Category > Peer Education
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Jul 31, 2015
Before some days, we had a program named “Khulla Akash”, where we discussed about the components of comprehensive sexuality education and had a combined session with the three private schools (Apple International Academy – Private, siddheshwor high school -pubic and two other private schools). The motive of the program was to dig out the ways of teaching about SRHR by the teachers at school or we can say that we wanted to dig out what ways of teaching do student prefer or they expect while they go through the topic. Indirectly it was also help for the manual we are developing.
At first students were not feeling easy to have the conversation with us. Their faces seemed like they had a hard time interacting with us. The strategy did not worked while we interacted with them in a formal way. So, we used various types of funny methods to open them up. We had asked them what actually does “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Education” means. And they were confused since they had not heard the term much. They asked us back and we explained.
We told them about the LGBTI issues, Safe abortion, Family planning, menstrual health and other components. They were interested to learn the new things and we were literally happy to share with them.
We took the session of one hour and thirty minutes and finally we were happy to know the session was worthy, and also sad that even the generation after us were going through the problem of getting education which was same as ours (not proper).
We played some games with them at the end of the program. They committed us they would convey the message to their juniors seniors and classmates. They were hopeful at the end for they felt we would make it happen- the way of giving quality education on SR HR issue.
May 24, 2015
Recently, I have been wondering what place menstruation and menstrual health has in the reproductive justice world and in all of the work that we do for to promote reproductive justice. There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about the unregulated amount and usage of chemicals in traditional sanitary products like tampons and pads. People with vaginas who use these products are being exposed to dangerous chemicals, to this is definitely an issue of health disparities and injustice. Traditional menstrual products are also expensive and bad for the environment.
My first encounter with alternative menstrual products was in a CVS drugstore. I had gone in to buy tampons buy ended up finding SoftCups. I had never seen them before, but they seemed worth trying because you could wear them longer than a tampon because the cup collected the blood instead of absorbing it and you could have sex while the Softcup was in. Long story short, I ended up really liking the Softcup. Softcup is a very basic disposable menstrual cup so once I had mastered touching my vagina, inserting and removing the Softcup I decided it was time to some research and move on to a more long-lasting menstrual cup. I watched youtube videos, looked up picture comparisons of different brands of cups, and read tons of consumer reviews to decide which cup to get. For $35 I got a MeLuna Menstrual cup in “sport” consistency in small and medium sizes and the cups can last 2- 10 years or until they begin to fall apart. The cup is made of a medical plastic and goes in the vagina and sits above the pubic bone. The cup uses suction to collect only blood and should not leak. Since using the cup, I have gotten to know the days of my cycle and when my period comes and how much I actually bleed. I feel much more in touch with my body now that I use alternative menstrual products, and now when I have my period I feel cleaner than I ever did before and I never run out of supplies because everything is washable.
There are other options available if a menstrual cup doesn\’t seem right for you. Cloth pads and liners can be purchased online or you can sew your own version from one of the many patterns available online. Pinterest is a great place to look for cloth pad patterns if you are interested, or you can simply copy the shape of a pad that you already have. Sea Sponges or foam sponges are alternatives to tampons that can be used the same way you would use a tampon that has no applicator. The sponge holds the blood until you remove it and wash the blood out. Another reusable option is crocheted tampons which are made of cotton string that is crochet into a tampon shape with a string that hangs down for removal. After one us you wash the crochet tampon and dry it and then reuse it. The last healthy alternative menstruation option that I have researched is free bleeding which is where you don\’t use any menstrual products and the blood just goes where it goes. For people who have light cycles and may want to free bleed, the use of reusable cloth petals is a good way to start. Cloth petals can be placed between the labia to direct and collect blood flow for people with a light flow.
Here are some good links that give more detail about alternative menstrual products:
Apr 30, 2015
On a recent volunteering program I went to Dolakha where I had to work among the school students to teach them and facilitate on livelihood and employment issues as a peer educator. It involved different activities like organizing workshops, extracurricular activities, publishing wall magazine and conducting street dramas etc.
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day we took out a rally to sensitize people of Charikot on women empowerment. The rally was from Satdobato Charikot to DDC office and back. It ended at Kalinchowk H.S School with a short drama prepared by fellow volunteers and a documentary show. It began at about 11 in the morning with about 150 participants who were school students, youth club members and local mother’s group members, maximum participants being women and girls. They prepared their own slogans and chanted them all the way. We were also joined by another rally organized by the women and children s organization Charikot Dolakha. The mass was huge and energetic on the street, chanting “Women Can Women Do!!”
When gathered at Kalinchowk School the participants were entertained by a short drama prepared by the fellow volunteers on the life story of Malaya Yousafzai a great inspiration for the girls of today. It was highly appreciated. We then led the participants to the hall where a documentary screening awaited them. The film was titled “Saving Face” an Oscar winning documentary film which was about the horrific acid attacks and their victims in Pakistan. It portrayed the struggle of women to again find their identity and self esteem and fight for justice with greater hopes for better life.
All in all it was a successful event where women and girls gathered together to join hands and stand united voicing out saying empower women empower humanity.!!
Feb 1, 2015
I work at a clothing store and yesterday during my shift a customer came in with her daughter,looking for an outfit for her 18th birthday party. They asked me on my suggestion for dresses, so as I started picking out options. The mother told her daughter ” you can pick any dress you want for your party, as long as it’s age appropriate, I’ll pay for it.” So she started trying on options; one after another the mom disproved of every outfit. She finally found one dress that she loved but the daughter didn’t like it. After trying on every dress,the daughter decides she wants one of her first options. The mother said ” I don’t like that one go with the one I like,because that’s the only one I’m going to pay for.” Both me and the daughter were shocked because she previously stated she would pay for whatever the daughter wanted but know the story has changed . The daughter ended up buying the one the mother wanted.
That situation made me thint about society and how they say “Be Different, Stand out,Have Your Own voice” but they still expect you to meet a guideline in order
Jan 26, 2015
Freedom of speech applies to all of us, not just adults. This right is enshrined in the Constitution for all citizens to enjoy whether they be 8 or 80 and whether they are in their homes or their schools. School officials in the Rankin County School District need to be reminded of this right. After two students attempted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Brandon High School, Rankin County Superintendent Lynn Weathersby told school board members he had talked with counsel about how to prevent what he referred to as “gay clubs” from forming on campus. Weathersby said he was told the best way to prevent organizations the district “doesn’t want” would be to require students who wish to join any club to obtain parental consent. Unfortunately, many parents view GSAs in the same derogatory way as Superintendent Weathersby. If students are required to have parental consent, many will be barred from joining GSAs and other organizations. While Superintendent Weatherby denied knowing that a GSA was in the process of being formed at the time, the timing of the remarks and the district’s new parental consent policy is highly suspicious and indicative of the need that Mississippi schools have for organizations like GSAs that allow for the free exchange of ideas and provides a safe space for students to combat anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Currently, there are 4 high schools in Mississippi that have a GSA (Oxford High School, Lafayette High School, Mississippi School for the Arts, and Mississippi School of Math and Science) and 5 high schools have GSAs that are pending, including Ridgeland High School in Madison County which is near Rankin County. With so few GSAs and such resistance against their existence, the need for organizations likes GSAs is clear. Our students are not safe to be who they are nor are they free to exercise their right to freedom of speech.
Under the Federal Equal Access Act, any school that receives government funding and has at least one other non-curricular club must also allow a GSA. As the law states, “It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives federal financial assistance…to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting …on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.” The purpose of school is to allow for students to grow not only intellectually, but also socially and emotionally. By restricting students’ right to form clubs that would further this mission, Rankin County is infringing on both the students’ constitutional rights and their rights as students. While school officials noted that the parental consent policy will be “applied equally to all clubs and students,” it is not the implementation of the policy, but the policy itself that should be under fire. Some might argue that requiring parental consent for joining clubs, while unorthodox, hardly infringes on students’ rights to form a GSA. In reality, the parental consent requirement makes equal access impossible. What parent would deny their child the right to join, say, a swimming club or a chess club? Many parents would, however, deny their child the right to join a Gay-Straight Alliance if they felt that it was against their personal beliefs or felt that it would corrupt their child. The Rankin County school officials had this knowledge in mind when crafting the policy since their stated intent was to prevent clubs that they “don’t want.”
The whims of school officials shouldn’t determine our children’s education. High school students should have a say in determining what form their education takes, especially in a non-curricular setting. If this includes forming clubs that some parents might not agree with, then there is nothing wrong with that. Freedom of speech and expression are crucial to the foundation of our nation and our youth must have the right to express their views even when those views clash with those of school officials and even parents.
Dec 16, 2014
If there would have been hell on earth, it could be said that now it’s in Peshawar, Pakistan. Do you realise? 126 innocent children,
have been mercilessly killed in a Taliban assault on
an army-run school in the Pakistani city
of Peshawar. The attack is being seen as one of the
worst so far in Pakistan. “We selected the army’s school for the
attack because the government is
targeting our families and females,”
said Taliban spokesman Muhammad
Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel
the pain.” Seriously? I mean like ‘feel the pain’? Is this what Islam teaches? No, it doesn’t.Iam a Muslim too, but as far as Islam is concerned, it is the best of all religions whose message is Love,peace and friendship. Why am I posting this; just to let the whole world know. Theyre innocent.Pakistani people did nothing and still are being shot dead for no damn reason!
Dear brothers and sisters, I beseech you people, please stand up for this cause. Please stand up for the sake of humanity, for the sake of those innocent children who were shot dead. Please!
Dec 3, 2014
On December 1, each year the World AIDS day is observed to commemorate the 36 million lives claimed by HIV/AIDS across the world; it also highlights that in the fight against HIV there is urgent work that still needs to be done. It has been more than three decades since scientists identified the HIV virus which causes AIDS and the cure for it still evades the doctors. Leading researchers from Australia, Italy and the United States have said that considerable work still needs to be done before they can find a cure for HIV.[i]
The transmission of the HIV virus is tied to specific high-risk behaviors and has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation. It is not uncommon for people to blame gender non-conforming people for increased prevalence rates of HIV in society, but the real culprit is the legalized homophobia and bigotry which drive them underground. The oppressed are always blamed for their problems by the oppressors. Societal norms, dominant cultural practices and religious beliefs are responsible for driving sexual minority groups underground due to which they are marginalized from HIV/AIDS related prevention efforts and have limited or no access to such programs. Because of this they are at a bigger risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS. No logical person would willingly want to contract HIV and gender non-conforming people are no different. Numerous research studies have proved that reduced stigma and discrimination always leads to a reduction in the infection rates.[ii]
In Pakistan, an estimated 130,000 people are living with HIV.[iii] But this number could be much higher as a lot of people in the country do not have access to screening services and are probably living in ignorance of their HIV status. According to the UNAIDS website for Pakistan adults aged 15 and above are at an increased risk of getting the virus, and in 2013 there were 4000 reported cases of deaths due to AIDS. A report published by the UN last year highlighted that new cases of HIV were on a rise in Pakistan.[iv] Most of the prevention efforts and Public AIDS control programs in the country are targeted at the sex workers in the country and have yet to include the general population who if not more than are at the same level of risk as the sex workers. The HIV/AIDS national surveys and public prevention programs do not include men who have sex with men and transgender people who are universally acknowledged as two high risk populations. And without including the key affected populations into their prevention efforts the national and provincial AIDS control programs cannot halt the spread of HIV in Pakistan.
Extraordinary advances in the field of medicine have made it possible for HIV-positive people to live long and lead healthy lives. But in the absence of a cure each year tens of thousands of new infections occur. Since 2011, the international efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness have been focused on achieving the common goal of, “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination.” [v] But less than adequate funding for HIV programs, ideological restrictions on research efforts, improper prevention techniques and endless stigma and discrimination have proved to be major roadblocks in the achievement of Getting to Zero. A majority of the world’s population exposed to the HIV virus continues to live in either ignorance or shame about their HIV status. Only through leading by example can we improve the lives of those living with HIV. We can get tested to learn our HIV status and show care and support towards those who have already been tested positive. Together, we can slow the spread of HIV and better care for those affected by it.
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
Nov 3, 2014
We are all feminist!
People fight for every girls right,–whether in secret
or not. We have once said no to those people who,
one way or another have adjusted the beauty of the
Life made things easy, but our new story-telling,
and blueprint-art, shaped the way things used to
be. It is quite beautiful to say we have tried our best
to influence most of the affairs of girls living in
rural areas–“to put a smile on gaunt faces.”
Today, there’s a task on each of us to help raise
awareness and #Write4Girls ; to ring the bell, and
set prosperous margins for them to follow.
In Cotonou, the Republic of Benin; teenage girls are
going through a lot of pains–from hunger strike in
major rural areas, to sexually transmitted
infections, and rape! Most of these girls have no
parents, only few of them have access to hospitals
and parental care. The selfsame happens in
Ekpoma, Edo state, Nigeria (…my state of origin);
girls have turned coated wires, nude. From peer
group relationship to hotel services. Almost 15% of
teenage girls in my environment from (14-17) are
pregnant, 10% are already mothers,–the story goes
From these circumstances “Feminism” becomes a
dwindled act, because majority of the girls we fight
for–(to get quality education, parental care and
reproductive health services…),–are knowingly
doing the wrong things.
But aside from any heart feelings, we are still
And There’s always a heart that wants to put a smile on
wrinkled faces. While “Malala,” is working on education for
every girl child, we too can do our best.
Today, there’s a new definition, the renaissance of a
new hope; thoughts that begets’ essence, and
notions that raises the bowels that once lay flat.
Our words, written or spoken, can influence and
reach the farthest places. Faults may emerge, and
we may have to shrink to environmental and
governmental laws; but the grace to move on will
spring forth, if we decide to take a stand.
This is for those girls that have lost all, those girls
that have been shut out, raped, coerced for
pleasure, used as slaves, Infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, and made to hawk fruits
in the market.
We can do a lot more if we #Write4Girls, and
channel or thoughts to the development of every girl child.
