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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!

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If you look up the word “hypocrisy” on the oxford learner’s dictionary, I’m sure you’ll get a pretty sound definition. But what are words? You’ll read them and forget them in a few days, unless you’ve got an IQ of Einstein of course. However, if you’re one of the normal mortals of the world and want an understanding of the term that’s gonna stick, I suggest you read on.
I’m a law student by professsion. I pride myself in being a crusader of justice. But reality struck me hard. Forget helping the unknown victims, I coudn’t even help my own friend. She was subjected to molestation as a child by someone in the family. She later came to realize that the “secret games” her relative made her play, weren’t a game afterall. It had another name. It was incest, it was rape, it was anguish, depression, rage, frustration, a complex engulfing confounding emotional turmoil. It’s one thing to know that you’re being molested when it’s happening to you. It’s an entirely different world of traumatization when you’re unaware about the betrayal and violation that is being perpetrated at you.
When my friend realized the real nature of her childhood experiences, she asked me if there was any way she could get justice, if there was any means of peace. I had no answer for her, because the answer the black letters of law stated were “no” and I didn’t want to break that news of to her. That her last hope of justice will be denied to her because the procedural laws of the justice system has made it impossible for her to even report the injustice done to her. The lawgivers won’t listen to her because the statutory time limitation to do that has unfortunately already passed. By a margin of a decade.
And what was the cause behind the atrocious fact that she didn’t even know that she was having her rights violated? Lack of awareness. As simple as that. Lets take a look at our societal construct. We teach our women not to wear “skimpy” clothes and beware of strange men, they might rape you. But what if the big bad wolf out there to get you, is not out there? But within your own family, that the person you’re supposed to look upto for trust, will be the one to shatter it into pieces? I don’ t want to get into a discussion about the lack of morality in people, cause that debate will never end. I don’t want to try and change the procedural laws of the nation, not yet, because that’ll require more knowledge, reach and competence from my side, something I’m in the process of developing.
So what is the one thing I can do? I can educate families to teach their kids on how to protect themselves from sexual harrasment. How do you protect someone from harm? By acknowledging that the harm exists. By acknowledging that incest exists. We need to teach our kids about sex, about the appropriateness or lack of it, in every touch, caress, hug, kiss, given to you by any member of the family. Only through that awareness, can we protect our kids from paedophiles and child molestors. How can you expect to protect your kids from sexual atrocities if you don’t tell them that such atrocities exist in the first place?That’s hypocrisy staring at you on the face.

Categories: Young People
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Since when does mass media publicly value rapists excuses and denials more than they value victims stories?

Rolling Stone has set a precedent within their own publication with this note. They have made a statement to their readers. They have taken a very public and obvious stance against survivors, and they have even started attacking a survivor and their credibility.

When people share their stories of such violation, cruelty, and violence, it is one of the most difficult things they can do. It is choosing to relive that experience over and over again, bleeding yourself dry hoping that no one will ever have to bear the same wound.

I know this, as for the last two years, I have worn the word ‘survivor’ like a piece of armor, and sometimes, the heaviest weight I can’t ever seem to bear. I have shared my story, hoping for change, hoping for future ‘Caitlyns’ to never have to go through this.

(Not my photo/Not me)  Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Mary-Stands-With-Survivors/407233096039349

(Not my photo/Not me)
Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Mary-Stands-With-Survivors/407233096039349

I have had my credibility tested, questioned, and attacked. I have had prying noses, pity stares, and half-hearted apologies. I have spoken to media outlet after media outlet, each one tending to see my story as an attention grabber, a selling point, a juicy story. To see Rolling Stone paint Jackie’s rape in such a way, almost with a borderline entertainment factor, layered with unnecessary and re-victimizing descriptions, has been a painful experience that I simply can’t even put into words.

Further more, to see that they wanted ‘the other side of the story’, and regretted honoring the survivor’s wishes, it makes me question how much respect they have for Jackie, for women, for survivors, for ME.

I fear, every day, that my rapist might see the stories, see my statuses, see me on the local news, and identify that it is him that I am speaking about. He has never known of the fact that I have shared my story as I simply didn’t know to report or press charges when it happened. It took me years to identify, name, and share my story. To this day, I cannot gather the bravery or courage it would take me to make such an allegation to the court of law, or furthermore, to his face.

With my situation, as well as many other survivors, it would simply be too dangerous to give a name, report, or have our stories get back to our assailants. If a news outlet were to contact my rapist, I’m almost certain it could mean an immediate threat to my safety. The fact that my credibility and my side of the story could come under such scrutiny and question is a direct disrespect and disregard to the already stigmatized survivors that choose to share their stories.

When our world begins to ignore the stories we, as survivors, share, for the denial and accusations of our rapists, there is more than a problem.
When our media outlets begin to paint our stories, our violations, our rapes, and our assaults as a vivid movie-esque source of entertainment, there is more than a problem.

When our stories are denied, when our voices are silenced, we are re-victimized.

When our rapists are again more valued than we are, there are all these messages being reinforced that society already spoon feeds us.
“You aren’t enough.”
“You’re less than.”
“You deserved it.”
“He is the one of worth, the one of value.”

These messages are ones that replay in my head. I expect media outlets, such as the Rolling Stone, to do everything they can to dismantle these thought processes, and to validate and support our survivors.
Anything else is simply unacceptable. Re-victimizing and further violating such brave folk that choose to use every ounce of strength within them to step out of the dark, again and again, is simply despicable.

#IStandWithSurvivors. Rolling Stone doesn’t.

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Teenagers have been through first loves! All teenagers find one and go through the heartbreak of one. Absolutely no one talks about the struggle of a second love, and I find this topic much more interesting than most. I fell in love once and when I tell you it was like a movie I kid you not. I would pay to be at the front row of my tragic love story. This girl changed my life, helped me discover who I actually was and also helped me get a damn good reality check. She broke my poor, inexperienced, innocent heart. Threw me on a spiral of hopelessness and teenage despair, and pushed me on a path of adolescent insanity. I submitted myself to a hell of a lot of girls with barely any idea of commitment because that idea was not brought to me. I hurt some, just as bad as I was hurt. Here I am, one year and six whole months later. I have forgiven her and she has forgiven me, because believe me I made careless and immature mistakes. Though I will always love her I must move on. Once again here I say, I am here ONE YEAR AND SIX MONTHS LATER, and I am with this girl. We’ve been rocking since urban retreat 2014 and let me tell you she drives me CRAZY. She is bipolar, she’s got an attitude that kills my soul, she is crazy as hell and she’s older than me(and we know how them older girls can be). Now I know what you’re thinking, this sounds completely unstable but this girl drives me crazy and I love it about her. She’s been and love, and I know what it feels like to be her, to sit in her shoes, OWE it kills me when she talks about her first love because I KNOW. I know she loves this person, just as I still do mine. Now I say I love you. I say it a lot because I don’t want her to forget it. I am not completely in love with her. DON’T GET ME WRONG, IF SHE LEAVES ME I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO, but I’m not in love with her, and I know she’s not in love with me. I see something though, I see true potential and I see hope. So when she brings up this first love of hers and take a deep breath and suck it up because I don’t want her to think I don’t trust her. I want her to find peace, and closure, and happiness in herself and in me. I write so passionately about this because when I was in love I use to laugh at the people known as, “Second Loves,” sloppy seconds, and my favorite “backwash.” Now I want so utterly to be a second love, someone very special to me told me this once and I’ll never forget it.
“If you fall in love with two people, choose the second person because if they came around obviously the first was not doing their job.”

Categories: Young People
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When we think of Ferguson, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, our general society thinks of the protesters, the “rioters” and the “thugs”. Institutional and systemic violence against our brown and Black brothers and sisters is an integral part of our conversations as activists and advocates, and it is an integral part of our conversations within the reproductive justice field.

Time after time again, the murder of Black folk by police officers is justified by Grand Jury after Grand Jury after Grand Jury. When parents send their children out into the world, the last person they should ever expect to harm their child should be the police. Instead, children of color are prepared and trained. They are taught how to be the most respectable, the most professional, the friendliest, the “whitest”.

As a child care provider in a wealthy neighborhood, I often am left to tend to white children. My first day back from work after the Grand Jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Darren Wilson, I had a young half Black/half White four year old girl come in. There were a couple other white three to six year olds, and there was immediately tension between the little girl and the other children. I overheard them all shouting, her telling them to address her by her name, and the others refusing to. I climbed into our play boat with her to calm her down, and she immediately divulged into what had happened. The other children had told her she was different because she was brown, and they were white. They had told her she was different. They told her they would keep their eyes on her. She was immediately upset, because her mother is white and she was scared to be different from her mother.

Our children are already being fed that they are inferior, more likely to be watched, not good enough. These are the children that will grow up to murder or be murdered. When we live in a world where children can’t reach age four without knowing the injustices of the world, without perpetuating the injustices of this world, it becomes a reproductive issue. Black women, women of color, they can’t even think about bringing children into this world without an overwhelming fear of them being murdered in the streets.

 

The system isn’t broken, it was built this way. And our children are the ones suffering. Women should not be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, especially if it means bringing them into a world in which they will be unable to hang out outside, sleep in their bed, ride the train, or walk home at night. This is a reproductive justice issue. Our reproductive justice work will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit. The conversation that mass media has been having, has been bullshit. Let’s do better.

 

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getting-to-zero

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.

[i] http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29460198

[ii] http://caps.ucsf.edu/archives/factsheets/stigma

[iii] http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/pakistan

[iv] http://www.dawn.com/news/1059723

[v] http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/world-aids-day/world-aids-day-2011/6

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image

I talked to a mother that expressed her concern about what her elementary to middle school aged children would be learning If they were taught sex Ed in school. I told her that the information would be age appropriate and explained to fit the mind of a younger child. She still was against the idea but she did admit that regardless her kids were being exposed to some not so “kid friendly” things whether from peers or media. I told her that is exactly why sex Ed for young children is just as important as sex Ed for teens because young children can intake a lot of information that isn’t accurate and sex Ed would give them age appropriate information that is accurate to combat with all the things they intake anyway on a day to day basis. whether or not her opinion changed I believe I gave her something to think about and hey that talk with her led to this blog post. :)

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As we near the end of November with Thanksgiving in our day-old memory, we took time to reflect upon all that we are thankful for in the world. Whether it be family, friends, education- or even the new Taylor Swift album (yes, I’m judging.) Something I am sure we all can be thankful for would be the fact that we live in a time where, for the most part, invaluable resources to stay healthy are well within our reach. If you are on this website and reading this blog, then you have access to some amazing resources through Amplify such as informative posts, articles and even the ability to connect with other young activists that are just as passionate as you are.

Something we may rarely think about is how lucky we are to be in an age where we can find local resources or even log on to a computer and know that the answers to all of our questions regarding sexual health, sexuality or even living positive are literally just a click away and are given with understandable information. On AmplifyYourVoice.com, we can read posts from people all around the world using their own voice to spread their messages and share stories for all to read.

It surely says something that at any point in time, we can simply log on and use our words to make a difference in the world. For example: Now in 2014 when the sexually transmitted infection rate is rapidly rising within the Youth community, having a resource such as Amplify is necessary more now than ever. Whether you have to write a paper for school or just want to share an awesome Coming Out story with your Gay-Straight Alliance club, relatable information written from people just like your or from those with you in mind are just a search away.

Categories: Young People
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I’ve been listening to Beyoncé’s 7/11 all day, because this morning I woke up feeling free! I’ve already seen the narrative floating around saying that Bey is a little cray cray for this one, well I fundamentally disagree. Folks, this is Beyoncé’s performance of what it feels like to be a carefree Black girl and I am here for every minute of it. Here are 4 reasons why you should be too:

  1. Dancing in your underwear is so freeing…

We’ve all done it, and if you are going to come at me with she is on the Internet in only her underwear and being hypersexualized and all that then okay… but no. To date we’ve seen her in everything from thong underwear to leotards in every color imaginable so bye. Here we see Bey having fun, and most of time I feel like she is performing in front of a mirror instead of the camera. I definitely did a couple of sprints around my house in my undies today to embody such feelings.

  1. Sisterhood is sustained in the bathroom …

Weird, yes but that’s why you can’t #kickitwithus. I know that I have some of the most open, interesting, and powerful moments in the bathroom with girls I call my sistahs. I also remember many moments twerking in front of mirrors, giving and receiving expert commentary about exactly how to perfect the craft. Lastly, I definitely remember falling, eloquently of course, and laughing at myself. These “carefree” moments get me through my days of pursing justice in an unjust world.

  1. Saying #imfresherthanyou is basically speaking truth to power….

Convincing myself every day that I’m the fresher flyest thing on planet earth is necessary to my survival. It is basically how I deal with sexism, misogyny (which people have been sipping heavily for breakfast over Cosby), homophobia, racism, structural violence, gentrification, elitism and so much more. I tell myself some form of #imfresherthanyou everyday knowing and remembering that I AM NECESSARY.

  1. Because being a girl, black, and free is political and DANGEROUS (even for Bey)

On a daily basis black girls are expected to wear a strong face, be our “brother’s keepers”, march in these streets in solidarity for Black men and boys across the country, while simultaneously remaining silent as our bodies are violated, exploited and rendered invisible. Well I’ve put #myhandsup, and it’s not to say “don’t shoot”, but rather to acknowledge the freedom that I am unapologetically claiming 24 hours a day (like a 7/11). I’m acknowledging the freedom of the secret safe(r) spaces that I create in my home and communities for black girls everywhere to twerk, cry, flex, spin, kick it, laugh, and clap like we don’t care!

There you go, those are my reasons, watch and find out yours!

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What started as mild and snarky criticism of a casually sexist shirt from some scientists, science enthusiasts, and a few people on Twitter grew into another vitriolic discussion on how feminists are offended by the smallest issues and are reacting wildly.  But that’s not quite what #ShirtStorm is, forget what most of the Internet tries to tell you.  Cathy Young’s teeth grinding, eyebrow raising editorial on Time, “How To Turn a Cool Moment into a #ShirtStorm” is another piece I wouldn’t trust.  I recommend reading it only if you are prepared to contort your facial muscles and vocal chords to their limits when you come across her paragraph on how feminists stigmatize and oppress straight men for their sexuality.

(The shirt in question — photo from the ESA news stream, via @RoseVeleth’s Twitter feed)

Landing a probe on a comet is really cool.  It’s a great scientific feat that took about ten years to accomplish, major props to all involved.  But does an achievement of any kind really make one immune to criticism?  Why are we not allowed to acknowledge both the impressive landing and the problematic shirt?  And let’s be honest here, was this ever really just about a shirt?

Do I think Dr. Matt Taylor is a misogynist?  From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like it.  It just looks like a classic case of a person who does something problematic but doesn’t realizes it until he’s told exactly why it was offensive and even detrimental.  Yes, I know it was made by a woman.  Yes, I know he was only trying to promote her artwork.  And okay, maybe you might even wear the shirt yourself.  It’s clear that his intention wasn’t to hurt anyone.  None of that changes what wearing that shirt meant to some women struggling to no fault of their own in STEM fields, areas of academia and careers we know too well are disproportionately male-dominated.  The impact is what we’re looking at.  And knowing the context and history, how can we even begin to consider intent ever being more important than impact?

When confronted with criticism, Dr. Matt Taylor quickly and tearfully apologized.  And everyone, including Dr. Matt Taylor, moved on–or at least, that’s what we all thought would happen.  You see, what really made #ShirtStorm wasn’t the small, but diverse group of people who had the courage to speak up about the casual sexism and privilege of an accomplished scientist.  It was misogynist keyboard warriors making false parallels of judging a man’s shirt to rape culture and sexual objectification.  It was another round on the internet of rampant strawman assertions to the rest of the world on what feminism really is.  Sadly we’re not living in a world in which #ShirtStorm is a hashtag describing how misogyny is thriving on the media’s poor representation of people’s concerns over decades of a troubled relationship between women and STEM fields.

