Category Archives: Human Rights

Spark News Digest: Millennials, Politics, & The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad

Obama on the State of Women, The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad, A Historic Defense Bill and Millennial Voices in Politics. This is your Spark News Digest.

By Spark Fellow: Stefanie Lee

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GENDER EQUALITY: #UnitedStateofWomen. Today, we will change tomorrow

The first ever United State of Women Summit was a huge celebration of the progress that women have made and the collective focus towards the future, together to achieve true gender equality. “It’s really encouraging to hear young women find their voice and be able to advocate for themselves knowing that they’re not alone.” – Valerie Jarrett. During the summit, POTUS highlighted authors of our history, women who shaped their destiny, VP Joe Biden spoke about his proud accomplishment, writing the Violence Against Women Act and Michelle Obama & Opera Winfrey shared the progress they’ve seen women achieve and encouragement to young women to take action so that that progress continues for generations to come.

WATCH THE VIDEOS:
POTUS
VICE PRESIDENT – JOE BIDEN
FLOTUS & OPERA WINFREY

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WOMEN’S HEALTH: The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad

Staggering statistics in India show millions of women still don’t use sanitary napkins out of ignorance and poverty. Nearly 70% of Indian women use old rags, increasing the risk of reproductive diseases. And, it is not just Indian women who believe that periods are a taboo subject, but most Indian men find buying sanitary napkins more embarrassing than buying condoms. Despite these taboos, there are a handful of men who are committed to fighting these stereotypes and working to improve the menstrual hygiene in India. “I became the man who wore a sanitary pad” – Arunachalam Muruganantham. Kudos to these men for standing up for girls. Find out why these men are norm shifting

READ THE STORY

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GENDER EQUALITY – Women Required to Register for the Draft

The Senate made history on June 14th by passing a $602 billion defense bill that crucially includes an amendment requiring women to register for the draft. “Whether in this debate or through the courts. It just seems that now that you have women allowed to serve in any position in the military, there is no logical basis to say women should not be drafted.” – Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University’s School of International Service. This article shares perspectives from both military representatives and politicians on the bill and the future of women in the military.

READ THE STORY

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POLITICS: Millennials & Women During An Election Year

This year, the Millennial Impact Report is focusing on how millennials’ behaviors may change during an election year. Some of the noteworthy trends listed in the report were: millennials are most interested in education, healthcare and the economy, they only somewhat believe that they are activists, and most millennials believe people like them can have an impact in the U.S. “It is likely that during an election year, causes and organizations that are politically aligned or part of a candidate’s agenda could see an increase in participation from this generation.” There’s a natural opportunity for companies to build momentum towards the November elections by promoting corporate volunteering to continue to engage Millennial employees. In addition to the impact that millennials are having from a political perspective, women are also making strides in changing the countries’ political landscape, from their stance on women’s rights and consideration of public opinion.

READ THE STORIES
Huffington Post – Millennial Report
Women in Politics

 

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Spotlight on Caitlin Heising, Honorary Host of Spark’s Black & Pink Ball

Spark loves Millennials who are committed to philanthropy and actively making our world a more just and equitable place for all. Black & Pink Ball Honorary Host and Spark Member, Caitlin Heising epitomizes our ideals. Caitlin is actively committed to engaging young people in human rights and empowering women and girls. As an inspiration to us and the next generation of philanthropists, we wanted to learn more. We sat down with Caitlin to learn more about her journey and passions including starting the Young Professionals Network of Human Rights Watch, joining the board of her family’s foundation, and learning to fly.

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Caitlin Heising – Honorary Host of Spark’s 10th Anniversary Black & Pink Ball

What has led you on this journey of philanthropy and social impact? 

Growing up, I watched my mom spend time volunteering in my school and tutoring underserved children in our community. During high school and college, I also tutored and mentored children from refugee families who had recently resettled in the U.S. Meeting them and hearing their stories made the problems and conflicts I’d learn about in class seem much more real and human. In college, I tried to understand how best to empower (as opposed to simply aid) individuals and communities who had been dealt an unfair hand in the world. Also around that time, my parents started our family’s foundation, which intrigued me from the start. I knew one day I would want to be deeply involved in philanthropy and social impact because I could see the improvements it was making in our community at home. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to deepen our impact by exploring different strategies, including funding national policy work, and that’s the other element of this work that I love – you can always do and give better, and there is always more to learn.

Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to join the board of your family’s foundation (The Heising-Simons Foundation) and learn about philanthropy?