Oct 31, 2014
After reading a beautiful article written by two Harvard College students, Brianna and Kirin, about their experience at Advocates for Youth’s Urban Retreat 2014 and their involvement with “the movement” for sexual health justice for young people (http://bit.ly/1nAOKZH), I decided to reflect on my own experiences and activism work. Here are five of the most important things I have learned by joining “the movement” that I think other people would learn, too. I’m sure the list will grow.
5. Friends will support you, but not always agree with you. I am incredibly passionate about some very controversial political and social issues, including abortion and comprehensive sex education and LGBTQ equality. For me, these are not even controversies, they are rights, but I have learned and been reminded that everybody is entitled to their own opinions. Just because one of my best friends disagrees with me on abortion rights, does not mean that one of us is more correct than the other. More importantly, it does not mean that we cannot be friends. Respect can go a long way.
4. Answers can create more questions. Recently, I was asked to speak at a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 101 class about STD/HIV prevention on college campuses, contraception, and general reproductive justice as it effects my peer group. It is all too easy to assume that everybody has had the same education as you. They have not. There will be questions about consent, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming that will worry you and allow you to question society as a whole. You will have to explain dental dams and female condoms. You might be embarrassed at first, but you can do it. It is a worth-while experience.
3. Activism may lead to assumptions. One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that people want to know how your activism work specifically relates to your personal life. People are willing to cross those boundaries. Recently, I was asked by a stranger, someone much older than me, if the 1 in 3 statistic (stating that 1 in 3 women in their lifetime will have an abortion) was my “personal statistic.” I wasn’t offended, but I was surprised. I would never feel I have the right to ask another woman so blatantly and personally about her own experience. Some people do and they will ask.
2. “The movement” will change the people around you. You will be so delighted and thrilled to find that your friends and roommates and people you don’t even know are willing to support you and your cause. I recently started a student organization on my campus, the Student Alliance for Sexual Health, and found that the people who really care about me are willing to stand behind me for my cause. That leads me to the number one thing you will learn from “the movement.”
1. “The movement” will change you. If you let it, “the movement,” will open your heart and soul. It will fill you with this invincible passion that infects your day-to-day choices, that clears a path for where you need to be in life, for where you’re going, and where you have been. It will cast light on all of these shadows in your life and fill the spaces you need it to fill. Your passion for change is what causes you to become “the movement” yourself. You are not alone. You are a part of a whole. Cherish it.
Oct 11, 2014
On National Voter Registration Day (September 23rd), thousands of volunteers across the country gathered in areas such as the mall, school campuses, bus stops, and concert venues to register voters in time for the upcoming state elections. Among these volunteers was Katie Raitz; a friendly and knowledgeable representative of Colorado Youth Matter’s CREATE Council. Katie greeted students on Colorado University’s busy campus and talked to them about the importance of voting.
“It’s essential that millennials vote because laws are being made as we speak, and it’s so important to take part in making them. I do voter outreach because it’s a statistic that the younger you start voting, the more likely you are to be a lifelong voter. I love doing it on my college campus because it’s such an abundant community of young people with compelling voices that need to be heard.”
Katie sympathizes with the apathy that many millennials feel around voting, but firmly asserts that it’s a crucial way to assert one’s voice in their world and their lives. “It’s easy to feel marginalized. I know I’ve felt discouraged after seeing politicians who don’t fulfill their promises or feeling like the candidates don’t represent my views. But my favorite part about registering people is helping someone feel like an active member of society and that they really have a voice; it shows significant validation to say ‘it’s so great that you are choosing to vote!’. It’s so meaningful to realize the power that we as millennials and people really do have.”
Katie also spends time to table and do a phone bank for No on 67, the personhood amendment that would take away women’s right to abortion under all circumstances, and is coming up in the Colorado November elections. In terms of piquing interest in voting, Katie says, the amendment is a great conversation starter on why it might be pragmatic for someone to vote. “As something that is going to change Colorado laws and the state constitution, it’s a real-time example of the importance of casting a vote for what you believe in.”
Katie was happy to volunteer for the movement to get people, particularly millennials, to learn the importance of their own voice. “A very powerful moment I experienced when doing National Voter Registration Day was talking to a man who said he couldn’t register because he had been convicted of a felony. I told him that since he was no longer on parole he could, indeed, vote in Colorado! It was so exciting to be able to tell him he had this right and see his excitement for having this ability.”
Katie and the rest of the members of the CREATE Council are excited to inspire youth to take action in the outcome of their state’s future, whether it’s through voting or spreading the word if they are under 18, as many member of the CREATE Council are. Through Youth Show Out and National Voter Registration, the council members are working to empower their fellow millennials.
Oct 3, 2014
I have a very clear memory from my freshman year of college of when I first heard another girl talk about her experience with consent. It was a Saturday morning and I was at breakfast at Hilltop Dining and it was becoming a perfectly cold and painfully sunny day in Maine. Consent makes a lot of sense in my head and before this conversation, I was under the impression that most people had a fairly strong grip on it, too. No means no, right? Or, as California has recently initiated, yes means yes (http://n.pr/1vqdnrt). End of story.
So, imagine my surprise when two girlfriends of mine sat next to me at breakfast, omelets and water balanced in one hand and a coffee in the other, to tell me what they had heard in class this week. “If you are hooking up with somebody and you say no, but then you continue to hook up and it goes further than you want, that could be assault,” one said to me, with complete disbelief, like she had been in that situation before and had never realized her own rights. For me, I had never considered it in such explicit terms, but it made a lot of sense. I knew if I were ever in that situation, I would make sure that as soon as I said no, it was over. That was it. I would leave. I knew it in my heart, felt it in my bones, that I could walk away from that situation.
Fast forward a semester and I did find myself in that situation. But it didn’t seem so concretely clear. All of a sudden, I couldn’t find the strength to say no again. Why couldn’t I find the ability to fight what I didn’t want and push away? And I had a moment, later in the same night, when I realized what the girl at the breakfast table had just realized: there is something, at times, that restrains women. Something is keeping us from maintaining our strength, standing by our “no” after we have said it once, or twice, or more. There is a serious gap in knowledge and explanation in our sexual health education in our schools and in our communities. There is nothing that teaches young people, especially women, to speak up, to intervene, and how explicitly to do so. Without this accessible knowledge of what consent and healthy relationships are, young men and women instead find ourselves in increasingly negative situations. Even worse, this lack of knowledge leaves space for shame to grow and overshadow our ability to say no and to take charge of our own sexual experiences. On college and high school campuses across the nation, this fear of a reputation– either for saying yes or for saying no or for saying nothing at all– leads women into believing our voice is not as powerful as we want it to be. It is miseducation that causes this. It is knowledge that can fix it. So now, we as a society have this wonderful opportunity to teach young women to find the strength to say no again, to pull away, to stop what we don’t want, as well as to teach young men to listen and respect us. More importantly, to learn that it is not young women who are in the wrong. It is equally important for young men to hear and respect our no’s, so that they do not need to be repeated. Young women must find their strength and young men must learn to accept it.
Sep 10, 2014
(fəˈsäd/) – A superficial appearance or illusion of something
We as individuals tend to just take negative and offensive slurs as not really serious because they may have a joking connotation about them. Instead we have a habit to put on this mask, a facade as to say, pretending we are happy but in reality we are hurting even more. Slurs said and repeated everyday such as “faggot” and “slut” are merely tools used by the weak to try to minimize the confidence of others. Even though things said may hit you hard, that does not mean they are true. As long as you are true to your self you will have negativity thrown your way, but as long as you hold your head high you won’t need to wear a mask of happiness over a face of sadness because you yourself will be happy. Truly truly happy.
-Nicholas Cole, 17
Jun 2, 2014
(image reposted from DLCentral)
(This post contains SPOILERS. Content warning: misogyny and homophobia.)
The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC (downloadable content) came out on Valentine’s Day 2014 with rabid anticipation and celebration from fans of the original Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us and TLoU: American Dreams comic series. But not everyone was thrilled with the game.
I won’t hide that I’m personally a huge fan of this franchise. I waited years for The Last of Us and kept track of various nuances in the video game design, legal matters, and updates. I beat both the game and the DLC several times on different difficulties. I’m above hundreds of thousands in terms of skill and rank on the The Last of Us multiplayer leaderboard. I’ve also read the comics. So, let there be no doubt that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this.
The Last of Us excels in many ways that other games do not. The graphics are miles above the majority of games that came out in 2012 and 2013. The gameplay controls and mechanics are solid and allow players to make choices on how they want to deal with the conflict of each chapter. Want to sneak around like a silent and deadly assassin? Or would you rather jump in on danger with molotovs and nail bombs and guns blazing? Players even get the option to have conversations with some of the NPCs (non-player character) and AIs (artificial intelligence) of the game, with prompts provided of course. The game also limits how much ammo or supplies a player receives. It’s a tactic that makes the players really think about how they should use their items and re-think their strategies against the infected and enemy humans in this post-apocalyptic world.
The first ten minutes prove to be an emotional experience. Each character’s personality, although existing in a fictional post-apocalypse, comes off real and the interactions of these characters are crafted masterfully. Any gamer knows that video games are notorious for having horrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. The Last of Us forces other game companies watching the success of this installment to re-think how they handle these things. Sometimes it’s just not enough to spend hours going pew pew pew or smashing things in a story full of holes and ineffective voiceovers–even though that can be extremely fun too. One of the things that really makes this game is the way it forces companies as well as fans to re-think how they treat people who identify as women in their own stories and gaming community… well, it’s almost there.
Girls and women make up 45% of all gamers in the community. While that’s not a majority, it is still almost half the entire community. And despite such a significant number of girls and women playing video games, our representation still only fluctuate around 17% in TV shows, movies, video games, and even Congress. If we break it down for just the entertainment industry, women only make up 18% of directors and executive producers, 15% of writers, 4% of cinematographers, and 11% of protagonists in a story.
What does this have to do with The Last of Us? Well, the game isn’t perfect. I still felt it lacked female characters even as miscellaneous extras. Most of the humans the player will come across will be men. Most of the women I came across were mushroom infected hordes, officially known as “clickers.”
(Great female representation, huh?)
So what made this game different from the others before it? In this game, women actually made up a half or more of the main characters, which is sadly a rare occurrence. All the main women had motivations that were separate from the male lead, and this isn’t just a rarity, it’s almost non-existent in any form of media. These women were three dimensional and complex. They were flawed, vulnerable, and yet so fierce. Players even get the opportunity to play as a teenage girl in the video game as well as in the DLC. These are all good things when we keep in mind of how much female representation, especially good representation, is lacking in the media. But we shouldn’t get too excited about the bare minimum. It would definitely pass the Bechdel test but while this progressive move is noted and celebrated, we shouldn’t be setting our standards for basic decency so low. As much as I love The Last of Us, the game still followed the same tired formula of brooding white, middle aged man with women being hurt at his expense. So what did MRAs (Men’s Right Activists) and your general misogynists have to say about this bare minimum in treating women as if they were humans capable of complex thoughts?
It provoked angry nerds and geeks to crowd the forums with complaints like:
“Feminists did it. They are ruining one of my hobbies. For anyone who plays video games as one of their hobbies, The Last of Us is a pretty fun game…. The feminist messages were close to ruining a game I waited a year for…”
“…will my games be misogynist? You better ****ing believe it. Misogyny The likes of which will make duke nukem blush.”
(source: Men Going Their Own Way)
“At no point in the making of this game can you imagine Naughty Dog sitting down and saying “what we should do with our apolocayptic epic, is try and tackle feminism!”
“I’m all for stronger female characters but i also am sick of this sexist modern feminism which suggest been an attractive women is a bad thing. I also think it’s sexist to try repress straight male sexuality by suggesting its wrong to find women attractive by referring to it as objectification.”
“There are far more males play games than women…fact.Sick of hearing the constant nagging about sexism.”
(source: these comments are replies to The Last of Us isn’t the solution to sexism in games, but it’s a start.)
Some gamers took issue with the fact that many of the leadership roles in the video game were occupied by women, especially one woman of color named Marlene. She’s the leader of the Fireflies. It’s a rebellion group that’s focused on finding a cure to save humankind from this horrible zombie fungus affliction and dismantling the militaristic government system.
(Photo of Marlene, image reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
While the game faced heavy criticism from misogynistic players, The Last of Us hasn’t been left untouched by homophobia. In video games, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are either killed off, villains, or aren’t featured at all. I mean, the same can be said of most venues of media. So there’s no surprise when some of the heated backlash over the progressiveness of the game found its way to one character named Bill. He’s extremely paranoid, tactless, and rough but he’s very reliable. The game heavily implies with obvious subtext that Bill is gay. And it’s not just subtext, it’s been confirmed by one of the directors at Naughty Dog (company that created the game). GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) voted Bill onto their list of most intriguing characters of 2013. And here’s what they had to say about him:
“One of the characters the player encounters over the course of the game is Bill, an unstable loner in the town of Lincoln with a talent for fixing things. Through dialogue and backstory, the player learns that Bill once had a partner named Frank who he loved, but the plague drove them apart and led Frank to a bitter end. Both helpful and contentious, Bill is as deeply flawed but wholly unique a gay character found in any storytelling medium this year.”
(photo of Bill, reposted from GamerArtHub, original art concept and creation by Soanala Lee)
I thought the creators would leave all mention of queerness at subtext and podcast interview like so many others (J.K. Rowling, anyone?). But Naughty Dog took a brave route with their addition to the full game. While this DLC serves as a prologue to the actual game, Left Behind revolves around just Ellie and her friend Riley. Making a video game that completely centers around teenage girls with their own personal motivations and feelings is already unheard of. And how fun, as best friends, they can even take selfies in a photobooth with the players choosing the poses and backgrounds. (Google it! I’m serious!)
But Naughty Dog takes it one step further. The writers created a scene of vulnerability, tenderness, and love between two girls in a world ravished by violence, oppression, and plague.
You can watch the three minute scene here. I would recommend avoiding the comments though. But in case you need an extra warning, the comments are along the lines of:
“Yeah…. I threw the game in the trash cause of this…….
“NAUGHTY DOG! NEXT TIME LET HER KISS A GUY!”
“It makes me angry seeing gays trying to take over media now Games?!”
“the team was influenced by feminism, disgusting.”
“the gay kiss is totally perverted and f***ing sick… Naughty Dog is dead to me.”