#Shirtstorm is just a new name for the same old practice of shaming and silencing those who dare to speak up. 

Phil Plait makes a great concluding point on Slate:

If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.

So yeah, it’s just a shirt.

And it’s just an ad.

It’s just a saying.

It’s just a TV show.

It’s just the Internet.

Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.

It’s just a catcall.

It’s a compliment!

It’s just that boys will be boys.

It’s just that she’s a slut.

It’s just that your dress is too short.

It’s just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma’am.

It’s just it’s just it’s just.

It’s just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.

 

 

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As a sophomore at the University of Maine, I am an active member of the Student Women’s Associate, I am a campus representative of a national abortion campaign, the 1 in 3 Campaign, and I started a new student organization about sexual health rights and issues for college students. So, why is it so hard for me to write an article about abortion? I have come at this article from a handful of different angles, but still it is hard for me to find the one that relates abortion specifically to my college peers. At times, I am borderline overly passionate about women’s rights and abortion access and I’ll discuss it with anyone who wants to, but still I cannot find a way to get my huge community of a public state university to care.

There is just not a huge discussion surrounding abortion rights and access for young people on my campus. It is so stigmatized and taboo, that no conversation has been started that I can join. This makes my job so much harder. There is no anti-choice group on my campus, for which I am so grateful and excited, but still there is no contrast or dynamic. I don’t think many students at UMaine are thinking about abortion, so how do I get us involved?

The 1 in 3 Campaign is wonderful because it brings abortion to a personal level. One in three women in their lifetime will get an abortion and women are a part of every single individual’s life on this campus. Women are half of my college’s population. It sounds trivial at times to say, “this woman could be your mother, your sister, your girlfriend!” because it is even more personal than that. Abortion affects both men and women because it’s intrinsically who we are and therefore there needs to be a bigger conversation in our community.

The 1 in 3 Online Abortion Speak Out brings light to real people who have real abortions because it makes it relatable. Through storytelling, t normalizes this choice for everyone, but it is especially necessary for this normalization on our college campus. Abortion doesn’t need to be feared, it doesn’t need to be awkward or taboo, because it’s a part of life. I encourage my campus to stop by our viewing of the Online Abortion Speak Out in the Bangor Room on Thursday, November 20th at 3:00 pm.

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Election time is intimidating for young people. There is a lot of pressure on us. Pressure from our passionate peers (ahem, me) to go out and vote, from our parents to follow in their footsteps, and from our communities and nation to forge a path into the future that will make everyone proud. There is no denying that we have a big impact on the outcome of an election. Politicians target young people for a reason: we make a big difference. We matter. We have the ability to change the future and therefore every candidate wants the power of the (young) people behind them. Why should we care though? What does the outcome of this election mean for us as young people?

To begin with, in Maine, Republican Governor Paul LePage was re-elected. Governor LePage is a huge risk for women, starting with his views on abortion and ending with his misinformed opinions on health. One of Governor LePage’s most infamous responses in the last four years was his reaction to the effect that BPA residue can have on estrogen levels. His quote, “So the worst case is some women may have little beards,” has become the butt of many national jokes and late night shows, but what does it really mean for women in our state? For one, it shows that our governor does not have an understanding of what the hormone estrogen actually is (hint: it would never cause hair growth), but it also shows that he does not care to put energy or research into women’s health before he comments on it. This lack of understanding and empathy will likely show up in other areas of women’s health issues, such as contraception access, health care, and abortion rights. If you have a vagina and/or are sexually active in the state of Maine and rely on birth control pills, IUDs, or emergency contraceptives, Governor LePage could be a risk to you. It’s a jump between “little beards” and birth control pills, but there’s a connection. There’s a lack of knowledge. That’s what you need to know.

Outside of my home state, however, there were similar election results that could end negatively for young people in general. For college students, tuition costs are a top priority and concern. National student loan debt is at an all time high: $1.2 trillion. Many higher education loan reforms have been under Democratic campaigns and policies, meaning with the Republican Party taking control of the Senate, these policies will likely go into deadlock or just be vetoed. What does this mean for us? It means we will be waiting longer for lower interest rates on our student loans and there will be more support in our government for for-profit colleges (http://bit.ly/1z0uq5l). All of this information can be hard to sift through and understand. At the end of the day, the shift in power will likely mean delays for progress in higher education reform and student loan debt as well as investment in colleges that are looking to suck-up our hard-earned cash.

It’s (usually) easy for young people to look at social issues such as gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, or contraception access and understand why it is important for us to go out and vote. In midterm elections, however, it can be hard to decipher what candidates mean and why our vote is necessary. There is a lot on the line for us– our health, our rights, our money. So it’s time for us as a community to get involved. Know your issues, form an opinion, take a stand.

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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
is.

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Recently, Emma Watson has come forward with powerful speeches presenting her personal beliefs about feminism and the role each person has in progressing this movement forward. Her UN speech, which can be seen here, http://bit.ly/1rB2PGG, discussed the HeForShe campaign and was a beautiful start, but recently she has also come out to Elle UK to discuss what feminism specifically means to her. Time has quoted Watson as saying, “Feminism is not here to dictate you… All we are here to do is give you a choice,” (http://ti.me/13eYpMS) which I think is a principle that everybody can support. The idea that feminism is personal is so, SO real. Feminism is different to every person and no type of feminism is wrong or better than another. Feminism is about equality and it can take form in a variety of ways. Here is what my feminism looks like.

My feminism looks like peace. The anti-choice movement pisses me off. So does slut-shaming. And victim-blaming. And general oppression. I identify as a feminist and I care about a lot of issues and I channel that passion into making a difference in the world. More importantly, however, I believe in the power of peace. Anger is a powerful emotion and I could never deny that, but more importantly I identify with peace and the power that tranquility can have on the world. During my freshman year of college my friend Shannon, at the time co-chair for our campus’s Student Women’s Association said to me, “peaceful, powerful, and pro-choice,” and since then I have really identified with it. This does not make me any less passionate. It does not make me any less of a feminist. It makes me, me.

My feminism looks like bandage skirts and crop tops. Sometimes, and not all the time, I like to wear heels and short skirts and heavy eyeliner. That’s okay. Everybody knows that the way a woman dresses or drinks or acts is not an invitation for rape. It’s also not an invitation for hate.

My feminism has no girl-hate. I try to accept women for wherever they are in their life. I accept girls who wear mini skirts and drink and have sex with different people every weekend. I accept girls who think girls like that are everything that’s wrong with feminism. All I want in my community, is for all of the women I know to accept all the women that they know. I encourage us all to focus on girl-love. Love the girls who stay in and study. Love the ones who go out every night. Love them for whatever they need to do to be the woman they want to be. Love each other. Because that’s what makes us all a beautiful and powerful group.

I think as a society we have a tendency to lose sight of what acceptance means. Not everybody has the same opportunities, the same knowledge, the same opinions. It is important for us to each share a little part of ourselves, share the things that matter to us in a way that is both respectful and enlightening for other people. We have to stop expecting that everybody knows what matters to us and start actively teaching each other to care. We have to start realizing that we all have the same goal and together we’ll be closer to the equality we are all striving to reach.

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On THAT Nicki Minaj song:
Since “Only” by Nicki Minaj dropped yesterday, I will admit, I have listened to it an obsessive amount of times. I credit this to my love for Queen Nicki, but some aren’t having that, since the song had three featured artists alongside her: Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Drake.

Nicki starts the song off by clearing the record of her relationships with said artists, and she – as always – puts people in their place. She owns her sexuality, and she lets them know she’s boss.
I could honestly go on about lines like this one;

“When I walk in, sit up straight, I don’t give a fuck if I was late.”

 

People have been protesting the overall obsession with this song because the infamous Chris Brown is featured on the chorus of this song.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t take in any media that featured abusive, violent, and unapologetic men as such. It’s not an ideal world. I am not here for a world in which listening to a song and supporting Nicki Minaj – someone who is not a perfect person and whom has never claimed to be the perfect feminist/womynist – is endorsing a women beater.

We see white men committing the same atrocities (Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Jared Leto, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, etc), but we do not see the same amount of continued outrage and demand that anyone who declares themselves a feminist boycott all works involving them.

As much as I don’t want to uphold a society in which these men can continue to be on top of their games, making money and profit, regardless of the violence they have dealt, I refuse to villainize Chris Brown. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I recognize there is anger to go around because Chris Brown is far from being the only one.

I refuse to villainize a Black woman who takes control of her sexuality, is on top of the game, and continues to speak realness in a world that isn’t always here for it simply because of an artist she featured in a chorus of a single.

Nicki is smarter than the world thinks she is. I show up for Onika. If you won’t, that’s your problem.

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afy

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

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

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

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

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

FowardTogetherLogo

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Hobby Lobby’s Fallout:

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

 

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

The Supreme Court Fall 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Young People
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Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Alabama on behalf of one of its only abortion clinics to block a new parental involvement law that could put some young people on trial simply for seeking abortion care. Alabama’s restriction is one of the worst laws in a huge, nasty pile of laws passed by state legislatures to put obstacles in the way of people – particularly poor people, people of color, and young people – who are seeking abortions.

Parental involvement laws require that when people under eighteen seek abortion care, they notify or get consent from one or both parents first. Most young people seeking abortions do involve their parents, but there are a variety of reasons that is not always possible. In fact, one study found that thirty percent of pregnant teens who do not tell their parents about their abortions make that decision because they fear violence or being kicked out of their homes. Young people who are not threatened with abuse in their homes may be afraid to let their families down or uncomfortable involving their parents. Yet, under these laws in order to get around the parental involvement requirement a person has to file an petition to the court for a “judicial bypass” saying that the person is mature enough to make the decision to get an abortion – petitions judges can and do reject. Parental involvement laws delay access to abortion, endanger health and safety, and fundamentally disrespect young people’s ability to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld just such a law in the early 1990s, and 38 states have adopted them. Alabama has required people under 18 to get the signature of one parent or legal guardian since 1987.

This past year, however, Alabama passed a new law that is unimaginably worse. As the ACLU wrote in its brief to the court, the law “radically alters the judicial bypass process in a wholly unprecedented manner that goes well beyond any judicial bypass statute that has ever been upheld by a federal court.” Now, when a person under 18 petitions for a judicial bypass, the District Attorney is automatically notified, and the court may appoint an advocate for the fetus (Yes, you read that right!). Further, if the person’s parents know of the bypass proceeding already, the court must allow them to participate. The District Attorney, fetus, and parents may call any witnesses they want to testify against the person’s petition – including witnesses who may be the very reason the person has chosen to ask for a judicial bypass in the first place, such as an abusive partner or family member. With this law, Alabama is literally putting young people who need abortion care on trial.

It is best for young people who find themselves pregnant to be able to seek the advice of a trained medical professional rather than face the situation alone and afraid. Further, young people should have the same right to access the full range of reproductive and sexual health services that other people have. That right includes the ability to access reproductive and sexual health services confidentially and with dignity. It does not include being put on trial to get the services they need. The Alabama legislature seems to have forgotten this, but hopefully the courts have not.

This blog is cross-posted at Law Students for Reproductive Justice’s reporepro.lsrj.org.

Categories: Abortion, Young People
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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.

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So I was the youngest kid on the urban retreat this year and I just want it to be know this was the best time of my life. Being an open lesbian in the state of Ohio is not the hardest nor the easiest but going to DC and talking about myself was easy. Falling in love with my surroundings and making forever long family in my council and with others was a mind bending experience I will never forget. I don’t cry cause I am not a wimp but I cried at the thought I may never be in such a amazing situation with the same group of people again. I pray and hope with everything I have to return next year as a second year urban retreater and make new memories. Much love goes out to everyone from advocates and I can’t wait for the following months and years to come.

Categories: Young People
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Since its usually the guy that approaches a lady for a friendship, the assumption is that he will have to be the one to fully take care of the girls every need. A love relationship is suppose to be 50 -50 and the love should be reciprocal. A mistake most young lovers make is over loving one person which results in the other partner to take advantage, exploit and have an upper hand in the relationship when it comes to decision making. Do you want to make a good relationship great, then consider these few tips;

–          Do the things you did the first year you were dating

As the months and years roll by, you tend to loose your patience, thoughtfulness, gentleness, and understanding towards your soul mate. Think back to the first year of your relationship and write down all the things you used to do for your partner. Now, start doing them again.

-Don’t ask “how was your day.”

At the end of a long day we mentally tend to check mentally our relationship and usually rely on the standard question.’ How was your day’ . Generally that boring question will yield a boring answer such as ‘fine and how was yours’. Instead try asking things like ‘what made you smile today’, ‘what was the most challenging part of your today’. You will be amazed at the answers you will get.

-Create a weekly ritual to check in with one another.

It can be short or long but it begins with asking each other what worked and didn’t work about the previous week and what can be done to improve things the coming week. This conversation is necessary because it gives you the opportunity to know your partner intimately.

-Ask for what you want.

Over time, we assume that our partner knows us well that we don’t need to ask for what we want. Keep in mind that asking what you want extends to everything from sexual to emotional wants. Unmet expectations can leave you questioning the viability of your partnership and connection.

Seek to understand … not agree.

Choose to approach a conversation as an opportunity to understand your partner as opposed to waiting on them to ask you first. Having constant dialogue eliminates unnecessary arguments. If your partner is making a point and all you do is agree on everything they say, and you donot challenge them mentally then your relationship is heading to the rocks.

-listen before you talk

Lots of problems can be avoided if listening is employed in a relationship. When you hear that your partner has done something, it is always advisable to hear their own side of the story before drawing any conclusions. Listening proves your maturity and wins respect from your partner.

-Make your apology count.

It’s understood that apologizing is a good thing but it only makes a real impact when you mean it. Saying things like ‘ I am sorry   you feel that way’ will save many troubles. When you love your partner and hurt them, try to apologize for the pain you caused regardless of your perspective on what you did or didn’t do.

-Make the first move

Your relationship should be balanced. To ensure this,you need to use your initiative to know the likes and dislikes of your partner. Make it a habit to be the first to buy things or gifts rather than returning the favor. This makes love grow and became stronger, creating something magical as it blossoms.

 

Categories: Young People
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Sept23NVRD

Today is the largest voter registration day of the year, National Voter Registration Day!

Let’s ensure that all our voices are represented in our democracy.

If you are voting for the first time this November, or have moved since the last time you voted, register today! It’s free and takes less than 10 minutes.

Young people have an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact on the political process. In 2012, 18-29 year-olds made up 21% of the voting eligible population in the US. That number will rise to 36% in 2016.

Our country is positioned to have laws that reflect your values and elected officials that share your lived experiences. So make sure your voice is heard by registering today.

If you are already registered to vote, you can take the next step towards ensuring your voice is heard this November by pledging to vote: Text “PLEDGE2VOTE” to 877-877

Or forward this email to a friend and make sure they are registered to vote

 

 

Tweet now!Today is National Voter Registration Day! Join millions of voters during this year’s elections! Register @ http://ow.ly/BPtYG

 

 

tweet-now-toutWe live in a country positioned to have our laws and elected officials reflect our values. Let’s ensure ALL our voices are represented. Join millions of voters during this year’s elections, and register to vote this National Voter Registration Day at http://ow.ly/BPtYG

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I’m posting this because we’re all getting too quiet.  I’m afraid we’re becoming complacent and desensitized when young lives are being disregarded and taken.

(screencapped from STORIFY)

Darren Wilson is still enjoying life at home with his family, walking about on the streets as he please without grasping that these are liberties that he stole from a young person.

But mainstream media is still focused on framing the discussion about how Mike Brown wasn’t an angel.