After working for a couple years in tech PR and corporate communications consulting, I felt like I had learned a lot and wanted to pivot to a career with more social impact. I had the opportunity to join the board of the foundation and build out grantmaking focused on human rights, and the timing felt right. I know I’m still young, but I also know it’s never too early to be making an impact on the world, and I felt like working with the foundation was my best opportunity to do that. It’s also been great to spend more time with my parents (who I have to say are awesome) and learn more about their values and vision for the future.

What causes are you most passionate about and why?

I’m passionate about human rights, especially here in the U.S. According to a national study, the average American citizen, journalist and politician is unaware that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists. The language of human rights simply isn’t widely known in our mainstream culture. We’re seeing the effects of this apathy and long-standing systemic inequities dangerously play out all the time lately with racial profiling, police misconduct, and other violent and unjust acts making front-page news every week. And with more than two million people in prisons and jails, the U.S. has the most imprisoned people in the world. As a country that espouses freedom and human rights internationally, we have the power to influence policies in other countries as well. For the U.S. to truly assume the mantle of human rights leadership, however, we will have to practice more thoroughly at home what we preach abroad.

I’m also passionate about empowering women and girls around the world. It’s scary to think about how much still needs to be done to improve health, education, and economic opportunities for women and girls, but it’s clear that these types of investments go a long way in improving lives and communities.

Tell us more about the Human Rights Watch Young Professionals Network you launched in March?  

My friend (and fellow Spark member) Erika Gomez and I started the group to support Human Rights Watch and engage young people in human rights. We’re now a dedicated group of volunteers in the Bay Area who support HRW through outreach, advocacy, and fundraising. We work to promote awareness of human rights issues through public education events and strategic advocacy campaigns, and also nurture the next generation of philanthropists by hosting events to generate support for the organization and its mission. We’re having our inaugural art auction and cocktail party, called A Night for Human Rights, on October 16th in San Francisco – you should come!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d like for us to be continuing the human rights grantmaking at the foundation and I’d like to have completed an MBA program focused on social impact. I’d also like to be in a position to advise other young people and families on next gen and human rights-based philanthropy. I’m a California girl at heart, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was still living in the Bay Area.

What advice do you have for other millennials interested in making social impact? 

Firstly, I’d commend their interest and passion! Then I would say to take time to reflect on your goals and study the issue you want to change. Meet everyone you can who is also working on that problem – including, most importantly, the people who are directly affected by it. There are a lot of trends and “shiny new things” vying for attention in the social sector. The challenge can be figuring out which approaches will have deep, lasting impact and which will only skim the surface.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?

Flying!

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?

Sense of humor and humility.

What is your favorite journey?

 This is a tough one. I love going to new places. Most recently I went to the fjords in Norway, which was absolutely beautiful. I also am nostalgic and love the drive to Tahoe for Christmas, which for many years we celebrated in my grandparents’ cabin in the woods.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’m lucky to have three amazing grandmothers who are each very different, but all share the qualities of poise, purpose, and passion. For that and more, I aspire to live a life full of love and adventure like they have.

Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.

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Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

#PinTheCreep: India Combats Street Harassment with Technology

New Grantee: Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation)

By Spark Member Crystal Huber 

848 women are harassed, raped or killed in India every day. Women’s rights have been heavily debated in the past few years and Navi Pillay, UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, called upon India to make a profound change to end violence against women.

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That’s exactly what Spark’s newest grantee, Safecity (under Red Dot Foundation), and its co-founders are aiming to do: empower girls and women to break their silence and take a stand for their personal safety by using data and technology to make public spaces safer and more accessible. Safecity is a platform to document personal experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. The crowdsourced reports are aggregated on Google Maps to show trends that prioritize locations where action needs to taken: increase community awareness, engage with local government and change infrastructure including installation of streetlights at crime-ridden intersections or modification of police patrol hours to increase presence during high-crime times. Since Dec 2012, Safecity has collected over 4,000 reports in 50 cities in India and Nepal, and educated over 1,500 people spanning the ages of 9 to 60 years of age. Safecity’s co-founders ElsaMarie, Saloni and Surya compose a dynamic, qualified and balanced team. They are launching this social change that will impact policy, infrastructure and gender equality. Safecity Safecity helps females break the silence. But the organization is doing so much more. They are engaging local communities and educating the next generation about equality and human rights. Safecity is also including men in this conversation, using easily accessible technology (Tweet #pinthecreep) and eliminating the vulnerability of allowing women’s voices to be heard by shifting the focus from the individual to the local level. A Spark grant will cover:

  • 500 children, 500 youth and 500 parents to be educated on issues of sexual harassment through approximately 60 workshops of 25 participants. Each workshop costs under $90 including materials, printing and trainer allowance. The programming has been collaborative and validated with the help of US- and India-based organizations with counselors trained through the UN’s Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre.