(I copied and pasted these comments by the way but decided to leave the commentators anonymous.)
The creators of The Last of Us confirms that Ellie is gay and that the kiss she shares with Riley is of love, not just understandably reaching out for warmth and affection in a cold world, but a kiss with intentions of romantic love. Has anyone ever seen a game like that other than a manipulation of some Sims that we may or may not have made in the past?
It’s taken great steps toward progress, but we should still be fighting for more representation of identities in our media other than the usual white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual. This game, while it probably won’t be a catalyst for a culture shift, should be the kind of thing that gamers use as a standard, a bare minimum for what’s considered acceptable. It’s time to go beyond what we know.
May 8, 2014
The issue of sexual health and its related concept have been a heart-ache in the domain of growth and fundamental right. In Nigeria, there’s a redundant development in men’s sexual health as well as women. We (men&women), at most case experience the same circumstances ; while some Girls are raped – which results from the deformity in social and health status, lack of respect and right. Boys experience some Abnormal Behaviours – As a result of poor Environmental standard, wrong peer group, lack of sex-Ed and above all poor home training.
The Notion for the fundamental dedication of change is an abstract concept put to practice by uneducated and inexperienced dictators. What we need is a change, a turn-around from the illusion that all will be safe and sound.
Girls have become an object of mockery And abuse. There’s a gross increase in stigma, which emanates from unwanted and unhealthy sexual intercourse and Hiv, as well as other Demographic circumstances. The worst of all this, is the lack of respect shown to girls (Especially in the Northern parts of Nigeria).
I have recently noticed a meager increase in Medical utensils made available by the so-called government. Even at the expense of this unqualified rise in standard, there’s still a turmoil between men and women on who is to use these medical service and when to use it.
“Inequality”, has curbed the value for a characteristic change in Health services rendered to Nigerians. Today, medical doctors in government owned hospitals go on strike mostly for an increment in salary – with little or no maintenance and materials for health services.
Sexual health is a FACTOR of life. And as long as there will be Reproduction, Sexual Health is Needed and should be (RESPECTED,PROTECTED and FUFILLED) in the affair of every man and woman.
Another subject that greatly disturbs is the decry of provisional aid in the facilitation and tackling of the defaults associated with health services rendered and a very low attention given to (Affected (Hiv) and Unaffected persons).
On the context of medical attention , segregation is the source of ‘Inequality’. The Rich gets all the attention he/she needs and the poor man or woman has his/her rights neglected – As a result of the segregation in roles and opportunities affiliated to Health.
An Even Social status attributed to Sexual health is one cure to the ill practices portrayed by the lack of Decency and Inequality.
Apr 29, 2014
Bill O’Reilly believes that Beyonce does not deserve to be on the cover of Time magazine because she causes young women in the black community to have unintended pregnancies…. Seriously, he said that.
As a young black Latina who had her daughter at 15, I don’t even know where to start with his ridiculous claim. I can however promise you that Beyonce and her music were the LAST things that led to my being pregnant at 15 years old. Terrible sexual health education classes in my conservative southern school; poverty; lack of access to affordable birth control options; and low self esteem are a few of the things that led to my unintended teenage pregnancy – but certainly not Beyonce.
While O’Reilly is making ridiculous claims about the black americans and unintended pregnancies being attributable to a very married, committed, and self employed black women, Beyonce, I wonder when he will address the lack ofcomprehensive sex education being taught in public and private schools across America? When will he address the fact that low wages keep many parents out of the home for hours on in, working for wages so low that they can barely afford to pay the rent – let alone spend real and quality time with their children? I wonder when/ if he will take a look at policies in place that keep access to affordable birth control options to all persons, free of coercion, an option?
It simply doesn’t work or add up to be anti- birth control, anti livable wages, anti Beyonce and paint yourself as the voice of reason for a group of people you know very little about.
Mr. O’Reilly I leave you with this, teenage pregnancy rates are the lowest they have been in DECADES across all ethnic groups.
This decline seems to coincidentally line up with that fact that Beyonce’s first single album was released in 2003, and since then teenage pregnancy rates have continued to drop.
If we want to play the game of false equivalencies and correlation being causation, I will take a note out of the Brookings Institute “findings” and say that it is not the show Teen Mom but is in fact Beyonce and her jezebel music you speak of that have led to the decrease in teenage pregnancy.
There you have it folks, Beyonce is the cause of the decline in unintended pregnancies. (see how ridiculous that sounds?)
Apr 29, 2014
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 10, 2014
By: Sarah Bradley ’17
On April 5, I and another freshmen member of Students for Sexual Health attended the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts conference for campus organizers, alongside representatives from UMASS-Amherst, Boston University, Tufts University, Northeastern University, Smith College, and Wellesley College. It was a day of instruction and reflection on how to improve our campus outreach programs, strengthen our campaigns, recruit new members, and facilitate those difficult conversations concerning reproductive social justice. Discussions were encouraged as we exchanged ideas and strategies. Representing Boston College—a school where we as a student group have no support from the administration and literally stand on non-BC property sidewalks to distribute condoms—we represented a unique situation within the group.
It was both frustrating and incredibly exciting to hear what other schools were doing, to hear about their incredibly fun and innovative events and creative campus outreach programs. When we explained our situation as an unrecognized sexual health group at a Catholic college, the other representatives were shocked. They were quick to suggest different ways to rally support and to promote our cause, regardless of our campus situation. And they had some great ideas.
Taking the train home, I found myself wishing I attended a more liberal college where our student group could have more freedom with our outreach programs. Then I realized: as great as it is that these other Massachusetts schools have the ability to rally on campus and receive administrative support, the fact remains that this is not the situation we face at Boston College—at least, not now.
I’m a freshman. That means that I have three more years to continue working with Students for Sexual Health here at BC. If I had attended a more progressive college, maybe sexual health would have just been another cause among the lineup of tables at the club fair. But attending a conservative college, as frustrating as it may be, is an important push that maybe I would not have experienced otherwise. It’s not about sulking over the lack of administrative support; it’s about taking it as a challenge.
Personally, I know that I have three more years ahead of me of standing on the sidewalk passing out condoms, holding events off campus, and doing our best even as an unofficial group to educate our peers. And while it may not happen during my time here as a student, SSH will be an official group someday—but even then, Students for Sexual Health will continue to advocate for our cause and for our right to educate our peers here at BC.
Apr 4, 2014
Many a time, I have tried to survey and parry the questioning effect on sex and its constituent. I believe it is a redefined commitment entitled to both parties ( man & woman ) on a divine standard.
The world we live in today define sex as a ‘social commitment’, which is a taboo to fundamental notions displayed from old.
Afore, Sex, occurs after a marriage right is fulfilled – which connects a man and a woman together perfectly. Today, sex, is now seen as an avenue to satisfy common urge.
* some say we should have sex to satisfy ourselves and set our burdens at ease.
* others say, when you feel the urge get someone to have sex with. And a girlfriend should serve as a friend with benefits.
Sex is good and fun in the making, not to be confused with a Mutual Engagement between a male and a female. There are so many medical attributes linked to sex – one dominant property I know of is a reduction in emotional pressure or tension, resulting from ‘Anxiety’.
If we define sex on the basics of mutual engagement, then it is the right for every one (Adolescence,Teen,Youth and Adult), to have sex.
We have a situation where a boy of 16, gets a girl pregnant,at the expense of the so-called love. And the girl demands for an abortion or decides to conceive the child due to having sex at the wrong time.
There’s an increase in Abortion, Unwanted pregnancy and a retardation in fundamental growth of boys and girls. Most people who see sex as a social commitment end up having a bad experience, because they capitalise on the lust of satisfaction, instead of seeking to understand the reason for IT.
In most homes where a man considers sex more than his wife, there’s a high tendency for an upheaval of distrust to occur – which will massively dwindle their growth. Most who youths originated from these homes have become the heir of most illegal acts displayed in the world.
There’s an increase in divorce rate,children from this background become prone to harsh circumstance etc.
Youths who lack parental care and control end up doing irrational things, having unprotected and unwanted sex and other juvenile act.
I believe that if a minimum of 15% of youths are taught :
* Pre-sex affair and its influence.
* The fundamentals of sex education,
* Health education and its relation to sexuality.
Then change can commence.
My question :
* How do we educate boys and girls in : Developing and under-developed countries on sex education.
Proposed Query :
80% of youths living in these areas, constitute to the progression of illegal sex and the un-demanded notion it dictates.
Proposed Answer :
* I believe that changing the dialogue of sex affair is on great step .
Educating Youths on :
– what sex is ?
– why is sex needed ?
– what are the effects of sex on life ?
– who are the right persons to have sex ?
– And the required age for sex ?
* A notion I surveyed recently is doing a Poetry on sex-education : which will play a huge role in schools ( High school mostly, in rural and localised areas ).
In localised areas where there’s a gargantuan growth in sex rate, only few schools teach Sex education and a handful of these schools practise it.
– At locations where there are no computers for learning, no Adverts on sex-Ed, no Online orientation, and no seminars and outlets for diverse learning , an introduction to a reformed part of learning on sex education will help.
If we have a preamble poetry on sex education, health and orientation in under-developed areas, then we can help shape most of the questioning we have.
Mar 31, 2014
The American porn industry: a world of opportunity for both actors and consumers. Everyone wins, right? Actors and actresses with “desired features” have sex and get paid for their performances; meanwhile, consumers happily perpetuate a market with an estimated value of between $10 and $13 billion, which boosts our nation’s economy. By virtue of increased access to pornographic content through the Internet, the industry has permeated American culture so much that the average person views their first pornographic image at the age of 11. Moreover, by 2006, pornographic videos were released on an average of one every half hour.
This is how capitalists would describe the porn industry. They love it because it’s profitable… and it’s also seemingly becoming more “normal.” But while it can be easy to “normalize” the porn industry in light of statistics like the ones above, the porn industry is far from normal. Notably, the actors and actresses who star in pornographic films are subject to abnormal, oftentimes degrading treatment by the same people who consume their products. This fact may not be readily apparent for most of us – how many pornographic actors do we know personally? More than likely, we know none. Porn actors per capita in an arguably moral nation like the U.S. are few; moreover, those who do star in pornography use stage names – most of the time to protect their anonymity. However, for one freshman at Duke University, the struggle to function in society while performing in pornographic films took a serious turn when her anonymity as a porn star was stripped away from her.
Most of America knows her by her stage name, “Belle Knox.” Her real name is Miriam Weeks, but she has only recently divulged her birth name – out of fear. This 18 year-old Duke University freshman has starred in over 30 pornographic films. Weeks has claimed that starring in pornography brings her both confidence and economic stability. On the one hand, Weeks says that as a degree-seeking 18 year-old, no other job could provide her with enough income to pay for her education – a hefty $50,000 per year bill. On the other hand, Weeks states that freely doing pornography is a part of her agenda as a person – she confidently approaches the adult film industry as a way for her to express herself as a woman and to take a stand against the way sex workers are ostracized.
However, after a fellow Duke student “outed” her name to her classmates, Weeks’ struggle as a pornographic actress trying to live a normal life has spiraled. Her ideals and her dignity have been shattered by threats of rape and death, opinions of her perceived economic freedom, critiques of her morality, and objectifications of her body above consideration of her personal ideals. Intense public scrutiny of her aspirations of becoming a respected member of society while working in the porn industry have done an injustice to the human worth of Miriam Weeks and highlight several important problems with the way this country treats sex workers.
By virtue of our technological society, it is much harder for sex workers to remain anonymous. And when these workers are put in the spotlight, our culture’s perpetual stigmatization of their profession leads to many negative, unwarranted responses on a large scale. Disagreeing with sex work is one matter. However, “slut shaming,” often in the form of death threats, rape threats, belittling, bullying, and objectification are unwarranted but present byproducts of being “outed” as a sex worker in our morally conscious culture. While it can be easy for us to think that sex workers have the ability to shrug off degrading comments because of their knowledge of how many people perceive their work, studies have proven otherwise: Extensive literature on the psychological state of sex workers has shown that the suicide rate among sex workers is six times that of the rest of the population. Clearly, these degrading comments are unsurprisingly degrading the mental and emotional state of sex workers at an unconscionable rate.
A second issue at stake for men and women like Miriam Weeks is society’s perception of the true freedom of sex workers. In Weeks’ case, many have argued that the pressure of paying for college has “coerced” the Duke freshman to seek sex work as a means to survive in a country that often prioritizes the value of an education. This is simply not true, according to Weeks, who claims that the money is only one of several reasons why she loves staring in adult films. However, although Weeks has asserted that she feels completely free to choose to do porn, it is not fair to say that all sex workers engage in their work purely out of their own free will. Sometimes, we hear stories of men and women in disparaging economic circumstances, who resort to sex work as a means to stay alive.
But why do some of us instantly typify Miriam Weeks as one of these people who do sex work as a “last resort” – a way to survive economically? Maybe its because when it comes to sex work, many of us are sharply divided on the issue, even though all of us are trained by society to find compassion for others, especially the “marginalized” members of our community (e.g., sex workers, as you probably guessed.) It’s not necessarily our fault: as soon as a conversation about porn starts, so starts the stigma, and instead of believing the possibility that a human being could ever want to do sex work, some of us tell ourselves that the person is just short on money. They’re just getting by until some other opportunity comes up. We excuse them for making the decision to sell their bodies. But when we perceive sex workers collectively as un-free workers, we all too often put words in their mouths. We rob them collectively of the value of their ability to choose. We rob them of their dignity as a rational human being.
Dignity: a word normally not associated with sex workers. But is there any inherent dignity working as a porn star? Miriam Weeks argues that this question is perceived with great bias by a majority of our society. I couldn’t agree more. There is an inherent dichotomy in the ways in which our society thinks about pornography. Although roughly 50% of American citizens freely admit to watching porn regularly, Weeks thinks that society at large has a tendency to shame pornographic actors and actresses publically and professionally while they cannot get enough of it privately. I cannot help but agree with Weeks that this enigma is one of the great plagues of our society. We jerk off with one hand, and we point our fingers with the other.