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image

fa·cade
(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

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It’s that time again – time when young people from around the nation travel to Washington, DC for the Urban Retreat!

Each year over 120 youth activists gather in Washington, D.C. to share expertise with one another and Advocates for Youth staff; learn about the latest findings and legislation that affect reproductive health; participate in trainings; and make a commitment to be lifelong advocates for young people’s reproductive and sexual health and rights. Then they head to Capitol Hill to educate their representatives on why comprehensive sexual health education is so important for young people.

This year, keep up with the youth activists on twitter (#urbanretreat14) and Instagram!

And once again we thank our generous sponsors for making the Urban Retreat possible!

Categories: Young People
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The world hates women
After watching the video I felt down, very low thinking women are not treated well since centuries. Men have been ruling their identity, existence and integrity. The life of women had been harder and the case have taken its plight in case of various insurgency. but may the world understand it now and may these shocking data never increase.

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Check out the 2014 Youth ShowOUT! The campaign will engage and mobilize young voters across the country through on the ground organizing, social media activism, and online actions at youthshowout.org.  Advocates for Youth (Advocates), Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), and Planned Parenthood Generation (PPGen), a project of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, are joining forces for this exciting new national civic engagement campaign.

In 2014, young voters will do more than just turn out–they will ShowOUT! Youth leaders are educating their peers, registering voters, participating in voter pledge drives, volunteering, and more. Young people are at the helm of lasting change in our country. They are taking charge and becoming a part of the political process.

Young people are an essential component of the rising electorate. Every day, nearly 12,000 young people turn 18 years old and become eligible to vote. At Advocates for Youth we know firsthand the power of young people is undeniable. There are tens of thousands of youth activists and leaders who are actively reshaping their communities and changing what politics looks like in this country. We have a responsibility to work alongside these young people as they lead us to new solutions and lasting change.

Visit Youth ShowOUT, sign the pledge, and share with friends!

Categories: Young People
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On June 30, 2014, Advocates for Youth staff stood outside the Supreme Court fighting for reproductive justice, alongside young people who are empowered, informed, and not going to give up their rights without a fight. The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling allows some privately owned, “closely held” for-profit corporations to dictate the health coverage of their employees. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods Products challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement, alleging that it violates their companies’ religious rights, all the while disregarding their employee’s religious freedom and right to privacy and basic health services. In response to the Hobby Lobby ruling, Congress introduced the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (aka “Not My Boss’ Business Act”). The bill was intended to protect coverage of health services from employers’ religious beliefs, but was four votes short on moving forward in the Senate.

With the recent rulings firmly standing, it is important to evaluate the imbalanced impact they will have on young people. The recent Supreme Court ruling disproportionately impacts young women: 3.2 million teenage women use contraceptives and the IUD is more likely to be used by women aged 20-24 than any other age group.

The Hobby Lobby decision is fundamentally about abortion and the first amendment. Hobby Lobby wanted to exclude four specific brands of contraception from its insurance plan because they believed them to be abortifacients. As stated in the brief filed by a group of medical associations, none of these four methods of contraception are abortion. Hobby Lobby may believe that some contraceptives are abortifacients, but the courts should be obligated to rule based on facts, not a business’ erroneous beliefs.

The Supreme Court ruling addressed the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate for for-profit businesses. Now, no “closely held company” can be required to cover any method of contraception conflicting with their religion. This ruling only applies to contraceptive coverage and no other health services.

The Hobby Lobby decision will remain the governing policy on contraception coverage until Congress acts to reverse the decision through legislation. With the failure of the “Not My Boss’s Business Act” in the Senate, that seems like an impossible lift during the 113th Congress. However, as a constituent you have the right to make your voice heard about these issues. Contact your Representative and Senators today and encourage them to support justice for young people.

Young people are at the forefront of the reproductive rights, health and justice movement. We need to stand with them against these decisions that disproportionately put their health and well-being at risk. Advocates for Youth was proud to stand with and among them on June 30th and we will continue to stand with them to support their sexual and reproductive health needs and rights.

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As the opportunity for governments and others to draw attention to key issues related to youth worldwide; UN general assembly in 1999, designated 12th August as the International Youth Day (IYD). UNESCO also defined IYD as the annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships facing the world’s youth. It’s not only the day to deal with the youth issues, but is certainly the day to draw the attentions of the world towards the youth’s concerns.
Among various issues of youths on human rights, poverty, hunger, education, environment, health, HIV/AIDS, violence, wars, conflict, development, politics, social responsibilities, advocacy, Diplomacy etc… IYD 2014 has focused on the mental health issues of youth and titled it as the “International Youth Day 2014-Mental Health Matters”. Mental health issues are often not talked about or stigmatized, leaving them untreated and putting young people at risk. So IYD can not only for celebrating the amazing power of youths but also the important opportunity to highlight the challenges among youths.

Although youth are generally considered a healthy age group, 20 percent experience some form of mental-health condition Mental-health conditions, which include behavioral and mental-health problems e.g. depression, anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder), and disruptive behavioral disorders (such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood disturbances, substance use, suicidal behavior, and aggressive/disruptive behavior) are the leading causes of adjustment problems in adolescents and young people worldwide. Given the numerous health issues affecting people in developing and low resource countries, the issue of mental health has often been considered a lower priority; yet even high-income countries have similarly de-prioritized mental health and dedicated far fewer resources to mental than to physical health. The vast majority of countries allocate less than 1 per cent of their health budgets to mental health Mental-health conditions have a significant impact on the development of over a billion youth and their social and economic integration, including employability.
Recent report of UN on Mental illness among youth has found that
 Mental health conditions are prevalent among young people
 There is considerable burden and disability associated with mental-health conditions, particularly among those for whom the problem start during youth
 Mental-health conditions have a significant impact on youth development and social and economic integration.
 Traumatic experiences, including adverse childhood events (e.g., the death of a parent, abuse, being a refugee) affect youth worldwide, but are particularly common in post-conflict or disaster settings.
 Certain youth are at particular risk of mental health conditions
 Stigma is a considerable barrier to mental health service delivery, particularly among young people.
 A public-health approach to the prevention of behavioral and mental health conditions is instrumental in addressing this issue at a global level
In Hong Kong alone, 1 in 3 people are suffering from some sort of mental disorder according to a SCMP (a local newspaper) article dated 2012. Around 200,000 people in Hong Kong are estimated to have a severe mental illness and suicide rates gas become the leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24 according to Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. Based on these statistics alone, you can conclude one thing: Mental illness is real.
But the stigma continues. A lot of people think that mental illness is something that people who deal with it just to exaggerate. For instance, take depression as an example, while I admit that anyone can feel sad or lonely, I want to correct the misconception: depression is not about feeling sad all the time, depression is the suppression of feelings of sadness, anger or even happiness that causes people to feel ‘down’. Merely having a bad day or feeling lonely does not automatically make someone depressed. So many of us, put depression on our heads like we actually understand its core. Even people who actually suffer from it don’t understand it wholeheartedly.
Treatments for mental illness are not as widespread as that physical illness. Treatment is difficult to find, it’s slow, it can come back and it’s expensive. Stigma continues. Social stigma has caused people to look down on those with mental illness and it becomes a chain reaction where perceived stigma happens to the victims and treatment and recover is prolonged.
Followings are the recommendations made by the report of UN:
 More defined policies and programmes
 Efforts are needed to overcome stigma
 Improved surveillance and programme monitoring and evaluation
 Additional research is needed
First we have to understand that the sadness alone is not the depression that leads to mental illness. But this may surely leas up to that so we can make these people feel that they are not alone and make them speak up and ask for help and lastly we have to make them feel of respect. It will increase their self-confidence although it’s certain that it’s a tough work dealing with them.
The fact that this year’s theme is mental health shows the realness of the situation among the youth. Let’s end mental health stigma not only for the youth but for every warrior that have fought, are fighting and will be fighting mental illness. These people are trying to find them, let’s help them look for themselves so they can find the road to recovery.

TOP TEN SLOGANS FOR IYD-2014
1) Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young. – J.K Rowling
2) You are only young once, and if you work it right, once is enough. – Joe E. Lewis
3) Youth is the best time to be rich, and the best time to be poor. – Euripides
4) Young people need models, not critics. – John Wooden
5) You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever ― Germaine Greer
6) Middle age is youth without levity, and age without decay. – Doris Day
7) If I have known much trouble in my youth, I have also known much joy. – Clara Schumann
8) An inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young. – Oscar Wilde
9) Time misspent in youth is sometimes the entire freedom one ever has. – Anita Brookner
10) Youth is wasted on the young. – George Bernard Shaw

Categories: Young People
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Change marker, Future of nation, Leader, Volunteer, Power of nation… etc. above all are the duties of youth of a nation. A youth can change the nation, Youth can modify the culture and tradition youth can do anything regarding the need of the country. Youth can bring a massive number of changes in every sector. Youth are those who do things different and at same time youth are those who do don’t do different things but they do the things differently because they are youth so they think a lot. In this earth hear are so many youth who are famous all around the world forming all the sectors like singing, dancing, sports and many other things…. Youth creates opportunity for youth and youth play a vitriol role to bring it to the top. Youth do volunteering works, they do awareness programs and they are directly and indirectly working for the good sake of country. If one of the youth became the terrorist it doesn’t mean by he is beyond the country progress but it means he is trying something new there which old thoughts are not being able to understand them. Youth are those who talk about the problems and solve it. Youth always likes to try new. Only few succeed and rest fail but! Again they go with new idea and few settle in same idea but few won’t. Michel Jackson, Bob Marley, Pele, Maradona, Mike Tyson, Abram Lincoln, Hitler, William Shakespeare, leonardoda Vinci they all were youth once and they rule in their field and inspire other that’s what the Youth really are. Happy International Youth Day 2014.

Categories: Young People
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As a student at Georgetown University, I was always thankful to be covered under my mother’s employee-based health insurance plan. When there was debate over how or if religiously-affiliated organizations, such as Georgetown, would adhere to the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I breathed a sigh of relief because I did not have to worry about losing my access to birth control without cost-sharing, as many of my classmates did. I was able to cheer when the ACA went into effect two years ago on August 1st, 2012, happy that I could stay on my mother’s insurance plan until I turned 26. I could celebrate a year later when, on August 1st, 2013, Plan B One-Step®, an emergency contraceptive (EC), began to be sold over-the-counter with no age restriction. I remembered the story of my 17-year-old friend having to buy EC for our 16-year-old friend, despite the fact that studies have concluded that young people are able to comprehend – equal to adults – the key points necessary for safe and effective use of EC. Now, women and men of any age can purchase Plan B One-Step® and its generic equivalents over-the-counter without presenting identification to prove their age.

This August 1st, on the anniversary of so many advances in reproductive health care, there are both reasons to celebrate and reasons to frown.

We can celebrate that barriers to EC are being eliminated and EC is now easier to access than ever before. AfterPill® is newly available online only for $20, plus $5 shipping and handling – half the cost of Plan B-One Step®! By no longer requiring proof of age to purchase in-store products and with this new affordable online option, more people (and more young people) will be able to get EC and have it when they need it.

Despite this progress, some barriers remain.  Although stores can and should be stocking EC over-the-counter, some aren’t. Only half of stores surveyed were found to stock the product on the shelf. Even among stores that stock Plan B One-Step® on the shelf, two-thirds lock the product in a portable box or fixed case which must be unlocked by a store employee. And while AfterPill® is a great option, the fact that the website does not offer expedited shipping means that one must order the product ahead of time for it to be available when needed.  While the advances break down barriers to access and availability and enable more women to get this important element of their healthcare, clearly there are still improvements to be made.

And unlike in 2012 –  when we were celebrating the Supreme Court affirming the constitutionality of the ACA – this year we are dealing with the disappointment of the Hobby Lobby vs. Burwell decision. The Court ruled that closely-held, for-profit corporations could deny insurance coverage of contraceptive methods to which they object based on their owners’ religious beliefs. With this decision, the Court put the rights of corporations above the rights of women. As Justice Ginsberg put it, “the startling breadth” of this decision means that I too could be at risk for losing coverage for parts of my healthcare if my mother’s employer wanted to limit that access. With all the uncertainty over the impact this decision may have, the Georgetown student health insurance plan, which covers contraceptives through its third-party insurance provider in adherence to the accommodation for non-profits, suddenly does not seem so bad.  As a young person and a student, my options for health insurance are either my university or my parent’s employers.  Unfortunately, my access to reproductive health care is now threatened on both of those fronts.

Let’s celebrate August 1st as a day which reminds us of the forward strides we have made in making sure everybody, including young people, has access to reproductive health care! Yet, let us also be aware of the missteps of the last year and continue to fight against those wrongs to ensure access for all.

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The Supreme Court’s buffer zone decision has the potential to have adverse affects on the sexual health of youth. American youth already have higher rates of unintended pregnancies-despite the latest decline in rates, growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and receive misinformation about sexual health all the time (read abstinence only sex education in public schools). 

By not upholding the buffer zones outside of abortion clinics the Supreme Court just unanimously put youth in America at greater sexual health risk. 

The first time I went to a clinic for sexual health information and services was after I had my daughter. I was 16 or so and went to the only place I had hear about, Planned Parenthood. Thankfully I did not encounter protestors however, some of my friends had; they commented that they were afraid to go inside the clinic because of the angry mob outside so they left. 

While they were not there for abortion services the anti choice crowd outside caused so much fear to them that they did not go inside and speak to a sexual health professional about safer sex, free condoms, and or HIV and STI testing. 

They left. 
They knew of no where else to go and unfortunately one of their first attempts to make well informed sexual health decision for themselves was ruined by ill informed, intimidating, and aggressive anti-choicers. While they think they are “stopping” abortions from happening, they are actually stopping youth from making sexual health decisions and establishing healthy and responsible sexual health practices early on in life. 

The Supreme Court let us all down but youth just might be the most vulnerable population to feel and deal with the adverse effects this decision can have on our health.

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Sex and the city

A sixteen year old girl got pregnant few weeks before i had completed my exams, and the reeking saint of unwanted pregnancy loomed in my street for weeks ; bearing from the first. Most girls I have talked to in my neighbourhood, often say ; ”their family are poor and they lack the essential resources that will trigger a change — socially, physically, emotionally and economically.

”Today, eight out of ten girls (with ages between 12-17) in my community, gets pregnant every two Months”

In Some families ( where girls are a majority), parents lure their daughters into prostitution : as a result of poverty, and poor social status.

We are the drivers our lives: but what if that life is nurtured and understood. What if girls are taught — with basic morals from mother and father.
”what if, for every mistake, she is corrected and shown the right part ; Then, with other positive attribute laid, change can be achieved.

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“Relationship” is one of the most common and familiar terms among the youngster. It is the hot gossip in every group of youngsters and yes it should be. This is the age when they grow physically, emotionally and psychologically. This is the time when they start to be attracted towards opposite sex. In fact, we all must have come across this phase, and it happens to be one of the memorable phases of life.

“Teenage” the transitional phase gets much more interesting when the feeling of attraction arises. Basically, during this age, it is more about the physical attraction, which is more often called the infatuation. Relationship gets started with all these things. When two people have the same feeling i.e. when they are attracted towards each other and have the feelings of love, care and support for each other, there develops a bond between these two people termed as relationship. “Relationship” for some it transforms into the marriage however for many, it happens to be the miserable part of life. The starting phase of every relationship seems interesting and perfect. However, very often, soon that perfection starts to fade away, misunderstanding occurs and finally end with the breakup.

