Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Australia and the United States. For more information, watch this video.
In Egypt, 83 percent of women have been sexually harassed and 67 percent of men admit to being harassers. The growing social acceptability of the problem led to the creation of HarassMap, an online and mobile system that maps reports of sexual assault submitted by texts. In addition to the reporting system, volunteers are trained to go into their communities and talk to people, such as kiosk and shop owners and doormen, about standing up to sexual assault and harassment. HarassMap also helps communities develop safe zones for girls and women. Safe zones can be shops or entire streets where sexual assault is not tolerated. Here is a video to learn more about HarassMap.
As you can see, all around the world people are working hard to ensure the safety, security, and equality of girls. Let’s take this day – and everyday – to reflect on the issues girls face and continue to take creative approaches to end the cycle of violence against girls.
Oct 10, 2014
Tomorrow, October 11, marks the 3rd annual International Day of the Girl! This day highlights, celebrates, and advances young women’s and girls’ lives and opportunities across the globe.
Let’s continue to ensure that young women and girls are agents of change in their local, national, and global communities. Together we can bring an end to gender based violence, early and forced marriage, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services. The Girl Declaration, the result of a consultation with over 500 girls from over 25 developing countries, seeks to bring the voices of adolescent girls and their dreams for the future to the forefront. By prioritizing the goals of the Girl Declaration – education, health, safety, economic security, and citizenship – into the United Nation’s development agenda, we will stop poverty before it starts.
You must have a computer with working internet, a webcam, and Skype in order to participate. Times throughout the day and evening are still available. We can make accommodations for those who wish to protect their identity. Advocates for Youth is committed to making sure the voices of girls are included in the future global development framework. Over the next year, world leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the lives of adolescent girls, and in turn, the world.
Join us in calling on governments to respect, protect and fulfill the rights and needs of adolescent girls as they negotiate the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Read the Declaration and show your SUPPORT for adolescent girls on the #DayOfTheGirl! http://ow.ly/CzjRt Together we can bring an end to gender based violence, early and forced marriage, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services. Sign here and support girls’ health and rights on this #DayOfTheGirl! http://ow.ly/CzjRt
Aug 12, 2014
For a young activist in sometimes very isolated parts of Africa, one tends to think they are fighting alone or worse, be blinded by their fight. The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), showed me and my fellow activists, among other things, that we were not fighting this fight alone and our fight was only one of many.
Three months after receiving 50,000 applications from young Sub-Saharan Africans, the 500 who have been selected arrived in the US as the inaugural YALI class of 2014. Each of these young leaders has demonstrated a commitment to their countries or communities through civic leadership, public management or business and entrepreneurship.
Twenty universities across America hosted 25 fellows each according to their fields of interests. The program consisted of a 6-week institute including academic sessions and site visits followed by a three-day presidential summit in Washington D.C.
President Obama’s initiative, supported by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) is a flagship program which not only helped the fellows to learn more about different American practices in their respective fields through exchange and hands-on experience, but also to learn more from one another.
The program further included different opportunities tailored to the fellows’ interests: all 500 fellows met in DC last week for a summit hosted by president Obama during which they had an opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions on different political and social issues in their respective countries or in the continent in general. The summit was itself a platform for fellows to work together toward solutions to address these issues during breakout sessions featuring different US Government representatives and spokespersons. Thirty six well-deserving fellows from the business and entrepreneurship track competed for and received grants to help start or fund their business; 36 others were selected for a discussion on the challenges facing girls’ education with the first lady Michelle Obama; and about 100 stayed for an additional 8-week internship for professional development and special invitations were sent to selected fellows for the US-Africa leaders summit.
As a Washington fellow myself, I have no words to even start explaining how enriching and eventful the program was. I think the majority of us went back home not only stronger of knowledge and experience but mostly stronger from each other. Today, Advocates for Youth, who has joined the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is opening new doors for me for a better education in sexual and reproductive health and rights. As I am writing this piece, I am reminded of a sentence one of our lecturers told us during his session and which I think, resonates with the whole philosophy of this program. He said “I don’t know better; I know different”. Today, I can echo his words and say “I have not necessarily learned better, I have learned different”. And that is what really counts at the end of the day because we are only bright and leaders enough to know what the reality is in our countries until we know, see, or experience “different”.
Jul 11, 2014
Sex and the city
A sixteen year old girl got pregnant few weeks before i had completed my exams, and the reeking saint of unwanted pregnancy loomed in my street for weeks ; bearing from the first. Most girls I have talked to in my neighbourhood, often say ; ”their family are poor and they lack the essential resources that will trigger a change — socially, physically, emotionally and economically.
”Today, eight out of ten girls (with ages between 12-17) in my community, gets pregnant every two Months”
In Some families ( where girls are a majority), parents lure their daughters into prostitution : as a result of poverty, and poor social status.
We are the drivers our lives: but what if that life is nurtured and understood. What if girls are taught — with basic morals from mother and father.
”what if, for every mistake, she is corrected and shown the right part ; Then, with other positive attribute laid, change can be achieved.
Jun 19, 2014
Travel fan. Unapologetic dragon buff. Student. Lifelong food geek. Beer nerd.
Jun 5, 2014
Coupled with the buzz of religious norms the relationship with sexual health and development in most parts of the world – where girls are a major entity. There are huge barriers raising the heights against change, due to religious tenets and other viral misconception on girls sexual health by uneducated and uninformed dictators.
Most Christian girls socialize and connect with youths of the opposite sex. Frankly the main course for this, is to associate with the outside world and spread the world for change.
In Nigeria, there’s an upheaval of distrust when it comes to Christian girls associating with boys of different social and religious background. The enmity connected with youths due to a difference in background makes it difficult for social equality to take effect.
Most girls have become rigid due to the religious norms governing the idea of equality.
Our social conditioning as males and females is an important determinant of sexual risk behaviours. The pressure from religious beliefs like ,” no sexual intercourse till marriage, no dating and socialize with only the same peer group, pressure most girls into engaging in sexual behaviours they don’t want, and as a consequence increase their risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
The nub of the matter is that these girls due to pressure from religious norms have rapidly increased the rate of teenage pregnancy and STIs – which is a major threat to a promising society.
I believe that, if we can raise our voice the notion governing religious superiority in our environment , then we may experience social equality.
May 26, 2014
I cannot speak of the number of deaths or give an estimate of the total number of youths that have lost their lives due to certain issues linked to surviving and a rapid desire for change, wealth and fame.
But one thing remains clear. The majority of deaths occurred due to an abrupt change in the ramifications of socioeconomic standards altered by political thugs. This unwanted adjustment made the need for man a do or die affair.
From the unlawful demand for peace and harmony youths have lost their lives. While The government cast their thoughts to the wind, they allow certain laws and rights dwindle the lives of buoyant youths.
Hundreds of youths have lost their lives due to the pressure attributed to voting. It’s good to vote. But the way it’s here, it’s an avenue to increase the deaths of youths. There’s no security given to those voting, and at most case some candidates who have theirs rights stained seek to alter these voting by using extreme means – which in Turn ends the lives of youths.
Also, there are no good hospitals and girls do irrational things to themselves due to lack of knowledge. The health centers that are suppose to maintain a steady health rate at all cost – Do so, by not attending to these girls early and not administering appropriate medications to them. At the expense of trying to stay fit, these young girls loss their lives to minor issues.
Today, people fight for position (wolves in sheep clothing). The most touching of all is the conflicts in ‘Government owned schools’, Where we have an annual contest between David and Goliath. Students have lost their lives for the sake of position resulting from vague issues, protest for a development in school and for their rights to be heard. And still the government has done nothing.
I have often talked about the relationship between LGBT youths and the environment. Well, the crux of the matter is that these youths are either killed or sent to prison, without seeking to understand them and why they find themselves in this situation. Thus, we continually have an evolution of unresolved problems.
The increase in Death rate associated with the lack of knowledge displayed by inane leaders is the worst of all. I believe It has thwarted the need for excellence. This fact alone has almost wiped out the hope we have.
Many have lots their lives and the worst of all is the kidnapping of the young chibok girls in Nigeria (serving as sex slaves).
If we and the government can maintain, sustain and adhere to a standard, then we may have a reduction in conflict and the deaths occurring.
May 24, 2014
From installing baby gates to fastening bike
helmets and seat belts, parents put their kids’ safety
first. But once kids hit adolescence, the risks can
become less obvious. When it comes to teen dating
violence, for example, many parents are blind to the
risk and so don’t offer the help their children may
need. Even when parents recognize teen dating
abuse, their attempts to intervene can be off-target
and often go ignored.
Given the alarming prevalence of teen dating abuse,
all parents should become educated on risks and
warning signs. Simply recognizing abuse, however,
isn’t enough, say experts featured on Be Smart. Be
Well. Teen Dating. Parents also need to know how
to talk to their teens when they suspect abuse, or
they risk pushing their child closer to the abuser.
Learn to identify abuse and follow these steps to
create your own teen dating-abuse action plan.
Wake up to the risk
Many parents falsely assume their child isn’t at risk
for dating abuse. In truth, teen dating abuse affects
both males and females in all parts of the country
and from all walks of life. One in 10 high school
students reports being hit, slapped or physically
hurt by his or her boyfriend or girlfriend in the past
year, according to the Centers for Disease Control
(CDC). And one in four adolescents report verbal,
physical, emotional or sexual abuse by their
boyfriend or girlfriend.
The numbers are just as worrisome for young
adults in college. According to Liz Claiborne Inc.’s
Love Is Not Abuse 2011 College Dating Violence
and Abuse Poll, nearly half of dating college women
report having experienced violent or abusive
behavior at some point in their dating lives, and
one in five report actual physical or sexual abuse or
threats of physical violence.
Even if young people aren’t being abused
themselves, chances are they know someone who is.
According to surveys conducted by Liz Claiborne
Inc. and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, 80
percent of teens reported knowing someone who
has been a victim of controlling behaviors from a
boyfriend or girlfriend. And more than half of
college women report knowing a friend who has
experienced violent or abusive dating behavior.
“The reality is this is an issue that could affect
anyone at any time. None of us are immune from
it,” says Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of
Break the Cycle, a leading national nonprofit
organization addressing teen dating violence and
one of the experts featured on Be Smart. Be Well.