Breaking down this dichotomy will be a fundamentally challenging but necessary step to search for justice in the many issues surrounding our perception of sex workers. But the struggle for fair treatment of sex workers only begins there. We as a society also need to stop slut shaming as a means of expressing our discontent with someone’s profession. We need to realize that nobody likes being degraded; even if we consider someone derogatory, they are still a human, equally deserving of dignity and respect. Moreover, we need to give back the freedom of choice that we oftentimes take away from sex workers. Instead of being content with telling ourselves that sex workers as a whole are economically disabled, we should work to ensure that all sex workers are economically enabled. We should help those who are not as fortunate as Miriam Weeks and are struggling economically to be able to choose a career just like everyone else.
In closing, I’d like to address that I say “we” throughout this article because this issue affects all of us. Even if you have never watched pornography (I will be a little skeptical of that, but I will take your word for it) or you have not engaged in sex work, I’m sure someone you know has directly or indirectly struggled with the sex-negativity that so pervades our culture. We need to break the stigma surrounding sex work in our society because the reality is that some of us desire to engage in sex work. And no human being deserves to hear that their desires are disgusting.
By: Eric Thomas Roy
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_the_United_States#Economics and
Mar 24, 2014
According to DoSomething.org, “more than 90 percent of parents of junior high and high school students believe that it is somewhat or very important for sex education to be included in the curriculum”. And yet, if a basic question regarding sex is typed into Google, some of the most popular results include webpages such as Yahoo Answers. Many schools across the United States currently push for the abstinence-only, Mean Girls approach (“Don’t’ have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!”) Yet even if these schools are not providing students with information regarding sex education, students will find their own means to understand their questions—often, from unreliable sources such as Internet forums, or word of mouth from other students.
College campuses provide a unique opportunity to learn first-hand what high school sex education programs are like in various states; try asking classmates from different locations what their experience has been in the past. For example, I attended an urban high school in Pennsylvania, where I received an intensive sex education class in ninth grade that covered all methods of contraception, how they are used, and their effectiveness. In contrast, I have a friend from a rural town in Washington whose sex education class was shorter than one semester and consisted of an abstinence-only approach. When I asked him how he pursued the answers to his questions regarding sex education, his answer was simple: the Internet.
You know how teachers are picky about research paper sources, strongly against the use of sites like Wikipedia, but advocating for researched articles? Those Internet forums on informal sex education are like Wikipedia for your body. Young students are getting their own information from complete strangers on Internet forums who claim to know all the answers—answers that may prove unreliable and unsafe. Our generation is at high risk for unplanned pregnancies and contraction of STDs, and the public school system is doing little or nothing to help. Abstinence-only methods are ineffective; if students want to know more, they have endless resources—thank you, Internet—to help them do their own research. Yet these methods are not as reliable and not nearly as trustworthy as a researched curriculum would be to students in the classroom.
Young students have the right to learn about their sexual health. The choices they make outside the classroom are their own. But if every student is provided with an equal level of education in regard to prevention of STDs, unintended pregnancies, and equal understanding of their sexual health, then every student has an equal chance to be healthy in their sexual choices. (And P.S.—the parents agree.)
Sarah Bradley ’17
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 18, 2014
WHY I AM A STUDENT FOR SEXUAL HEALTH
By Matt Mazzari
It’s no secret that Catholic-affiliated universities in America struggle with open discussions of sexuality on their campuses. The fundamental discomfort that religious educational administrations feel regarding issues such as contraception, STI prevention and pre-marital sexual activity in general make it difficult for students at places like my own school, Boston College, to have the oh-so-very important conversations about birth control and sexual health that are oh-so-very relevant to university life.
Of course, acknowledging that these unnecessary taboos exist isn’t to say that progressive conversation isn’t happening anyway. At BC, students simply find outlets for discussions of sexuality on our own. Just a few weeks ago, a theatre group of female undergraduates put on three full-house performances of The Vagina Monologues. Before that, I saw the LGBTQ allies of BC flood an anti-marriage equality lecture on campus with their assertively-tolerant presence. This semester, I’m taking a course titled “Spirituality and Sexuality” with an openly gay professor wherein my classmates are talking about their own experiences with sex and its relevance (positive and negative) to their religious lives.
Just because certain members of the administration aren’t appreciative of how important these issues are doesn’t mean that the students are going to be silent about them. The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority (approximately 75%) of U.S. college students are sexually active, and religious institutions like Boston College are not some miraculous exception.
So yes, students here generally recognize the importance of sexual health to at least some extent. And it makes sense, right? A constant topic of controversy for BC is the “hook-up culture”, which students and external perspectives alike have described as being especially pervasive on this campus; any statistically literate person can tell you that this social scene in combination with a lack of sexual health awareness programs is a recipe for disaster, particularly when you consider the fact that 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract an STD by the age of 25. In a survey from 2009, about 90% of BC students answered in support of having access to contraceptive resources, i.e. condoms, available on campus. It’s pretty clear where the student body (pun-intended) stands on this matter of promoting sexual health.
But if we’re basically all in agreement, why is having a group like the Students for Sexual Health so important at BC?
Personally, I became a part of SSH relatively late; I’m a senior now, and I only went to my first meeting last semester. I’d seen them handing out condoms at the corner of College Road and Hammond Street since I was a freshman living on Upper Campus. I remember hearing about the “incidents”: the counter-activism from conservative clubs on campus, the frequent harassment they dealt with from the campus police, or that one time they got yelled at by a priest during condom distribution outside of McElroy. But despite being aware of the problem and the ludicrous knock-back SSH was encountering, it wasn’t really until this year that it dawned on me that progress just doesn’t seem to be coming along fast enough.
Just look at the political sphere! Backwards opinions on sexual health aren’t exclusive to Catholic university campuses: since the Affordable Care Act was passed in March of 2010, one of the central controversies has been the coverage of birth control as part of health expenses. Because, I guess, sexual health isn’t a part of…health? By last year, nearly a hundred federal lawsuits had been filed specifically in opposition to ACA’s birth control benefits. The Supreme Court has recently ceded to the demands of several Catholic Organizations regarding this issue. For instance, the owners of a company named Hobby Lobby, a for-profit Arts and Crafts material-supplier with no open religious affiliation, successfully argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) grants them exemption from providing their employees with birth control insurance based solely on their own religious beliefs.
I’m sorry, but what?!
How in the name of all that is reasonable does a corporation justify denying its employees federally-guaranteed health care on the basis of the CEO’s personal religion? So, even though 99% of sexually-active women report having used birth control, that medical expense somehow doesn’t count? The owners of an Arts and Crafts company just have to say “We think the Pill was invented by Satan” and then they automatically don’t have to provide the women in their company with medical coverage they obviously need? Should we also take away insurance coverage of blood transfusions if a company owner is part of Jehovah’s Witness? Should we take away people’s chemo treatment if their manager believes exclusively in faith-healing? The fact that President Obama and Congress are entertaining these demands is extremely unsettling. Not only does this fly in the face of everything that a national health care plan is supposed to be, it perpetuates an attitude towards young persons’ sexuality (female sexuality in particular) that is incredibly dangerous and wrongheaded, resulting in the continued high-rates of accidental pregnancies, VD transmission, and general ignorance that have proven to be problematic in the past.
So that’s why I’m a part of this club, SSH. It’s not because I’m pessimistic about my campus or the students’ attitude here at BC; it’s not because I believe in anything more radical than “everyone should know how to have protected sex”; it’s not even because I want the federal government to provide Americans with anything beyond what it has already agreed to provide. It’s because the opponents to programs like SSH are still so vocal and powerful, and there is still such a long way to go. When our country finally reaches the point where it has covered that distance in sexual education and provision of necessary resources, I want to be able to say I was a part of that movement, that I was a Student for Sexual Health.
Mar 12, 2014
After waiting in the HOT, Florida sun for hours and then standing and waiting impatiently inside a cramped high school auditorium… the moment me and my fellow Planned Parenthood supporters (along with a swarm of hundreds of other excited individuals ) had been waiting for had finally arrived. The President of the United States had graced us all with his presence. Mr. Obama addressed something very important when it came to making college affordable for everyone. He talked about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid a.k.a FAFSA!
President Obama recommended that everyone apply for FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify because you never really know. If it wasn’t for FAFSA, I would not be attending college today. FAFSA provided me with grants and qualified me for scholarships all of which is basically FREE MONEY! And who doesn’t love free money? The application was quick and easy to understand and fill-out. The best part of it was seeing my Expected Family Contribution which told me how much my family needed to put together ahead of time so I could be prepared to pay for college. Overall, FAFSA opens up so many opportunities when it comes to making college affordable and I think every student who plans on attending college or is currently attending college should apply. See the link below for more information:
Stay Informed. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.
Mar 8, 2014
Mar 4, 2014
For the month of February, besides attending a Jack and Jill health fair in Fort. Lauderdale, I began my ‘Contraception Awareness Campaign.’ This project is an endeavor that will last for about 8 weeks at my attempt to get 200 people on my campus to learn something new about contraception. My goal is to peer educate at least 25 people every week while I table at my college. (I will provide information like how to get contraception, the proper way to store them, comparative analysis between brands including breaking myths, as well as educating the importance of contraception in preventing pregnancy). In my first week, there were approximately 40-80 people in attendance and we collected 40 sign ups. The focus was ‘How well do you know your STI’s?’ Although many people came up and played our game, it took an engineering major to win the $25 It’s sugar gift card give-away! Also around Valentine’s Day, I took part in hosting a love Workshop on my campus in order to educate the students on healthy relationships and contraception use. My passion for educating my peers on this controversial topic comes from recognizing the important role contraceptives play in people’s futures. As an incredible philosopher once said “Neglect of an effective birth control policy is a never-failing source of poverty which, in turn, is the parent of revolution and crime.” —ARISTOTLE, Politics.
Feb 28, 2014
Feb 24, 2014
Just this past Friday, I was sitting home, watching the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) channel. I was busy watching the ‘Where Are They Now?’ programme. And for those of you who have not seen this series, it’s where viewers have caught up to Ms. Winfrey and asked what happened to some of the most memorable guests. It’s a follow-up series.
But anyway, I was flipping through my on-screen programming guide when I came across the next episode. It read: The 11-year old who wanted a sex change. It hit close to home. I was concerned, though, that it would be about a male-to-female transgender. Most cases that are publicized are about MTF transgenders. But to my delight, it turned out to be an FTM.
A female to male transgender is what I am. And I’m always searching for something to enlighten me more about my situation.
And along came Kaden.
He was born as a girl. And as he got older, he started to self-identified with the male gender.
And the more I watched, the more I cried.
And to make a long story short, I’ve come to terms with my being trans. And I now have someone to look up to.
Feb 18, 2014
Some people believe that more than a few American teens have probably fantasized about being with an older person at one point or another. The idea being that dating an older partner can expose one to more experiences, maturity, understanding, and overall great company. While there may be some truth to that, the situation does not always yieldflowers and bon bons. So often what occurs is, the young person is lured in and taken advantage of without them even knowing. Sometimes money is offered or other gifts in exchange for sex and a false proclamation of love. At times, for some teens it is even an ego boost “I must be top notch, if I can attract this older person”, but sometimes you have to look at it from a different perspective. This older person is attracted to someone who may not have any adult life experience, sometimes still lives with a guardian, and cannot fully support themselves. Dating an older person is not always bad; however just make sure that you understand the cons in addition to the pros when you are considering doing so. For more information on sexual health and sexual relationships, pleasevisit www.facebook.com/sexted.
Jan 30, 2014
This month I planned my Passion Project which I will be focusing on for the first half of 2014. It is centered on providing people with information on contraceptive access, and bringing awareness to my campus about ways the students can protect themselves. I plan to table on campus weekly for two consecutive months in order to reach a minimum of 200 people. During these tabling events I will have one on one peer education sessions, a question box, interactive training, and giveaways. Most excitingly, I will be gaining more support for the Healthy Teens Campaign. February and March are going to be productive months, and I most look forward to seeing the positive impact that educated youth will have on our communities.
Jan 23, 2014
Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)
Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members
As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.
We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.
From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.
I consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.
As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.
I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.
My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.
However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.
On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.
I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.
Jan 23, 2014
As I transitioned from high school to college, I thought that my student outreach efforts on behalf of Colorado Youth CREATE would get easier. With a bigger campus, more people, and more freedom, I reasoned that I would easily be able to reach more people to join our youth activist network and support our cause of increasing the availability of comprehensive sex education on local and state levels. However, I soon realized that the climate of students at my private university was very conservative and not very supportive of sexual health education. This was something that I found to be completely ironic because people are definitely “doing it,” and people are definitely gossiping about it. But no one wants to discuss safe sex, healthy relationships, or sexual assault.
The first few times that I tried to talking to some people I met in college about my work with CREATE it did not go well. They stopped me mid-sentence and told me that I was wasting my breath because they had conservative values. In another instance, someone physically put their hand over my mouth and told me, “Stop. Just tell me if you’re from an abortion clinic because I don’t want to hear it!” Even when I was able to get through my one minute spiel about being an advocate for comprehensive sexual health education, I was often met with very judgmental stares and gaping mouths, as if I had just confessed that I was drug lord. People at my school felt uncomfortable with my messages and I was beginning to be labeled and dismissed as the “raging liberal.”
I realized that I needed to change my approach. I knew that the issues I was talking about are things that we all face, both as young people at this university and in this world. To me, the issues that I advocate for are about human rights—the right to identify however we choose to identify and love whoever we may love. The right that we, as citizens, have to access to affordable health care and services. And the right that we, as young people, have to receive truthful, medically accurate and culturally inclusive education. I realized that I needed to frame my message in a way that was not received as a partisan issue, and instead illustrate how comprehensive sex education truly affects and concerns us all.
I was received much better when I used a more holistic and rights-based approach with my audience. Below are a few strategies that I developed in order to reframe my advocacy message about the need for comprehensive sex education:
1. Cultural Competency/ Sensitivity- Always Walk Your Talk!
It is important to keep in mind that people may come from different backgrounds or have different ideologies from your own when you’re doing outreach. Just like in a comprehensive sex education class, your conversation should recognize what the other person values! For example, if the person you are talking to has chosen to abstain until marriage, note that that’s great for them- abstinence is the only way to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs. However, you will both be able to agree that not everyone will share that decision. You can point to the national rate of teen pregnancy and talk about how comprehensive sex education not only can help reduce that number but also includes a strong abstinence message.
