Tag Archives: women’s 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

 

Making Changes: Block by Block

New Grantee: The BLK ProjeK

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Although the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx is one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, many of its neighbors are without access to quality, healthy food. The median annual income in the South Bronx is $19,113, and good groceries are sparse.

The BLK ProjeK was born out of the frustrations of one such inhabitant: Tanya Fields. Tanya was a poor, single mother who moved to the South Bronx and found her asthmatic child struggling with the pollution generated by the hundreds of thousands of semis that deliver food to Hunts Point every year.

The struggles of her son led Tanya to think increasingly more about environmental justice. She began drawing connections between the unhealthy urban environments in which poor people lived, and the unhealthy food available to them. She also, naturally, began drawing connections between the unhealthy food available to poor urban communities, and the women who serve that food to their families. Tanya realized that poverty has a feminine face.

In order to tackle the insufficient access to healthy food in the South Bronx, Tanya consequently turned to mothers. She starting small, facilitating “Mommy & Me” classes in order to educate mothers about nutrition. In 2009, her efforts expanded beyond the classroom to the garden, and the BLK ProjeK was born.

The women of BLK ProjeK were guerilla gardeners from the outset. They broke into abandoned lots in the South Bronx and planted vegetables. They created a groundswell, compelling more than 200 residents to petition and telephone the Housing Preservation and Development of NYC, demanding that the city allow the BLK ProjeK to turn one of those lots into an urban farm. Eventually their demands were heard, and that lot became the Libertad Urban Farm. In order to deliver produce from the Libertad Urban Farm to their community, the women of the BLK ProjeK then renovated an old school bus, turning it into a beautiful mobile market running exclusively on used vegetable oil.

But Tanya and the BLK ProjeK have their sights set higher still. They want the South Bronx to be able to feed itself. They want to change the economic and political landscape of the community by creating local jobs and promoting municipal participation. And women remain the catalyst in all this. The BLK ProjeK is driven by its firm belief in the “girl effect” – the notion that investing in women and women-led efforts is the most effective way to promote social change. Women plant the seeds of physical and fiscal health in every community.

In order to support the BLK ProjeK, the Spark grant will:

  • Provide funds for the growth and sale of produce from the Libertad Urban Farm
  • Provide stipends for volunteer farmers
  • Promote community outreach in order to encourage participation in the Libertad Urban Farm, as well as the farm’s CSA

And source the following Pro Bono needs:

  • Web Design

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The BLK ProjeK, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization. Visit BLK ProjeK’s website to learn more.

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.

Egypt’s Women: Uncensored

New Grantee: The BuSSy Project

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

In modern Egypt, traditions limit women’s contact with men via practices such as veiling and gender segregation at schools, work, and recreational activities. To simply walk down the street, girls and women have to put up with abuse running from verbal to physical. The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Women’s Rights Poll in 2013 even determined Egypt to be the worst out of 22 Arabs states for women due to high rates of sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting, a surge in violence and Islamist feelings after the Arab Spring uprisings, plus discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking.

Since then, the first step has been made legally to end sexual harassment in Egypt with a new law in 2014 criminalizing sexual harassment for the first time in modern Egyptian history.

But still, a troubling trend has inflicted Egyptian society for some time—young Egyptian women and men are bound by the barriers of gender-segregating traditions and practices, social taboos, stereotypes, and other cultural norms that leave a narrow space for open expression and opportunity to challenge the status quo. The BuSSy Project seeks to break away from these confines, giving those living in this traditional society his or her own opportunity at a story, a face, a voice.

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The BuSSy Project is a performing arts group based in Cairo, Egypt that seeks to provide open and uncensored spaces for young women to candidly and anonymously share their personal experiences with a range of social issues, with a larger campaign to raise awareness about the different, and often unreported, facets of Egyptian society through storytelling.

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BuSSy’s storytelling workshops expose real women’s stories and provide a space for free expression on issues that society was failing to address, while the performances offer a unique opportunity for young Egyptian women to write for themselves instead of being written about by others. They are not professional artists, but a group of passionate, enthusiastic youth with strong faith in the value and impact of the project. They felt that theater would be the best way to reach a large body of people while providing the storytellers with a direct opportunity to publicly reclaim the truth as they experienced it. The BuSSy Project’s stories reflect a reality Egyptians are living with regards to gender issues that are experienced by all members of society, irrespective of class and background.