Domestic Violence. “Smart or not so smart, wealthy
or not so wealthy, it doesn’t matter what color you
are or what you believe. This issue affects
Watch for red flags
Despite the prevalence of teen dating abuse, many
parents remain uninformed. Of teens who reported
being victims of physical abuse, only 10 percent of
their parents were aware of the abuse, according to
a 2009 survey.
That may be because parents are missing the signs.
Abuse can take many forms and doesn’t always
result in obvious bruises or cuts. This list of
potential warning signs, compiled by the National
Teen Dating Helpline, can help parents determine if
their teen is in an abusive relationship.
Warning signs include:
Your teen’s partner is extremely jealous or
possessive. Your teen’s partner emails or texts
You notice that your son or daughter is
depressed or anxious.
Your son or daughter stops participating in
extracurricular activities or other interests.
Your teen stops spending time with other friends
Your teen’s partner abuses other people or
Your teen begins to dress differently.
You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
May 6, 2014
We had a lot to say and rail about when Mipsterz releases its
“Somewhere in America” video with hip hijab-wearing ladies. We talked about slut-shaming and music being haram (or not) and everything in between. Then on International Women’s Day when Sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah made extremely inappropriate jokes towards women, the global Muslim community rose to fire opinions back and forth on that too.
And when the Honesty Policy released its “British Muslim” video for “Happy,” we had a lot to say then, too. And yes, those issues are important in their own rights. There is growth to be had, stereotypes to be unpacked wrongs to be righted. But can we be fired up as well over the April 15 kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram – 276 of whom still remain in captivity? Girls whom the leader of Boko Haram is threatening to sell into slavery? (“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.”)
Maybe hashtag activism is all we have right now.
Maybe that’s a crock. But maybe that’s where it
starts. And international pressure builds, and then
pressure will be put on the Nigerian government, and
then someone will do something to help those girls.
Staying quiet isn’t getting us nowhere, and it
certainly isn’t doing squat to help 276 girls held by a
As friend and colleague Professor Omid Safi says in
his blog , “ What Would Muhammad Do,” to the
leader of Boko Haram:
The time comes to put aside intellectual exchange:
You repulsive vomitous excuse of a man. Human
beings are not for sale. The girls belong to their own
selves, belong to their own families and communities.
You are nothing short of a thief.
This is a bastardization of Islam, of decency, of
liberation, of all that is good and beautiful.
We are dealing with people’s children here. If we
were dealing with property, it would be akin to
someone breaking into another person’s home,
stealing their property, and then stating that they are
willing to sell the stolen material.
Except that we are not dealing with property. We are
talking about human beings.
Boko Haram stands for “Western Education is haram
(forbidden).” You know what’s haram? Stealing
people’s children…Trying to sell human beings. You,
Boko Haram, you are haram. You are vile and
repulsive, the very antithesis of all that is beautiful
and merciful. Your action have made the lives of 276
school girls a living hell, and brought untold anguish
to thousands of their family members.
May 2, 2014
For months, I have thought, read and surfed the
web and other extensive files and documents of
ways by which ; Males and Females , can have
safer sexual intercourse without STDs and not
having to worry about Unwanted pregnancy.
Although , Abstinence is a profound alternative
which is practiced by volunteering to Refrain from
sex , till a divine time. Abstinence is laid on a
foreground of not having any kind of sexual
relationship with a partner – it is simply
diminishing this urge with self will (i.e not willing
But , I have often dabbled at rigorous questions I
can’t answer ( like : Can we all abstain from sex ?)
If only a handful can, then what about the
majority ? I got the idea of Outercourse, from
Medical Reports I came across and other
“Outercourse allows people to express their
sexuality in many ways, to Abstain from sex, and
avoid the risks of sexually transmitted infection
and unplanned pregnancy”.
“Outercourse is any sex play with no penetration
at all, whether — oral, anal, or vaginal”.
It also, defines the situation of intercourse –
between youths and adults experimentally.
Most youths, especially young couples who desire
no intercourse between themselves for a long time
can delve into outercourse :
Because there are no side effects and medical
faults , since the fondling of the body is meant to
cause stimulation and provide satisfaction.
Outercourse is a the best option for the young and
old, since sexual intercourse cannot be ultimately
Outercourse, is not an education, but rather
abdication of the role of guiding youths with the
information they need to make personally
influenced decisions based on sound reasoning
facts. “Knowing, what is safe and what you should
avoid will help you make proud and responsible
Outercourse gives an outstanding solution to the
aches we have in the society due to certain notions
most youths and couples partake in.
There are ways in which youths, couples and
adults can life an outstanding life without being
cut short by unwanted and unplanned
circumstance. For sexual health – which is every
youth desire , Outercourse should be considered to
reduce sexually transmitted diseases and
Apr 22, 2014
Thoughts at puberty”
Thoughts may come and go,
And minds made decisive,
Mates may stay to cuddle,
And tears cease to stop,
Apr 14, 2014
I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.
I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.
I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.
I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)
I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.
I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.
I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.
Apr 14, 2014
I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.
I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.
I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.
I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)
I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.
I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.
I am an “Advocate For Youth”.
Apr 12, 2014
Many a time, I have tried to deduce the consequences of some ; Arrogant notions displayed by most youths. The world we live in is Profoundly able to garnish our being to prosperity, and at the same vein make us subjects to harsh circumstances – which will carve us into : Strong, Unrelenting and Determined youths, if we work towards perfection. And destroy our aspect for a Futuristic goal if we reduce our stance, by ploughing the roads of havoc.
Today, we have youths in Prisons, for violating governmental laws and the Commandments ( which is induced in,”LOVE”).
Most parents have Been great and worthy of note, because they have nurtured and trained their children in the right way – using the right principles. Still at this, most youths feel reluctant and partake in ; corruption, rape, killing, cults, sex scandals and other illegal acts.
It’s stated that – “we (Youth(s)) are the leaders of tomorrow.”
But 88% of the world most populous crimes are done by youths. Youths whose future glow more than the stars.
Who is to blame ? Is it the Parent ? I don’t believe that a mother will advise her child to kill or rape a girl.
And I don’t believe a Father, in his sane mind, will propels his son to join a cult.
So who is to blame ?
The environment has a very tremendous phase to play as an assisting dictator of youth growth.
“But should we allocate the illegal acts, committed by youths to the environment ?”
Also, the Government. Poor governance has reduced the overwhelming growth of most countries, and as a result destroyed the countenance of most youths.
This has made most youths swear the, “Oat of Allegiance”, to evil.
Should we then, blame the government ?
Apr 10, 2014
Wednesday afternoon’s side event was so good I just have to share it with everyone! WHO, OHCHR, UNDP, and UNFA joined forces to discuss priorities for SHR beyond 2014.
Kate Gilmore, the Deputy Executive Director for UNFPA, moderated the event. I think she was by far the best moderator I’ve ever heard. She provided excellent commentary to the stories and testimonies of the panelists and even shared her own views on SRH issues.For example, in response to conservative legislation attacking the human rights of LGBT people yet allowing or ignoring child marriage, she says,
“The ICPD is more concerned about men who have sex with children than men who have sex with men…the ICPD is more concerned about acts of violence than acts of love. For any government who is concerned about preventing men from having sex with men, let them first concern themselves with men who have sex with children.”
Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research of WHO shared some insight on the progress we have made since Cairo. Here are some of the facts and figures she shared on our success:
- 50% reduction in maternal mortality
- Increase in the use of modern contraceptives
- Reduction in the rates of new HIV infections
Though we have made great success, she notes that there still are inequalities:
- 6 out of 10 women who want to prevent a pregnancy are not using a modern method of contraceptives. These women tend to be the poorest and most marginalized members of society.
- 1 in 3 women between the ages of 15 and 49 experience violence from a partner
- 99% of maternal deaths happen in low- and middle-income countries, largely from preventable reasons
- 500 million new cases of curable STIs were contracted in 2008
Youth suffer from the greatest inequalities of all. Rachel Arinii, Coordinator of the Youth Coalition in Indonesia spoke on these inequalities. She believes her nations and others neglect the youth’s right to comprehensive sexual education (CSE) and services come from the notion that “human rights [are] a ‘Western’ concept.” She discredits their conclusion by noting the worst inequalities happen within the nation, not necessarily between nations. For example, her country “80% of young people who have received abstinence-only education experience confusion.”
Those figures change when a comprehensive based approach is used. According to Arinii, providing CSE doesn’t do damage at all:
“When we use comprehensive based approach, [youth] are able to protect their rights and make [healthy] decisions. With or without education, people still have sex!”
Apr 8, 2014
Today during the Celebrating Cairo & Going Beyond, we heard a powerful message from Ishita Chaudhry, the Executive Director of The YP Foundation. She spoke on why we must not forget about women and girls. As a Indian woman, she recognizes that many in her country view SRHR as a “Western value;” that “denying human rights is culturally appropriate.”
She also told the story of a 16 year old girl whose parents had arranged for her to marry a middle aged man. However, the young woman was able to participate in a program that educated her on her SRHR. Because of the education she received, she was able to stand up to her parents and refuse to marry the older man. She was so empowered that she eventually presented her story to the Indian government.
Chaudhry also spoke about another serious issue: gender-based violence. Though she spoke on the specific issues women in India face, the experiences are not unique to the nation. Around the world, women are raped, beaten, and told that what happened to them was in fact their fault.
Noting how ridiculous victim blaming is, A Mumbai-based comedy team, All India Bakchod, decided to make a video “It’s Your Fault.” Check it out here: AIB: It’s Your Fault.
Apr 8, 2014
This week, members of the IYLC are in NYC to participate in the 47th International Commission on Population and Development. We’re here to make sure the youth’s voices and ideas are apart of the post-2015 developmental agenda. However, the IYLC particularly want to ensure youth’s right to comprehensive and accurate sexual and reproductive health information and services. Though there are other groups here who are fighting and advocating for the same thing, there is opposition. We have a long week ahead of us; we can use your support! Share why you believe in rights-based SHR should be included in the post-2015 agenda. Use the hashtag #cpd47.
Apr 3, 2014
Ample of time we have been hearing about the harassment of girls
Female harassment happens daily all around the world. Female power always harassed by male. This case is known by all the people. But what about the male Harassment by Female ???
Here is a story of victim of it.
