Author Archives: lhellerstrom

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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.

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine

The Hillary Project, Moonwalking in Pink and a Lemon Heroine. This is your Spark News Digest.

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Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Vivienne Harr, Make A Stand, Lemon-Aid

 ENTREPRENEURSHIP: When life give you lemons, start a social enterprise. 

9 year-old philanthropist Vivienne Harr, founder of Start A Lemon-Aid Stand, doesn’t wait for summer to change the world. 365 days a year she sits curbside, selling lemonade to raise money to abolish child slavery. In just 6 months of operation, she raised over $100,000. This year she registered as a B Corp.

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U.S POLITICS: Violence gets political

“The Hillary Project”, a new animated game goading the player to slap the former Secretary of State, is a bad joke – funded by a conservative Super Pac. It also reflects a bigger issue concerning the justification of violence against women. Violence against women is no laughing matter.

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WOMENS RIGHTS: Gender Equality – the cheapest, fastest way to get food on the table

What’s the most cost-effective way to combat hunger? Gender Equality. Women play a big role in food production and small-scale farming around the world. When obstacles like gender discriminatory land and labor laws make it harder for women to farm, it impacts food security. Equal opportunity will end hunger.

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BUSINESS: Moonwalking in heels – “Mars Explorer Barbie”

Still pink. Still disproportionate. Check out NASA’s Barbie.

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GLOBAL: The “Virginity Institute” upholding the purity myth in Georgia  

Recent human rights report reveals that Georgia’s National Forensics Bureau performs as many as 200 “virginity inspections” a year. While some are used for evidence in rape and abuse cases, many families will paid up to $200 for receive a certificate confirming their daughter’s “purity”. Protesters using social media and the streets are demanding the government to end the archaic practice. In response, a member of Georgia’s gender-equality council stated, “If there’s a demand for this service, the government can’t forbid it”. 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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