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SparkSF Fellow Profile: Linn Hellerstrom

 Linn Hellerstrom is an undergraduate Political SparkSF Fellow profile Linn HellerstromScience student with a passion for women’s rights and representation in policy. She co-created a sexual and reproductive rights advocacy group on campus, as well as, a network for young women interesting in politics.

In addition to her studies, Linn is a Spark Fellow. When not working or studying, Linn loves leaving the city for epic hikes, eating her way through food-bloggers favorite restaurants, and writing. 

Linn’s Spark Story:

When moving to San Francisco, I searched for organizations supporting women’s rights. It didn’t take long to find Spark. I instantly felt like it was the perfect fit. Six months in, being a Spark Fellow has been simply amazing. Meeting the fantastic network of passionate members, getting insight into the work Spark is doing for thousands of women globally, and feeling the power of change that collective passion can create.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Roots of Health. Based in the Philippines, this amazing organization provides clinical services and sexual education to young people in one of the poorest provinces of the country.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Arriving at the airport on the way to start a fun trip. The feeling of happiness and excitement of not knowing what adventures lie ahead of you.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Being able to learn a new language in a week. I love languages but lack the patience to learn them.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Outgoingness. I love making new connections and going after amazing opportunities that lay before me.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The President of the European Council. Or if that doesn’t work out– a lazy cat.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Making other people laugh and feel comfortable.

What is your favorite journey?
Without doubt, my solo around- the- world trip a couple of years ago. Traveling independently for seven months allowed me to discover so many extraordinary places and meet amazing, inspiring people, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Strong women, dedicated to real change-making power.

Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers

Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers.  This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Ellen Tejle

ENTERTAIMENT: Rating Feminism

Move over Rotten Tomatoes. Last week, Swedish movie theaters started a new rating system for films. Does the movie have at least two female characters? Is there at least one scene where women discuss something other than a man? If yes, congrats! You get an A. The goal of the rating system is to encourage more multi-dimensional female characters in film.

READ THE STORY 

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GLOBAL: British emergency funding helping women and girls

We’ve seen it in Syria, Haiti, and now, in The Philippines. In countries in crisis, women and girls are disproportionately impacted. Gender-based violence increases dramatically. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has recently announced a £21.6 million in funding for protection and support of women and girls in crisis.  The project will fund simple investments that reduce the risk of violence against women.

READ THE STORY

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WOMENS RIGHTS: Let Girls Lead

Puberty is tough enough. Going to school often means dealing with sexual advances and peer pressure. Let Girls Lead started a video contest as a part of their global movement to encourage girls to lead social change. The contest allows girls to share their own stories around solutions and successes. The winners get to be the next Sofia Coppola, creating their own short films.

READ THE STORY 

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BUSINESS: Modern-Day Chastity Belt

Will a pair of anti-rape underwear provide security when we are “putting ourselves in potential risky situations”? The NY based company AR Wear created lockable shorts that aim to prevent rapes from completion. Successful or not, the product sparks controversy. Is this just another way of teaching women how not to get raped versus addressing the root issue?

READ THE STORY 

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TECHNOLOGY:  The Dark Side of Google Search

Type in the word “feminism” or “feminist” into Google. Watch the auto-complete results. Shocking? Here´s PolicyMic´s version of the results, together with the faces of the women that won´t accept it.

READ THE STORY 

5 Reasons To Be Grateful

5 reasons for being grateful

Authored By Spark Member: Larkin Callaghan

With the onslaught of Christmas carols, blowout sales on every corner, and impending sense of personal debt, all the telltale signs are here – the holidays have arrived. So, how do you stay sane during times of consumer craziness? One of the best ways to counter the ‘buy buy buy’ mentality is to focus on how grateful we are for what we already have. And with Thanksgiving coming up in just over a week, this is the perfect time for us to reflect on some of those things we can be grateful for:

1) Community – I know, I know. This is pretty par for the course around the Thanksgiving-gratitude-roundtable. But a strong community is what started Spark and communities dedicated to their development and growth are what Spark supports – creating one global community of folks constantly on the lookout for one another. We can be grateful that we live in a space that allows us to facilitate the work we love and are dedicated to.