Subash (Name changed) used to live in Chitwan one evening he was sitting alone in the balcony and 6\7 girls group was walking on the road and they saw alone boy was sitting and they tease him. They said, ‘Oh handsome lets go to visit somewhere. Some of them whistle him and make different types of sound to him. Subash felt so shy that he went inside the room. This is a story of a vacation boy who went Chitwan in his vacation and this happen to him.
Hear is another story of Bikram (name changed)
When Bikram was in his 10th grade in school. He was new to his class he haven’t any friends because he was newly admitted in the school. In his class their was a group of girls which group used to tease and made him fool .The group of girls used to give a dash while walking or in the class,ground. that group use to said to him, ‘Oh ho 1 eakli eakli hami aaum basnali?'; ‘oh your are alone do we come to sit with you?’
Boys are also harassed by girls mentally and psychically.
We all think about the girls harassm
Apr 2, 2014
Sometimes I ask myself questions : questions which are ever aching and proving stubborn to define or understand. I can’t recall the last time; a friend ,organization or social community discussed the affair of Youth Development via Sex Education and the threat it poses to Humanity and its affair.
In America there’s a flexible, progressive link for Sex development. Although not perfect but better than what we have here in Nigeria. At most case I have wondered why we are still in the loop hole ; a pit filled with ill-fated people who only acknowledge the receipt of their welfare.
The role of sex Education , is to foster a spontaneous change in : Sexuality, Heterosexual-conscience,Attitude and also promote a Beneficial role in Moral and Value. Youths , (especially boys), will massively grow in self esteem as it will tremendously shape Thoughts and increase a positive intake in Sex orientation and Education.
Educating people on Pre-sex Affair which is the Basics for a good foundation on Youth sexuality, will change lives. What we fail to understand is our, ” inability to Define what Sex Education and the Orientation it has on Youths”.
Sex education is instruction on issues
relating to human sexuality, including
human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, and birth control. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, formal school programs, and public health campaigns.
sex education is defined as a vital public health strategy – which will play a role in the Reduction of STDs : By initializing Health centers, Health tips, Options (Gadget) and Orientation. And will also diminish an increase in Abnormal Behaviors displayed by Youths (Boys mostly) ; which are ,Bullying, Coercion and Discrimination). If Every youth know the basics (i.e, its preventive methods (Abstinence), techniques, and Healthy tips) then we can have a possible outbreak of change in Heterosexuality.
I believe that when people become enormously aware of their Sexuality and how it tends to : Affect, Diminish and Increase STATUS’, we will begin to see change – Fundamentally, Socially and Mentally in schools, society, Environment and the world at large.
Starting with schools – which is a great idea, is one profound step. Advocating Sex-ed in public places, outlets like Seminars, NGO programs and other governmental aids will contribute too.
We need to spread the word which is a,”PROMOTION ON SEX-ED” in schools, outlets, Rural and Urban sphere and other geographical locations.
Mar 28, 2014
via The Guardian
Mar 26, 2014
In the last week of February, the Myanmar government decided to not renew the license allowing Doctors Without Borders (commonly known by its French acronym MSF) to operate in the country. The suspension resulted from disputes over the organization’s aid to the Rohingya Muslim minority, in addition to MSF’s alleged role in escalating ethnic and religious tensions between the Rohingya and the Buddhist population. The humanitarian organization has operated in the country for 22 years.
MSF often provides the only medical care in displacement camps, including access to certain medicines the government does not fund. People living with HIV/AIDS will experience increased difficulties, as MSF was the main provider of HIV/AIDS drugs. More then 30,000 individuals received such medications from MSF and now face uncertainty in acquiring lifesaving therapies.  HIV/AIDS clinics in multiple states have closed already and MSF fears the impact will be devastating.
Mar 25, 2014
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM, which is often carried out with unsterilized instruments, can cause severe health and psychological problems and in some cases, girls bleed to death or die from infections. Later in life, FGM can lead to complications in childbirth and increase the risk of the mother and baby dying.
In East Africa, Female Genital Mutilation is practiced by several tribes with promoters of the practice arguing that it initiates girls into womanhood and increases their chances of being married off. Other tribes believe that cutting off some of parts of the females genitalia like the clitoris reduces cases of girls and married women engaging sex outside their marriages. Promoters of Female Genital Mutilation have little regard (if any) for girls and women’s lives lost or the suffering that they go through after undergoing this cruel and life-threatening ordeal. Girls between eight and fourteen years of age are cut by elderly women often using unsterilized razor blades or knives to initiate them into womanhood and subsequent early marriages. This also exposes girls to higher chances catching HIV from unsterilized knives because cutting is done by unprofessional cutters who are mostly old women who have been involved in cutting for decades.
Hundreds of infants, girls and women are still forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation in East Africa. Young girls run away from their homes for fear of undergoing FGM and miss school while others drop out of school. Local political leaders fear to publicly condemn the practice for fear of losing elections and in some cases they have helped offenders escape being prosecuted in Courts of law. Girls and women are not informed about their rights and protection provided by the available legislation. My visits to communities that practice FGM in Northeastern Uganda have exposed to me the need to continuously inform communities about the dangers of the practice and empower communities to directly take part in projects and efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation.
During my most recent trip in February to a community that practices FGM in Northeastern Uganda, I met girls who had been forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation and needed collective surgery. Most the girls pass out urine uncontrollably and require collective surgery to fix fistula. My trip also inspired me to try and create positive change in these communities to help girls live in safer communities live to their full potentials. I decided to produce a documentary film called ‘Chasing the Cut‘ about girls and women forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation and bring their stories to the world. I am now in my final stages to travel to Northeastern Uganda, Northeastern Kenya, Western Kenya and Central Kenya from April 15 through to May 15 to film and produce the documentary. I am trying to raise funds on Indiegogo to make this film, organize public screening across East Africa, carry out FGM campaigns and organize a procession of hundreds of Activists to deliver a petition to the East Africa Legislative Assembly in Tanzania. I am excited by the prospect of reaching to millions of people and inspiring change through film a to make a difference. My Indiegogo has only 6 days left. Please join me, donate and share my campaign widely http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kata-ending-female-genital-mutilation
I think men must also actively take part in ending Female Genital Mutilation instead of promoting as is the case in communities that practice FGM where men promote it arguing than women who have been cut make better wives. I think that by exposing the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation, we can then shape plans to completely stop Female Genital Mutilation. I am committed to lead the demands for change and help girls live healthier lives. Please support my campaign here http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kata-ending-female-genital-mutilation
Mar 22, 2014
In the past years, I have volunteered my skills and time on a number of community projects. But the feeling I had this morning after digging for the laying of pipes which will convey potable water to the community of the of the Bassa Industrial area especially those of the “Plateau Guinness” neighborhood was special. Special because sparked by the smiles on the faces of the adults of this community who had come out in their numbers to contribute to the building of the taps from which will flow this so much talked about “Precious” liquid which some have said is “Life”. The smile on their faces was as radiant as I have only seen on the faces of children enjoying every minute of their life on a school playground at break.
These persons have every reason to smile because Cameroon’s water sector is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained. According to a United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), about 92% of Cameroonians living in cities have access to improved water while only 47% of Cameroonians living in rural areas can access potable water. This situation has not only been the cause of the repeated Cholera outbreaks that the country has experienced recently but caused untold damages in families and communities especially rural communities.
In fact, these people who are not alone in their case have had their sisters, daughters, and mothers raped as they moved to the stream to fetch water, they have missed their lessons or being late to school because of they have to move for long distances to fetch water for the family every morning while their peers are in class, and have lost a loved one to diarrhea and other water related diseases. This has no doubt contributed to the lamentable state of rural areas in my country Cameroon.
We must all make the progress our world is currently enjoying benefit all. It is only when the fruits of the progress the world is currently experiencing are enjoyed by all that the development we are so much clamoring for will really be sustainable.
Knowing that atrocities such as those described above are experienced by a countless number of people in other communities around the world is revolting because we live in a world of plenty and can all afford to make life better for all. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 800 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water .May the below extract from Reflections on Water by the Ecumenical Water Network, a project of the World Council of Churches, inspire you to act in your own small way for this liquid as we observe World Water Day today, March 22nd 2014.
Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily.
Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty,
or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth’s most precious
and vital resource is unconsciously wasted.
Mar 14, 2014
I may not know much about Kalki Koechlin, but there are two things I know for sure.
- She cannot dance to save her life and it’s adorable. Exhibit A: “Balaam Pichkari” from Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani.
- She is fiercely outspoken when it comes to women’s rights.
The following video is a piece the bollywood actress performed at the India Today Conclave titled, “The Truths of Womanhood“. It touches on everything from gender roles in history, societal expectations of women, objectification and rape. Her monologue is poignant in all of its shining veracity.
Kalki is also famous for starring in the All India Bakchod viral video titled, “It’s Your Fault”.
Mar 8, 2014
Mar 7, 2014
Advocates for Youth condemns the multiple instances of disturbing government actions aimed at denying the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons that have recently taken place in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and almost in Arizona, right here in the U.S. We will speak out against such intolerance and bigotry. This complete disregard for human rights and we will not let it go unnoticed or unchecked.
Urooj Arshad, Associate Director of International Youth Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth, spoke with Richard, an LGBT youth activist who lives in Nigeria. On the 14th of January, the President of Nigeria, Ebele Goodluck Jonathan, assented to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill passed by the National Assembly criminalizing gay relationships. The law further criminalizes the witnessing or aiding of same sex relationships, the direct or indirect public show of same sex “amorous relationship” as well as registering, operating or participating in gay clubs, societies and organizations. Since the signing of the Nigerian law, a number of people have been arrested in Nigeria.
Despite the dire circumstances and the threat of real danger on the ground, Richard is still doing, and plans to keep doing advocacy work.
– Q: What does this moment in history mean for you?
A: This moment means to me the fact that the world is moving but sadly in the wrong direction. It is of total disbelief because I sincerely , like every other optimistic person, hope that by 21st century we would have progressed with healthy debates that enhances the existence of man and freedom for all. The reverse is the case as we in the 21st century are still struggling to accept one another and show love to everyone. The good thing about this is that it would go down in history as the time when oppression towards LGBTQ people took a scaring leap but it became an awesome opportunity for LGTBQ to organise, become more strengthened and made an impact. Because you believe that this is the best time for LGBTQ people to stand up and ensure that their voices are heard and their rights respected and protected.