The three words, “Relationship, breakup and patch-up” have been very familiar among the youngster. These days it is hard to find a person who has not been through these phases. Some may take it casually but for some it may be difficult to cope up with the situation. There are many who have ruined their life due to these issues. Many can be found wasting much of their time in breakup and patch up. Relationship these days is not just limited to love, care and support. It also includes the physical intimacy. It is a natural thing to be attracted physically and to have physical intimacy. But the problem arises if their relationship doesn’t work and they have to give breakup. Due to this many would feel guilty about their physical intimacy. For some it just don’t happen to be the matter of guilt only, but they may also come across some complicated problem as like pregnancy and other sexual disease due to the unsafe sex practice as they are much unaware about SRHR issues

Hence, one needs to be careful and be aware about the consequences of their behaviour. Relationship is indeed a beautiful connection between two people if handled properly. Enjoy the support and love for each other and remember, relationship as a small part of life. We have much more to do along with the relationship.

Categories: Young People
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It’s been a tough few days for us here at Advocates.  Last week the Supreme Court ruled against buffer zones at abortion clinics, and just a couple hours ago the Court put women’s access to contraception in jeopardy.

jepardy

We could give you a long, legal explanation of the cases, but in short—until our society recognizes that sexuality is a normal, healthy part of being human, we’ll continue to get devastating decisions like these.

Donate today so we can continue to fight for our personal freedoms and reproductive health services.

Shifting the culture around these issues is one of the most powerful tools we have as activists. Young people in communities around the world are already fighting for change. Help support them. Donate today.

We can do this.

Deb

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Partnership for Male Youth

To help us wrap up Men’s Health Week we talk with Partnership for Male Youth to look towards how health care providers and professionals can uplift the status of young men’s health in America.

Why young men?

Adolescent and young adult (AYA) males – those between the ages of 10 and 26 – receive minimal health care; for them health care consists largely of sports physicals and an occasional visit to the emergency room. Yet, according to the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AYA males are at higher risk than their female contemporaries for: (more…)

Categories: Young People
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A Step Ahead Foundation hopes to improve educational, economic, and health outcomes for women and their children in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee. We hope to decrease poverty by reducing economic strain and encourage career opportunities before child birth. We provide a means for women to plan each child and every step of her life through education and long-acting reversible contraception.

Their new Man On campaign www.thesexyed.com seeks to engage young men in the area in sexual and reproductive health. Man On is a movement to get young men up to speed on birth control choices — including abstinence. On their website and in the materials they distribute in the area young men can find information they can use to talk to ladies about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as facts they can use when making an important decision in their lives. (more…)

Categories: Young People
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Working to engage young men in sexual health is an exciting front. Kicking up the excitement level even higher are those behind the Hulu Original Series, East Los High. In addition to the captivating full season of entertainent. the ELH team offers viewers a chance to interact with characters further in mini episodes. Our favorite is Ask Paulie.

Ask Paulie is a sex and love advice webisode series, hosted by Paulie, one of the most beloved characters from Season 1 of East Los High. In the TV show, he wants to impress Soli, the editor of the school newspaper; so, he starts Ask Paulie as a way to show her that he’s not just the goofy class clown but also a smart guy. The questions from Ask Paulie are real questions from real East LA high school students, and the answers pull no punches. (more…)

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Day 5 of Men’s Health Week and there are plenty of other great examples of organizations working to promote healthy sexual behavior in young men through engaging and innovative programing. Today we speak with our colleagues at Men Can Stop Rape.

Why young men?

Promoting an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault, relationship violence, power dynamics and other forms of men’s violence against women is one of MCSR key components towards the development of Healthy Masculinity for young men in our programs.  A young man that embraces  healthy masculinity, is able to think about: (more…)

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Today we check out some of the work happening at Fresno Barrios Unidos, an organization dedicated to providing knowledge and opportunities that ensure youth, families, and individuals may release their human talent and energy in order to promote nurturing healthy environments.

Young Men Peer Health Educators

Why young men?

We feel it’s important for Fresno Barrios Unidos to engage young men in issues related to sexual health because, historically men, young men in particular have been overlooked when it comes to comprehensive sex education programs and access to services. We feel that it is important for young men to be proactive in making healthy-safe choices in their life.

Sexual health is much more that just that in itself. It is also about being responsible. Young men need to know that it is not just their partner’s responsibility in making decisions about contraception and safer sex. They should be involved or at the very least support their partner in making sexual health decisions, especially when this could affect both their lives. Fresno Barrios Unidos encourages young men to communicate clearly and effectively with their partners. If they should have trouble, the young men know, there is always a open door for them to come in and specifically talk to male staff. We hope that will lead to their relationship being stronger and healthier.

Fresno Barrios Unidos Engaging Youth in Sex Ed

What’s New:

Something innovative that FBU is doing to positively impact the sexual health of young men is having male staff and male peer health educators available for street outreach and also in providing one-on-one education in our drop-in center. Male staff and peers take an extra step in making sure that male clients are welcomed and acknowledge. FBU conducts in-reach to male clients providing one-on-one education with condom demonstrations; teaching guys the correct way to put on a condom, proper ways to store them, de-stigmatizing those who use/carry condoms, and clearing up myths or rumors.

Our space is intentionally designed to be warm and inviting to not just males or youth, but everyone who walks through our doors. There are positive images of men and women that adorn the walls, comfortable couches, a television, and a ping pong table. The ping pong table allows us to naturally engage with the youth. It opens the door for us to interact and have fun, but also have meaningful dialogue about health services, sexuality, relationships, and education; whatever is on their mind.

Other approaches that FBU practices are looking at male sexual health in a holistic way. A prime example of that is through our male involvement program, El Joven Noble (The Noble Youth.) This rites of passage program was created by, Jerry Tello. Mr. Tello is an internationally recognized authority in family strengthening, therapeutic healing, cross cultural issues, and motivational speaking. This program allows us to explore other issues that relate to male sexual heath. The young men are able to discuss and learn about being a man of their word, their culture, their relationship and have positive male figures in their lives. We believe in building a real and genuine connection.

What’s up next:

Fresno Barrios Unidos remains committed to the health of youth and families and always having programs that are inclusive of young men of color. We are currently in the process hiring five peer health care outreach workers. These young men will be educating their peers on the importance of having health care and connecting them to providers who can directly enroll them and get them services and programs.

The young men themselves have identified their need to heal. Monthly, youth-led healing circles are held at Fresno Barrios Unidos. They wanted a safe space for support and wanted it to be intentionally for youth who were seeking to find balance within themselves and heal. FBU will continue to support the work of boys and men of color on all levels; local, state, and nationally. General health and sexual health is vital to the lives and future of our youth and families.FBU BMOC

Categories: Young People
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In our first post we talk with Ervin Lopez, Forward Together’s Young Men’s Organizer in Oakland, California.

Forward Together is a multi-racial organization that works with community leaders and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change. Their mission is to ensure that women, youth and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential. Forward Together Youth brings together a diverse base of high-school-aged people in Oakland for social and political action related to young people’s access to sexual health resources and information. Through event planning, analyzing policy, producing videos, talking to decision-makers, and presenting in classrooms and the community, our youth leaders are bringing necessary changes to comprehensive sex education on a local, state, and national level.

Ervin began his social justice work in 2008 with Asian and Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership (AYPAL) and transitioned to Forward Together in 2011 starting from the Young Men’s pilot Program and has been working on the implementation for a Comprehensive Health Education since the start of the campaign. Ervin’s main focus is to help guide young men of color see for themselves that there is much more to a man than being tough and holding emotion in.

Here’s what Ervin had to say about his work with Forward Together:

Why Young Men?

We feel like engaging young men in issues related to sexual health is important because our young men don’t have a space where they are allowed to feel emotion and be vulnerable with other young men. If one is unable to release some of the pressure this could lead to mental health problems.

In addition, men are told not to share a space with women and instead be dominant and stand over them as appose to standing in solidarity and acknowledging that we share similar struggles. Our space allows young men and young women to interact, make decisions with each other instead of for each other and most importantly become a family.

What’s New?

For young Asian men in particular, part of my work is to show them other Asian-Identified men in the media who show attributes that go past the stereotypes. People like the hip hop groups Blue Scholars and Native Guns and my best example, Richard Aoki, one of the founding members of the Black Panthers.

What’s Next?

When Forward Together was still Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ) there was an all men’s program which I was fortunate enough to be a part of. There isn’t a space specifically for young men currently and my biggest hope in my position is to try and bring that space back for other young men to have the opportunity to break down gender roles and stereotypes like I did.

Categories: Young People
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jay

1. Access the comprehensive sexual health education and services that take into account youth diversity

2. Quality Health care must be affordable  and support across the board also mental health and nutrition etc.

3. Harmful laws, practices, policies and programmes that do not support all young peoples holistic health development must be done away with.

4. Gender equity and equality must be a sustainable feature

5. Governments must honour regional and international declarations that were ratified that protect and support in young peoples health

6. Direct investment in SRHR for holistic socio-economic development

7. Build youth capacity and increase youth involvement at all levels to chiefly craft laws and policies, even programes that affect them

8.New investments and strategies for health and development of goals, targets and indicators must be firmly based on human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights

9. Integrated approach to development with colloborations and support cross sectors

10. New investments and strategies for health and development of goals, targets and indicators must be firmly based on human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights

Categories: Young People
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jay

1. Access to quality and affordable education must be a reality for young people that take into account youth diversity, abilities and varied learning styles

2. Integrated approach to education across sectors such as health and education

3. Youth rights to complete information and skills in their best interest must be given to them

3. Lifeskills, mental health and nutition must support education

4. Increased availability of grants/financing for funding

5. Any goal on education must include specific means to address the social, cultural and community practices that prevent girls, adolescent and women across the lifecourse from accessing and completing education.

6. Gender equality and equity must be cross cutting across all development goals

7. Career planning and innovative ICT focus

8. Education outcomes must tie in with a employment plan/forecast

Categories: Young People
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jay

1. Exploration of cultural industries, ICT and science to create diverse industries and employment as well as linkages

2. Readily available access to low interest loans and funding for comprehsensive business plans

3.Education on PESTEL factors that influence productivity and to mitigate against external/internal shocks

4. Ensure that productivity is supported by cross sectors such as health, education and justice.

5.Any goal on employment must include specific means to address the social, cultural and community practices that prevent girls, adolescent and women across the life course from accessing and completing education.

6. Build youth capacity and increase youth involvement at all levels to chiefly craft laws and policies, even programes that affect them

7. Gender equality and equity must be cross cutting across all development goals

8. Sustained internship and development opportunities at all relevant levels.

9. The Policy and legal environment must support innovation and productivity with less red tape and bureacracy

Categories: Young People
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(image reposted from DLCentral)

(This post contains SPOILERS.  Trigger 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.  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 that the comments should be left alone 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.  And as the giants we are, we should go beyond that.

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WeMissYou

Question: Were you a part of one of our youth programs? If so, join our new Advocates Alumni Network!

For more than a decade, Advocates for Youth has led programs for youth activists from across the United States and around the world focusing on sexual and reproductive health issues. We are in awe of the passion, vision and leadership you have taken over the years. And…well, we miss you! What you’ve been up to?

Let’s face it, we have history together! Perhaps you were a Campus Organizer, and advocated for policy changes related to comprehensive sex education on campuses.

Or maybe you pioneered the field of online peer education through YouthResource, our website for and by LGBTQ young people.

As we look towards the next decade (don’t worry you still look fabulous), we want to know the journey of our activists. What field of employment did you land in? What internships or fellowships did you participate in? How did your experience with Advocates impact you personally & professionally? We really want to know!

Please take 15 minutes and join Advocates Alumni Network. Help us establish an Alumni program that will continue to engage the next wave of activists and leaders.

Let’s connect!

Tweet now!Help build @advocatestweets *new* alumni network! Tell us your journey. http://bit.ly/AFYalum #AFYalum

 

 

tweet-now-toutAdvocates for Youth is calling on all alumni to build the new alumni network! Quick survey http://bit.ly/AFYalum

Categories: Young People
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So, Amazon is using some of its profits to help non-profits.  Both my girlfriend and I have chosen Advocates for Youth.

I screen capped some basic info about this opportunity and posted the image below.

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Last year Candies started the #NoTeenPreg hashtag in an effort to continue the work they do which they believe helps reduce unintended teenage pregnancies. 

A group of former teen moms, now young moms, really felt that Candies mission is an important one but their messaging and ads were stigmatizing, rude, disrespectful, and not informative enough so #NoTeenShame was born. 
We asked the founder of the Candies Foundation, Neil Cole, to meet with us as a group to discuss how we could work together to make better, non stigmatizing, and informative ad campaigns for their annual month of action in May. (May is is also Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month) Despite numerous calls and 800+ petition signatures asking Mr. Cole to meet with the #NoTeenShame team Candies and Mr. Cole did not respond. 

Mr. Cole did however, spend time writing a post on his Huffington Post Blog about why Candies is right and why essentially anyone who disagrees is wrong. We were upset but certainly not defeated. 

This year #NoTeenShame has been meeting for about 5 months through weekly conference calls about what and how we will directly create a cultural shift in the way teenage and young families are discussed and how preventing teenage pregnancy does not have to include mentioning us, our peers, or our families especially if it is in a negative way.

We have a Tumblr, a very active hashtag; #noteenshame, and a very insightful one pager about our goals, history, and mission. 

However, what #NoTeenShame has really showed me, as simply one of it’s core members, is that online advocacy that is born out of speaking up when something is wrong is powerful, purposeful, and can change the way people think about certain topics. 

In April we launched- and successfully met our goal on- a Thunderclap campaign which asked supporters to sign on and tell the world that they support #NoTeenShame and our mission, we had an insightful and purposeful twitter chat hosted by Tara of The Young Mommy Life, we’ve had organizations reach out and show support and pledge their solidarity alongside with us. 

As we get ready to enter one of the most stigmatizing months for teen and young parents we have the honor of knowing that we are on the right side of change and progress, that more people are beginning to think about how harmful ads they once thought were seemingly harmless really effect others, and that Neil Cole and many other organizations and foundations like his who use stigmatizing language are watching. 

#NoTeenShame is about young people using technology to advance and change discussions on causes we hold most important and personal to us in an effort to implement change in policy and change in cultural perceptions.

Thank you for your support thus far and please continue to support us and ALL young families during May and everyday.

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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.

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?)

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Thoughts at puberty”

Thoughts may come and go,
And minds made decisive,
Mates may stay to cuddle,
And tears cease to stop,

http://reverbednothesblog.wordpress.com/category/poetry-sex-ed/

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promswag4-up-M

Prom season is in full swing! Students across the country are reserving limos, renting tuxes, and posing for those classically awkward photos for their parents. But while we’re enjoying the glamour, let’s not forget safety! It’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #promswag!

Share on FacebookIt’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #PromSwag. http://bit.ly/PromSwag

tweet-now-toutProtect yourself and your partner while getting your #PromSwag on http://bit.ly/PromSwag #safersex

abstinence #promswag
condoms #promswag
condoms #promswag
patch #promswag
pill #promswag
#promswag

Show your love for contraception methods, while getting your prom glam on.

Share on FacebookIt’s always better to protect ourselves – and our partners – and these images are a reminder to do it in style. #PromSwag. http://bit.ly/PromSwag

tweet-now-toutProtect yourself and your partner while getting your #PromSwag on http://bit.ly/PromSwag #safersex

Keep calm, and Prom on.

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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\”.

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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”.

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Many a time, I have tried to deduce the consequences of some ; Arrogant notions displayed by most youths. The world we live in is Profoundly able to garnish our being to prosperity, and at the same vein make us subjects to harsh circumstances – which will carve us into : Strong, Unrelenting and Determined youths, if we work towards perfection. And destroy our aspect for a Futuristic goal if we reduce our stance, by ploughing the roads of havoc.

Today, we have youths in Prisons, for violating governmental laws and the Commandments ( which is induced in,”LOVE”).

Most parents have Been great and worthy of note, because they have nurtured and trained their children in the right way – using the right principles. Still at this, most youths feel reluctant and partake in ; corruption, rape, killing, cults, sex scandals and other illegal acts.