2) Freedom to move beyond boundaries – the holidays are often when we regroup with our families and friends – which usually means getting on planes, getting in cars, and climbing onto trains. Sometimes prohibitive cost prevents this – but usually infrastructure, political and social instability and unrest, or in the currently devastating case of the Philippines, natural disasters, are not preventing this – as is the case for many of the organizations that we at Spark support.

3) Innovation – Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to take advantage of the remarkable developments being made in technology – and they certainly aren’t perfect (oh, the Facebook mistakes we’ve all made…). But the incredible gains that have been made in the global development space due to innovation in the last decade especially can’t be understated – everything from being able to support a microloan to the exact person or organization that speaks to you the most, to sharing news and updates via social media, to being able to facilitate healthcare in resource-poor settings thanks to mobile tech, to creating political movements via Twitter – to being able to become a member of democratic organizations like Spark with a few clicks of a keyboard! – it’s pretty amazing what’s happened and we’re pretty grateful for it.

4) Social movements work – Spark members know this already, but last year, when a collected effort was made to encourage folks around the country to participate in Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Black Friday, dedicated to giving back to non-profit and charitable organizations), over 50 million people pushed the agenda of charitable giving – resulting in millions of dollars of donations to non-profit organizations. So we’re thankful you’re involved.

5) Science backs up the importance of gratitudestudies have shown that being thankful and expressing it leads to a happier and healthier you – being thankful for how gratitude improves our well-being is a little meta, but we like it!

This year, Giving Tuesday is December 3, 2013 – and it’s a great way to give back after the onslaught of Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchasing craziness! A day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating non-profit and charitable organizations, Giving Tuesday allows you to show your thanks to Spark and other groups that work to serve vulnerable populations all over the globe – those who may not have the same resources we’re so lucky to have. Make a contribution of your own, or gift one for someone else – a Spark membership makes a great holiday present!

SparkSF Member Profile: Toni Alejandria

Toni Alejandria works as the website coordinator for the California Institute of Integral Studies and consults in design, marketing, and event planning for start-ups. She majored in Dance and Global and International Studies at UC Davis. In her free time, you can find Toni doing dance performances and fundraising for causes. She is a campaign manager for HackCancer and a Champion mentor for Groundwork Opportunities. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, flying planes, and Bear Grylls.SparkSF Member: Toni Alejandira

Toni’s Spark Story:
One of my friends introduced me to Spark and was convinced I would fall in love with the organization. After attending my first Spark mixer, she was right. It’s amazing connecting with so many people who have a passion for empowering women and supporting women’s initiatives around the world. I’m always impressed with the Spark members I meet and love being involved with their fundraising and event efforts.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, an organization that provides clean water training to women in rural communities of Uganda.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Traveling around the world photographing people and collecting art.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Flying planes. (It’s on my bucket list.)

What is your most marked characteristic?
Making friends wherever I go. It’s no secret, I love meeting people!

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The female equivalent of Bear Grylls.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Ability to hold a conversation with a complete stranger.

What is your favorite journey?
Giving up everything to do an apprenticeship with a famous dance company in Israel. I never made it out there due to an injury, but during physical therapy, I learned so much about perseverance, dedication, and faith. It was the hardest year I’ve ever experienced, but I came out stronger is so many ways. That experience alone changed the course of my life and set me on the journey to where I am today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Sheryl Sandberg, Lisa Bevere, Scott Harrison, and Bartlomiej Jan Skorupa.

Five Ways to Integrate Your Passion into Your Work and Social Life

The development and non-profit space can be hard to navigate. If you’re trying to jump in without much experience, it can be overwhelming; if you’re anything like Spark’s member base, you’re also probably pretty busy. So we’re ready to help you figure out how to integrate your passion for a cause into your work and social life.