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A Spark grant will cover: 

  • Sponsorship for BuSSy performers on a tour throughout Egypt and help empower these young women to reclaim their stories as they experienced it.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Spread the word on Social Media: The BuSSy Project is facing censorship! The BuSSy Project’s high school students’ performance in Cairo, Egypt, was unfairly canceled (both in venue and funding) due to “inappropriate” content, with excuses of technical issues in the space. Check out the full story below and share the following messages with your social media networks.
    • Twitter: .@SparkSF grantee @TheBuSSyProject is facing censorship in #Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MWFacebook: Spark grantee The BuSSy Project is facing censorship in Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MW

More Information on the censorship issue:

In January 2014, The BuSSy Project and AFCA Foundation for Arts and Culture entered into a partnership to facilitate storytelling workshops in high schools all over Cairo, Egypt in order to document the experiences of high school students and create an open space forum for young Egyptians to feel empowered by the chance to share experiences with their lives, families, relationships, and school dynamics. The stories of the high school students were then adapted into a staged performance, to raise awareness about the issues discussed, calling “500s” [or “Khomsomeeyat”].

The performance was originally set to premiere at the Hakawy International Children’s Festival at the Cairo Opera Houseon 15 and 16 March 2015. On the night before the premiere, the director of the Opera House, having been informed of the alleged “inappropriate” content of the show by technicians she hired to observe our rehearsals–an accusation which was based on the show’s depiction of youth going through adolescence, including such common experiences as masturbation and sex education–the director asked that they “tone down” the content. The “500s” team refused the request to edit the content, on the grounds that it constitutes a form of censorship and intrusiveness, as well as a sort of distortion of content which would greatly impact the performance and its underlying goal and message. Thus, the performance was canceled by the Opera House, for, in their words, “technical reasons.”

Despite its initial difficulties, “500s” was scheduled to proceed with its premiere, at an independent venue. The co-producers, BuSSy & AFCA secured the Greek Campus in Cairo to host the premiere of “500s” and began publicizing the new dates of the performance, 16 & 17 April.However, just two weeks before the show’s premiere, the leadership of AFCA decided that the show’s content is inappropriate, and AFCA has decided that they no longer feel comfortable producing the show without making major changes to the play. AFCA then suggested that BuSSy submit the script of the performance to a committee, selected by AFCA, to review the script and make suggested changes. For the second time in less than one month, “500s” was censored. Since BuSSy had not changed its convictions concerning censorship, AFCA decided to cease its support of the performance, which was not only as co-producers, but also has financial supporters.

“500s” is now facing a ‘sink or swim’ situation–and we have decided to choose to ‘swim.’ The premiere, which is scheduled for April 16th, will go on, though due to BuSSy’s limited financial resources, it will be a difficult endeavor. Thus, we are reaching out to members of our community for support, to bring to light the realities of art censorship and regulation in Egypt, and help us to share the important messages that “500s” addresses.

Press coverage:

Egypt Independent: Cairo Opera House cancels play on adolescence for ‘inappropriate’ content

Ahram Online: Play for teenagers cancelled, organisers explain why

cairoscene: STATE-RUN THEATRE BANS ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ CHILDREN’S PLAY

Mada Masr: BuSSy Monologues’ new show halted at Cairo Opera House

A Kit That Saves Lives: Bringing Safe Delivery to Nigerian Mothers

New Grantee: Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH)

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Nigeria is the most populous country and arguably the richest in Africa. Yet, the health of the people remains poor, especially for women and children. The Nigerian Ministry of Health spends about 70% of its budget in urban areas, where only 30% of the population resides. Most public healthcare facilities are consequently under-funded and lacking supplies leaving expectant mothers to buy their own basic medical supplies or go without, exposing themselves to serious health risks. The 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) reports that Nigeria has a maternal mortality ratio of 576 deaths/100,000 live births (the 13th highest in the world), and the neonatal mortality is 37/1,000 live births (with the highest at 47). The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that 1 in every 13 mothers die during childbirth in Nigeria every year, and the deaths of newborn babies represent a quarter of deaths under 5, most of which occur within the first week of life. These deaths are primarily attributable to complications during pregnancy and delivery, many of which could be detected and prevented before delivery during antenatal care visits.