– Q: Why are you still doing the work even when the threat of danger has increased?
A: The reason I am still doing the work is because the threat is increasing, it is because there is still discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and it is because oppression is taking a new and dangerous turn. I strongly believe now is the time to fight and get it right. As the threat to danger increases so do I feel I need to do more as I believe in the future not just for myself but for every other young LGBTQ person growing up.
– Q: What do you want people to know about Nigeria, even in the midst of this conflict?
A: I want people to know that Nigeria is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I want people to know that Nigeria is not occupied only by bigots, ignorant and violent people. Nigeria does have a fair share of beautiful people, intelligent people and people who are committed to the advancement of humanity. Nigeria, ofcourse, is going through hard times but the truth is, Nigeria would win and Freedom would apply to all Nigerians very soon regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
– Q: How will young people lead the way out of this?
A: Young people are already leading the way and they are already speaking up. They are organising and they are using very creative ways to achieve results and yes it is working. We won’t see the results now but very soon it would be crystal clear. Young people are energetic, determined, committed, creative and very instrumental to change and yes it’s important they are part of this and the good news is that they are already, we only wait to see the bright future when freedom is applicable to everyone.
Mar 7, 2014
It has nearly been four months since Eastern Visayas was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) yet the situation of the people remains difficult and our future uncertain. No words can aptly describe of our situation in those trying moments. In just four hours, Yolanda destroyed our homes, offices, schools, and our source of livelihood. Along the rubbles that the mighty current of storm surge have carried are the lifeless bodies of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and loved ones – many of whom are still missing, or have joined the count of dead bodies waiting to be identified and be given proper burial.
I am deeply grateful and touched by the love and support of my friends and families abroad. For five days of uncertainties, they have filled-up my Facebook walls and my e-mail with messages of hope mixed with concern and prayers that have sustained me. I want to personally thank my amazing family in Advocates for Youth (especially to Nicole, Mimi, Janine, Sulava, Urooj and everyone), my orange family – Y-PEER Pilipinas (especially to Ate Zai, Kuya Mario, Ate Aiza, and everyone), and my relatives who sent their help in many forms that help sustain our temporary exile from Tacloban.
My unwaivering faith with my God has inspired me to move on and go on with life. It is the first time that I wrote a lengthy blog. I have to admit that the super typhoon has somehow robbed a part of me and somehow that emptiness has also made me not inspired to write with gusto as much as before. Now, I am back. Inspired with the new hope that the city of my birth will rise above the rubbles, I returned to Tacloban last January 11 to begin anew but dealing with the stress and trauma is not easy.
The days, weeks, and months that followed after Yolanda were particularly difficult for us as we try to come into terms with our loss and face the uncertainties of future. After four months, we are continuously hearing of the rebuilding and rehabilitation plans that our national government was able to come up and will be implementing. The people are being forced to accept this plan but the pressing questions are these: Were they able to exhaust their means to consult the people on the kind of rebuilding and rehabilitation that we, the people affected by Haiyan wanted? Were our voices heard in the process? Have they taken into account of our welfare and well-being?
We have decided to act. Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. We must not allow the national government to come up with a rebuilding and rehabilitation plan that will send us back to the situation that made us vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and poverty. That is why the Freedom from Debt Coalition together with the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Eastern Visayas ngan Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) will be organizing a March Rally tomorrow, March 8, 2014 so that the national government will hear our cries, the people will listen to us. Let us make it known to the government our demands which include the following:
1. Livelihood fund for women. Women are one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. They should the capacity and means to rise above from the ruins of Haiyan so that they can be self-sufficient and so that they can help their families as well.
2. Assistance for farmers and fisher folks. In agriculture, the farmers especially those in the coconut industry and the fisher folks are the ones whose livelihood was badly affected by the super typhoon. They need assistance in order for them to recover their source of income.
3. Student calamity fund for students in Yolanda-affected areas. Allocate a budget for State Universities and Colleges in Haiyan-affected areas so that it can help their students especially those whose parents are financially incapable of financing their studies in the form of: scholarships; employment opportunities such as hiring student assistants; and other ways and means in which the fund can help the students.
4. Automatic PhilHealth coverage to all families affected by Yolanda since most does are not capable of paying their hospitalization and not all areas in Region VIII have a public hospital or health centers.
5. Lower the price of commodities. Government should implement Price Freeze and strict monitoring on the prices of commodities and implementation of the law by government-designated agencies such as DTI.
6. Temporary suspension of the Value Added Tax (VAT) to basic commodities in Eastern Visayas and other areas directly or indirectly affected by Haiyan.
7. Regular and permanent jobs, not only Cash for Work. Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their livelihoods to super typhoon Yolanda and most of them cannot go back to their former livelihood.
8. Assistance to homeless families in order for them to rebuild their homes. We have heard of the construction of bunk houses and plans for permanent shelter for homeless families. Bunk houses constructed without following international standards should be reconstructed. Permanent shelters should be built not later than soon. Those whose houses are damaged but still habitable should also be extended with help.
9. Climate Justice for all victims of Haiyan. Super Typhoon Yolanda was brought about due to the unabated Carbon Dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by factories and machineries of developed countries since the start of Industrial Revolution which resulted to global warming. Developed countries are accountable to developing countries like the Philippines for their historic and current role to climate change and global warming. Therefore, it is but right that they should pay developing countries in a form of reparations such as the Green Climate Fund which can help them be more prepared and adaptive to climate change and so that they can mitigate the effects climate change that is unavoidable.
10. Fund for climate change induced calamities and poverty such as what President Aquino signed in 2012 in what now known as the so-called People’s Survival Fund Law which allocates 500 million pesos for Climate Change adaptation and mitigation which remains un-allocated and un-programmed since the Aquino administration has yet to craft its Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR).
Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Haiyan-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. That is why we must not bide with time and wait for the government to act. This is an opportunity for us to be stand in a common ground and be united. We must not allow a “business as usual” recovery and rehabilitation. Yolanda left us a hard lesson and a grim reminder that Yolanda may not be the last super typhoon to visit Eastern Visayas. Let the memory of those who die will not fade in our consciousness. Do we want that the events in November 8 happen again in the future?
Mar 5, 2014
Over the past months so much has happened in the LGBT community around the world:
1. President Obama continues to gives stern warning to countries that criminalizes homosexual.
2. Other World leaders making a vivid statement as it regards to the recent winter Olympics in either not showing up or openly condemning Russia’s law which criminalizes public expression of LGBT advocates.
3. The passing of new Anti-Gay law in Uganda .
4. The World Bank postponing a $90 million health project for Uganda citing the country’s passage of a new anti-gay law, “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law.
5. US Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a world “where professing one’s love does not lead to persecution.”
6. Actress, Whoopi Goldberg has accused the governments of Uganda and Nigeria of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ in response to anti-gay laws being passed in the two countries.
7. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stating that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Therefore he is calling for the repeal of its severe penalties.
8. The Pope, Francis has made a point of reaching out to gays, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”
9. LaBarbera an Anti-Gay Pastor is reported to have travelled to Jamaica to speak at an anti-gay conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Coalition.
Hillary Clinton’s speech on international LGBT issues was game changing years ago. A historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems.
“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” said Clinton to a packed auditorium of human rights activists who gathered in Geneva for International Human Rights Day. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
I close in saying, It’s not time to kill the gays and I don’t think there should ever be a time when we want to kill the gays as they are humans just like everyone else who identifies themselves as something else. Let’s continue to work to preserve human rights and never give up in this fight.
Feb 19, 2014
“…The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust…A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence…”
This incredibly brilliant piece by Adichie makes me want to scream with joy from the highest building. I am so glad she took time to address this. She did a great job too. The excerpt above is my favourite part of the article because it addresses the core problem of any anti-LGBT legislation. How can actions which affect no one but the individuals involved be labeled a crime and legislated?
In Nigeria’s case it’s so frustrating because as she also pointed out, there are SO MANY other issues plaguing the nation, but the government has chosen to focus on something that isn’t even a problem.
Well done Chimamanda! Well done!
I was a bit disheartened when I saw the negative comments, but then I reminded myself that there will always be hate directed towards one group of people or another. There will always be people who choose to remain ignorance and embrace their preconceived notions regardless of the information provided to them.
The real concern is freedom. If one is free to love who one wants, marry whom one wants, what does it matter if people think it is wrong? Everyone is entitled to their opinions.
Feb 17, 2014
I discovered that TED and TEDWomen have never featured a talk on abortion.
…When I asked around, the consensus was that the omission was simply an oversight. But it turns out TED is deliberately keeping abortion off the agenda. When asked for comment, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion did not fit into their focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.”
“Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained. She pointed me to a few talks on women’s health and birth control, but this made the refusal to discuss abortion only more glaring. In the last three years, the United States has seen more abortion restrictions enacted than in the entire previous decade; the United Nations has classified the lack of access to abortion as torture; and Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland because a Catholic hospital refused to end her doomed pregnancy. Just how is abortion not an issue of “justice, inequality and human rights”?
OPPRESSED MAJORITY (Majorité Opprimée English), by Eleonore Pourriat
“On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women.”
What they say: “People are just people.” ”I don’t see color.” ”We’re all just human.” “Character, not color, is what counts with me.”
Response: “Colorblindness” negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person can ignore a person’s skin color, society does not.
For all you Americans, lad mags are pornographic men’s magazines. Y’know Hustler, King, Penthouse etc.
This article by Jezebel features a study done by the University of Surrey, on the very thin line between derogatory statements in these magazines, and actual quotes from rapists.
Feb 13, 2014
TW: graphic discussion of rape and sexual violence
The Women’s Media Center has created a user-generated map to document and raise awareness of sexual violence in Syria.
“The goals are three-fold: Firstly, we want to put the stories of sexualised violence in Syria on the map, drawing attention to them.
Secondly, we want to highlight where these abuses are taking place, pinpointing where victims need help, so that they can be offered survivor and psychosocial services once the fighting dies down.
The third aim is a long-term one – we want to build up a documentation base that could potentially be used as evidence if there’s going to be war crimes trials.”
Feb 10, 2014
via Al Jazeera America
Feb 10, 2014
A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.
I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.