Without further ado, here are five ways you can blend your desire for impact with how you get your paycheck and how you socialize:

1)    Run for it!

Or eat for it. Many non-profits, social service organizations, and philanthropic groups would love to have you fundraise for them through something like a marathon, a triathlon, or, if running yourself ragged through exercise isn’t your thing, dining for dollars. Examples? Spark Board member Jenn Wilcox signed up for the NYC Marathon last fall as a Sole Mate for Girls on the Run, a great non-profit cultivating physical, emotional and social health for girls. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation hosts Dining Out For Life every year, in which 25% of gross sales from participating restaurants go to SFAF’s programs. So, get moving or get chowing.

2)    Read, Listen, Meet.

Commit to a once a month lecture/presentation/book club/meeting that addresses your area of philanthropic interest. The Bay Area is home to a lot of great organizations. Interested in international affairs? Grab a buddy and head to one of the World Affairs Council’s lectures. Want to talk about emerging grassroots organizations dedicated to gender equity? Come to Spark’s next Investment Committee meeting. Are you a big politico? Join the SF Young Democrats or Young Republicans (non-partisan? Start your own group!), and head to their happy hours, meet and greets, and politician profile breakdowns.

3)    Work for a big company? Look into its corporate social responsibility and/or matching program.

Many companies have a corporate social responsibility program that works to ensure its mission and practices don’t harm and actually benefit the communities it impacts. There are often ways for employees to get involved in CSR programs and even make recommendations. Bigger corporations also often have corporate matching – you tell them you made a donation to a group you feel really passionate about and they match you dollar for dollar. Check with your HR reps and see if your work digs offer this great benefit.

4)    Change Roles.

Maybe you’re tired of working for that big company and ready to make a change. Want to be working in the development or philanthropic space? Look for the person who has the career you want and find out how they got there. One way to make a transition into a career that may be very different than the one you are currently in is to show how invested you are in your burgeoning field of interests regardless of your current position. Volunteer your time meaningfully by joining organizations and committees (like the IC at Spark!), working your way up to leadership roles in those spaces, that give you a better understanding of the development and philanthropic landscape and expose you to people who already do this full-time who can help guide your way.

5)    Party.

Yep, it can be that easy. Where should you party? The Black and Pink bash, of course, where 100% of proceeds benefit Spark’s amazing grantees! Buy your tickets today before the prices go up on Thursday!

Water Empowering Women

Uganda Women's Water Initiative

Post Authored By: Spark Fellow, Linn Hellerstrom

In the district of Gomba in Uganda, access to water is a human rights crisis. Only 58% of residents have access to toilets. Securing clean drinking water is a daily struggle. 50 children, under the age of five die every month as a result of this problematic issue. The Uganda Women’s Water Initiative (UWWI) is standing in front of a big challenge. Spark is honored to partner with these brave women to reverse this crisis.

Mukasa Hajra founded UWWI in 2012. She was inspired by the success of an international NGOs progress in the region. The Global Women’s Water Initiative’s work with “WASH” services (water, sanitation and health) compelled Mukasa to start her own health collaborative. WASH provides women with knowledge and tools to address water sanitation in their own communities. Mukasa wanted to expand their work in Gomba. Thus, UWWI was created.

UWWI provides solutions for water and sanitation problems using locally available materials and technologies. Theirs is a sustainable solution for their women participants and the communities they serve. Not only are they helping villages access clean drinking water, UWWI is also a way for women to earn a living. Training is given in engineering sanitation technologies, as well as the making of brickets and kitchen gardens. The women are then able to trade the goods and services on a market and enabling greater financial independence.

A big part of what makes UWWI such an impressive organization is their scale of impact. Since last year, over 35,000 people have benefited from UWWI’s education and clean water campaigns. Their mission is to more then double their outreach by 2015.