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Spark’s latest grantee, Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH), seeks to improve the quality and availability of health services provided to pregnant women and mothers in rural Nigeria. A4SH was founded in 2013 by a small group of dynamic young individuals driven by a passion to ensure that women in their communities could gain access to basic and necessary health care.

A4SH’s signature program is the Safe Delivery Program, which encourages pregnant women to attend antenatal care visits in exchange for safe delivery kits. The kits are sterilized and packaged locally and include: a delivery mat, infant receiver, gloves, cord clamps, a scalpel, methylated spirit, antiseptic soap, a mucus extractor, olive oil, cotton wool, gauze, and maternity pads.

Expectant mothers receive a delivery kit at their fourth antenatal care visit in a participating primary healthcare center. Since its founding in 2013, A4SH has reached about 400-500 women in three communities within the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • 4 interventions in hard-to-reach communities,
  • 100 safe delivery kits to facilities in these communities,
  • and further outreach through providing “pikin kits,” (post-natal kits) for women after delivery in a health facility. Kits include items to care for their newborn babies including powder, baby oil, Vaseline, a sponge, lotion, cloth diapers, one outfit with hat and socks, a blanket, and information on post-delivery care.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Website Development: The organization’s staff did their best to create a website, but are in need of professional consultation and aid in completing website development.
  • Video Development: Create a demonstration video for their Sensitization Program in which they provide essential care instructions on breast feeding, immunization, and hygiene in the local women’s language of Hausa. Create a video around their Advocacy Program in which they advocate for the provision of midwives for communities in need.
  • Management Consultancy – Help the organization develop a sustainable business plan to help A4SH successfully move forward with its mission and vision.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for A4SH, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization, and thank you for all of your support! Visit A4SH’s Website to learn more.

New Grantee: Serenity House

Authored by Spark Member: Lily Womble

Amidst staggering rates of sex trafficking, prostitution, poverty, and illegal drug use in Oakland, California, there stands a sanctuary of respite and recovery for struggling women.

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At the age of seven, Johnnia Davis was raped and held that secret for over 26 years. Serenity House was born out of Johnnia’s desire, years later, to create a community where women of all walks of life, struggling with addiction, trauma, depression, or other mental illnesses, could heal spiritually and naturally.

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Serenity House does more than provide shelter, food, and health services. It’s a comprehensive program for women who want to recover from their emotional trauma and addictions, build self-worth and confidence, and find living wage jobs to support themselves, their families, and their communities. Serenity House facilitates this healing by providing individual and group counseling, as well as classes on relapse prevention, anger management, self-esteem, life skills, art, karate, movement, health, communication skills, and relationship skills. Currently, 89% of their clients suffer from some form of mental health issues (i.e. PTSD, depression and/ or bi-polar disorder), and because of their programming, Johnnia has seen many women maintain their mental health stability after undergoing the comprehensive counseling program. In addition, they provide opportunities for clients to have fun and mark their achievements, such as a graduation ceremony to celebrate the women who have successfully completed the program and a prom for all Serenity House.

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Serenity House serves over 125 women per year, 60 of who stay in their clean and sober housing while they attend the program. 78% of the women that complete the program go on to obtain a degree, purchase homes, and/or get their children back.

Currently, one of the biggest struggles faced by this organization is their lack of capacity and funds. Johnnia and the Program Director, Faye, do all the grant writing and programming. The rest of the staff are dedicated volunteers. There are many local women who would benefit from their services, but there is limited housing, food, and availability in their program due to capacity issues.

Spark members: We encourage you to consider volunteering with this amazing organization. Your volunteer support is just what they need to extend their capacity and offer more help to those who need it. To learn how to volunteer, email Amanda (amanda@sparksf.org) with a request.

A Spark grant will be used to provide safe housing, food and specialized counseling for at least five additional women – from those in their neighborhood involved in sex traffic to young women struggling with addiction and homelessness.

We are energized and excited by the work of Serenity House because of Johnnia’s inspiring grassroots leadership, the transformative and healing nature of her approach, and the life changing services they offer to this underserved area. We look forward to seeing the great work this grant will facilitate.