2. Personalize Your Message!
If you feel comfortable and safe enough, share a story as to why you do the work that you do. This helps transform the issues into something very human and relatable. Through storytelling, your message is framed in a way that shows the effect that sexual health has on everyday people.
3. Keep The Door Open For Conversation
No issue is easy or black and white. Allow for discussion about the issues, as long as it remains respectful and non-intrusive to you and your personal space. I have found that in some situations it is very important to draw this line, like when I felt disrespected for just defending myself. Openly discussing your issue creates an opportunity to learn about what is valuable and important to the other individual while also sharing what is important and valuable to you. Both parties can end up a little more enlightened about different perspectives from even a short exchange of ideas. You may not always agree, but you may find that they, and others alike, will be more willing to approach you later about the issue. Look for common ground in some aspect of sexual health and go from there!
In the past few weeks that I have adopted these ideas, I have found that the people I talk to are a lot more receptive and the conversations I have are a lot more meaningful. Even though we as advocates often find ourselves in communities that are not supportive of our issues, this is the place where change happens. Being in this tough environment these last few months has reminded me about the importance of my work, and I see every new day as an opportunity to further our cause. CREATE is working on developing tools to support young people and their advocacy efforts in the community, so stay tuned!
Dec 27, 2013
I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on. And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention. I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.
While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves. I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational. Oh, and guess what? Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.” There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime. Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue. There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.
I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website. It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share. There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though. An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:
Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…
What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?
How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?
There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series. East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast. And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into. For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.
Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color. Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious. From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended. Please use the number to the opposite.
(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)
Dec 14, 2013
Between Instagram and Twitter and other various social networking sites, people never really take the time to start actual face-to-face conversations and get to know each other. You may know who they are on social media, but that doesn’t mean you know them in reality. People have secrets and skeletons in their closet that are unknown to the world unless you really take the time out to get to know them. The youth of today spend so much time with their eyes glued to their smart phones that they never actually get to know the people that they are involving themselves with intimately. They “fall in love” with what they see on the outside and are destroyed when they figure out that the person they’re so in love with is not who they thought them out to be.
Communication in a relationship is extremely important. Knowing about your partner’s sexual history and status can help clear out some of the skeletons in the closet before it’s too late.
Here are some tips on how to communicate effectively:
- Find the right time.
- Talk face-to-face.
- Do not attack.
- Be honest.
- Check your body language.
Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your can prepare and protect yourself. Step away from the smart phones and make the first move.
Stay Informed. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.
Dec 10, 2013
[tumblr source: sarahlynne3713]
Dec 7, 2013
This week I had the opportunity to conduct an educational training on pregnancy prevention for local high school students in my community. The teen summit had over 400 students in attendance. I co-facilitated the presentation with an educator from Planned Parenthood. I was extremely nervous at the first session while I presented. A million thoughts went through my head; were they listening, was I saying it right, did they understand, etc. This was my first experience at peer educating so I wanted to be perfect. There were three sessions in total. By the second session I felt more relaxed and comfortable. It was a great feeling to see the students interact and yearn for more information. I felt accomplished when a few students stayed after the presentation to ask more questions. This experience has shown me that peer education is something I’d like to continue doing.
Dec 5, 2013
The Great American Condom Campaign is a youth-led grassroots movement to reduce unintended pregnancies and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections by normalizing condom use on college and university campuses. Students from across the country apply to become individual condom distribution points–AKA SafeSites– and upon selection receive a box of 500 Trojan condoms to distribute to their peers. SafeSites are also tasked with educating their peers about safer sex and advocating on campus and within their community for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.
This past fall, 1,400 SafeSites distributed more than 700,000 condoms to students on 946 campuses. SafeSites were established in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Sound like fun? Apply for the GACC NOW!
We receive way more applications than we can accept, so make sure your application stands out! Be clear about how you will distribute condoms and why you want to be part of the GACC. To learn more about the GACC and the awesome work of previous SafeSites, go to the GACC Facebook page.
Applications to be a Spring Semester SafeSite are open through December 31st, 2013. It only takes 10 minutes to fill out an application, so start now!
Do it for your country.
Nov 25, 2013
(original image by The Stigma Project)
We are a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising. The Stigma Project seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background.
Social media has rapidly become one of today’s largest mediums of news, culture, and education. We hope to embrace that with effective campaigns each season that bring awareness to the current state of HIV. Please, whether you’re HIV-positive, negative, or you don’t know (and should), we need your help. Ask your friends to join us in starting a revolution: an “HIV Neutral” revolution. Like us, Share us, Re-tweet us. The more people we reach, the more effective our project. The more successful our mission. YOU can make a difference.
The Stigma Project seeks to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS on a global scale, through awareness, art, provocation, education and by inspiring a spirit of living “HIV Neutral.”
The Stigma Project seeks to create an “HIV Neutral” world, free of judgment, fear, discrimination and alienation by educating both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life about the constantly evolving state of the epidemic. We seek to reduce the HIV infection rate through knowledge, awareness, and effective marketing and advertising. Ultimately we see a future where the world is free of HIV/AIDS.
I’ve already posted this image before but without credit to the original poster, so here it is! I’ve also added information about this organization!
Nov 19, 2013
“One bad apple can spoil an entire bunch.” How often have we heard of that old addage? Well, I want to reiterate that it is indeed true, however, apples were not born with brains so I want to take this time to implore ALL youth leaders and youth workers to understand the importance of having best practices of great character among our young. We have the world to mold and we get it right if we follow great examples; especially, those in our age group.
Dei Rasi Freckleton
Nov 17, 2013
I came across this ad while scrolling through my instagram feed, all that came to mind when I saw this was, “what has this world come to”. Not only the ignorance, but the hate people carry and advertise everyday makes me worry about our future generations. How can someone possibly believe this? Well, many people do. The logic behind this ad is that if someone smokes marijuana and is under the influence of a drug, they will engage sexually with someone of the same sex due to lack of reasoning caused by the effects of the drug. I have seen ads against drunk driving where they show someone being hit by a car, which is a reasonable and terrible outcome of drunk driving. These adds are made to persuade people not to drink or do drugs using scare tactics. The idea is that no one wants to live with the fact that they killed someone, but how does that compare with the idea of someone being gay? This is suggesting that being gay can be compared to being responsible for someones death, being gay is being perseved as a terrible thing that no one wants for themselves. These ads have to stop because they are not only false, and lack any type of medically accurate background, but they are highly offensive.
Nov 1, 2013
I am happy to be part of the pool of facilitators who facilitated the very first National Adolescent Health Camp that was held at the Fontana Leisure Parks in Clark, Pampanga from October 22-25, 2013 and attended by 300 young adolescents from across the 7,107 islands of the Philippines. I am also honored to have worked with my fellow Y-PEER siblings in this project by the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Youth Commission (NYC) and to mentor out-of-school youth delegates from Eastern Visayas who were awesome during the entire duration of the camp. It made me confident that more adolescents are becoming aware of the importance of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Adolescence is the period in life when an individual is no longer a child but not an adult as well. They are the person in transitional stage in life, living in critical time of rapid physical, mental, emotional, sexual, social and spiritual development. A time of transition that varies across individuals and groups, countries and cultures.
Globally, 1/5 or 1.2 billion of the world population are adolescents. However, 2/3 of the premature deaths and 1/3 of the disease burden in adults are associated with conditions or behavior that begins in youth. In the Philippines, adolescents comprise about 21.5 percent or almost 20 million of the 92 million Filipinos counted in the 2010 census conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) as cited by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI). They contribute significantly to the labor force of the country. Considering that they constitute the most active group, they are the most vulnerable to communicable and non-communicable diseases owing to their risky behaviors. Furthermore, rate of teenage pregnancies have risen.
It is under this pretext that the Family Health Office of DOH in collaboration with the Department of Education (Dep-Ed), NYC, and Y-PEER Pilipinas conducted a basic training on adolescent peer education. As part of the learning process, an enhancement program was given to potential young leaders. Among the objectives of this camp are: a) Identify issues, gaps, and challenges on adolescent health and development at the local level; b) establish a pool of youth leaders on Adolescent Health and Development to address issues identified; c) develop standards of peer education on Adolescent Health and Development that will aid in developing the national framework on peer education; and d) develop one year local adolescent peer education plans to be implemented in their community/school.
At the start of our registration process, the participants were given name tags with number written at the back for an activity that was held later that afternoon. During the opening ceremonies which featured an ensemble of various traditional costumes from across the islands of the Philippines, the highlight of the said ceremony was the speech of Dr. Stephanie Sison from the Department of Health (DOH) in which she stressed the importance of the health camp to our young people and their importance to our country. They learned that engaging in risk behaviors such as early sexual encounter that may lead to unplanned pregnancy has a great impact on our lives especially on child and maternal health, education, and economic standing.
After the ceremony, participants were grouped according to the numbers behind our name tags for our first series of activities which was one of the facilitations I did in the duration of the camp. They had their getting to know in the form of a speed dating activity in which they met for the first time with their fellow participants from other regions. It provided them an opportunity to mingle in order that we can be friends and likewise for me to meet them. It also provided an opportunity to correct their stereotypes with other region like those from conflict areas in Mindanao. The second activity was body mapping in which I instructed them to draw a human body and wrote in the parts of the body their goals, achievements, positive/negative attitudes, their loved ones, and what others say about them among others. It’s a time where they get to know themselves better as they prepared themselves for the next days of activities. In our last activity which is called Agree or Disagree, young adolescents were able to know each other’s views and values on pressing issues among young people like acceptance of LGBT and people living with HIV, teen pregnancy, access to family planning services, and abortion among others. Yes, it gave them an opportunity to debate and argues on these issues but what prevailed at the end of the day is their mutual respect for each other’s views.
The next day during the plenary, Dr. Minerva “Mimi” Vinluan discussed the legal frameworks that serve as basis for DOH and other government agencies’ programs and projects on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH). It gave us a solid foundation on where we stand as Peer Educators because there is a legal basis for everything that is being conducted in the training. Moreover, since most of them are not acquainted with these legal frameworks, it provided us an opportunity to be educated about these laws which they can invoke and apply in real life situations.
After the plenary, they enrolled into four different topics of discussion for the day: Understanding Adolescent and Puberty; Sex and Gender and Sexuality; Teenage Pregnancy; and HIV, AIDS, and STI. Their enrollment to these topics served as basis for their groupings in the sessions that followed. During our workshop, we let them compute the expenses that they will incur when they impregnated or got pregnant at a very young age with no financial security. They were shocked with the amount that they have computed – a staggering P180, 000 pesos more or less is the money that they have to pay for all expenses related to pregnancy (pre-natal check-ups, medicines, hospital bills, immunization, canned milk, baby diapers, newborn screening and other procedures. They have realized that it is not a big joke to get someone or become pregnant and they conclude that they have to be careful and be responsible with their actions related to practicing their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
In the afternoon, four different topics for workshops were simultaneously held: Relationships; Gender Based Violence and Power Analysis; Youth Sexuality and Family Planning; and ASRH in Humanitarian Setting. Also, the Adult Session for our partners from DOH, Department of Education (Dep-Ed), National Youth Commission (NYC), and other government and non-government organizations was held in a separate venue within the Fontana Convention Center.
During the Thursday plenary, Maria May-i Fabros of Task Force Batang Ina provided an insightful discussion on Elements of RH, the 13 Sexual Rights, and Human Rights Lens that enshrined in various international treaties that the Philippines have signed and ratified. We appreciated the kind of approach that she had on these topics because she delivered it in a manner that is not too academic like classroom lectures, rather, she delivered it in an informal manner that we understood since she anchored it on her own personal experiences and journey as an advocate and as someone doing development work. After the plenary, we break into groups and we facilitators discussed Peer Education 101 that included: Roles and Responsibility of Peer Educator, Peer Education on ASRH, Peer Education Activities, and workshop on session planning in Preparation for our Practicum the next day. In the afternoon, the NYC conducted Peer Education 201 that stresses on leadership and accountability as Peer Educators after which, we break into regions for the young adolescents’ regional planning.
In the Practicum, the existing groupings were further subdivided into four smaller groups with each assigned topics to deliver. We were given 45 minutes at most to deliver a Peer Education session following the standards given to us by our facilitators. The first two groups conducted their sessions simultaneously while the remaining two groups served as the participants respectively of the first two. During their presentation, we observed on how they conducted their sessions such as facilitation and co-facilitation skills, quality of information presented, icebreakers conducted, and our management with our participants. After they presented our sessions, we were able to give them feedbacks and points to improve on their workshop sessions the next time they conduct one.
Overall, all of us enjoyed the experience while at the same time they learn from us facilitators and resource speakers as much as we facilitators learned from our young participants. We have formed lasting friendships among our fellow facilitators and delegates from Region VIII and the delegates from other regions as well. The dinners and regional sharing that we had every night has been memorable. As newly trained Peer Educators, much is expected from them. They may be still learning the ropes but I am very much confident that they can train new Peer Educators in Region VIII and I am here as their Kuya – Big Brother to help them.
Oct 27, 2013
I made a quick list of films about abortion and reproductive/sexual justice issues and posted it on STFU, Pro-Lifers.
Oct 16, 2013
Since coming back from Urban Retreat 2013, I’ve had a bit of time to think about what mistakes I made and avoided over the weekend.
Going into Urban Retreat, I wasn’t entirely sure of what my role would be as a Campus Organizer, because I had previously resigned from GenderBloc and we had decided another member should take the CO role. This resignation was largely a product of a busier-than-imagined fall semester, and trying to do too many things at once seemed incredibly risky. I had felt comfortable with my decision until arriving at UR.
For such a long time, group activism and building a family around that motivation had been a huge part of my life. From working with Human Rights Campaign throughout high school, to my current (light) involvement with GetEQUAL and other local activist and support groups, my identity had been constructed through its reliance on commonalities with others. As a consequence, it took me a very long time to decide who I was and what that meant outside of my political work.