With a grant from Spark, UWWI will work to increase the amount of safe drinking water through the construction of bio-sand filters and water tanks and toilets. We are excited to follow this work and development of Uganda Women’s Water Initiative’s over the coming year.

Talk it out, Brit Love Fest & Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg

Talk it out, Brit Love Fest & Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg . This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Roya Mahboob Afghan Citadel Software Co

ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Afghanistan’s Sheryl Sandberg

Roya Mahboob, Afghan tech entrepreneur, is shattering the concrete ceiling. Her company, Afghan Citadel Software Co., has become the foundation for social change. In a country, where women’s literacy hovers at 15%, this business leader is using her acumen to change the state of education in her country. You can see why Time Magazine calls her one of their 100 Most Influential People.

Read The Full Story

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POLITICS: Love is legal in England and Wales

The royal baby isn’t the only thing to celebrate. Same-sex couples will be able to get married in England and Wales after a new measure became law. Tally Ho!

Read The Full Story

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U.S NEWS:  Violation of women’s rights within prison walls

Shockingly, 150 female inmates were sterilized in California prisons between 2006 to 2010. Hundreds more have been sterilized since 2000. This outrageous act is an unwanted reminder of the 70’s brutally forced sterilizations.

Read The Full Story

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POLITICS: Q: What do Boris Johnson and the Princeton Mom have in common?

A: Both are sexist and ridiculous. First, the Princeton Mom pens an open letter about the importance of finding a husband during college, then, Boris Johnson makes the same irresponsible suggestion. Boris and the Princeton mom should be sent to the Principle’s office to think about their comments.

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GLOBAL:  Communication Never Gets Old

Let’s talk it out. In deeply rooted cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), change making is difficult. When determined to do something about the widespread problem, a pro-women group in an Ethiopian village made remarkable achievements. Read about how their strategy of  “community conversations” led to effectively ending female genital cutting in their home village.

 Read the full story 

Spark’s News Digest

The coolness of coding, using contraceptives and men leaning in. This is your Spark news digest.

Read, discuss and SHARE. 

BUSINESS: Opening a Gateway for Girls to Enter the Computer Field

BUSINESSOpening a Gateway for Girls to Enter the Computer Field

The secret’s out, coding is cool. Women earn just 12% of computer science degrees and that needs to change. Girls Who Code and other similarly focused organizations are aiming to increase the amount of girls in tech. These groups open up the gateway for young women by teaching them how to code at a young age.

Read the full story

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WORLD REPORT: Contraception is good for the economy, everything else

Janet Jackson is not the only one who thinks control is a positive thing. A new study finds that giving women access to control their own fertility is a really good thing for themselves, their relationships and the economic state of the world.

Read the full story

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BUSINESS: Career Advice from Sheryl Sandberg and Amex CEO Chenault

Work place dilemma’s are not just when someone takes your stapler. 64% of men are afraid to be in a room alone with a female employee. In this video, Amex CEO and Sheryl Sandberg discuss creating informal mentoring programs for male bosses and female employees without feelings of discomfort.

Read the full story

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GLOBAL: In country of sustained conflict, two DRC women work toward peace

Spark member’s don’t just show up, they create change. Spark’s own Larkin Callaghan authored a piece about gender justice in the DRC.

Read the full story

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GLOBAL: Malawi’s Leader Makes Safe Childbirth Her Mission

1 out of every 36 women are at risk of dying from childbirth in Malawi. Joyce Banda, the country’s new president is out to change that. Despite a national ban on childbirth at home, most Malawians ignore it in favor of customs that have governed their lives for as long as they can remember. In order to shift the norms, Banda is working with the real power brokers of Malawi, the 20,000 village chiefs, explaining the dangers of home births while still respecting tribal traditions.

Read the full story

Celebrating Women’s History Month. Spark’s News Digest

The Day, Month, and Year of Women: Spark’s News Digest

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“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” - Gloria Steinem

Celebrate International Women's Day

March – Women’s History Month – is a our favorite time of year. It’s a time to reflect, celebrate, and move.