It’s stated that – “we (Youth(s)) are the leaders of tomorrow.”

But 88% of the world most populous crimes are done by youths. Youths whose future glow more than the stars.

Who is to blame ? Is it the Parent ? I don’t believe that a mother will advise her child to kill or rape a girl.
And I don’t believe a Father, in his sane mind, will propels his son to join a cult.

So who is to blame ?

The environment has a very tremendous phase to play as an assisting dictator of youth growth.
“But should we allocate the illegal acts, committed by youths to the environment ?”

Also, the Government. Poor governance has reduced the overwhelming growth of most countries, and as a result destroyed the countenance of most youths.
This has made most youths swear the, “Oat of Allegiance”, to evil.

Should we then, blame the government ?

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Tennessee Sends Religious Anti-Discrimination Bill To Governor

Reposted from The Huffington Post  | by  Shadee Ashtari

Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill on Monday that seeks to expand religious liberty protections for students in public schools.

The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed the state Senate 32-0, would permit students to express religious beliefs in their homework, artwork and written and oral assignments without academic punishment or discrimination.

The legislation’s primary sponsors, state Rep. Courtney Rogers (R) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R), introduced the measure after a teacher asked a 10-year-old student to choose a subject other than God to write about as the person she admired most, according to the Associated Press. The state House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 90-2.

Haile characterized the legislation as a pre-preemptive safeguard against potential lawsuits challenging school officials for permitting religious expression, according to the Tennessean.

The proposal would also allow religious students to organize prayer groups and other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the “same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups.”

Opponents of the bill contend that existing laws already protect students’ rights to religious expression and that the new legislation would only expose students of different faiths to unnecessary religious coercion.

“While purporting to prevent discrimination against students expressing religious viewpoints, SB 1793/HB 1547 crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students,” the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union said in a recentstatement. “Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs.”

Similar legislation, modeled after Texas’ 2007 Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act, unanimously passed the Oklahoma Senate in February.

The Tennessee bill now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s (R) signature. Given the measure’s overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House, a veto by the governor would likely be overturned.

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In the words of ROCK STAR youth activist Kirin Gupta, ““What is at stake today is an issue of sexism, classism, and oppression. It is the control exercised by money and power of a few who are twisting our country’s freedom of religion to deny basic freedoms to young, often already marginalized bodies. These choices are ours—not our schools, not our bosses, not anyone else’s.”

Today’s Supreme Court hearing on contraception and religious liberty was a big deal and we could not be more proud of the response from our friends, allies, co-workers, partner orgs, and youth activists all around the country.  Our voices have been heard, and we are watching!

Visit #DearSCOTUS for a comprehensive look at all the went down today, but here are a few pics too!

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 1960963_10154052157820145_1817722768_o photo 2kirin jeryl

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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

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WWD 2

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.

World Water DAY 2014In 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.

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Are you a young person (14-24 years old) who is:

  • Passionate about fighting for young people’s rights to sexual health information and services?
  • Interested in connecting with youth leaders from across the country?
  • Dedicated to developing skills to make a difference in your community?

Apply today to join one of Advocates for Youth’s programs!

If selected, you will have opportunities to: develop new organizing and leadership skills; become informed on sexual and reproductive health issues; connect with passionate young people from across the country; and build skills to make a lasting impact in your community. You will also join more than 100 youth activists in Washington, DC for an intense four-day activist training institute free of charge!

Advocates’ youth activists have done amazing work this year. You can join them in:

  • Advocating for better sexual health education policies in your state
  • Increasing HIV testing and condom availability in your community or on your campus
  • Providing confidential support and resources to young people who are coming out as LGBTQ
  • Mobilizing your peers around international family planning issues
  • Working toward ending the shame and stigma people are made to feel about having an abortion

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, click here to find out more about the programs and apply today! Applications are due April 15, 2014.

If you are a parent, teacher, or advocate who knows young people who are passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights, please encourage them to apply.

Join our team!

Tweet now!@AdvocatesTweets is looking for passionate youth activists who care about reproductive rights! Apply today! http://bit.ly/1hISa4H

 

tweet-now-toutAdvocates for Youth is looking for passionate youth activists who care about sexual health & reproductive rights! Apply today! http://bit.ly/1hISa4H

Categories: Young People
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 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.

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Organizations that truly and honestly support teenage parents are limited and at best growing in number.

These organizations are literally a life line for the parents they are able to support and help the only problem is I would like to see them go a bit further and further educate the teenage parents they help when it comes to sexual heath decisions, mental health, and relationships.
Many times the parents that these organizations are assisting need more in depth conversation and instruction on building and sustaining basic skills. While the support they provide is essential I would like to see them take on the role of comprehensive sex education counselor to ensure that the young parents actually know how to get tested for STI/STD’s regularly, while ensuring they are seeing a gyno at least once a year, how to find an affordable birth control, what to do if they have a missed period or forgot to take the pill, and what an STI or STD infection can look and feel like.
The stress of teenage parenthood is extremely high, so high that teenage parents are at higher risk for postpartum depression than any other age group.
Lessons on how to deal with, manage, and identify stressful triggers are extremely necessary and wanted by teen parents. We want to know how to deal with all the emotions and energy we are feeling within ourselves and the emotions and energy directed at us by family, friends, and sometimes perfect strangers.
In my experience more times than not the mothers I meet have been in an emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive relationship. While we, myself included, may feel like something is “not right” we are sometimes unable to identify the abuse we are experiencing for abuse for a multitude of reasons.
While we advocate for comprehensive sex education, rights for teenage parents, equitable access to services and programs that teenage parents and families need we, as organizations, people, and advocates need to create a space where these instructions and lessons are being taught and fully received in the interim.

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Have you ever felt how important your life is? Have you ever thought what you can do being a youth to your community, Society and Nation where you live? Have you ever felt how important your small effort can be bring diverse change in society? Youth can be pioneer for inspiration and change.

 

Have you ever felt or seen God in your life? Let me remind you all, Lord Buddha was Siddhartha Gautam, Son of king. But his work made him god. We should not go so far to see God. Just look around you, who serves for saving life of other. Who thinks and sacrifice for saving life of other. Yes, I have felt and seen God in my life. A real Youth icon, Youth activists Mr.Saroj Karki (Co-founder, President of Youth for Blood).

 

It was 28th February 2014, A wonderful Friday, I felt  God in my life when I got chance to meet Mr.Saroj Karki and his inspiring Team  in YUWA. I can’t skip this word” Thank you! Dipendra Dai(Brother) ,Co-founder ,President of YUWA for allowing me to attend the informal chit chat session with Mr.Saroj Karki.Its reality and  bitter Truth whenever we start to do some innovative thing, we hardly get support from other. But, when the same thing gets followed by mass of people we get Loads of congratulation in our life. Informal one  hour chit chat session with Mr.Saroj Karki was very inspiring to me. I learned, we should accept criticism that comes in our life to March ahead to reach up to our Destiny. We should try to search positivity in Negativity so that a great lesson can be learned in our life.

Donating your Blood and saving life of other is really a great work that we can do. It’s our own Body, it’s our own Blood .We do not need any ethical recommendation from external and internal forces. The only thing that we need is we should meet the criteria that we must cross the age of 16 and might have weight more than 45kg. Our blood should contain hemoglobin more than 12 gm.

 

I was much influenced and inspired by his story .I couldn’t stop tears rolling down from my eyes listening to his past hard work from establishment of youth for Blood up to Now. I was happier to take snap standing side by him. Thank you Youth advocates Leadership Council (YALC) and YUWA ,My real family where I learn from my seniors ,sometime I got scolded .but I know it’s all for me ,to improve my weakness  and mistakes. Because we really find people who helps us to correct our weakness with loads of Love. I feel blessed to be part of it.

 

Himanshu Rayamajhi

Nobel College –Nepal (BPH 7th semester)

YUWA-YALC 2014

Categories: Young People
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While I am still basking in the ambience of the latest episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D“, I would like to thank Marvel and everyone responsible for putting Lady Sif in ACTUAL, functional armor. Really, thank you. I’ll excuse the boobplate because it’s not as awful as it could be.

And speaking of costumes, here’s a fun version of bingo you can play at your next game night.

 

 

Click the image for a PDF version.

Source: OzzieScribbler

 

Categories: Young People
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I tried to look at my country and closely to “youth and Nepal”. Nepal identified as a small developing country where there is still a much more activities to be done for development. The systematic developmental process is greatly influenced by the basic preparation done where I felt the policy to be important. I then picked a National youth Policy of Nepal prepared in 2066 for the first time to address the youth of Nepal.

Going through the policy I feel like the policy is able to incorporate ranging issues of Youth and their need at present and in future. Issues covered ranges from education, employment, health, development, support, entrepreneurship, advocacy, participation, opportunity and more. Ahh! It’s like more than enough. As a health student I then funneled my focus on the issues of health of youth then surprisingly I got many points dealing to health from normal health need of youth to special one. The need for health safety, need for health awareness, need of specialized health care, health and privacy, HIV/AIDS, family Planning, health as basic right, and to my sock Sexual health and it component too. The incorporation of SRHR issue from policy level itself can be a great achievement to a country like ours where even to raise the issues of Young and SEX at a time is like a crime.

The document level strength of NYP-2066 can be termed as unbeatable I felt like I will for sure get every facility and opportunity I want as a Youth to capacitate myself in Nepal itself but again here comes the tragedy of implementation level loop holes. I thought of myself and the level of facility I get to entertain as youth in Nepal. The reality was bitter. The trend of document level strength but weakness in the implementation is not only the tragedy of Nepal but of number of other countries too.

Alas! I wish I could have some magical power to reframe all happening and environment so as to make the development an easy going task for all. To strengthen the youth capacity and make world a better place to live in.

Categories: Young People
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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:

 https://fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm

Stay Informed. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

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This past Friday I was privileged to see President Barack Obama speak at Coral Reef High School. It was truly an honor to be up close and personal with the nation’s 44th president. He visited South Florida to speak with the senior class at Coral Reef High School about the options that they have for continued education. President Obama and his wife strongly advocate for students to be able to obtain a higher education. Applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA was stressed throughout the president’s speech. He explained that last year millions of dollars were left on the table simply because students did not fill out the FAFSA to see what aid they were eligible for. President Obama encouraged all of the students to fill out the FAFSA to ensure they have a chance at obtaining a higher education. 

The overall experience of meeting the President of the United States was mind blowing. As he spoke I was flushed with a number of different emotions ranging from proud, excited, eager, and satisfied. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to be invited to such an amazing event. The memories will live in my mind forever.

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A few days ago President Barack Obama came to a High School in Miami and I was able to listen to him speak. He spoke on the opportunities that Higher Education provides an individual and how as president he’s ensuring that Higher Education is more available for everyone in the United States. Although the message was positive it wasn’t as glamorous and glorious as I thought it would be. The speech served to remind me that people are people and no person is is above it all.  Even the president reads his speeches and makes mistakes.

Categories: Young People
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“Nothing decisive,Nothing sustainable,can be done in our country as long as this important part of ourselves remains in the oppression imposed on them by different systems of exploitation….the true empowerment of women is that which makes the woman responsible,that includes her in productive activities, and in the fight against the different challenges faced by our people. The true emancipation of women is that which forces consideration and respect from men”
Though these words may sounds like those of a convinced women’s rights activist of the second decade of the 21st century, they aren’t. These are words from Burkinabe revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara to women gathered to celebrate International Women’s day on March 8th 1987 a few months before his assassination.
The above was not only an appeal for women to never lose sight of the fundamental role they play in the progress of a society, but above all, a call to men and society as a whole to support them as they selflessly invest in the nation’s future at times through acts of courage that are often taken for granted or ignored such as beautifully balancing their role as mother, caretaker of the family, and increasingly bread winner for most families in my part of the world.
Rural Women deserve more……
 The brave women of the rural areas of Cameroonlive what I call “A life of service to the community” by waking up early to prepare the children for school; prepare breakfast for the family; toil all day in farms; return home late and despite the hard day’s work prepare dinner for the family. This makes me so proud of these women and reinforces my conviction that they merit more attention than is currently being accorded them by politicians and policy makers in the far away capital cities and comfortable skyscrapers in Yaounde, Addis Ababa, and NewYork.
Women make up more than half of Cameroon’s vastly youthful population. A majority of this very “important part of ourselves” live in the most ignoble of conditions in its rural areas and are on a daily basis subjected to torture, rape, and abuses of all sorts by men who are themselves oppressed by a society in which the gap between the very rich and the very poor is ever widening.
Economic Injustice is an Effective fertilizer for the Oppression of Women
Yes, a man who is powerless in the face of  his family’s inability to eat to their fill; cannot pay  health bills for his family; and cannot afford to send his children to school,  transfers the injustice done  him by society to his wife, sister, and daughteronly  in the face of whom he feels  “a real man”.Non-inclusive redistribution of a country’s resources therefore leads not only to economic inequality among a nation’s citizens but aggravates the already existing inequality through abuses of all sorts on women and girls.
Achievement of Millennium Development Goals is impossible without women 
Thus, greater economic opportunity is to be extended to rural area dwellers if the Millennium Development Goals to which this year’s International Women’s Day is dedicated are to ever be achieved and this cannot be done without the brave women who though living in these socially challenged areas, have put their lives “at the service of the community”

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It has nearly been four months since Eastern Visayas was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) yet the situation of the people remains difficult and our future uncertain. No words can aptly describe of our situation in those trying moments. In just four hours, Yolanda destroyed our homes, offices, schools, and our source of livelihood. Along the rubbles that the mighty current of storm surge have carried are the lifeless bodies of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and loved ones – many of whom are still missing, or have joined the count of dead bodies waiting to be identified and be given proper burial.

 

I am deeply grateful and touched by the love and support of my friends and families abroad. For five days of uncertainties, they have filled-up my Facebook walls and my e-mail with messages of hope mixed with concern and prayers that have sustained me. I want to personally thank my amazing family in Advocates for Youth (especially to Nicole, Mimi, Janine, Sulava, Urooj and everyone), my orange family – Y-PEER Pilipinas (especially to Ate Zai, Kuya Mario, Ate Aiza, and everyone), and my relatives who sent their help in many forms that help sustain our temporary exile from Tacloban.

 

My unwaivering faith with my God has inspired me to move on and go on with life. It is the first time that I wrote a lengthy blog. I have to admit that the super typhoon has somehow robbed a part of me and somehow that emptiness has also made me not inspired to write with gusto as much as before. Now, I am back. Inspired with the new hope that the city of my birth will rise above the rubbles, I returned to Tacloban last January 11 to begin anew but dealing with the stress and trauma is not easy.

 

The days, weeks, and months that followed after Yolanda were particularly difficult for us as we try to come into terms with our loss and face the uncertainties of future. After four months, we are continuously hearing of the rebuilding and rehabilitation plans that our national government was able to come up and will be implementing. The people are being forced to accept this plan but the pressing questions are these: Were they able to exhaust their means to consult the people on the kind of rebuilding and rehabilitation that we, the people affected by Haiyan wanted? Were our voices heard in the process? Have they taken into account of our welfare and well-being?

 

We have decided to act. Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. We must not allow the national government to come up with a rebuilding and rehabilitation plan that will send us back to the situation that made us vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and poverty. That is why the Freedom from Debt Coalition together with the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Eastern Visayas ngan Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) will be organizing a March Rally tomorrow, March 8, 2014 so that the national government will hear our cries, the people will listen to us. Let us make it known to the government our demands which include the following:

 

1. Livelihood fund for women. Women are one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. They should the capacity and means to rise above from the ruins of Haiyan so that they can be self-sufficient and so that they can help their families as well.