Perhaps this lack of personal identity is what has contributed to my unwillingness to step back into an area where my only involvement was on the political front, with driving support for LGBT individuals and the issues that face our communities. I remained a staunch supporter of “working alone” for the last two years, with rare exceptions here and there. I let this cloud my mind heading to UR, and mostly saw my role there as “well, I’m here, I’ll get the info for the person taking over, and I won’t get attached.” As much as I hate to admit it, I was pretty successful.
It was not until I got back to Cincinnati, after wasting a weekend of amazing opportunities, that I realized I had blown everything I cared about in the interests of my own insecurities. After having very personal battles with myself last winter, a series of fallouts with my mother as a result, and ultimately revising my entire identity to all who had known me prior to “Micha,” I was anything but ready to work with 150 new strangers. What I didn’t understand was that every single one of those strangers had something they could have offered to me. If I had taken the time, I would have learned 150 new lessons…but I was too busy being scared.
Most of the time, I give a disgusted grimace when I hear the word “ally.” In my world, an ally is always a negative thing – it’s a privileged individual who wants a gold ribbon because they were human enough to be decent. Not because they took it to another level and dedicated themselves to working to confront oppression on every possible level, not because they were someone who routinely reflected on their privilege and found ways to use that to help the oppressed individuals they were allying with…just because they wanted to be our saviors. On the opposite end, though – I have always valued the idea of coalitions above all other forms of political communities. The idea of similarly-oppressed groups – and that is not to say that I am oppressed in one way, you are oppressed in another, so I understand your oppression, because that is simply not the case, oppressions are not equivalencies – that these similarly-oppressed groups could band together to find effective political avenues to change their situations and confront their oppressors and maybe work together to combat multiple forms of oppression – that has always felt like love to me. What Maria Lugones calls “loving perception” is how I imagine coalitions. While we recognize that we are all different, we are able to perceive each other with love and recognize that even with that difference, we are able to help each other climb our mountains. They may not be the same mountains, or even in the same range, but you cannot battle oppression and privilege on only one level. Eradicating one form of oppression is not eradication, it is reduction. A reduction which simply allows other forms of oppression to grow, or new ones to take over – and that helps no one.
What did I learn from UR? I learned that as social justice advocates, it’s our responsibility to give others a chance. Whether they are members of other oppressed groups, allies, or the oppressors, no one is capable of stepping up if we automatically condemn them as something “different” or “wrong.” If we truly want to drive political and social change, we have to actively accept as many willing individuals as we can, even if their methods of helping are not exactly what we want or expect. I know I could’ve done much better at living this on a personal level not only at UR, but at other points in my life. I can only hope that taking this time to reflect reminds me of the importance that friendships, partnerships, communities and coalitions play in our work, and that I learn how to use it to achieve my own goals and assist others in achieving theirs.
Oct 7, 2013
(reposted from The Nation, originally posted by Katha Pollitt)
How could something so basic be in such short supply? Diapers are expensive—up to $100 a month—particularly for women who don’t have transportation and must rely on bodegas and local convenience stores. Some women reported spending 6 percent of their total income on paper nappies. And before you say, “Let them use cloth,” Marie Antoinette, bear in mind that diaper services are expensive, few poor women have their own washing machines, most laundromats don’t permit customers to launder dirty diapers and most daycare programs don’t allow cloth diapers. Like fresh fruit and vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products, and organic baby food, cloth diapers are the province of the well-off.
Despite this clear need, however, diapers are not covered by the food stamp program (SNAP) or by the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program. The government apparently finds them unnecessary, like other hygiene products (toilet paper, menstrual supplies, toothpaste, even soap), which are also, unlike food, subject to sales tax. Never mind that babies can’t choose not to pee and poo and did not select their parents. Never mind, too, that those grandmothers who are the hardest hit caregivers are performing a crucial social task—and saving the taxpayer millions—by keeping those kids out of foster care.
Food, it’s true, is even more basic than diapers. But some people believe low-income children don’t really need that either. If House Republicans have their way, 4 to 6 million SNAP recipients may soon find themselves bounced from the rolls. This, at a time when the Department of Agriculture tells us that 17.6 million households regularly go hungry, up from 12 million ten years ago. Proving yet again that there really is a difference between the parties, Republicans want to cut the food stamp budget by $40 billion over the next ten years.
Oct 7, 2013
Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier. Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound. We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share. We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world. All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives. But we celebrated our diversity. And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.
I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend. It was a place I had never been to on my own. I would be surrounded by strangers. But these strangers quickly became my friends. And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them. And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well. Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders. And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives. It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.
I even got to meet Janet Mock! We talked and had dinner. She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!
It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice. And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource. Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan. I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore. The realization was bittersweet. But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.
Sep 25, 2013
Volunteer Training with One Royal Oak, discussing possible issues that may come up while phone banking.
Hype about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has died down and our LGBT community sort of gained the right to marriage. Notable “activist” efforts like statuses being made, profile pictures on Facebook being changed, and arguing with not so progressive relatives went on for days until the Supreme Court ruling over DOMA. But since the SCOTUS ruling, there’s been silence and the false notion instilled in a surprising majority that we’ve finally achieved all that we needed to. Discrimination against LGBT folks is over because we can marry in some states and a lot of straight, cis people changed their photos into equality signs!
Our community is still facing several inequities which are more dire than not being able to walk down the aisle. What about making sure our brothers and sisters have a job and a place to live? Only 20 states offer some protection for LGBT people in housing. In 29 states, a person can still be fired without warning simply for being gay. And in 34 states a person can be fired for being trans*. Aren’t these the issues we should be engaging our friends and family with? What’s being done about it while we’re waiting to see what happens with ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) for who knows how long?
Before anyone asks what I’m personally doing about this, I can tell people right now that I’ve joined up with a non-profit, political campaign called One Royal Oak. Our mission is to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in Royal Oak, Michigan which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations “on the basis of actual OR perceived race, national origin, religion, color, sex, age, height, weight, pregnancy condition, marital status, physical and mental limitations, source of income, family responsibilities, educational
association, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.”
So far I’ve taken part in the volunteer training. I participated in phone banking, trying to gather donations for the cause. I’m constantly trying to make my friends and family understand the importance of this situation. I believe in equality, so I’ll do what I can to help. It’s just one city, but every little step counts. And One Royal Oak isn’t alone in their efforts for equality in the United States. Seek out ways to help our community either by volunteering or simply donating to activist groups like One Royal Oak, whether it’s on a local or federal level.
I’m more than happy that I have the right to marry my girlfriend thanks to the SCOTUS ruling. But between not walking down the aisle and not sleeping on the streets, I would choose the latter. There are many obstacles in finding a job and a place to live, our identity–who we choose to love and who we are–shouldn’t be one of them.
Sep 4, 2013
August 2013 is the beginning of my second year as a Broward County Youth Council member. This year will be bitter sweet for me because I am aging out. I am extremely excited for what this year has to bring. All of the hard work we did last year is slowly coming to fruition. I am excited to see how everything falls into place regarding comprehensive sex ed in the Broward County school system. This year we have a few new members and I am anxious to work with them on our upcoming projects. This year will be EPIC for me. I plan on having a blast. Urban Retreat is s quickly approaching and I am ready to learn new techniques and tools that will help me be a better advocate. This year will definitely be a memorable one.
Sep 1, 2013
Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog. It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr. Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10. And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session. Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal. Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education. No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active. If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!
The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:
I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.
Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!
My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice. My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both. I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources. I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives. Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me. What’s your vision for sex ed?
Aug 24, 2013
First- Ever Legal Abortion,
And It Saved A Dying Woman’s
(Re-posted from ThinkProgress)
The first legal abortion in an Irish hospital has been carried out in Dublin, the Irish Times confirmed on Friday. It represents the first pregnancy termination under Ireland’s historic new abortion law, which slightly relaxed the country’s total ban to allow for legal abortions in cases when it’s necessary to preserve a woman’s life.
Before Ireland’s prime minister approved the new law in July, the country’s abortion laws had not been updated since 1867. Now, there are 25 Irish hospitals that are authorized to perform legal abortions in life-threatening cases without worrying about legal repercussions.
The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin carried out the pregnancy termination for a dying woman whose membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours. She ran a high risk of sepsis, and her 18-week twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors said her case bore many similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being denied an emergency abortion in an Irish Catholic hospital last year. Halappanavar developed sepsis after she began to miscarry, but doctors wouldn’t terminate her doomed pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat had officially stopped three days later — and by that time, it was too late.
The Irish Times reports that in contrast to Halappanavar, the woman who received a legal abortion this month “has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”
Ireland’s new abortion law was spurred by Halappanavar’s tragic death, which sparked a global controversy. Reproductive rights activists vowed that an individual would “never again” be denied the life-saving medical care that could avert this type of tragedy. But even though Ireland has slightly relaxed its stringent abortion law to successfully avert another Savita, a handful of other conservative Catholic countries still impose total bans on the procedure. Following Halpannavar’s death, similar controversies have unfolded in El Salvador and Chile.
The Guttmacher Institute’s research has found that harsh bans on abortion don’t actually lower abortion rates. Instead, they simply encourage women to risk their lives to end a pregnancy illegally. An estimated 47,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions — and that figure doesn’t include women like Halpannavar who die from pregnancy-related complications that an abortion could have averted.
Aug 21, 2013
“We are ready to start the fire again,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan at the press conference, which was filled with reporters as well as members of the Duggar family, reality television stars who have become some of the new faces of the evangelical anti-choice movement.
Speaking in favor of the ban was Michelle Duggar, matriarch of the 19 Kids and Counting family. With 17 of her 19 children in tow, Duggar spoke against the “baby holocaust” occurring in the United States, a talking point she also used at a Texas press event roughly a month ago: “There is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children. … If we do not speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”
Michelle’s oldest son, Josh, was recently named executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the right-wing Christian group Family Research Council, an avid heartbeat ban supporter.
Aug 21, 2013
Prison Birth: Exploring Prison Justice Through Orange is the New Black
(Re-posted from Because I Am Woman an AH-MAZING sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism blog. Check them out, and THANK YOU for letting us post this piece here.)
Orange is the New Black has been getting a lot of press lately, and it is certainly well deserved. The dark comedy features a dynamic and multi-faceted cast of women and gives a first-hand look into many of the realities women in prison face that are often left out of the conversation in mainstream culture and other prison related media. The visibility of the series has opened up many vital conversations on topics such as birthing, healthcare for trans people, mental health, privilege, sexuality and even the prison industrial complex itself. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring these issues (and more) through the lens of the Orange is the New Black.
First up, we will be taking a good hard look at birthing in prison. Although birth has been an increasingly popular topic in reproductive justice and feminism in recent years, people experiencing it in prison aren’t often considered as part of the equation. In Orange is the New Black we are introduced to what birthing in prison might look like for people who are incarcerated when one inmate, Ruiz, is about to give birth during episode 8. Over the course of the episode, (although only a minor plot point), we see Ruiz go into labor and be told by a pharmacy tech that she may not go to a hospital until her contractions are extremely close together. When the time finally comes, Ruiz is taken away only to return at the end of the episode silently wheeled back into a room of women without her child. As the room of women turn to look at her, the silence that fills the room provides viewers with a shared sense of loss and sadness for the new mother, one that is likely in prison for a minor crime, who has already been taken from her child.
What we saw in this episode is only the beginning of what pregnancy and birth actually look like for many in prison. According to The Prison Birth Project, “In prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.” This demonstrates that reproductive health and pregnancy are clearly an issue for those incarcerated, and an issue that cannot be ignored in the reproductive justice movement. There is a need for education, advocacy, and support amongst these populations.
The reality of giving birth for many prisoners is also much worse than what we saw on Orange is the New Black. Many in prison are denied the medical care they need (pre and post-natal), and many more give birth still shackled in prison instead of in a hospital. Although advocates in many states have been pushing for change, only 16 states have passed legislation to outlaw the barbaric shackling of prisoners birthing and in labor. In their report “Mothers Behind Bars”by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the organizations gave almost half of all states a failing grade for their treatment of pregnant and birthing people, and point out that there is no national standards for treatment and care of those who experience pregnancy behind bars.
Fortunately, there are people and organizations out there organizing around these issues. The Prison Birth Project and Birth Behind Bars both act as advocates in their respective areas and bring doulas into prisons to aid in birth and pregnancy. You can support them by volunteering your time, money and support, as well as by continuing to spread the word on these issues.
As for Orange is the New Black, we can likely count on this not being the last pregnancy and/or birth we see in the series. Since the pregnancy of Daya by a prison guard is a much bigger plot point in the show, it is my hope that we see a more well-rounded and realistic depiction of what this experience looks like for inmates in the second season.
Aug 20, 2013
Aug 20, 2013
One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.
The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:
86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
Aug 19, 2013
can we stop referring to all sex that could possibly result in pregnancy as “heterosexual reproduction” now
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
Jul 22, 2013
California’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped nearly 60 percent as a result of expanded sex education programs, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday.
The report –- which was based on data collected until 2011 — revealed that the California teen pregnancy rate reached a 20-year low that year. While in 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19, in 2011 this number decreased to 28 births per 1,000 teens.
Teen pregnancy rates fell across all ethnic groups, according to the report. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 73.6 in 2001 to 42.7 in 2011 –- although Hispanics continue to be the group with the highest teen birth rate. Teen pregnancy rates for African-Americans, Whites and Asian-Americans also decreased significantly.
Several factors contributed to the falling pregnancy rates, the department said in a press release. One factor was the state’s school sex education program, which law requires to be comprehensive and medically accurate. The report also credits community-based education programs that provide sexual health information to teens and their parents.
“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
“California’s innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH, said in a press release. “We must not be complacent; we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities.”
As Think Progress noted, California’s teen birth rate decreases are part of a national trend. The national teen birth rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 2011, NBC’s Today Health reported.
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 19, 2013
On the same day that Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion omnibus bill into law, Republican legislators in the state introduced yet another anti-abortion measure, this time looking to ban abortions after 6 weeks. And while it seems very unlikely at this point that the bill will make it through the state’s legislative process by July 31, the end of the current special legislative session in Texas, the timing is still drawing a decent bit of attention.