Pro bono needs:

  • Graphic design / Data visualization: represent the data in a more appealing and usable way. Create info graphics.
  • Data analysis: build tools to analyze the qualitative data.
  • Strategy: understand what other layers of data to add and how to reach as many people as possible.
  • Marketing support: create awareness about Safecity to the right audiences.

Email programs@sparksf.org for specific details on these opportunities. We are impressed by Safecity’s efforts but are even more enthusiastic about the deep-rooted changes this organization will make at a local and national level. The team at Safecity has embraced technology to fight a social change that we hope you’ll join too. If you are inspired by these efforts, you can help in several ways. You can support Spark’s fundraising efforts for Safecity by donating here. You can also spread the word about what a fantastic organization Safecity on social media. For more information about Safecity, visit: safecity.in.

Why Smart Girls are Scary, The Confidence Gap, and Abortion Debates Heat Up

Nicholas Kristof weighs in on why terrorists fear smart girls, Europe and Chile spark new abortion law debates, girls take change into their own hands in Guatemala, why “leaning in” isn’t enough, and the realities of American life for low-income mothers. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

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GLOBAL EDUCATION: What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?

As the devastating abduction of over 200 Nigerian school girls continues to make international headlines, the biggest question is why innocent girls were targeted by extremist terrorists. New York Times journalist and human rights advocate Nicholas Kristof weighs in: they did not target army barracks, police or drone bases because their worst nightmare is actually educated girls – the most powerful, burgeoning force to transform society.

READ THE STORY

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GLOBAL HEALTH: Abortion Law Debates Heat Up

The reproductive rights war wages on around the world. A religious-backed campaign threatens the use of European aid money to back any programs supporting abortion.

READ THE STORY

Meanwhile in South America, reproductive rights are moving forward. In Chile, the ban on abortion – even when a woman’s life is at risk – will soon be reconsidered.

READ THE STORY

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WORKPLACE RIGHTS: Leaning In with Nothing to Lean On

Much like the “quit telling women to smile” campaign, The Shriver Report author Valerie Young is saying, “quit telling women low self-confidence is all that’s holding them back.” With the recent publication of The Confidence Code, following up on the basic principles of Lean In that women are holding themselves back by not going for a promotion or raise as many men do, there’s been a lot of talk about where to draw the line. How much women are holding themselves back vs. how much needs to be changed in the workplace to meet hard-working women part-way?

READ THE STORY

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ECONOMY: The State of Low-Income Mothers in the U.S.

Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs around, but what does that really mean for low-income families? The National Women’s Law Center takes a look via an interactive map at the realities for mothers in the U.S. working in low-wage jobs.

READ THE STORY

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FILM: Storytelling Power!

Recently premiered docu-drama “¡PODER!”  shows how two Guatemalan girls take power into their own hands to find creative ways of change in their own communities. Get an inside look at the creation of this innovative short film and the amazing nonprofit organizations behind it.

READ THE STORY

New Grantee: The Guerreiras Project

The Guerreiras Project: Moving Bodies, Moving Minds

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Brazil is famous for its colorful and extravagant Carnival, vibrant culture, and renowned soccer, known locally as futebol. But there are also many issues the spotlight of international futebol games, the upcoming 2014 World Cup, and 2016 Olympics are revealing.

Brazilian male futebol players have recently made headlines around racism they face from other countries during their games. While the Brazilian president shared support for the players discriminated against and anti-racism efforts, the idea of Brazil as an advocate for equality was soon struck a blow when a Brazilian player facing discrimination, Paulo Cesar Fonseca, known as Tinga, revealed the discrimination he faced in his own country: “You can see it in people’s eyes. Look, there goes the black guy with the white, blonde girlfriend. In Brazil there is so much prejudice, not just racial, but also social.” “In Brazil we talk about equality, but we hide our prejudice. We pretend that everyone is equal.”

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Those social inequalities ring true around the unequal treatment of women within the country’s most popular sport, inequality for girls in education, women facing violence, and a large gap between rich and poor. According to CNN, as of 2013, in world rankings for the gap between rich and poor, Brazil has the 11th biggest gap, coming in after a group of impoverished African countries. The 2011 female-to-male ratio for primary school enrollment is 0.98 and for secondary school enrollment it is 1.10. The difference is bigger for the 16-17 age group, as 25% of girls are involved in employment versus nearly 42 % for boys. Also, a 2013 report by UN Women found that many Latin American countries have a higher-than-average incidence of domestic violence with the staggering detail that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo.

And, as can be imagined, these social inequalities and injustices for women reach into sports. There is a strong social stigma around women in sports with the sexist belief that futebol is not a sport for women to the point that it was actually illegal for women to play futebol in Brazil from 1941 to 1979 – not just professionally, but even for fun. While there are now professional teams, they lack financial interest and support, as well as fan and media attention.