2. Assistance for farmers and fisher folks. In agriculture, the farmers especially those in the coconut industry and the fisher folks are the ones whose livelihood was badly affected by the super typhoon. They need assistance in order for them to recover their source of income.

3. Student calamity fund for students in Yolanda-affected areas. Allocate a budget for State Universities and Colleges in Haiyan-affected areas so that it can help their students especially those whose parents are financially incapable of financing their studies in the form of: scholarships; employment opportunities such as hiring student assistants; and other ways and means in which the fund can help the students.

4. Automatic PhilHealth coverage to all families affected by Yolanda since most does are not capable of paying their hospitalization and not all areas in Region VIII have a public hospital or health centers.

5. Lower the price of commodities. Government should implement Price Freeze and strict monitoring on the prices of commodities and implementation of the law by government-designated agencies such as DTI.

6. Temporary suspension of the Value Added Tax (VAT) to basic commodities in Eastern Visayas and other areas directly or indirectly affected by Haiyan.

7. Regular and permanent jobs, not only Cash for Work. Many of our brothers and sisters have lost their livelihoods to super typhoon Yolanda and most of them cannot go back to their former livelihood.

8. Assistance to homeless families in order for them to rebuild their homes. We have heard of the construction of bunk houses and plans for permanent shelter for homeless families. Bunk houses constructed without following international standards should be reconstructed. Permanent shelters should be built not later than soon. Those whose houses are damaged but still habitable should also be extended with help.

9. Climate Justice for all victims of Haiyan. Super Typhoon Yolanda was brought about due to the unabated Carbon Dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by factories and machineries of developed countries since the start of Industrial Revolution which resulted to global warming. Developed countries are accountable to developing countries like the Philippines for their historic and current role to climate change and global warming. Therefore, it is but right that they should pay developing countries in a form of reparations such as the Green Climate Fund which can help them be more prepared and adaptive to climate change and so that they can mitigate the effects climate change that is unavoidable.

10. Fund for climate change induced calamities and poverty such as what President Aquino signed in 2012 in what now known as the so-called People’s Survival Fund Law which allocates 500 million pesos for Climate Change adaptation and mitigation which remains un-allocated and un-programmed since the Aquino administration has yet to craft its Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR).

 

Since we are able to stand-up on our own feet, it is high time that we act and get involved in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Haiyan-affected areas. This is for our survival from climate change induced calamities and from the shackles of poverty. That is why we must not bide with time and wait for the government to act. This is an opportunity for us to be stand in a common ground and be united. We must not allow a “business as usual” recovery and rehabilitation. Yolanda left us a hard lesson and a grim reminder that Yolanda may not be the last super typhoon to visit Eastern Visayas. Let the memory of those who die will not fade in our consciousness. Do we want that the events in November 8 happen again in the future?

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Over the past months so much has happened in the LGBT community around the world:

1.      President Obama continues to gives stern warning to countries that criminalizes homosexual.

2.      Other World leaders making a vivid statement as it regards to the recent winter Olympics in either not showing up or openly condemning Russia’s law which criminalizes public expression of LGBT advocates.

3.       The passing of new Anti-Gay law in Uganda .  

4.      The World Bank postponing a $90 million health project for Uganda citing the country’s passage of a new anti-gay law, “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law.

5.      US Secretary of State  John Kerry calling for a world “where professing one’s love does not lead to persecution.”

6.      Actress, Whoopi Goldberg has accused the governments of Uganda and Nigeria of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ in response to anti-gay laws being passed in the two countries.

7.      Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stating that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Therefore he is calling for the repeal of its severe penalties.

8.      The Pope, Francis has made a point of reaching out to gays, famously saying: “Who am I to judge?”

9.      LaBarbera an Anti-Gay Pastor is reported to have travelled to Jamaica to speak at an anti-gay conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Coalition.  

Hillary Clinton’s speech on international LGBT issues was game changing years ago. A historic address of this magnitude was desperately needed to counter the rising tide of backwards and barbaric nations that had recently been persecuting LGBT people to distract from their glaring problems.

“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” said Clinton to a packed auditorium of human rights activists who gathered in Geneva for International Human Rights Day. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”

I close in saying, It’s not time to kill the gays and I don’t think there should ever be a time when we want to kill the gays as they are humans just like everyone else who identifies themselves as something else. Let’s continue to work to preserve human rights and never give up in this fight.

Jason Madden

Youth Advocate

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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.

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Hello my sisters, im new to this website and i already love it. I have always wanted to be apart of something like this. Anyways i was looking for a group of young youths to talk to. Personally, as a young teen i went through a lot by myself. I know how it feel to not have anyone to talk to. If anyone knows a place i can go to write me back. Thanks!

Categories: Young People
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Shades of Roise

#ShadesofRosie is a campaign that seeks to start and maintain a conversation about intersectionality in our movements and in our lives. Through the feminist icon, Rosie the Riveter, we want to show how diverse women are and thus how diverse our movement has to be in order to truly fight for them. Feminism is evolving and this Women’s History Month, #ShadesofRosie is finding ways to highlight that evolution through a figure that has already seen her meaning change as society changed.

Fun Fact: Rosie the Riveter wasn’t created for feminism.

The “We Can Do It” poster that is now most famously associated with the feminist symbol Rosie The Riveter was originally used as a propaganda tool to get women in the work force during World War II. Lower class women and women of color, of course, were already in the workforce, but in the midst of the War, the government needed everyone on deck. The government at that time, however, did not intend for women to STAY in the workforce. Rosie’s iconic image was always supposed to be temporary.

It wasn’t until the Women’s Movement in the 70s that Rosie became the face of women empowerment and equality in the workforce. She was already popular across the country and feminists did not have to do anything but assert that the values she stood for, the idea that “We Can Do It”, didn’t stop when our troops returned home. But Rosie, in her original form, is a very simplified form of feminism. She represents the interests of white, middle-class woman who are seeking job equality.

I think we can all agree that feminism is more than that.

The Young Women of Color Leadership Council is a group of young women of color who have made a habit of looking at our issues complexly. We are a reproductive justice advocacy collective, which means we take on the issues of reproductive issues (especially Healthy Relationships, HIV/STI Awareness, Sexual Violence, Contraception Access, and Abortion Rights) and try to address them from all the angles, by educatingour communities and especially women of color about the issues, including them in our movement, and empowering them to make change. We know the importance of nuance.

Which brings us back to #ShadesofRosie: Rosie has already leveled up once before, so it is only fitting that she do so again! WE are the face of feminism and so WE will be the makeover that Rosie the Riveter so desperately needs. All we ask for you to do to get involved is to Facebook/Tweet a picture of you striking the Rosie the Riveter pose!

rosie the riveter

Share with the hashtag #ShadesofRosie and if possible, include a caption of what intersectionality means to you! Throughout the month we will be having a twitter chat and a Google Hangout that will seek to explore intersectionality in-depth. We will be sharing articles and pictures and music that we feel adds to the diversity of the feminist movement, and we ask you to do the same!

One of Feminism’s best qualities is that it challenges society to grow. It demands change. It declares that equality is not and will never be temporary.

The discussion around intersectionality is not going away because WE are not going away. We are vital parts of this movement and we must acknowledge the complexities of our problems. Instead of letting our differences divide us, we must celebrate them together. We are all diverse and special and strong in our own way. We are all different shades of Rosie.

It’s time we share our differences with the world.

Categories: Young People
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February is Teen Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence is unfortunately a regularly accruing act of violence in society and yet it’s long lasting and devastating impacts are often under spoken about on a societal level.

Domestic violence is not something that happens to only a certain group or type of person, it’s universal, and for approximately one third of teens it is a reality. Teen domestic violence is some times over looked or “explained away” because of age, “growing pains”, or can be viewed as normal to some young people. When Rihanna was psychically attacked by then boyfriend Chris Brown many young people, approximately 50% in a Boston survey, made flippant and harrowing comments about how it was Rihanna’s fault that she was attacked because she must have done something to deserve it.
Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks had an episode of the Oprah show in which they discussed domestic violence and had high school students join them via video. One of the high school students stated that many teens do not view domestic violence as the serious situation that it is and that students would say they were “going to Chris Brown” (physically attack) one another as if it was a joke. [The high school students join in around the 1:40 mark]
Domestic violence in the teenage years has long last effects that can and will stay with both survivors and abusers for the rest of their lives.
Experiencing dating violence when teens began to date can be an isolating, scary, and confusing time for young people. The pressure of being a “good boyfriend or girlfriend” can potentially lead to not addressing the violence you are experiencing or telling some one about it for fear of judgment and retaliation. Furthermore, there is no real curriculum in schools that addresses what healthy dating is versus an unhealthy relationships so young people are left with little to no real point of accurate information to help them better understand and be able to identify what is abuse and what is not abuse.
While Teen Domestic Violence awareness month comes to a close it is important to remember especially while working with and for young people that we must address domestic violence in youth as the serious and some times lethal problem that it is.

Categories: Other, Young People
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For me, the 4th Student Council Leadership Conference was the best experience to end my year 2009. It was year full of blessings that an emerging young leader like me can ever dream of. The year opened and closed with so many memorable moments and new friendships created. It expanded my horizons which enable me to take a look at a different perspective of life and the world. This was the time where I was first realized that I found myself being productive and active in different youth activities. We have conducted the very first Youth Assembly on HIV/AIDS in Tacloban, the first in Eastern Visayas. By October, I was in Beijing, China to attend the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights – my very first overseas trip to attend an international conference. That year, I resolved to be an advocate on issues concerning us youth and to do my best to contribute to the improvement of meaningful youth participation in the community and government.

 

I have a confession to make. I was thinking twice of attending the 4th LeadCon for two reasons: first, I was dead tired after being in Manila for a week with the launch and strategic meeting that follow of Y-PEER Pilipinas network. I went home on the very morning of the start of the 4th LeadCon. Second, whether my friends will agree or disagree, I hate doing late appearances (or “grand entrance” as some has said). Fortunately, I was able to contact one of the organizers and I got a go-ahead signal to proceed to the COA Conference Hall, the venue of the event. With everyone in a lunch break, I was able to sneak in to the venue and register and dress up in my barong, slacks, and black shoes. It was a great of sigh of relief that I was able to meet my fellow participants from UP among the sea of young people that began to enter the venue after lunch break was over. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made in life. Sticking with my motto, “Its better late than never” save the day. Hahaha!

 

During the first day of the LeadCon, I found myself in a dilemma on which group will I belong since I was not present when the groupings were made in the morning. Following my instinct, I went to the group were my UP friends are. The group, which we later called as Baa Baa Black Sheep Society, was composed of dynamic and incredibly funny young people from all over Eastern Visayas. Arci and Brendo were our Muses. Analyn was our small-but-terrible DJ and when are joined together, we are a riot. Hahaha…I miss you guys!!! Hope to see you in the LeadCon alumni gathering. Meeting and knowing other young student leaders from across Eastern Visayas provided an opportunity for us to forge connections and network that was very advantageous on our part. We were able to invite each other on our activities in our respective school like contests, fairs, intramurals or speaking engagements. It made us appreciate each other, seek support from peers and share experiences on leadership and serving people.

 

Learning from Douglas Nierras, never give up on your dreams even if many are skeptic about you. He shared his story that as a young person, he loves to dance but many make fun of him because he was chubby. Yet, he pursued his dreams and proved them all wrong. He now directs Power Dance. Jose Bayani Baylon of Coca-Cola Philippines and Natividad Noel-Alejo of Bank of the Philippines are also personages worthy of emulating. Mr. Baylon will always be remembered for giving away crisp 500 pesos for answering his question that is very tricky that no one was able to answer it until he himself gave the answer. Meeting fellow debater Dino de Leon and youth leader Francis Alber Javier was very inspiring. They gave faces on what youth leadership can do. Kuya Jude will always be our Kuya, the Big Brother of every LeadCon! Right Kuya Jude? We are thankful for having these people speak and continue to inspire us 4th LeadCon delegates of what it takes to be a servant leader. Bottomline, whoever you are in the society – company Vice-President, bank Vice-President, debater, University Student Council President, regional party Chairperson, or a student, you can be a servant leader and make a difference to improve the lot of your fellow Filipinos.

 

Looking back, perhaps one of our greatest contributions in the history of LeadCon is our conference declaration. We have raised the bar and we definitely produced a very powerful statement that we, the youth is aware of the issues that the country and the world faces. That we demand for meaningful youth participation and we held the leaders accountable for their actions. When most student councils don’t have position on issues like the Maguindanao Massacre and emerging youth issues like debt and education, HIV/AIDS, and youth unemployment, we, as a collective body of student leaders from across Eastern Visayas was able to make a stand. Even up until today, most of us in the 4th LeadCon still carry these advocacies in whatever we do in and outside the university we studied. Roschelle carry it politically when she ran for public office. Wade’s tenure as Chairperson of the UP Tacloban Student Council mirrors his policies on these issues.

 

I am grateful to An Waray Partylist and the Sinirangan Bisayas Youth Organization for giving me such an experience of a lifetime! I am looking forward in the future for a LeadCon that is more diverse and inclusive of youth leaders in the community and in civil society. When we provide a platform for youth coming from these sectors to come together, we surely can imagine a better future for Eastern Visayas. To my fellow alumni, see you all in future homecomings and I hope we can collaborate in rebuilding our beloved Eastern Visayas recently ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan!

Categories: Young People
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http://youtu.be/GjUIVixR4kg

 

Its been more than three months since I last posted a blog here in Amplify. Typhoon Haiyan really devastated my city, Tacloban that up to now, we do not have electricity in my subdivision and internet access. I am writing my first blog this year in Indonesia as I attend the Green Climate Fund 6th Board Meeting. I am here along with our friends in the climate movement to demand climate justice and climate finance. Typhoon Haiyan is a blatant example on why we cannot delay for this thing to happen.

 

Back home, the situation remains problematic especially on how my government deals with the rehabilitation of schools. Last month, I had an interesting interview with U.P. Tacloban Student Council Chairperson Francisco Banguis, Jr   on the current issues that the students of UP Tacloban is facing after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the school and Tacloban City last November 8, 2013 that claimed thousands of lives and left people homeless and deeply wounded.

 

As one of the affected schools in the city, U.P. Tacloban faced a plethora of problems and the last thing that we want to have is to be in a situation that we are left neglected by the University of the Philippines System. Of its seven constituent universities, all except our mother school U.P. Visayas have extended substantial help and assistance to students affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Our Chancellor spoke of the university’s inability to make an exhaustive assistance since almost all of its colleges across the Visayas islands were badly affected by the storm.

 

Having said that, our access to quality education and the services that comes with it is compromised. We were the only ones who did not leave the college to cross-enroll to other U.P. campuses since we did not have the capacity to cross-enroll financially, logistically and psychologically. We cannot afford to leave our families in such a ruined state. We cannot stand to part ways when we all know that we are all not okay. Most of us who opted to stay decided to help our families rebuild our lives, homes, and if possible our source of livelihood.

 

Since we were far from normalcy, the college opened the option for us to be re-bracketed in order to pay less tuition fees for the enrollment this second semester but the result is disheartening. Most of the students were just re-bracketed one step lower than their previous bracketings. Moreover, there is an issue on where the students will stay especially those that go home after classes and lives in far-flung areas since the transportation is not yet back to its normal schedule.

 

We have demanded that the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, the highest decision-making body in the U.P. System visit Tacloban to see with their own eyes the urgency of the matter to meet the needs not only of the students but also those of the employees and the faculty.  So far, U.P. President Alfredo Pascual visited our campus. However, our demand for the B.O.R. to conduct a board meeting in Tacloban remains unanswered.