Feb 7, 2014
I have no doubt that female genital mutilation is a harmful practice, violating the human rights, health, and well-being of young woman. However, a part of me feels for thousands of mothers who continue to force their daughters to undergo the process. I understand the desire for their daughters to be accepted by society and continue to practice cultural traditions. As Westerners, I believe we are too quick to denounce a practice without recognizing our own faults. Why should families forgo FGM if we can’t give up male circumcision?
Though a controversial comparison, let’s take male circumcision in the U.S. compared to FGM in Somalia.
Even though the male circumcision rate in the U.S. is decreasing, a large majority of baby boys get cut. What started out as a practice of religious freedom, parents’ reasoning for circumcising their infants range from cleanliness to preventing HIV/AIDS to the fear their male child will be teased in the locker room. First, cleanliness shouldn’t be an issue – nature knew what it was doing and the foreskin completely protects the head of the penis from feces, urine, etc. Secondly, yes, circumcision was found to be helpful in the prevention of female to male contraction of HIV/AIDS. However, this study was done in sub-Saharan Africa where heterosexual sex is the #1 way to contract the virus and adult males consented to having the circumcision. There is no evidence that it decreases the risk for MSM or IV users. Finally, in 99% of cases, if you’re child is even fortunate enough to have a gym class in today’s time you’re child will never be forced to get fully naked in a locker room. However, I do understand the negative reactions that could come to play – circumcised men especially perpetuate the belief that it is weird or nasty to be uncircumcised.
Like the U.S. with male circumcision, majority of Somalian women have been cut. Much like a U.S. parent’s fear of their son being unaccepted by society, FGM continues because of societal pressure for a girl to remain modest and a virgin until marriage. FGM can be performed on a girl anywhere from infancy to puberty, typically with no consent from the girl. However, unlike circumcision in the U.S., FGM is usually not performed in a medical setting and can cause an array of mental and physical problems. In addition, FGM perpetuates the patriarchal idea that sexual pleasure for males only.
Because of the physical effects of FGM, it is easy to see how we can conclude that is worse than circumcision. But what if a parent had her daughter cut in a medical institution by trained professionals under anesthesia? What if the parent only decided to cut the prepuce of the clitoris or a small portion of the labia? All of these scenarios could make FGM more relatable to male circumcision in the U.S., right?
So why give up FGM? Beyond everything, FGM violates the rights of women and girls all over the world. No matter how safe you could make FGM, a girl’s right to health, security, and bodily integrity is infringed.
I do believe we should work towards ending male circumcision. However, FGM is more urgent of an issue as it is more likely to kill and injure young women and girls.
To learn more about FGM, visit http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
Jan 24, 2014
Many of you might not be familiar with the reality show train wreck known as The Real L Word. It’s also created by Ilene Chaiken, which might explain its problematic nature. The entire series, reality show included, has a HUGE biphobia problem.
This article by Autostraddle discusses the issue, which is both internalized by a bisexual cast member and perpetuated by a few other lesbians. I find it so ironic that a community which is supposed to be known for its openness discriminates against others so savagely.
There are so many people on TV and the internet these days talking about how everything a white person does or says to a black person can be called racism. Well you know what? It’s Friday and I’m not about to give myself another headache by thinking about all the people who refuse to educate themselves. Let’s face it. Unless you’re part of a group that claims to be facing discrimination, you do not have a right to tell said group that they are wrong because you will NEVER see things from their perspective.
That aside, I think Richard Sherman is right to say that “Thug” is the new n-word. A lot of people care more about being viewed as PC instead of caring about their actual words and actions. They see others suffer the consequences of using the n-word and then come up with creative ways to say what they actually mean.
It’s 2014 people. How about becoming decent human beings?
Usually I have a problem with non-Nigerians bashing Nigeria because I think that the country’s citizens and residents are the only ones who understand what’s going on. And by that I’m referring to situations where people lump us all into a group of bum-scratching ignorants or try to prescribe a cure without a thorough diagnosis. In this case however, I whole heartedly agree. It is shameful that the Nigerian government has chose to focus on an issue that does not require their attention AT ALL, instead of fixing the million other countries. Two words Goodluck Jonathan – Boko Haram.
- Katie Couric is kind of a d-bag to trans people -Carmen Carrera’s Quest to Become a Victoria’s Secret Angel;‘Orange is the New Black’s’ Laverne Cox
In the clips above, Katie interviews Carmen Carrera and keeps trying to talk about Carmen’s genitals even though she expresses her desire not to and steers the conversation towards topics she feels are more appropriate, such as her career and life goals. Couric does not stop until Laverne Cox steps in, informing Couric that, “the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people.” Yay Laverne! Can’t wait for season 2 of OINTNB.
It is quite clear that Couric’s motive for inviting Carmen on the show was to sensationalize her transition. She did not seem to have a genuine interest in her as a person.
Jan 21, 2014
My mother called me this morning to tell me to be careful. She told me not to admit my affiliation with the LGBTQ community to any of my countrymen for fear of what they might do to me upon my return. You see, my country, Nigeria, has taken it upon itself to pass a law that sentences anyone who is found to be LGBTQ, to 14 years in prison. There had been chatter about this law for a long time now, and now that it has finally been passed, it makes me really angry.
“Why not take it a step further and impose the death sentence on all LGBTQ people like Uganda?”, I want to say. You want to lock people’s children up in prison for being true to the feelings they have for their fellow human beings. Shame on you. How is it anyones business what LGBTQ people do? How do they affect your marriages? Families? Children? How can you decide to police people because you don’t agree with their choices?
My countrymen claim that “homo” as they call it, is a western influence. That it is a phenomenon that did not occur before the west, America in particular, allowed LGBTQ people to be treated like human beings. To that I say, if you want to reject everything western, reject the religion that you are now using to persecute LGBTQ people. Our forefathers did not wake up one day with the knowledge that there was a God who had a son called Jesus through a virgin called Mary. That God was brought to us from the west. I can speak to that truth because my great-grandfather is widely known to be the man responsible for bringing Christianity to the part of the country we are from.
Before the missionaries, your forefathers prayed to Amadioha, Sango, Chukwu and the rest. Forsake your saints and biblical heroes and go back to praying at altars and sacred trees. Go back to a time when twins were an abomination. When you have done that and you can still find evidence from your gods that LGBTQ people deserve to be treated any different from you, come back and we’ll talk.
It’s so infuriating to see a bunch of people who can’t even get it together long enough to pass the HIV/AIDS Anti-Stigmatization Bill, rally around and pass this hate-driven policy so easily. Trust us to be the epitome of nonsensical politics.
My heart goes out to all my friends and the people I know who will now have to live in fear or who are probably already facing tribunal. My country can be a cruel place and people will not wait for the “justice system” before they begin to drag these people out into the streets to beat them senseless, if not kill them.
Dec 29, 2013
I did not envision myself to be someone who finds so much enjoyment out of preparing a homemade dinner for when a significant other comes home from work. But more than that, I’m finding happiness with my cooking. Part of my journey to reconnect with my culture is making the meals that are inspired by my ancestors. It’s not enough to re-learn the language and symbols and meanings that were mostly erased in my assimilation to the white culture I sought because of internalized racism. I want to know the taste of my parents’ country and history.
Tonight’s dinner is banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice crepes) with pan seared salmon, all lightly dressed with a homemade sweet soy sauce.
I originally posted this on my personal Tumblr blog: hannahology.
I’m contemplating doing a Vietnamese food blog as a way of recording my journey towards a reconnection with my culture. For now, just re-learning everything I’ve lost is the main goal. Positive and healing thoughts and actions with a yummy bonus.
Dec 28, 2013
One year has passed since the high profile case in which a Delhi woman was raped and murdered. The case resulted in many changes in India, the most notable being more strict laws that doubled the prison terms for sexual assault, voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks, and trafficking. In addition, the minimum sentence for rape cases has increased to 20 years and the death penalty is now a possibility for cases in which death occurs.
It is exciting to see what local movements have achieved in a year, but as mainstream media rallies around this story, here are some points to keep in mind:
- India is not the only country where rape is a problem. While the highest number of cases were reported in the US and India between 2004 and 2010, these numbers are complicated. They are a mere fraction of the number of estimated cases by the CDC and US Justice Department and are not calculated based on population density. Looking at population density figures, there are dozens of nations with more reported cases than India. Sexual assault is not a problem unique to India. 
- Similarly, it is easy as outsiders to view Indian culture and life solely through this event and the response surrounding it. There are many positive, vibrant aspects of India and we cannot erase those out of our frustrations or cast stereotypes centered on violence onto an entire nation.
- This past year should not be marked as the year India ended all indifferent to rape. While the story of the urban woman who worked her way through college spurred outrage through its relatability, organizing around sexual assault has been happening for years. There are many established advocates and individuals who work on this issue. One of these groups is the Red Brigade, who patrol streets in groups and confront perpetrators. 
Nov 13, 2013
I feel super guilty, its been like forever! However, I am here again. Ready to let the world hear my voice, but for now I guess they’ll see the power through words.
“Everyone, as a member of society… is entitled to realization… of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his [or her] dignity.”
— Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 22
Daily, people all over the world are suffering because of their lack and the government complete disregard for the rights these people are entitled to. Having a passion for humanity is not easily developed. In truth, you have to be willing to stand and be that anomaly in society. This is why I urge you people (pardon my informality) to join Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity Campaign.
Throughout this act, you are able to fight for economic, social and cultural rights.
Life is worth the hassle and pressure.
Oct 24, 2013
Superheroines like the Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Storm and Jean Grey to fight other fictional villains who occasionally plague the human citizens of the world. But who will fight the infuriatingly realistic battles against misogyny, sexism and the like? Enter the Burka Avenger!
I came across this comic on Tumblr. As you can tell, it’s pretty terrific! The heroine’s name is Qahera and she goes around taking names and kicking the butts of those who dare to treat Muslim women as though they cannot speak for themselves.
Not surprisingly, FEMEN, the subject of the comic above, posted it on their site along with the following commentary,
New Islamic oppressive propaganda creation realized in comics was proposed to the public recently.The Muslim superhero Deena Mohammed’s Qahera who is burka-clad superhero who aims to destroy “all the ridiculous dehumanising stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and helpless.”