There’s only one state in the U.S. with an abortion ban after 6 weeks: North Dakota. And that law is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. The 6-week bans, like the one proposed in Texas, rely upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat by a doctor. Arguing that a fetal heartbeat is “a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth,” the Texas bill, HB59, would require doctors to determine whether a fetal heartbeat exists before legally performing an abortion. Fetal heartbeats typically register at around 6 weeks, meaning that the bill would effectively make that the cut off for the procedure.
Jul 12, 2013
Texas Lawmaker Says Sex Ed Makes Teens ‘Hot and Bothered’ Leads to Sex and Babies
The Texas house recently passed an extreme bill that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Many of the debates over the bill were heated, but one of the more interesting ones started last Tuesday night after a house committee vote was over and three members of the committee had a conversation that was audio-taped by a reporter for theHouston Chronicle. In that conversation, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) pointed out to two of her Republican colleagues, Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands) and Bill Zedler (Arlington), that sex education that includes information about contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore can reduce the number of abortions that are performed. Toth was quick to disagree about the merits of sex education.
Jul 12, 2013
Jul 10, 2013
Jul 8, 2013
When I mention the term taboo I DO mean the game in which you guess the word someone on your team is explaining. I mean taboo as in is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment as explained by Wikipedia(you know you refer to that site). Parents today are just not taking the initiative to teach their kids or even answer questions.Everything starts at home. The schools does not enforce sexual education like they should hence why advocates does the work they do. I hearing all kinds of things that are just plain crazy and I have to correct the young people and send to different resource. If different organizations are providing the resources then parents should back the kids it’s only right. I want education for all dispite the topic. If only I can educate the world.Sex shouldn’t be taboo instead it’s should be talked about. I am positive parents don’t want students learning from the wrong person.
Jul 4, 2013
Hello fellow youth advocates,
As youth leaders I think we should all be versed in the subject of the milestones in youth development. There are seven milestones as it relates to development in Small Island Developing States (SIDs)- the first mile stone being in 1992 and the last being in 2012. Therefore this process has spanned approximately a 20 year period.
The milestones are as follows:
1. UNCED (1992)
2. BPOA (1994)
4. WSSD (2002)
5. MSI (2005)
6. MSI+5 (2010)
To this date, I am still hurt and seeking to recover from the fact that I could not attend the RIO +20 conference… However I hope to be present at the next milestone.
I wanna know.. have you been present at any of these conferences?
For more information check out this website:
Jul 4, 2013
Hello world :)- particularly youth of the Caribbean region.
I found this great new website called “Youth-In”. Here is some information about it taken from their website: http://youth-in.com
The Youth-IN project is about empowering young people to become agents of change, not to just sit by and receive support but to become actively involved in the development of their own sustainable future.
Our mission is based on a 2010 report produced by the CARICOM Youth Commission, ‘Eye on the Future: Investing in YOUTH NOW for Tomorrow’s Community’, to which many young people across the Caribbean contributed. The report shows the challenges of Caribbean youth and the costs of not investing in Youth.
The UNDP Project Youth Innovation (Youth-IN): A Caribbean Network for Youth Development Project in CARICOM and Member States responds to these challenges with an integrated approach to address the identified needs and to support Caribbean youth aged 15-29.
The project strategically addresses human development by linking environmental, economic and social activiies to optimize youth potential. Designed as an integrated programme the project aims to:
- Support the engagement of Caribbean youth in culture, community sports for social change, and arts, while facilitating youth networking and access to spaces and initiatives that will allow youth social and economic development;
- Create new and expand emerging youth entrepreneurial initiatives that support young entrepreneurs to move from ideas to business in areas such as sustainable tourism, cultural industries and environmental management;
- Raise the voices of young people on issues of national and regional governance: the environment, including climate change, growing business opportunities and development that plans for and reduces the risk of natural disasters; and promote the innovative use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) for human development among Caribbean Youth;
- Development and support fo the Youth Think Tank for the Caribbean
- Advocate for youth volunteerism
Jul 4, 2013
I often get annoyed at the clichéd statement “one person can make a difference”. Frankly, I think it’s an over played line used by politicians. I still doubt that there was ever a situation in history where a party ever one by one vote.
A more correct interpretation of that statement in my perspective is that one person, rightly influenced, persuasive and active can cause a snowball effect thus making a difference. Its like how heat gets transferred. One molecule has to become energized to pass the heat on.
Here is your chance to take part in the conduction process. The United Nations is conducting a “Global Survey” in order to gather what is perceived to be the top 6 issues affecting the globe. This input will directly input the post 2015 agenda for development.
Voting is simple.
1.) Go to the website http://www.myworld2015.org/
2.) Select your top 6 issues which you think affects development in your country
3.) Submit votes
4.) Encourage your friends to vote!!!!!
Be the energized molecule!.. pass the heat on !!
-> here is a short youtube video to use for promotional reasons
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 1, 2013
I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so.
-Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian doctor who was arrested four times for performing abortions, but whose arrests eventually led to the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the country.
He died this week at the age of 90. Good obit in the NY Times.
Jul 1, 2013
I posted a couple things here about Wendy Davis’ insanely awesome marathon filibuster to stop SB5, which is a bill from Texas that would close the majority of the clinics in the state that not only provide abortion services, but contraception and general health care. And she wasn’t alone. Hundreds of local supporters stood by her and when the bill was thought to be stopped, the capitol building erupted with cheers.
The lawmakers had to vote on this bill before it hit midnight. But thanks to Senator Wendy Davis, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, and hundreds of reproductive justice advocates, lawmakers fortunately did not get the chance to meet that deadline. Republican lawmakers tried to argue that the bill was voted and passed on time despite clear evidence revealing that the vote ended on June 26 when it was supposed to be June 25. They later took it back and admitted that the vote occurred after midnight and the bill was dead. All Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst could say about it was: “…it’s been fun.” Because taking away people’s rights to health care is so much fun.
The bill was thought to be stopped and everyone in the social justice club was happy. But Texas Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to try to bring SB5 back. This would make all the efforts of the Texans who went to stop this in vain. Governor Rick Perry’s Facebook, Twitter, office website, office address, and phone information has been spreading so that people can voice their opinions. Hopefully the voices of the constituents will be heard.
While the Internet social justice atmosphere exploded at the news of Texan Republicans’ shady tactics, for good reason, Ohio has passed some terrible anti-choice legislation of their own. Ohio lawmakers didn’t even bring it up for debate. They slyly passed the bill last minute the other night. Activists are sharing Ohio Governor John Kaisch’s phone number (614-728-7576) in hopes that he line-vetoes the measure. If he doesn’t, Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers lose their funding in that state, and those funds will be going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. And you know what Crisis Pregnancy Centers are like. People will have to will 24 hours before receiving their emergency contraception. Forced ultrasounds will be legalized, and the unwilling patient would still have to pay for it. This measure would even redefine pregnancy, throwing out the actual medical definition, so that using emergency contraception would be considered abortion.
We have our work cut out for us.
Jun 26, 2013
From Huffington Post:
The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster,”The Associated Press reported.
The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing was off-topic. Then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed.
Although some Republican lawmakers later claimed the bill had passed in time, Democrats denied that the vote was completed before the clock ran out on the session.
A time stamp showing the vote completed after midnight was the deciding factor. “This will not become law,” Sen. John Whitmire (D), told The Austin American-Statesman.
In response, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes Of Texas,” the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.
According to The Texas Tribune, Dewhurst was less than pleased by the evening’s turn of events. After ruling that the time on SB 5 had expired, he told reporters that “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” had derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.
The legislation would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulated first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and restricted access to medication abortions. Had it passed, nearly all of the clinics in the state would have been shuttered.
Dewhurst also hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may call another special session to get the bill passed, saying: “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”
Despite a long day of filibustering, Davis was upbeat when she greeted the crowd of supporters, who applauded the senator and chanted her name.
“Today was democracy in action,” Davis said. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”
Jun 26, 2013
From Tumblr blogger kat1712:
(edited for language)
Senator Wendy Davis is a f*cking badass.
There’s this bill that they are trying to pass in Texas that would make it illegal to get any abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would make it very difficult for abortion centers to continue doing what they do. Governor Rick Perry has already said that if the bill makes it to his desk, he will sign it. And Wendy Davis said f*ck no that is not happening.
So she’s filibustering it. That means she asked to talk on the subject at 11:18 this morning, and if she can continue talking about abortion until 11:59 tonight, the bill won’t reach Governor Perry, and they would have to start all over with the bill next time they meet- 2 years from now.
But Wendy has to keep talking. She can’t pause for even a minute, not for food or a sip of water or to go to the bathroom or sit down. She can’t even lean up against anything, or she’s out. So she’s wearing motherf*cking PINK NIKE TENNIS SHOES in the middle of the state senate.
She also has to continue talking about the topic. She sent out tweets an other messages last night asking for anyone and everyone’s abortion story, and received a sh*t load of answers. Her staff is still collecting them, and she’s reading them aloud to the senate. Not only is she making this bill impossible to pass, she may just change some minds while she’s at it.
This is history, guys. Wendy Davis is a motherf*cking badass, and we are watching it happen.
Jun 22, 2013
“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” AMA board member William Kobler said in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
The AMA’s stance on amending the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in the U.S. falls in line with recent policy changes in other countries. Earlier this year Canadian Blood Services approved achange in policy that would allow gay men to donate blood if they have abstained from having sex with another man for five years prior to their donation. Additionally, other countries such as Australia and the U.K., require only a one-year window of deferral for sexually active gay men, while South Africa requires only a six-month period.
Jun 21, 2013
For decades, most Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been lying to women, evading questions, and disguising their institutions as health care facilities. They receive federal funding to shame women into believing lies- “abortion causes breast cancer”, “it will make you infertile”, “condoms do not protect against STIs”, etc. They do not have a doctor at these facilities, and are not under HIPAA regulations of non-disclosure of medical records. They are against all contraception forms. They will harass a woman until she is in tears, and then send her on her way with a Christian religious token, and a promise from her that she will keep her child, they will only provide “help” if she agrees to go to Bible Study. This is not health care. Title X funding should be revoked.
Jun 21, 2013
“CPCs have a long history of engaging in deceptive advertising. For example, some CPCs intentionally choose their name to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. The Family Research Council investigated what names would be most likely to appeal to women, particularly pro-choice women, in a 1998 report. Women’s Resource Center, which gives the impression of a full range of services, was deemed to have the most strategic value in reaching women “at risk for abortion.” The report also showed that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were most likely to look in the Yellow Pages under the words “Pregnancy,” “Medical,” “Women’s Centers” and “Clinics.” Accordingly, CPCs often are advertised under these categories, as well as “Abortion Alternatives,” and “Women’s Organizations.” CPCs also advertise through posters, signs, and billboards that contain messages like, “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #.” Women report, however, that when they call these numbers the CPC representatives evade questions about whether they provide abortions, and urge the women to make an appointment to meet with a ‘counselor’ to talk in person.”
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 20, 2013
If you haven’t watched any videos by the rib-crackingly funny YouTube blogger Hart, you’re in for a treat. Hart is the “Lesbian lover from another mother, with boobs and a vagina. It’s all necessary.” Prepare thineself for the hilarity.
I came across this video entitled “Watermelon…” in which Hart explains why one’s love for women does not mean that one has to dress in the stereotyped fashion of feminity.
Do yourself a favor and follow Hart on…
Also, check out Hart’s music video about “Lesbian Issues”
Jun 19, 2013
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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!”
Jun 15, 2013
Premature ejaculation is one of the biggest challenge youth face when they are believed to be sexual active. Premature ejaculation has also been one of the major reason for decreasing the level of self esteem among the youth due to which lack confident occur and create many mental stress. Premature ejaculation is simply understood as a stage where male occur orgasm before they want or desire. It is said that the problem of premature ejaculation is not physical but the mental. But I don’t agree either on physical nor on mental, it just the matter of practices a young man has in Sex. It generally occurs when someone doesn’t have a frequent sex or a first sex. In one article I read about this, I found that premonitory sensation is the real cure for the premature ejaculation. Premonitory sensation is understood as the feeling a man gets just before he reaches the point of no return, also called the moment of inevitability. The article says that when a man identifies himself at the position of premonitory sensation then he can fool himself about the sensation and can get the rid of premature ejaculation and I find this method as most inappropriate method for the young man who first encounters the sex. Every young man wants to have a best first sex experience and does not want be embarrassed about the condition like Jim had with Nadia in American Pie. So the best cure for the young man like Jim is Masturbation. Most of them said that masturbation is real cause why premature ejaculation occurs but it can also be regarded as a treatment or cure for same problem it supposed to cause. The technique is called start and stop at the point premonitory sensation both during the sex and masturbation. In masturbation when we reach to the point of no return then we must stop the process and try to concentrate on something else and when you find that you are out of no return then again remember the image for the masturbation and start again and again when you reach to no returns do the same. Practice this for few times. I know this is very hard to get pleasure and hard to manage but your few practices can make you get rid of premature ejaculation. Another technique is simply using condom to reduce the sensation. If one condom does not work use 2 or 3 condom which is also supposed to prevent the premature ejaculation. Premature ejaculation is not any disease or problem that you have but it is just the matter of practices and experience. So there is nothing to worry about and try above solution to get rid of it .
Jun 11, 2013
Jun 1, 2013
May 31, 2013
On Wednesday, the highest court in El Salvador denied an abortion to a woman with a pregnancy that is so high-risk that doctors say it could kill her. Beatriz, 22, is carrying a 26-week fetus with anencephaly, a birth defect that means part of the brain and skull are missing and that the baby will almost certainly die at birth. Beatriz’s doctors say the abortion is necessary for Beatriz’s health and perhaps to save her life. But by a vote of 4–1, the Salvadoran judges ruled that in light of the country’s absolute ban on abortion, “the rights of the mother cannot be privileged over those” of the fetus.
El Salvador’s complete ban on abortions has become relatively rare worldwide, as the first map below shows. Keep scrolling and you will see enormous variation in how countries (and states in the U.S.) regulate abortion and birth control. Our main sources of data for these maps are the United Nations, the Guttmacher Institute, the Population Reference Bureau, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Harvard University’s Center for Population and Development Studies.