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I recently had the privilege of receiving a scholarship to attend the last day of the inaugural “Time to THRIVE: HRC Foundation’s Inaugural National Conference Promoting Safety, Inclusion and Well-Being for LGBTQ Youth…Everywhere” here in Las Vegas, Nevada. The experience was one that serves as a reminder that our movement is nothing without our youth, a reminder that I hope the organizers keep with them as they plan next year’s conference.

I was interviewed by Channel 13 Las Vegas KTNV as well as the Las Vegas Review Journal while attending. #RQPOC REPRESENT!

They had made a plea for about 100 local youth to attend their last day which their ‘Youth Day’. I, of course, applied. I was excited to go and attend workshops that would help me widen my tool kit to serve fellow youth. Little did I know, youth were given TWO workshops to attend. The two workshops that youth were expected to go to were The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop for Youth and How To Have An Awesome GSA. Those were limiting for myself and the group of people that I attended with from our local LGBTQ Center.  I’m a rebel, so I wandered off and attended the workshops that were geared towards adults and not at all inclusive of youth. While I went to other workshops, I quickly noticed that there seemed to be a lack of youth representation and voices in these workshops that were TALKING about how to better serve youth. I went in search of a people of color (POC) space after I attended my first workshop which was made up of almost entirely older white males.  The POC workshop I found was hosted by an HRC employee that I am very fond of, and I found the most powerful and substantial number of young queer people of color in that room than I had the entire day I had been there.

Throughout the day, I was grateful I got the chance to have this experience. However, I couldn’t help feeling incredibly tokenized. We were the obligatory youth that they carted in on the last day of the conference, rather than having our voices present the entire time. If you are having a conference on how to better include, protect, and empower LGBTQ youth, you need to INCLUDE LGBTQ youth. While I know the conference was geared towards youth-serving professionals, we must not forget the youth-serving youth whom are out there doing the heavy work, not only for themselves, but for the youth that surround them.

I know that this is the first Time To Thrive, and I write this blog out of respect for the progress that this conference has and will hopefully continue to make. I hope that next year, the organizers will do a better job at including the local community and its youth for the entire conference, not just a divisive and condescending ‘youth day’. We cannot discredit or underestimate the amount of power that our youth and POC have. If we want to promote safety and inclusion of our young LGBTQ people, we need to include them in the process. Our collective movement is a better movement when we work hand-in-hand. 

 

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Blogging For Advocacy

Welcome to me in this new world of blogging which is not just intending for information share but to advocate the people about our surrounding condition  and also to find the solutions for those problems and injustices regarding the issues of SHR and HIV/AIDS .

Blogging for advocacy is just new for me so I think that first knowing about this would be better to deliver my experience and research. So during this I had gone through some research about how could we advocate using blog and what should it require? So I tried to concise my findings so that it could may help for others as well.

WHAT??

Blog advocacy is using a blog to raise voice and make aware to the respondent about the situation of injustice. Blogging is a cheap and easy way to create a web site that addresses a particular an issue. Blogs have pre-existing templates that give the site a professional feel. They are also fairly easy to personalize with your own header graphic, colors, and fonts. Also, most blog platforms (for example, Blogger and Word Press) are free.

WHO??

The word “advocacy” implies that you are speaking for someone else. But do you have the right or the permission to speak for that person or group?  This is an important question to ask yourself before you start an advocacy blog.

If you are intimately involved with the cause you are advocating for, if the cause affects you personally or the injustice has occurred in the town or city in which you live, then you probably don’t need to worry about whether or not you have the right to start an advocacy blog. But if the issue is occurring in another country or affects someone that you do not know personally, it’s advisable to do some checking around before you begin your blog.

In case of expertise for the blogging, it’s totally the online platform which means it is created to use without any expertise to the blogging software platform. All you need is to be familiar with the platform and the language for the content.

HOW

Here I listed some of the entities that I found as the parameter for the good blog . I think it will certainly help to manage our contents in the blog and make it more effective.

  1. Good title: the main theme and the goal of the blog must be reflected by your title and its regarded to be short and simple to understand.
  2. Clear goal: what you want to deliver through the blog must be distinguished so that the reader could be interested to your content but the language and the pattern must be clear and concise.
  3. Divide the contents to the blocks: have to break your blog or article up into bites. If people see a lot of text without any sections, points, pull quotes, or other visual aids to break up the lengthy text, they tend to check out and move on.
  4. Keep suspense till the end: When reading a blog or article, most people make a decision in the first 1–2 sentences whether they will continue to read or not. Grab attention with your lead
  5. Remember Social media: Everything must be written with social media in mind. It’s helpful to include pull quotes that can be sent out through various social media channels as stand-alone pieces of content.
  6. Call readers to action: You always have to have a call to action. Every blog or article needs to have points that it makes, but without a call to action it cannot make a difference.
  7. Show and tell: Photos and images are key for the better representation of your content if available. Anytime you can add a photo, you increase readership. For example, on Facebook the photos are clicked on 10 times more than the statements, according to some reports.
  8. Be up to date and give up to date:

Why??

Blog is a great advocacy tool because it allows any individual with an Internet connection to launch a campaign for social change with a potentially global reach. It gives ordinary citizens incredible power to question authority, act as alternative sources of information, organize supporters, and lobby those in power.
Free and easy set-up is only one of the benefits of launching your cause on a blog. Blogs are also highly interactive. Each post, or article, has a section where site visitors can leave comments, allowing them to become a part of the site’s community and thus feel more engaged in your cause. In addition, blogs make it easy to work with multiple authors, allowing you to share the work of updating the blog. Finally, you can embed multimedia content – like photos, video, and audio – into your posts. This kind of eye-catching material is important to make the blog engaging and appealing to users.

Social change is at your finger tips

So Let’s talk as much as we can so that whole world could listen to our problems and know about our surroundings situation. Let’s start to BLOG FOR CAUSE.

 

Categories: Young People
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Valentine’s Day. People seem to have this belief that you need a special someone in your life to validate you with candy and heart shaped stuff or it makes you hyper aware that you are lonely and single.

As women, we are especially prone to thinking we are supposed to feel like we are crazy in love or bitter, while eating a carton of ice cream on our couch feeling sorry for ourselves.

I’m not sure where these expectations of ourselves have evolved from, but I’m here to tell you the best news!!!

Why not love yourself today???

Earlier today, I wrote on my Facebook, something personal:

“Last Valentine’s Day, I didn’t love myself at all. This year, I love myself almost too much!  <3 you Bree Bree!”

I think self-love is a beautiful thing. It’s taken me quite some time to realize that I’m awesome! Before, I felt really lonely, I was insecure, weak, doubtful of myself and my abilities and I absolutely hated looking in the mirror. I also relied heavily on someone else to tell me they loved me in order to feel worthwhile and validated.

Looking back at who I used to be and how I used to think of myself is not a great feeling, but I must acknowledge my old way of thinking in order to embrace my new, much happier thoughts!

These past few months, I have learned to be my own best friend, my own love and support system and to me, that’s the best gift I could give myself, ever! I don’t need to feel bad for being single. I surely don’t feel alone. Looking at myself and seeing how far I have succeeded in overcoming depression, self-hate, and sadness is so validating!!!

So, if you have a special partner or you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day, I highly encourage you to reflect on self-love. Treat yourself to something nice. Why rely on someone else to give you flowers and chocolate when you can do the same for yourself? Why should we feel bad about rewarding and loving who we are?

Love yourself this Valentine’s Day! As a matter of fact, make a vow to love yourself everyday after that, too!!!

As Rupaul always says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Can I seriously get an amen???

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a quote by Laurie Penny

“Almost every time I speak to teenagers, particularly young female students who want to talk to me about feminism, I find myself staggered by how much they have read, how creatively they think and how curiously bullshit-resistant they are. Because of the subjects I write about, I am often contacted by young people and I see it as a part of my job to reply to all of them – and doing so has confirmed a suspicions I’ve had for some time. I think that the generation about to hit adulthood is going to be rather brilliant.

(…)

Young people getting older is not, in itself, a fascinating new cultural trend. Nonetheless the encroaching adulthood and the people who grew up in a world where expanding technological access collided with the collapse of the neoliberal economic consensus is worth paying attention to. Because these kids are smart, cynical and resilient, and I don’t mind saying that they scare me a little.”

I thought this was a powerful statement about the thoughts and actions of young people.  It also brings to mind of Advocates for Youth’s three Rs: Rights, Respect, and Responsibility.

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Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Instead of writing statistical facts about HIV/AIDS in the Black community, I will share a personal story of overcoming my fear of getting tested.

I became sexually active during my junior year of college. I read everything I could about sex and contraceptives before my encounter with my first partner. The consequences of possibly getting pregnant, contracting an STI or HIV was a risk I definitely reduced by using condoms and birth control.

So why was I so fearful of getting tested for HIV several months later?

At this point, I was heavily involved in sexual health groups on campus and was a member of the great Young Women of Color Leadership Council (shameless plug). I was an educator, and an advocate for sexual health, but I couldn’t bring it to myself to commit to getting tested.

I felt like a hypocrite.

While promoting National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on campus three years ago, I told myself to stop living in fear and to get tested. I was nervous all day. I sat in class thinking all about my sexual health and history. Sure, I had been tested for STI’s like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis at my school’s health center, but I felt so sure that I couldn’t possibly be HIV positive…

And that’s where the issue lies. The idea that I was so sure, so confident, so affirming of my status, that I had delayed getting tested. In reality, I had no clue. I made myself believe that being HIV positive couldn’t happen to me!

Later that evening, I walked into the testing site and performed a rapid HIV test. Although it said rapid, it felt like forever to hear the results. The man I sat with was extremely consoling and helpful. We chatted about sexual health and the work we do in our communities. His passion and support helped me through the wait.

At last, I got my results. I was negative. A lot of things ran through my mind: relief, happiness, tears of joy, but also guilt.

I felt guilty that someone might go in there and not hear the same results I did. I also felt guilty that I spoke on such a mighty pedestal and pressured my peers to get tested for HIV when I was afraid myself.

The day I got tested was a learning lesson for me. As young people, we often feel that we are invincible. Regardless of my knowledge about sexual health, it’s my duty first to make sure that I know my status. I felt like I couldn’t get HIV, but in reality, it was a possibility.

Be confident in knowing your status through getting tested every 6 months. Do not hesitate to ask your partner if they’ve been tested either. DO NOT allow anyone to make you feel bad about questioning their sexual health history. Include condom use along with other forms of contraceptives.

I can confidently share this advice because I am following it myself.

It’s time for us to stop living in the unknown.

Peace and love,

Bree

 

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Piers Morgan continues to believe he’s in the right.  This is his response to Janet Mock’s calling him out for the way he sensationalized her story and experiences.

Instead of really discussing her lived reality as a woman of color, especially as a trans woman of color, he obsesses over her past relationships and anatomy.

He told her: “…you used to be yourself a man.”

The on-screen captions of the discussion is ridiculous.

From a Buzzfeed article, Janet Mock says:

“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she said. “They’re not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it’s just about this most sensationalized … meme of discussion of trans women’s lives: ‘We’re not real women, so therefore if we’re in relationships with men we’re deceiving them.’ So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women’s bodies and identities.”

The on-screen line that she “was a boy until age 18” reflected “bad judgment” and “reductive thinking about gender,” she said.

“What they’re saying is, ‘Only until I got the surgery, then I was a woman,’” she said.

But, she said, the interview — for better and worse — is part of want she chose to do by “going out of the bubble” and being public with her story.

“This is my first mainstream television show, was that moment, with Piers Morgan, and you see what they did to my story. Compared to a moment if I’m on Melissa Harris-Perry, which is slightly different, a more sensitive and safe space. But I go onto Piers Morgan, and all of my followers and everyone are like, ‘What is this?’” she said. But, she noted, “It’s also more representative of the ignorance that there is about trans people’s lives. We’re out of the safe bubble of social justice.”

On that same Buzzfeed article, you’ll see many of the responses Piers Morgan vomited on Twitter.

One example being: “As for all the enraged transgender supporters, look at how STUPID you’re being. I’m on your side, you dimwits. @janetmock

 

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Recently fans and non fans of MTV’s Teen Mom 2 show found out that one of the cast members, Jenelle Evan’s, had an abortion. There were many mixed reactions ranging from support to anything but support and everything in between. I applaud  Jenelle for being open and standing up for herself and her reproductive decisions. Jenelle maintains that she does not regret her abortion and feels it was the correct decision for her since she was in a ‘bad place’ when she was pregnant.

Jenelle has received/earned the title of Teen Mom 2’s most infamous mother for her less than perfect life decisions, and for better or for worse experiencing it all on film for the world to see. While some may say that Jenelle gives teen moms a “bad name” the truth of the matter is Jenelle’s struggles are ones that many pregnant and parenting people, not just teens, can relate to. From drug addiction, to abusive relationships, loosing custody/signing custody over of her child, life changing decisions, and arrest all the while trying to figure out who she is, what she wants, and how to successfully reign in all the roles in her life in a healthy way. The world and viewers should give Jenelle a lot more respect and humility.
The truth of the matter is many people go through these very same things everyday, they just do not have the platform she has for people to glare at and judge them. While questionable studies want to boast a possible correlated decline in teenage pregnancy because of exploitative MTV pregnant and parenting teen shows we should be focusing on the reality of the struggles presented within the shows that no only these young women are going through on camera but how it is a shared experience among many and how support, encouragement, and policy has yet to catch up to society. 

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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.

 

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Man On Campaign

We teach young men to be prepared, to be assertive, to choose their own destiny. And yet, too often when it comes to making decisions about their reproductive futures we haven’t delivered the message that they need to step up. When 38% of young men have a fatalistic view about contraception’s effect on fertility and pregnancy* or 53% are ambivalent about becoming a father*, it’s clear we haven’t told young men they can play an active role in determining when, how, or if they want to become fathers. (more…)

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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.

Adrian’s Story

Adrian NavaI 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.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett JimenezI 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.

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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!

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(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)

President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.

The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”

 

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Birth-control-advantages

Just recently, I made a trip to the gynecologist to get a refill of my preferred birth control. I have the privilege of having insurance that requires no copay for appointments as such, and I had the privilege of getting into this doctor’s office within a month of calling. For my low-income neighborhood (see: health disparities), that was pretty quick. I was hoping for a quick appointment as well – sit down, update the doctor, get my prescription, and be on my way.

I haven’t been to this doctor in almost a year, but she had performed a pap smear and pelvic exam last visit. I also had no real changes between then and now. An added tidbit of information, I also just got a pelvic exam in the emergency room three months ago (unrelated, was nothing serious). I let the nurse know this, and I also informed her that I haven’t had any symptoms or real trouble. The doctor comes in, talks to me for a bit, and then instructs me to strip. The dreaded pelvic exam. The dreaded pelvic exam that I had just three months ago. When I protested and asked why she was doing a pelvic exam, I was told it is required to prescribe birth control. However, I had just been to the health district where they prescribed me birth control without me even taking my clothes off. I’d also like to note that my gynecologist did not ONCE ask me if I was sexually active, had been having unprotected sex, or if I’d like to get tested for HIV/STI’s, while the health district spent a good amount of time making sure they were fully aware of all my risk factors, and I was aware of the resources available to me.

I am seventeen, was in the office without a parent, and I did as instructed, not that I had much opportunity to do anything else. While still in the office, I decided to Google if pelvic exams are really required for birth control, contrary to my previous experience at the health district, only to find a massive online community outraged at the unnecessary pelvic exams women across the country are being forced into if they want a birth control prescription. According to a 2010 study, 1/3rd of of doctors and advanced nurses required pelvic exams before they would administer or prescribe hormonal birth control. Regardless of the fact thatguidelinesstudies, and experts have stated that pelvic exams are unnecessary.