In one of the comic the burqa superhero lashes out against FEMEN activists, the topless female protestors. Says Deena: “I absolutely dislike their ideologies. I think they represent a significant mentality that only recognises a certain form of liberation (their own); along with dehumanising Muslim women and reaffirming colonial white-saviour attitudes.”
Well, FEMEN is proud to be in opposition to some oppressive Islamic traditions, such as covering women with burqa. Such comic is an alarm to the world to stand up. Even in painted comics they leave to women inly eyes, covering her body completely. Burqa can’t be a choice of women until in many countries of the world women are obliged to cover themselves being threaten for punishment instead. Woman is not “a sac of shame”! Islam is not a source of morality but source of oppression and violence!
Talk about missing the point entirely.
A Muslim woman has made this fantastic comic detailing FEMEN’s problematic nature and the organization responds by calling it oppressive islamic propaganda. If the women you profess to be liberating say they don’t want or need to be liberated, who exactly do they think they’re fighting for by refusing to see truth and forging forward? Seriously, FEMEN is bordering on PETA-esque behavior. Runway incident anyone? It’s pretty disgusting really.
Oct 11, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, along with her father, are education activists in Pakistan striving to end educational inequality despite the institutional oppressions put in place. When the story of Malala’s assassination attempt by the Taliban made news about a year ago, this was the next the shot heard around the world. Hundreds of journalists and bloggers wrote about her involvement in girl’s education and the role of the Taliban. Fundraisers and sponsorships emerged for South Asian education development for girls, making this a prime example of consumer capitalism on a structural issue of educational inequality in Pakistan (1). Fortunately, this girl survived and made a steady recovery. She has wowed the world with her resilience, and for that, I am honored, especially from the lens of another South Asian Muslim woman.
However, her success doesn’t come with scrutiny. I’m not surprised that she gained so much fame as a result of a vicious attack by Pakistani Muslim extremist men. I’m no stranger to the way the media covered the story and perceptions of Pakistani Muslim men in general, and nothing will be the same post 9/11 for Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Muslim (AMEMSA) men (2). They are always deemed as “barbaric, savage, and backwards,” words frequently used to describe them and other men of color and the atrocities they do without a mention of the harm inflicted on women of color bodies by white men via imperialism, colonialism, and sexual violence (3, 4).
Yet, my hope for Malala is that the Western gaze will not impede her goals with their “peaceful” interventions or continue to deem the Global South as a hindrance to gender equality. I hope she can overcome the oppressions instilled in these countries by the Western world and current policies affecting women of color bodies (3, 5). As Malala said on the Today Show with Jon Stewart, “we don’t understand the importance of anything unless it’s snatched from our hands.” (6) Now is the time to understand the complexities of social oppression and its influences on the security of women of color everywhere.
Sep 11, 2013
Tune into any news channel and you will probably hear “Syria” within a minute. The talking heads are covering the security implications of the civil war and the alleged use of chemical weapons has prompted a moral and human rights debate. However, largely absent from public debate is a discussion about the basic health needs of Syrians and the international community’s role in ensuring those rights. WHO has declared the situation as a “Grade 3” emergency, the highest alert level. Grade 3 describes an event “with substantial public health consequences that requires international response”. 
As of this month, estimates predict that there are over 1.8 million registered refugees and over 2 million persons of concern. In addition, the UN estimates that at least 5 million Syrians have been internally displaced. [2, 3] While it is difficult to sum up the experiences of the displaced persons, a logical assumption is that their quality of life has changed, including their access to healthcare. Syria’s health care system receives little funding from the state and thus is largely decentralized and functions of the village, district, and provincial level. Even if displaced persons did not have institutional or comprehensive health care in their place of origin, their process of receiving care has been disrupted, and often, compromised.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but factors influencing the change in health care access include:
- Health facilities have been targets and many providers have been killed and facilities destroyed.
- Transportation systems have been damaged, making it difficult to access care providers.
- If displaced persons previously had a provider they regularly saw, their patient-doctor relationship has been disrupted.
- Internationally subsidized programs such as clinics and refugee camps run by the UNHCR often provide basic services for free, however, some more advanced services are not. Many displaced persons do not have access to all of their resources, making affording some procedures and medicines impossible.
- Syrians who were receiving some form of schooling prior to the civil war might no longer be. While data is limited, some students are educated on how to lead healthy lives through their schooling.
In addition, inside of Syria the health care system is in decline due to the collapse of the Syrian pound and state instability. Pharmacies, including ones in Damascus, are facing shortages and substantial price increases in many medicines including children’s milk.  Lack of access to necessary medicines can harm children’s development.
There has been progress in several Millennium Development Goals areas in Syria. Between 1970 and 2009, infant mortality dropped from 132 per 1000 live births to 17.9 per 100, and maternal mortality fell from 482 per 100,000 live births to 52 per 100,000.  While it is still soon to tell, the inaccessibility to health systems might have a negative impact on these trends. Let us hope that the international community will consider these issues as much as security and diplomatic ones.
Sep 10, 2013
Last week, we told you about young people gathering signatures in support of sex education, and asked you to support their efforts. And because you’re awesome, you came through: on October 1 youth activists will deliver over 4,000 signatures to Congress! Now we need your help again.
Joining us at this year’s Urban Retreat youth activism conference, are youth participants from Uganda, Nigeria, Nepal, Jamaica, Cameroon, and Liberia. They too have been hard at work organizing – in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth around the world.
We’ve all seen and read about the continuation of violence and harassment targeting LGBT people across the globe. In countries like Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia, laws force young people to choose between concealing who they are, and going to jail. While in Cameroon and Jamaica, violence has saddened and shaken the LGBT community.
These recent events highlight the need for a commitment by the State Department to ensure that all young people, especially those marginalized for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, are treated with human dignity and respect.
Advocates’ global youth activists are calling out for Sec. Kerry to publicly condemn anti-LGBT violence and discrimination around the world, and to ensure LGBT inclusion in U.S. foreign assistance and education programs.
The United States can make a real difference in how LGBT youth around the world are treated. Show your support for youth activists around the world and sign now.
Aug 24, 2013
Having spent 9 days in Montevideo, it is safe to say mission accomplished!
The first regional conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean hosted by ECLAC was held in the historic Uruguayan capital, Montevideo. Though at this time I have mixed feelings (relief, disappointment, satisfaction, a bit of annoyance, etc..) related to the views held be some countries on the issues of concern, I am really happy to have had the opportunity to be there.
Well here’s the story. My journey to Uruguay began in April 2012 having had the opportunity to attend the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development at the UN headquarters in New York. Following that event I participated in the Latin America and the Caribbean’s regional meeting of the committee (ECLAC) in July 2012 in Ecuador. It was at this meeting that the decision was made to upgrade the event from an ordinary meeting of the committee to a conference. I say this to highlight that this “first conference” is a continuation of/related to the regional process that has been ongoing since the ICPD agreement in 1994.
So here I am today putting into words a few of my thoughts about the processes of those past 9 days. My trip to Uruguay began from my home country, Jamaica. As a member of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network and the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Movement I was invited by DAWN and IWHC as an advocate and civil society representative to attend this important regional meeting on population and development. Following 2 intense days of pre-conference advocacy training I ventured into the conference with mixed expectations. What were my expectations you may ask? Well, having had the experience of the 2 previous meetings I was a bit disheartened nonetheless I tried to remain cautiously optimistic. My optimism was inspired by the dedication and passion of those around me and even further by the large number of civil society participants on a whole who were engaged in the process (ECLAC cites it has one of the largest intergovernmental meetings in the region in recent years). Given the expansion of the commission into a conference the greater participation from civil society was facilitated. This process I believe might have had significant impact on the consensus document, and rightly so. I was especially pleased to see more young people within this space, especially from the English speaking Caribbean.
Furthermore, the conference space could be described as somewhat welcoming while the contents of the discussions could be viewed as interesting and largely realistic. I was most impressed by the progress and stance of countries such as Uruguay and Ecuador which have made great progress towards the recognition of people’s SRHR especially so with issues of abortion and gender equality. Generally speaking, having had the opportunity to listen to all the country reports and panel discussions I must admit I am concerned about the progress of the Caribbean countries relative to that being made in Latin America. Our governments’ conservative and might I even say regressive stance on some issues are what has brought on my feelings of disappointment and annoyance. Why do we continue take positions and to implement policies and programs that are not in keeping with our citizens realities and basic human rights? As obvious as the answers might be the thought of the level of disregard it takes simply angers me! Nonetheless, I choose to remain optimistic as I continue to observe that change is possible and will come, even if it takes much longer that we would hope. For instance, in this conference, after so many years, El Salvador withdrew its reservations on the ICPD programme of action.
With that said I am without a doubt highly interested (as you should be too) and somewhat optimistic about what outcomes will be achieved in New York next year. For sure I would love the opportunity to participate in this Cairo+20 review process especially given its implications for youth and women’s SRHR. Let’s all keep an eye on this very important space/meeting.
So before I conclude I must encourage you all to take a look at this Montevideo consensus document (http://www.cepal.org/celade/noticias/documentosdetrabajo/9/50709/2013-596-montevideo_consensus_pyd.pdf). Though not ideal in all its content, it can definitely be view as a step in the right direction.
Slowly but surely we are getting there….
Aug 8, 2013
Every August 12, the world celebrates International Youth Day. This year’s theme is “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.” As advocates dedicated to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people, you might be asking, what’s migration got to do with SRHR? Well, just about everything.
Nearly half of the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—is under the age of 25. Furthermore, young people under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. During the process of migration, young women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion. Moreover, migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, ensuring that young migrants have access to SRHR information and services as well as the full protection and promotion of their human rights is absolutely critical.
As the largest donor of foreign assistance, the United States government plays a unique role in delivering global health programs around the world. That’s why this Monday at 9:30am EST, the State Department’s Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues, Zeenat Rahman, will be hosting a Google Hangout with other US government officials to discuss this year’s International Youth Day theme. As the US government’s lead spokesperson on youth issues, Ms. Rahman is a key stakeholder in ensuring that the US prioritizes youth policies and programs throughout the government’s work. To date, the Office of Global Youth Issues has focused almost exclusively on youth employment and civic engagement. While vitally important priorities, what is so often overlooked is how adolescent and youth SRHR contributes to one’s ability to seek and maintain employment and meaningfully engage in the democratic process. Regardless of where we live, we all have the right to speak up and hold our government officials accountable for providing young people with ALL the resources they need to lead healthy and successful lives, including rights-based, comprehensive, integrated, and youth-friendly information and services.