With all of these often hidden prejudices and inequalities in Brazil, it is difficult to address these issues without innovative tools and thinking. Therefore, Spark is thrilled to support our newest grantee, The Guerreiras Project, an international collective of female athletes, artists, academics, and activists in Brazil using futebol as a powerful, effective, and non-threatening tool to promote gender justice. The Guerreiras Project provides approachable spaces for making gender and social issues visible, creating possibilities for more equitable and sustainable ways of being. While their main focus is gender justice, they also use the opportunity of connecting with their communities through futebol and workshops to address other social justice issues such as race, class, sexuality, disability, and ethnicity.

Guerreiras project; oficina São Gonçalo

The Guerreiras Project (inspired by the Portuguese term ‘guerreira’ meaning female warrior), kicked off in 2010 as a multimedia documentary exploring the shifts and inequalities around gender norms in Brazil, and what it means to be a woman playing futebol in a country famous for men’s futebol. Now run by a dynamic team of six women plus eight female futebol players acting as ambassadors, The Guerreiras Project runs workshops, ambassador trainings, provides public presentations, takes part in exhibitions, and research projects. They approach their work on two platforms: working with individual professional female players to train them as ambassadors for the organization and gender justice, and working within their communities to raise awareness, collect stories, and provide tools for change. The Guerreiras Project sees the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games taking place in Brazil as the prime opportunity to capture the attention of the world as all eyes are on Brazil for these international sporting events. They are looking to expand their organization to support a campaign around gender justice during this crucial time of international attention to Brazil and their sport.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • Financial support to build their organizational capacity  to ensure growth, replication, and sustainability around their 2014 World Cup campaign, and
  • Pro bono support for the campaign including Video Editing, Graphic Design, and Newsletter Support.

Pro bono services are graciously being provided by Velosa, Ink., an exclusive network of professional multimedia journalists and tenacious industry publicists.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The Guerreiras Project, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. We are also planning a fundraising event soon, so stay tuned! We would also love to hear from you if you are interested in being a part of providing further pro bono services. Email programs@sparksf.org. We are so excited to support this fantastic organization, and thank you for all of your support! Visit The Guerreiras Project’s Website, plus follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

New Grantee: Young Feminists Movement in Pakistan

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The Young Feminists Movement

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Pakistan is only second to Yemen in a list of the ten worst countries for girls to be born in according to The Global Gender Gap Report in 2013. Women receive 43% less educational opportunities than men, there’s a 21% gender-based income gap, and only a quarter of the national labor force are represented by women. When it comes to violence against women, according to a study by The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, just from January 2012 to September 2013, there were 860 honor killings, 481 incidents of domestic violence, 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases or rape or gang rape, and 268 incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Northern Pakistan, girls and women are living under a tribal and Feudal system that promotes male dominance, presented as Islamic norms and values by religious groups. These traditions create even more extreme gender inequality and chance of gender-based violence as girls and women can be forced into marriage for the sake of peacemaking between tribes, are excluded from political activities, plus face violence and religious extremism when making efforts towards promoting girls and women’s rights. All of this is what sparked an international movement behind young activist Malala Yousafzai after she survived the Taliban’s targeted shooting for her promotion of girls’ rights to education.

In a place where even young school girls face extreme violence for speaking out, and “feminism” is a bold concept, Spark is thrilled to support giving these young women a voice through our newest grantee, The Young Feminists Movement.

The Young Feminists Movement was created in 2011 by young women at various local colleges from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and adjacent tribal areas focused on raising awareness around gender equality issues plus giving young women a safe space and a voice in an oppressed society. They provide 5-day trainings for girls ages 15-25 around equal rights, reproductive health and abuse prevention, plus they promote activism around girls’ and women’s rights and gender equality. From these trainings and other activities, they form “Girls Power Clubs” which continue the cultivation and promotion of feminism and activism. So far, they have successfully organized a group of 23 young women who speak for equal rights and are equipped with the knowledge and tools to challenge the patriarchy, plus they have influenced many more through their activist activities.

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A Spark grant will cover:

  • 50 scholarships for girls to attend the training program, and
  • Volunteer services in the areas of development plus organizational and financial management.

If you are interested in being a part of providing these volunteer services, we would love to hear from you. Email programs@sparksf.org.

We are so excited to feature this progressive and innovative organization at our upcoming Cocktails For A Cause event!

Please join us at SparkSF’s Cocktails For A Cause event on April 23, 2014 at Mr. Smiths in San Francisco to help raise funds for the young feminists of Pakistan. #MoreMalalas