Unnecessary pelvic exams are hindering in so many different ways. If a woman goes into her gynecologist to try to get a birth control prescription and is met with the unexpected price of a pelvic exam (around $350 in my experiences), this can keep the woman from obtaining birth control. My vagina, my rules, right? The simplest saying that carries the most weight, right? The simplest saying that is often betrayed by health care providers, particularly in marginalized communities. Minority groups and marginalized communities will not always have the means to pay for a pelvic exam. This puts women at risk of unintended and teen pregnancy, a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color. People of color are more likely to live in poverty which results in a probability that they would not be able to afford an unnecessary pelvic exam just so they can get birth control.

When it comes to effective birth control, we must do everything in our power to make it as easily attainable as possible. The fact is, pelvic exams often scare the young women I have encountered out of going to their doctors for birth control. I am still shocked by the fact that my gynecologist required a pelvic exam when I had just been prescribed birth control via the health district with NO pelvic exam necessary. These are the barriers that stand in the way of our young women and their reproductive health and choice. Women that do want birth control are often afraid or unable to obtain it because of things like mandated pelvic exams that raise appointments costs exponentially and leave women feeling like they have no choice but to lay back and allow it. I couldn’t help but feel slightly violated after my gynecology appointment, but more than violated, I was angry. I am angry that other people with vaginas are being forced to have unnecessary, highly invasive, uncomfortable exams that they can’t afford just to exercise their right to obtain birth control.

As with any issue, we need to speak up, speak loud, and speak truth. My body is not something for private doctor offices to turn a profit on. My body is not a vessel for your unnecessary medical treatments performed in keeping with tradition. I refuse to be quiet about this. Birth control should be accessible to all, without fear. I am speaking out, and I am not speaking alone.

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When I’m in feminist/activist spaces I’m always hesitant to voice my concerns on discourses on and about white feminism and white-savior complexes. As a radical feminist (I’ve decided I’m beyond progressive), I think that sometimes these notions are not fully explored. As a woman of color, raised by women of color, white women always belonged in that social-worker box for me (trust there is no shortage of white women there). In college these women took on a different role, they were the “bearers of knowledge,” they were my professors. However, learning about and from white women played a crucial role in my educational attainment and the cultivation of the activist I have become. Don’t get it twisted for 2.0 seconds, I will call a white feminist on her power and privilege in a second, but I believe that in this movement there is more work to do. Yes this means work for us women of color, and I’m starting by acknowledging the roles that white women have played in my life good or bad.

In college I was a part of a program called the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP), which was the crucial to my success and graduation from Syracuse University. This program financed my education but also provided the social-emotional support fundamental to my survival in the institution. My academic counselor, Marian, provided this support. When I first met Marian, I did not completely understand how our relationship would work. For starters she was a white woman. Secondly, I was expected to meet with her frequently and talk about stuff. Again, I did not see how this was going to work. To my surprise, I would grow to love her, and love her hard. I recently had a conversation about “chosen families.” Basically they are families that you are not born into but ones that you create who love and accept you as if you were family. I’ve built a chosen family, not by choice but out of survival. Lately, I’ve been interrogating my support systems and how they have helped me healed. Today, I explored my chosen-mother, who ironically has the same first name as my biological mom who passed away when I was one. Her name is Marian, and she is not only a support but also an integral part of my activist work.

As I stated before, I initially wasn’t hip to this relationship. That would change. For a while I developed a color-blind ideology with Marian, not because I wanted to assume a level playing field, but it made it easier for me to love her. Institutionally and personally, white women had been connected too much of the pain that I experienced growing up, whether intentionally or by solely being ABSENT and a figment of my imagination. So if I could see this person that I had come to know and love as “just like me,” I would not have to acknowledge this trauma. But in the same ways I did not want to acknowledge these differences, Marian did. She didn’t do it in ways like my peers, unbeknownst of their privilege, but in ways that said “my whiteness has colored my experiences and those of my colleagues in a ways much different than yours and that I MUST acknowledge.”

I never felt compelled to teach her about my oppression although I often did…..

In academic/activist spaces many of us feel that we need to tell white folks the 411, and we have learned that this can lead to secondary trauma, serious burn-out and a path to no where. I re-learn this lesson everyday. However, I never felt that I needed to “put Marian on” to the daily wrath of oppression that I was experiencing. First,  she had heard it for years before I became her student and secondly her and other counselors made it their business to know about the challenges their students were facing. I was taken aback about the fact that Marian never used “disparity” language and flat out named the systems as they were: racist, sexist and classist. She also provided me with a space to be unrelenting and unapologetic about my past and present experiences. As a social worker in training, I can attest to the fact that I would lay on the biographical trauma that is my life real thick on a snowy Wednesday. She never silenced me and would even move her other appointments when I was in crisis.

She wasn’t interested in “saving me”….

As a white woman who is an academic counselor to “economically and academically” disadvantaged students it is easy to see how one could apply the white-savior trope to someone like her. Don’t, I’d straight up fight you. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from HEOP, was how to save myself. It was first by learning that it was not my fault! That because I did not look like 80% of the incoming class, did not mean I did not belong there. In fact, it was her pushing and believing in me when I felt I could not believe in myself. She always held me accountable for my actions. I did not feel accountable to her because she was my “academic counselor” or a person in power; it was because of her love and her belief in my talents that gave me no other choice. Imagine a world where love and solidarity, make us hold each other accountable.

 She understood that my education was more than coursework…

At some point in college I became a community activist and campus leader. These things became just as important as my Women’s Studies courses and my organic chemistry classes. At 19, a fellow classmate and myself, decided to build a grassroots organization for girls in Syracuse from the ground up. We had people that doubted us, one most embedded in my memory, a white woman in the community service field. Marian backed my project emotionally and financially. She connected me with community resources and found ways for me to use my education at Syracuse to support my social entrepreneurship. She helped me be the BOSS I was destined to be. She understood that the work I did on and off campus fed-me intellectually in ways that the classroom could not.

She pulled me by my the “bootstraps” til’ completion…

Lets be real…some of us do not make it unfortunately. Although I will have you know, HEOP students have a 6.5% higher graduation rate than the national average. There are a host of things that keep young people from completing their education. These include financial barriers, academic rigor, institutional and interpersonal oppression, and lack of support. I’d say while all are extremely important, it is almost impossible to get through college without support. For an orphan like me hailing from the then poverty stricken and violence-infested neighborhood of Bed-Stuy (now up & coming = read gentrifying) this could not be more true. However for me, the perils that would impede on my education became even more real while at college. In my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness,  that caused me to visit the hospital over 20+ times. As much as I want to stand on a soapbox and tell students with chronic illnesses that you can do it because I did, I know that I did not get through this by myself.  Without the unwavering support of friends, family, professors and Marian the completion of my degree would have not been fulfilled in the time it did. I say she pulled me by bootstraps, because it was just that. She pulled me by something I did not have, she pulled me from nothingness. She nursed me to back to emotional health when I had to accept taking an extra semester to finish what I had started. She forced me to put my pride aside, value my worth and be unapologetic about both my abilities and differently-abledness. She worked above and beyond her job description.

We all have different experiences, many of them traumatic; I try to stay away from twitter for that exact reason. But some of us have had positive experiences that may act as a glimmer of hope into a feminist future. I am a more fearless and unapologetic person because of her. When I am in a room of white women, I am unafraid. I hold white women accountable, because I know it is not impossible to be in solidarity with them, and even more to love them and them love me. In 2014, I am calling for a feminism that radically shifts the divisions and adjective-feminism (Transnational feminism, hip-hop feminism, Muslim feminism, etc.) that we know and embrace today. I am calling for the one that is affirming of our multiple identities, positions of power and experiences of oppression. I am calling for a feminism that allowed this Black girl from Bed-Stuy to learn to love a white woman, and call her my chosen-mother. However, this post isn’t about hope or solidarity, it is about my unwavering and unapologetic love for a woman, that because of all things wrong and oppressive in this world, I had to learn to love! And I do and will forever love her!

 

 

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Why 2014 Could Be A Huge Turning Point For Reproductive Rights

[Original image and post found on ThinkProgress, writer: Tara Culp-Ressler]

Roe v. Wade will mark its 41st birthday later this month, amid ever-increasing assaults on reproductive rights across the nation. According to the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, states have imposed a staggering 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013. That legislation has attacked access to abortion from all angles — targeting providers and clinics, driving up the cost of abortion for the women who need it, making women travel farther and wait longer to get medical care, and outright banning the procedure. Since 2000, the number of states that Guttmacher defines as being “hostile” to abortion rights has spiked from 13 to 27.

That’s left abortion rights advocates on the other side, working hard to stem the tide of anti-choice attacks. Constantly warding off restrictive legislation hasn’t left much space for proactive policies to expand women’s reproductive freedom, like expanding access to maternity care or making family planning services more accessible to low-income women. Most of the headlines about abortion issues are bleak.

But there may be a shift on the horizon.

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Happy New Year To All ! ^^

Well, it really is a blessing to be able to live within another year.  I have heard a lot of people saying that this year they will be different, or they’re on the journey of recreating themselves. All cliched statements, but hey, at least they have a resolution.

For me, I am entering the year blind. Sure, its mandatory to have certain goals to achieve, and many things to attain, but this year, its going  to be an adventure. No longer will I sit at 12am , on January 1st tallying false promises I know I will not keep.

This year I am going to :

– Be the real me…no longer confused or dictated by societal norms

-Be ruthless…going after what I want regardless of all the glitches, ditches, obstacles…yea and all those barriers

-Be mindful….I may not agree with a lot, but I will stand to respect what others believe suits them

– Think BIG ….2014 is a big picture year! Its time to rise out of my restricted thinking, and venture into new territory. (maybe even forbidden ones) .#NotTooWild :)

-Trust in God…as always this one always has to be apart of the whatever plans I have. Last year I faltered, but not this year.

 

Customarily, we reflect on what the previous year has done for us, and what we have done for ourselves in the previous year, but lets not sit and debate on the past. Lets move ahead, with new motivation, new goals, a new spirit, as 2014 calls for both internal and external innovation, tenacity, consciousness, and an excellent foresight.

Make It your Year. They said that with the New Year came a New Moon, lets Illuminate, Inspire and Shine within circles of darkness.

A blessed New Year to All.

Sashii. <3

Categories: Young People
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There’s much to learn from the inspired words of certain songs. The words contained in these powerful songs carry tremendous meaning. They are words that inspire, express, and challenge. There’s something special about a thought provoking message that you can hum along to, or in the case of Digable Planet’s “La Femme Fetal,” bob your head along to. I stumbled across this 90s era group not too long ago and instantly fell in love with their lyrical poetry that effortlessly wrapped itself around smooth and mellow beats. Out of the many songs of theirs that I quite enjoyed, “La Femme Fetal” especially struck a chord with me due to its enlightened lyrics. The song highlights several social issues, but focuses primarily on abortion. It tells the tale of a woman, pregnant and frightened by the hateful and judgmental antics of anti-abortion promoters, speaking to a trusted male confidant about her internal struggles with her decision to abort.

What I love about this song is his well-thought out response.  He points out some of the hypocrisy of the group that harasses her. Furthermore, he acknowledges the misogyny that taints much of this position against a woman’s right to choice. He supports his friend and her and her partner’s ability to realize that they are presently unable to provide for a child in a proper and ideal manner. Hearing these positions from a male’s point of view is quite refreshing and enjoyable. However, there is one line in particular in this song that I love. After he has given his friend his opinion, he tells her that “whatever you decide make that move with pride.”  Make that move with pride. I think this line is beautiful and is one to be promoted with the pro-choice and sexual health movement. Whatever it is that you decide to do with your body, make that move with pride. It is your body and your life, and nobody has the ability to know what is good for you like you do. So I give a head nod to Digable Planets and my fellow advocates and say, make that move with pride.

Categories: Young People
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The Righteous Retreat that was going to be held at Nottoway Plantation, a place full of triggering thoughts and connections to slavery used to host a feminist singer-songwriter event, was thankfully canceled by Ani DiFranco.  What has transpired this last few weeks was another display of racism from white feminists failing to check their privilege.  It was a clear obliviousness of the essential need for intersectionality.  Since the official announcement of the venue, justifiable outrage from women of color feminists were heard but were also dismissed with the usual claims that lacked understanding and critical thinking: “You’re perpetuating racism!/We can reclaim this piece of history!”  Women of color feminists, specifically black feminists and women, were told to “get over it. Slavery’s done with.”

The venue for the Righteous Retreat and Twitter gave birth to another great satirical hashtag, #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas, where many progressive individuals shared their witty and snarky jabs at such a clueless slip up.

Call outs were found in the comments of the Facebook event page, and as a response to the criticism, there was one person in particular named Mandi Harrington who took the extra step to maintain supremacy and dismiss the words of black women.  She created a black woman persona, stealing some black woman’s photo and created her own name to defend her comments.  But what she thought was a vernacular black women used was actually her own racist projections.

And what has been Ani Difranco’s response to all of this?  Well, it was certainly a long one–almost too long for what should have been a simple and succinct, “I’m sorry.  I messed up.”  What should have been an apology ended up being explanation without any responsibility or blame from her part and feeling more grieved by this lost opportunity rather than true empathy for those who have been truly hurt from this incident.  Her full explanation can be read here.

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After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act.  It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion.  This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans.  What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest.  And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.

The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay.  So, what’s to become of that 52%?  What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need?  We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people.  It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need.  It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.

Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this.  Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:

“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.

What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.

This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.

Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”

But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”

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Buffer zone laws are meant to serve the simple purpose of aiding legal protection to abortion access and vary state to state, even country to country. They are viewed as bordering provisions for anti-abortion speakers and protestors to not infringe on the safety and well-being of an abortion provider’s patients and staff. In a few weeks, the Massachusetts buffer zone law will be heard in the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists and abortion activists ready and waiting. Reporters have already covered both sides of the story, and everyone in the reproductive justice community in Massachusetts is keeping a close eye on this decision.

 

With the Supreme Court hearing on Jan. 15, I wonder how the verdict will turn out. While anti-abortion activists will claim freedom of speech and assembly, these freedoms are not justified with previous histories of aggression, violence, and libel nationwide.

For those who work at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, this decision hits close to home. Nearly two decades ago, a shooter entered a Planned Parenthood in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two people and wounded five others. As a result, Planned Parenthood moved to a new location, but the memory of those who died and were affected by this tragic incident sparked a movement to further protect staff and patients in abortion-providing settings.

Fast forward to 2013, and as I walk into Planned Parenthood for my internship, I see signs of defaced babies and crowds of people distributing anti-abortion material. The amount of anti-abortion activism varies, but it’s enough to know that the anti-abortion movement is strong in Massachusetts.

Let’s see what the new year brings.

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I did not envision myself to be someone who finds so much enjoyment out of preparing a homemade dinner for when a significant other comes home from work.  But more than that, I’m finding happiness with my cooking.  Part of my journey to reconnect with my culture is making the meals that are inspired by my ancestors.  It’s not enough to re-learn the language and symbols and meanings that were mostly erased in my assimilation to the white culture I sought because of internalized racism.  I want to know the taste of my parents’ country and history.

Tonight’s dinner is banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice crepes) with pan seared salmon, all lightly dressed with a homemade sweet soy sauce.

I originally posted this on my personal Tumblr blog: hannahology.

I’m contemplating doing a Vietnamese food blog as a way of recording my journey towards a reconnection with my culture.  For now, just re-learning everything I’ve lost is the main goal.  Positive and healing thoughts and actions with a yummy bonus.

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Things White Activists say to Activists of Color from thatangryblackgrrrl on Vimeo.

We are People of Color. We didn’t choose to be, but we love our cultures. Because of our skin, we have added struggles. In our safe spaces, we have every right to feel welcomed and not tokenized, harassed or ignored. We ask for you to listen to us when we speak about racism because we are being effected by it daily. This video is a compilation of things actually said to POC involved in activism and social justice.

We want to be heard, listen to us.