Over the past century, we have seen great strides in the advancement of women’s human rights.  Women are chefs and CEOs, educators and engineers, Prime Ministers and mothers. Women have more choices than ever before.  While there is still work to be done to close the equality gap, this news digest is dedicated to our movement leaders. Thank you for getting us this far. We are ready to work with you to carry us the distance.

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UNITED STATES: House Passes Violence Agaisnt Women Act 

The House approved the expanded Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act last week. Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized since, the Act provides support for organizations that serve survivors of domestic violence. The new version increases protections of particular at-risk groups — Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

Read the full story

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GLOBAL: Join Spark in asking the UN to End Rape Now

As tens of thousands took to the streets across India to express outrage over the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, smaller protests were held in Ohio to condemn the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, allegedly by members of small town’s beloved high school football players. Millions of women are not safe in their homes, on the streets, or the workplace. We must speak out.

Spark’s partner The Global Fund for Women along with partners in India, and activists around the globe are demanding the United Nations pressure world leaders to make ending sexual violence a top priority. Join us.

Sign the petition

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MEDIA: Makers: Women Who Make America

Did you know the single greatest impact of Title 9 is not on sports fields but in our medical and law school classrooms? We didn’t until we watched Makers. This documentary shares the story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history. Women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to Congress. Makers captures the memories and emotion of a movement that changed America forever. 

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INTERNATIONAL: Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor Proves Critics Wrong

The first female mayor of Nili, Azra Jafari, has been nicknamed “Mr. Mayor” by her community. At the start of her term, she received threats from a high powered mullah who later thanked her for all the work she’d done for the community.  This nickname is a sign of respect. As Afghanistan’s first and only women mayor, Jafari is determined to continue changing attitudes towards women while improving the quality of life for all in Nili.

Read the full story

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP: A Titan’s How To On Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is launching a book called “Lean In,” about women finding themselves at work. In her book, Sandberg argues that women are sabotaging themselves in the workplace; “we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she writes, and the result is that “men still run the world.” She hopes the book will spur the creation of “Lean In” conscious-raising groups where women use self-awareness exercises to increase their confidence in the workplace.

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Millennials, Women, and Impact: Spark News Digest

Next gen donors, a girl’s battle at home, and contraceptive prowess. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

Next Generation Donors

PHILANTHROPY: Next Generation Donors And Their Plan For Greater Impact

Next generation donors, Gen Xers and Millennials are shaking up the state of philanthropy. A new report on our understudied generation states that next generation donors  “perceive their parents and grandparents as driven by obligation, recognition, and tradition, [and] they see themselves as driven by strategy and impact.” Once criticized for being cynical and entitled, next generation donors are proving their worth by pushing philanthropic strategy to be more effective.

Read the full story

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INTERNATIONAL: Girl Soldiers Face Tougher Battle On Return To Civilian Life

40% of child soldiers around the world are girls, and while programs are in place to help soldiers reintegrate into society, these programs are not addressing the needs of girl soldiers. This articles discusses the alarmingly low enrollment rate of girls into disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programs.

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EDUCATION: Women – The World’s Best Investment

Who runs the world…GIRLS! Although research links the success of women with increased GDP,  women in developing nations face limited access to education and economic advancement. Programs’s like Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) help narrow this gap by teaching women factory workers in developing countries technical and life skills.

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INTERNATIONAL: Justice Is Blind, But Not In The Case of Gender Violence

Famous South African paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Similar to the gang-rape in India, this case has rightly attracted massive public attention and may be a catalyst for fighting violence against women in South Africa.

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GLOBAL: Sexularism and The Female Body

Should there be compromises in contraceptive governess? In her opinion piece, feminine theorist, Zillah Eisentein discusses the blurred lines between public and private; political and religion; church and state; and secular and religious divides and what we can do as a worldwide community to stand for a women’s rights to her own body.

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