So, what can you do to celebrate International Youth Day? TONS! Here’s just a sampling of ideas. Get creative! And share your ideas and enthusiasm with your friends and colleagues.
- Participate in the State Department’s Google Hangout on Monday at 9:30am EST and submit a question (or 2 or 3!) via Twitter using #IYD2013 asking what the US is currently doing to support young people’s SRHR needs, your ideas for how and why they should be doing more, etc.
- Watch the United Nations’ celebration of International Youth Day live Monday from 10:00-13:30 EST.
- Use the sample tweets and Facebook status updates below to raise awareness among your peers and followers about the importance of young people’s SRHR.
- Host a community event, forum, or campaign in support of young people’s SRHR.
- Engage with coalitions or organizations working in your community to advance young people’s rights and well-being.
- Request a meeting with community leaders and/or decision-makers to inform them about the importance of investing in young people and ensuring that they have the information and services to lead healthy lives.
- Blog on Advocates’ youth activist website, www.amplifyyourvoice.org, and write about why you think International Youth Day is important, how you and your peers are making a difference in your community, or what you think policymakers and leaders need to be doing to support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in your country.
Twitter Targets: Use these twitter handles, as appropriate, to send tweets from the list below
- UN Youth Envoy – @AhmadAlhendawi
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon- @secgen
- US Mission to the UN – @USUN
- Secretary of State Kerry – @JohnKerry; @StateDept
- US Ambassador to UN, Samantha Power – @AmbassadorPower
- Your own country’s UN representatives
- Your own country’s Foreign Minister
Sample Twitter Messages:
- Gov’ts must include youth in design, monitoring & evaluation of youth development programs #IYD2013
- We must engage boys & men to help girls & women promote gender equality #IYD2013
- Invest in the whole girl w/ approaches that address sexual and reproductive health, education, livelihoods, and civic engagement #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must implement comprehensive sexuality education programs and policies for adolescents and youth #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must increase funding 4 family planning 4 married and unmarried adolescent girls #IYD2013
- Sexual & #reprorights are #humanrights: #post2015 agenda must include access to contraception, abortion & safe maternity care #IYD2013
- Empowering women and girls is key to achieving peace & security in #post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- More than ½ world’s population is under 25; young people must drive #Post2015 agenda #IYD2013
- Gov’ts must prioritize support 4 adolescents so we can prevent #childmarriage, maternal mortality, #GBV #IYD2013
- Girls who stay in school have better sexual and repro health outcomes. #Education is a human right. #IYD2013
- Development programs must address violence against adolescent girls, including intimate partner violence #GBV #VAWG #IPV #IYD2013
Sample Facebook Posts:
- Today is International Youth Day. The implementation of human-rights based policies and programs are important to ensure integrated and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services are free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. http://icpdbeyond2014.org/uploads/browser/files/bali_global_youth_forum_declaration.pdf
- Today is International Youth Day. Youth are disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, accounting for 41% of all new HIV infections worldwide. Reaching young people with evidence-based HIV prevention approaches before and after they are sexually active ensures their right to health and prevents HIV infections today and for the next generation.
Aug 8, 2013
I had little knowledge about sexual and reproductive health before my internship in Advocates for Youth. To get more information on sexual and reproductive health related issues, I have been reading blogs from a previous Chinese intern, and here are my thoughts on some of the content related to the gay community in China.
The intern mentioned that her family does not support her work 100% because the Chinese culture can be conservative. That’s so true! For example, the other day, I was talking to my friends about the internship I am doing at Advocates, and we talked about the gay friends we know. Because my two friends come from the same university, they exchanged information and they were really in shock when they came to know that someone they knew is gay. I was deep in thought after this conversation. My friends think they are open enough and they strive for basic human rights. They think that because they come from good college, have gained a good education, are from big cities and know a lot about the gay and transgender communities, that they can accept them and be kind. However, when we find out that someone we know is gay, we are surprised. We talk about it. We gossip. We dig out his boyfriend. We think we can accept it and be cool, but we cannot.
I have seen a documentary called “Analyzing Chinese Gays” (translation of the title by the author) that details the experiences of Chinese gay folks who want to marry heterosexuals because of the pressure from their families, communities and society. This is sad because I am not sure if any of the parties will be happy in this kind of marriage? Unfortunately, this was the destiny of many in old China, and sadly, this situation continues. Many parents still think that their child’s sexual orientation can be changed through heterosexual marriage or psychological guidance. They think they can understand “homosexuality” as a social phenomenon, but they cannot accept their own child as gay.
One parent in the organization named PFLAG China (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays ) that provides support to parents of LGBTQ people in China mentioned that she has been through several stages to eventually accept her gay son, from first passively accepting the identity of her son to full acceptance and from then to eventually volunteer and help other parents. She said that the gay community in China should first accept themselves and after “coming out of the closet”, they can give more guidance and care to their parents.
According to a documentary called “Charity China: PFLAG China” (translation of the title by the author) the gay community is around 4% -5% of the population in China, which adds up to 60 million people! Gay marriage is not allowed in China but many in the gay community are speaking up for their rights. Some have also managed to hold engagement ceremonies and get blessings from families. Promotion for legalizing gay marriage is also on many organizations’ agenda. The socialist Yinhe Li submitted a proposal for same-sex marriage in the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference. However, she did not get 30 signatures of representatives, so the proposal cannot be formally deliberated.
I really believe we will pass laws on gay marriage sooner or later, and hopefully it will be a national law, not just for one province or district. The sooner it comes, the better our communities will be.
Aug 2, 2013
The other day I attended a “Too Young to Wed” briefing, which was very impressive and instructive. The briefing was held in Russell Office Building by The United Nations Foundation, The Ford Foundation and Girls Not Brides. The panelists illustrated the issues in a way that was easy to understand and detailed true stories of the impact of early marriage. The panelists also talked about ways to reduce early marriage in many developing countries.
Stephanie Sinclair, who is a Pulitzer Prize Winning photographer, presented us with many undiscovered customs and stories regarding early marriage. I was surprised to find that one in three girls in low and middle-income countries (excluding China) will marry before 18 and about 5 million girls under 15 years old marry each year.
There are many reasons for early marriage. Some families think that blessings will come upon them if they marry off their girls before their first menstruation. Some families marry their daughters because they are poor and cannot afford to raise the girls. Some can get benefits from marrying their daughters to powerful or rich families.
Apart from the reasons I just mentioned, what also struck me was that some marriages are not just about the couple, but a coalition of two families. So no matter how young the daughter is, she can get engaged due to her parents’ choice. Some girls are pulled out of school immediately after engagement and some wait until their first menstruation to go to the grooms’ home. However, some can still go to school and get a good education before puberty.
To our relief, there are also some successful cases of girls resisting marriage or seeking divorce. For example, there is the amazing story of a 10 year old Yemeni girl named Nujood Ali who accused her middle-aged husband of rape. According to Yemeni law the minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 17.The accusation was a success. Nujood got divorced and returned to school. The other story is of Nada Al-Ahdal, an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who fled to her uncle to escape an arranged marriage and filed a complaint to the police against her parents. Now she will be living with her uncle permanently.
Many organizations in USA as well as in local communities are also trying to address the issue of early marriage. The research by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) shows that the programs on child marriage basically cover five aspects: information support for girls, educating parents and communities, enhancing education, offering economic support and legislation. In the briefing, Priya Nanda, who is the Director, Social and Economic Development Group, ICRW’s Asia Regional Office mentioned that we should educate boys, girls and families at the same time. The problem in the community cannot be caused by one parent, nor it can be solved easily by educating the girls to resist early marriage and protect themselves. It is the community awareness and sensibility that we should try to address in a wholistic way.
In China, early marriage is not a problem as far as I know. The legal marriage age in China is 22 for men and 20 for women from the updated marriage law in 1980. China has gone through many stages in terms of marriage, from polygamy to monogamy, from conservative Chinese way of writing a letter to end a marriage to legalizing divorce. In 1980, revised marriage law stated that “No marriage may be contracted before the man has reached 22 years of age and the woman 20 years of age. Late marriage and late childbirth shall be encouraged.” Also, the one-child policy was introduced in 1980 which tremendously changed the population trend and family structure of China. The average marriage age of women in China has risen from 22 in 1990 to 32.3 in 2013. We can also see a drop in the percent of married women in 15-19 years old from 4.63% to 1.21% in 2000. I am happy that early marriage is not a major problem in China now because of economic growth, legislation and education, and I do hope the situation can be improved in Yemen and many other countries through efforts all over the world.
Aug 1, 2013
I really hate when people respond to others with “first world problems.” I know that to some, it’s a great and easy way of addressing the privilege of living in a “first world” country. But the meme, despite its emergence being seemingly well intentioned at first, is really just seeping with ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism in its simplest definition is the judging of another’s culture using one’s own standards. It’s not something you’d expect from a culturally competent person. The usage of this meme expresses people’s inability to see others as actual people who are more complicated than what our white savior complex induced perspectives would have us believe.
To make it really simple: it’s racist.
When the ever popular hashtag first appeared on Twitter maybe in the late 2009, early 2010–even then I had a bad feeling about it. I know “first world/third world” indicates if a country is industrialized and developed or not. But even those terms just come off as problematic and ethnocentric for reasons I won’t take the time to get into. It’s the language we have though, however questionable the origins of those particular words may be. And I don’t really know what I can do about that except talk about it and hope that you understand.
Yes, my accidental lagging out of my online match of The Last of Us and my tea latte being a little too hot this morning might seem really trivial. But hey, guess what? Things like that happen to my cousins in Vietnam and other developing countries too. I’m not pretending or ignoring that other countries don’t have terrible issues like civil wars, riots in the streets, famine, etc. But those countries don’t need pity. And they certainly don’t need people buying Toms. They need people, especially people in the United States and other supposedly wealthy white-dominated countries, to stop making everyone from “third world” countries into a faceless,
one-dimensional, and monolithic group of suffering and despair. And one of the really easy ways of what you can do to avoid doing that is to stop responding to people’s issues as “first world problems.”