The maps reflect continuing change: Uruguay recently legalized first-trimester abortions, and courts in Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina have begun to allow them in certain cases. Meanwhile in the United States, Republican-led statehouses have been tightening restrictions since the 2010 election. It’s the largest wave of legislation in the decades since Roe v. Wade.
May 31, 2013
Whenever abortion is the topic of a conversation, especially when spoken of as a choice that someone wants to make for whatever reason that’s personally valid to them, there is always someone who pops up and says, “Adoption is an option too!” You know, as if that thought never occurred to anyone ever or it’s some kind of a magical word to rid one of an unwanted pregnancy. I witness it all the time on my STFU Pro-Lifers blog through the large amount of messages I receive on a daily basis, but yesterday a self-proclaimed pro-choicer shared that familiar, derailing insight you hear from anti-choicers. Granted, she had her own personal experiences with abortion and adoption. I made sure that she knew how appreciative and grateful I was to her for sharing those experiences with me. But it was something she said that really bugged me. There were a few sentences subtly expressing privilege and ignorance.
“It isn’t that hard to find someone to adopt a baby…”
She also mentioned the baby she gave up for adoption was blonde haired and blue eyed. It’s another discussion that makes it clear how important it is to be intersectional. She was speaking solely as a white woman in her experiences with adoption. She somehow gained an adoption lawyer at no personal cost to her. Adoptive parents quickly lined up for this white blue eyed baby. And the parents the girl chose to adopt her baby paid for her one year of school tuition. She was happy with her decision, and that’s great. I’m happy for her. Anyone would be.
But for the part about how “easy” it is to get someone to adopt a baby… well, I quickly and politely corrected her. She thanked me and then told me that she loves my blog. The matter was settled. It still bugs me though, and it’s not so much the person but the original line of thinking shared by so many people. You hear things like that all the time. Oh, you’re pregnant and don’t want to be? But there are tons of people out there who can’t have children! You should consider adoption!
I guess no one told them that less than 2% of our entire population actually adopts, and when they do adopt, the less than 2% tend to favor the able-bodied, young, emotionally sound, sibling-less, white baby. [source] And really? Agreeing to the idea of an adoption won’t make an unwanted pregnancy go poof! There are still nine, agonizing months of a condition that was never consented to. I mean, most pregnancies are already really difficult for those who do it willingly. There are tons of complications that arise during those three, brave trimesters. I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatic it is for those who desperately don’t want to be pregnant but were forced to remain so.
Don’t want to raise a child? Fine! Adoption is definitely an alternative to parenthood. Just keep in mind that abortion is an alternative to a pregnancy. That’s how it works. Don’t talk to me about how there are tons of people in the world who can’t have children. No one should be forced into being a brood mare for someone else. No one owes their body to anyone else.
As pro-choicers, it’s inherent in our very name that we celebrate choice whether it be parenthood, adoption, or abortion. We keep in mind that our lives are individual, and the same can be said about our choices.
May 30, 2013
There are a lot of forces out there trying to misinform the public, especially the youth, when it comes to reproductive/sexual health and rights. One of the biggest groups out there is called Live Action. When you look up Live Action on Google, they’re listed as a non-profit pro-life organization. According to them, they are a “youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion.” They claim to do undercover investigation in clinics to prove and document “illegal, inhuman, and gruesome” practices and share it on social media sites. To this organization, abortion is:
An enterprise built on destroying pre-born children for money leaves few rules unbroken. But the abortion industry’s corruption goes deeper than most people would think: from threatening women’s lives with dangerously bad medical advice, to protecting child sex-trafficking rings, to covering up statutory rape, to actions even more heinous. Live Action’s undercover exposés document these many abuses, so the whole world can see the horrors going on right in our backyards – and paid for with our tax money.
The above statements were taken right off of the home page of their website. Now despite their best efforts to intentionally misinform the public about abortion and Planned Parenthood services, people have caught on. One of the many people to call out Live Action’s lies is a YouTube vlogger named Cristina Rad who is popular on the Internet for her commentary on her atheism, gender politics, and casual ideas of social justice. The Live Action video she tackled and is most popular for is called We are the Youth. You can watch her video response here. I would definitely recommend ignoring the Live Action video and go straight to Cristina’s response, especially since Cristina actually cites some statistics in her description.
It’s beyond a YouTube vlog debunking Live Action videos though. Media Matters, “a research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the Media,” lists hoax after hoax created by Live Action. Even Slate, a major online magazine on politics and culture, has recently come out with a video that reveals how Live Action’s deceptive editing is intentionally done to frame doctors and clinic staff. The video that Slate chose to analyze has unfortunately already been promoted and aired on TV news (if you really count Fox News as news at all–countries with laws against lying on the news certainly don’t) and commentary programs after the Kermit Gosnell incident. But Slate’s video is worth the view, because they go through all the raw footage that Live Action leaves out and reveals what Live Action didn’t want the average viewer to see.
Seriously! Click the link below to watch!
May 30, 2013
Beginning was very tough to accept the issue of SRHR. I can still remember the day when I was in class Eight I lied to my family telling them that I am going to attend the typhoid training for two days instead of HIV/AIDS. I can still remember the day when I was in training, I was the young person attending the training and other making fun out of me telling me that it not my age to study this.
I was born in a small town of Kapilvastu called Krishnanagar where alike other place in Nepal the term sex is very huge to speak. You need to be mad or a tough person to dare to speak the words related to sex. I was a member of PAHRI project whose main aim was to make people aware about SRHR where I learnt a few things, which really made me useful when I was on growing age. However, the office where people can get things they want, were misused. It was the place where I have seen my first blue film. I am not telling that watch porn movie are so bad in them but it was the start when I changed the meaning of sex and the terminology of satisfaction. It was the place for sexual harassment where girls never knew about it in the name of computer classes. Many of us saw computer for the first time in that office. Many girls from inner villages used to come to that office not for learning about SRHR but for computer. Yeah, computer was a mysterious thing for us at that time. I used to make my daily schedule where visiting the office was one of them. I used to go office to touch computer and to watch porn movies. Truly, it was the junction of many boys for enjoyment. Many boys make girls to sit in the same chair and touch their private parts .Many girls never knew about that, as they were very keen to learn computer and those who knew never dare to go against them because the shameful nature which society gave to them. I can easily remember the day when I asked one of the facilitator what is the meaning of masturbating written in the book. She refused to tell me, I do not know why but this made me unaware for long time. I was scared when I saw white fluid coming out while watching porn movie. I was scared because I knew that one of the symptoms of AIDS is a white fluid coming out of penis and I was almost dead to think about that.
Here i am not trying to convey my childhood story but to make understand the real scenario of SRHR offices in western Part of Nepal where still the situation has not changed, where girls and boys are still unaware about their bodily change and up and down that goes during their growth. Many of us think that Nepal is making a rapid change in this topic but they limit their research only to the urban regions and I think that situation is still the same. I still feel ashamed to talk about sex or to discuss about the bodily changes with my brother and with my sister.
Sometimes, I think about what sort of situation the girls are having in far western part in Nepal where girls have no right to enjoy their own right about sexual and reproductive health and still girls feel ashamed to shake hands with opposite sex.
Being involved in YALC team I think now I can make a change by change my own thoughts and knowledge and make other have a perfect knowledge and try not to pass the same situation that I went through during my childhood.
May 28, 2013
I’m skinny. I always have been. Because I am skinny people think that they have an automatic licence to make me feel ashamed for my body.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Emma Rose and I am a natural size zero.
‘No such thing’ you say? Well, think again because there are more of us naturally skinny people than you might believe.
When I was younger I used to get strange looks from mostly parents who would whisper to each other about how my mother was probably starving me at home. But, as I got older the insults turned straight on me and people began to tell me off right to my face for having a slim figure.
I’ve heard everything: chicken legs, twig, shrimp, skinny Minnie, and string bean. Then, at one point I remember a girl coming up to me in the middle of math class during fourth grade and asking me if I was anorexic. Nobody said anything, not even the teacher, they just waited for me to respond. I finally shook myself out of my shock and said “no.” That was when all hell broke loose.
From then on it wasn’t just my classmates calling me silly kid names. No, now people, adults even, would ask me or my parents to our faces whether I had worms or, if not that, then maybe AIDS.
I recall one teacher in middle school who would not let me leave to go to the bathroom because she said in front of the entire class that I wasn’t going to throw up my lunch on her watch.
This still happens but to a much lesser extent. But, I still have an undeniable desire to end this kind of harassment everywhere I see it. Just because I’m skinny, people think that they can terrorize me about my natural body size.
From putting me into lockers to calling me a skeleton it seems like my weight is my defining factor. I got my licence though I am not yet the legal weight requirement to sit in the front seat of a vehicle (87 lbs). I get clothing from the children’s section still since nothing fits me. I have to add elastic to the waistband of all my pants and take in all of my clothes.
No matter how hard I try to gain weight I usually end up losing a pound without even trying. And then, after all that, I turn on the television to see some guy talking about how ugly skinny girls are and how all ‘healthy’ girls have curves and it makes me want to scream.
I am a human being. Aren’t we ALL supposed to be beautiful just the way we are?
Have You Ever Been Bullied For Being ‘Underweight’? Then Check Out These Resources And Fun Stuff:
May 27, 2013
What if all the empathy that transpired in the speeches and talks of policy makers I listened to today at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference could immediately be converted to action? This is the question I asked myself during my reflection on the pre-youth conference that ok place on the 27th May 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.
Passion, enthusiasm, and determination were perceptible in the way the policy makers I listened to and spoke with today spoke about how painful, frustrating, and humiliating the consequences of inequalities that exist in today‘s world are. But does this mean these people have finally heeded to the call of social activists to act now for inequality to be eradicated? Only time will tell as youths will be keeping a keen eye on these people to ensure that all the promises they will make this time around are kept and within the minimum possible time frame.
“The biggest risk to the continuity of humanity is inequality“, declared UNFPA‘s deputy Director; Kate Gilmore during an intervention at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference. Conscious of this, it is unavoidably true that, by delivering on their promises to not only reduce but eradicate inequalities and injustices of every nature, policy makers will be contributing to the continuity of humanity. Therefore by failing to deliver for Girls, women, and Youths, policy makers of this generation will be committing a crime that present and future generations will not pardon.
But well, we the youths of this generation won‘t sit arms folded to see you commit such heinous crimes, because our silence-that of Girls, Women, and Youths is a roar that will degenerate into something worse if not listened to.
May 27, 2013
May 27, 2013
“Two slam poets with Brave New Voices deliver this fearless indictment of hipster cultural appropriation and all its collateral damage. ”
“Acting like you’re down because you say “f*** the system,” but in the same breathe are quick to gentrify the hell out of my hood.”
“Is that racist? Yes, that is. And we don’t mean to offend you by calling you racist; we know that according to you, we’re all part of the universe. But you have a tendency to treat animals better than humans.”
May 21, 2013
Because there are actually sensible people on this planet who know that the responsibility of pregnancy does not fall solely on the shoulders of girls and women, the campaign above exists. The Chicago Department of Public Health’s Office of Adolescent and School Health has launched a great campaign about teenage pregnancy. The campaign features images of pregnant lads, reminding people that there is always another party involved. Because in today’s society, people are quick to shame the young women, forgetting that they couldn’t possibly have gotten pregnant all on their own. What are we now? Amoeba?
You can read all about the campaign on the City of Chicago’s official website.
May 18, 2013
May 17, 2013
May 17, 2013
Wow! How time flies. I can’t imagine I am year older (again), thought I this morning when I received an SMS from a friend I have long lost sight of. It read thus; “Happy Birthday and many more years” This is a classical birthday message that anyone will send to a friend or even an unknown person, you might be thinking. But this is not the case for me because unlike in the previous years when I will just receive these messages and file, I have this year decided to carefully study these Birthday messages before filing or even deleting and as well carefully look through all the Birthday messages I have been sent at each one of these occasions.
Though written in different styles and strongly influenced by the nature of my relationship with the sender of the birthday message, there is a wish that was omnipresent in all the messages: Wishes of Good Health; which is what my friend’s, “Many More Years” in the above extraction from his birthday wish message to me seeks to express The result of this crazy study revealed to me how much Cameroonians care about their health.
The health of the average Cameroonian, like that of any normal human being in the world, is very important to him/her. What would vary might be the approach to ensuring that they stay healthy and maintain an equilibrium that is necessary for them to live a life worth living. Important as being healthy might be to Cameroonians, they are not unaware of the barriers to staying healthy. Talking about barriers to staying healthy in Cameroon, if you ask any Cameroon what the greatest barrier to staying healthy is, you would likely hear him/her answer ‘ACCESS’.
While it is clear from all indications that access to health is a stumbling block to Cameroonian’s staying healthy, it should be noted that even where these health facilities are available, users complain bitterly of the quality of the services rendered. Thus, it is common place to see a health practitioner sarcastically questioning a teenage girl about the reason for her pregnancy and making fun of her pregnancy by using very insulting and violent language. Worst still, it is common place to get a health practitioner who openly discusses results of the medical test of his/her patients without any sense of guilt or fear. The judgmental nature and lack of confidentiality in Cameroon’s health services is so widespread and across all spheres of society that a government minister recently declared that a journalist who had been tortured to death while in detention had died of HIV/AIDS.
With judgemental attitudes like these from health professionals and lack of confidentiality, no wonder an ever increasing number of pregnant teenagers refuse to go for prenatal checkups. To stay clear of insults and other traumatizing language and behaviours, they thus decide to stay at home with the risks that this carries.
It is high time the quality of health services in existing health facilities be improved so that patients, especially young persons, can have the best possible experience and not be afraid, for instance, to get an HIV test because they are not sure the results will remain between them and the health professionals.
The quality of health services, though often ignored, is an important factor in reinforcing the access of young people in particular and society at large to health facilities and should be considered as such by policy makers and health professionals. The availability of health facilities that have little or no consideration for the quality of the services offered creates more problems than it solves.
As government leaders, policymakers, healthcare professionals, NGO representatives, corporate leaders, and global media outlets gather in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Women Deliver 3rd Global conference to hold from the 28th-31st May 2013, it is my greatest desire that the quality of health services as they are now be carefully studied and appropriate action taken to make them less judgmental, more efficient, and more youth friendly.