My voice isn’t alone in this. Feel free to check out the following links:
What’s Wrong with #FirstWorldProblems? – Alexis C. Madrigal
The White Savior Industrial Complex – Teju Cole
Jul 31, 2013
When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”
Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!” State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this. But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.
There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident. Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things. You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in. It’s not just one old, white male politician. It’s several. And they’re not necessarily always white men.
Brace yourself. This is pretty triggering.
“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”
— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”
— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.” —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.
“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”
—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.
“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”
—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.
“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.
This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth. The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education. It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life. And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen. So, we advocate for the youth. We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.
Jul 23, 2013
Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.
The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise
- Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
- Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
- Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.
After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.
The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.
On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.
About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)
Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.
With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.
The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:
- “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
- “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
- “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.
As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).
Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.
Jul 22, 2013
Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region.
Jul 10, 2013
The video below is about a wonderful movement I found called Everyday Sexism. Started by Laura Bates after she experienced a crippling instant of sexual harassment, it aims to combat the WHOPPING LIE that we as a society, have achieved gender equality. Women are constantly dismissed and told that we are being too sensitive. If we are raped, of course we asked for it. If we want control over our bodies, we are sluts and murderers. If we want to be treated like actual human beings, then we are accused of having a “political agenda”.
The stories told by these women are ghastly. It’s so disgusting that there are people out there who think they have every right to make such lewd advances.
If you have a story, share it here. Add your voice to the all the others and keep shouting back.
DESTROY. THE. PATRIARCHY!!!
Jul 3, 2013
Amidst mass protests in Egypt over the past week, reports are emerging that dozens of women have been sexually assaulted. So far there have been 91 reported instances of harassment, assault, or rape according to Human Rights Watch. The number is estimated to be much higher, for a known global phenomenon is that most survivors do not ever report assault or rape.
Some believe these attacks have been executed to discourage women from joining the protests, while others believe attackers hope to benefit from the chaos and lawlessness the protests have created. We could point fingers all day at everything from Egypt’s unaccountable justice system to a patriarchal culture to the attackers themselves, and yet these attacks are still happening.
Sexual assaults not only hurt those who are attacked; they hurt families, cities, and nations. Women who are afraid to enter public spaces are stripped from their right to engage with civil society. Strategically isolating women “from fully participating in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development” devoids Egypt of potential organizers, activists and leaders.
Despite the incorrigible assaults, Egyptians are firmly sending a message to attackers. Photos from Tahrir Square depict a buffer zone between male and female protestors. The Associate Press believes this is to create an intentional human shield. While I am a bit wary of this tactic, I applaud protestors for taking action on the ground.
Jul 2, 2013
AP: Ireland’s lawmakers voted 138-24 to back a bill legalizing abortions in life-threatening cases. The proposed law faces final passage next week.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny easily prevailed as he sought all-party endorsement of his government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Ireland, almost uniquely in Europe, officially bans abortion in all circumstances. But the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman — including from her own suicide threats.
Photo: This Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 file photo shows abortion rights protesters holding pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they march through central Dublin, demanding that Ireland’s government ensures that abortions can be performed to save a woman’s life. (Shawn Pogatchnik / AP file)
Jul 2, 2013
At the Abuja +12 summit (Civil society organisation side event) organised by AIDS Health care Foundation(AHF) – Country ownership and sustainability of Health sector in Africa.
Advocates as Activist: the ten commandment of Activism. 1. Facts not hearsays 2. Donot compromise 3. Donot cheat 4. Seek rights not privileges 5. There is power in numbers – get allies/champions … 6. Develop an alternative plan 7. Always address systems and issues not person/individuals (because even an angel would fail within a bad system) 8. Be consistent and focused (always clarify goals and objectives) 9. Be outspoken (mumurers never made it to the promise land) 10. Plan, plan and keep planning
(Obatunde Oladapo National Coordinator TAM)
Jun 24, 2013
I am Siyu Zhang and I have been working at Advocates for Youth for a week. I am 20 years old now and I spent my first 18 years in a small city Hengshui, which is in the north part of China. I currently study in City University of Hong Kong and feel grateful for getting into a university in Hong Kong because it enables me to get an international view point and look at China and the world in an open and objective way. This is technically my first internship but I have been helping in a non-profit organization Technology & Education: Connecting Cultures (TECC) as well as a university organization called City Youth Empowerment Project. You can google it if you are interested in volunteering in mainland China because TECC also recruits volunteers from the U.S.
Coming to America to intern for 2 months is just an accidental opportunity. I saw the ad from Cultural Vistas to recruit participants for this exchange opportunity in our university career center and I was interested! I am glad that Advocates for Youth selected me because I am interested in the issues I have been informed of so far and people around me are all welcoming and kind!
Although this is my first week, I am overwhelmed with tons of information about reproductive and sexual health information. The first day I spent two hours listening to a panel discussion about LGBTQ issue when I did not even know what LGBTQ meant! However, I am excited to learn about all this stuff, about LGBTQ youth, about abortion, about fighting HIV and AIDS.
These issues are around my life, in China, but I have seldom bothered to look at these issues deeply, and I don’t have access to adequate resources. I noticed that Advocates for Youth has a research center on its website, which collects all kinds of information involving sexual and reproductive health. I am also learning from other channels such as facebook and the blogging websites like Amplify.
I really appreciate the opportunity to have an internship at Advocates for Youth and seize the chance to learn about issues that needs attention back in China. I am learning about how students are dissemination information about sexual and reproductive health in universities and I think that that’s great! The culture in China is much too different and we tend to avoid talking about sex and health related issues. I know it is hard to change the culture and actually put everything on the table for discussion. However, I think websites related to this can be acceptable and helpful. Setting up with such kind of websites in Chinese would not be difficult using the information Advocates for Youth has. I would be happy if I can be of help in that aspect.
Jun 21, 2013
Jun 21, 2013
“ It is no mistake, and it is not mere happenstance, that Lifetime refused to allow me to make a show for them about complex, nuanced Latinas, yet greenlit a show about Latinas as sexy domestic servants. It isn’t a matter of me being too sensitive and lacking a sense of humor, and it isn’t a matter of me not liking maids. It is about the way the Latina maid stereotype beautifully cleaves to the time-honored imperialistic way this country has dealt with its Spanish-speaking neighbors in the Americas. My vision of us – as autonomous human beings – is simply too threatening to be considered realistic.”
Jun 21, 2013
This week, we celebrated the tenth and final week of 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls, a social media campaign mobilizing mass support for policies and programs that enable women and girls around the world to be healthy, empowered, educated, and safe. Spearheaded by our friends at the International Women’s Health Coalition, and supported by hundreds of advocacy organizations around the world, the campaign focused on eight critical topics over the course of ten weeks:
- Ensuring quality education of women and girls;
- Putting women and girls at the center of the post-2015 global development agenda;
- Preventing violence against women and girls;
- Improving the health of women and girls;
- Ending early and forced marriage;
- Achieving peace and security for women and girls;
- Promoting economic empowerment of women and girls; and
- Protecting human rights and promoting leadership and participation of women and girls.
Each week, partners tweeted and posted on Facebook compelling facts, statistics, and policy asks to US government officials and other high-profile influentials in policy and media circles. The goal: push for a set of tangible, measurable, and specific policy actions the US government could take to support foreign policy efforts for women and girls.
Why the campaign and why now? On February 1, John Kerry took the reins from Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State. As I laid out in this Politico piece, Kerry has HUGE shoes to fill in terms of advancing the rights of women, girls, and young people. We all wondered, just how would he fare? We needed a way to demonstrate our collective support for a continuation—and enhancement—of his predecessor’s policies and priorities. Thus was born the idea for the 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls.
To date, messages have reached millions of social media users, raising awareness of women’s and girls’ rights around the world. Many of these messages have even been retweeted by high-ranking officials representing the US government in negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, as well as countless others.
The case for investing in women and girls has been made. NOW it is time for the US government to ACT! Advocates for Youth will do our part to continue to apply pressure on government officials to prioritize women and girls in all facets of US foreign policy. We’ll keep you posted as progress is achieved.
Jun 20, 2013
BREAKING NEWS: Today, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the Anti-Prostitution Pledge (or the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath—APLO) is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
As way of background, the APLO is a provision in PEPFAR’s authorizing legislation (our global HIV/AIDS program) which requires NGOs receiving PEPFAR funds to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving those funds. The Court ruled that the government cannot do this because it requires NGOs to adopt the government’s viewpoint in violation of its free speech rights. “The Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.” Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion ruling the policy unconstitutional and was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor.
Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justice Thomas. In their dissenting opinion, they stated that compelling the affirmation of a belief as a condition of funding is not compulsion, but “the reasonable price of admission to a limited government-spending program that each organization remains free to accept or reject.” In other words, if you don’t want to accept conditions on funding, don’t apply for the funding.
And, you’ll notice that the ruling was 6-2 so you’re probably wondering about the 9th Justice. Justice Kagan recused herself from the case because she was involved in the lower court decision.
The case was brought by the Alliance for Open Society International, Pathfinder International, the Global Health Council, and InterAction.
This is a VERY good day for US foreign policy advocates!
You can read the opinion here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-10_21p3.pdf
Jun 20, 2013
It’s Week 10, the last week of 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls, a campaign to demonstrate mass support for policies and programs that will allow women and girls to be healthy, empowered, educated, and safe.
How can you get involved?
- Follow the conversation at #usa4women and use these sample tweets:
- #SecKerry @statedept The case for investing in women&girls has been made. Act NOW to improve the status of women&girls #usa4women #use4girls
- “All it takes is for [girls] to have a fighting chance.” -H. @ClintonNews. #SecKerry @StateDept #usa4girls http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/clinton-speaks-up-for-womens-issues/
- Share this Facebook post:
“In the last 50 days, we’ve provided a blueprint for U.S. government agencies to lead the charge for women and girls. It’s time to act!
During our 50 Days of Action campaign we’ve made the case that U.S. foreign policy must address the needs of women and girls around the world. We’re looking for U.S. government agencies to act now to ensure these needs are met.
White House, State Department, USAID: We’re looking for cross-agency collaboration between to act on an agenda that prioritizes women and girls.”
Jun 15, 2013
“Together we can end HIV stigma, but we need to be able to TALK ABOUT IT. Share this graphic to continue the conversation and encourage your network of friends to speak up!”