Month: June 2016

Integrated Development: A Response for Women & HIV

Sub-Saharan Africa is presently the most severely affected region by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the UNAIDS GAP Report, of the total population of 36.7 million living with HIV or AIDS globally, 19 million (seven out of every ten people) live in Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women accounting for one in four new HIV infections in the region, therefore, every day in Sub-Saharan Africa 1000 girls and young women are infected with HIV. South Africa, in particular, has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infections in the world with an estimated 6.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2015, an increase from 5.4 million in 2014. A high proportion of young people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa are young women and adolescents aged 15-24, where 2000 new infections are reported from this vulnerable and at-risk population group every week.  HIV/AIDS also continues to be the highest leading cause of death amongst women and adolescents around the world. Failure to address the needs of women and girls living with …

Herd Boys in Lesotho

Young Thabo left school at nine years of age to tend sheep, goats and cattle in the treacherous mountain passes of Lesotho, in southern Africa. Despite his young age, he lived in complete isolation for months at a time, with only the company of the herd and two dogs. Thabo made the journey back to his family twice a year in the winter, so the animals could be checked, counted, and kept warm for a brief period. Thabo’s interactions with people were strained – he was accustomed to hitting and yelling at stubborn animals to express his displeasure and get results. If hitting and yelling worked with his herd, why not with people? In the solitude of the mountains, Thabo’s word was law. There was no one to ask permission from and no one to guide him about what was right and wrong. In a world where aggression was a survival tactic, he knew no other way. Sexual violence, rape, and physical abuse were acceptable. Thabo believed that it was his right as a man …

To Teenage Girls: Compliments Are Good For You

Caitlin Moran writes a column in the Times Magazine every Saturday and very often I buy the paper so that I can read it, and every week that I read it I enjoy it, because Caitlin Moran is A Very Good Writer. Last weekend I was reading it in a café, when all of a sudden tears choked me. Then they poured silently down my cheeks, which made those around me start edging their chairs sideways a bit. The column – addressed to under-confident, compliment-dodging teenage girls – was so accurate, so completely spot on, that I couldn’t take my eyes or my mind off the words. From the grand and wise perch that is 24-years-old, I think about my teenage self the way you might think of an old friend you have gradually drifted apart from, but remain very fond of all the same. When I think of her, I mainly laugh at her, because she wore exceptionally large quantities of eyeliner that made her look a bit like a raccoon. I roll my (more …

Let’s Continue to make Gender Equality a Priority

The final day of the Gender 360 Summit was an informative culmination of speakers and participants discussing a multitude of issues which affect women and girls. Amie Wells, Youth Sector Manager at Mercy Corps discussed the challenges of providing education to girls and boys in post conflict areas. She highlighted a story where a young boy with an un-conventional idea engaged various populations in order to create a hip hop class. She reminded the audience that men and boys are a crucial component of advancing gender equality. A youth advocate from Bosnia Herzegovina highlighted that gender equality is a 50-50 issue and we must engage men in order to achieve a more inclusive society. Many thought leaders have coined this period monumental for women and girls and highlighted the significant role that men and boys play in making it come to pass. Although the whole summit was powerful, some of the most memorable experiences were spent tucked away in quiet spaces with fellow participants and speakers simply talking. We shared our stories and hopes for the future of gender equality. …

#10 – Saving the Lives of Mothers & Babies: Conversations from Women Deliver 2016

In this episode, Julia speaks with leaders that are working to save the lives of mothers and babies at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen. Women Deliver 2016 was the largest gathering of the decade focusing on women’s rights, health and well-being. Julia has an intimate conversation with Denise Dunning, Founder and Executive Director of Rise Up. Denise shares the story of the birth of her third child – an experience that didn’t go as planned – and the experiences of women she knows around the world, who haven’t been as lucky as her. Denise talks about the importance of raising the voices of women and girls, and what Rise Up does to strengthen the rights and health of women and girls worldwide. “I think that sharing stories and sharing my own story can be a source of power. I’ve seen that in the girls and women that we work with. Enabling them to amplify their voices and to share their stories helps people to understand that despite the incredible challenges and obstacles they face, they are not …

How to Find Your Brave Space

1. Claim your seat at the table As I approached the Gender 360 Summit, I was momentarily overwhelmed and intimidated by the buzzing room full of intellectuals. The room was filled to capacity with tables of women and men chatting, debating and discussing their views about adolescent girls around the world. Then, I remembered all of the skills and lessons I learned while organizing leadership conferences for women. I thought about the times I quietly sat in the back of the room soaking in the incredible knowledge from the faculty and speakers. I channeled the eloquence of my first African American female supervisor and thought about the countless occasions she pushed me out of my comfort zone towards my full potential. I thought of my mother and the pure tenacity that engulfed her being. Then, I boldly entered the room and took a seat at the table. 2. Recognize education is the key and mentors, skills and self confidence open the door The women at the summit were simply fascinating. I had conversations with individuals …

Live Your Life and Love Your Body

I’ve noticed during the past year the body positive movement has been expanding across social media. The body positive movement is a feminist movement confirming that all bodies are good bodies. It serves as a reaction to what mainstream media considers to be an acceptable female body which overwhelmingly only represents the bodies of white, thin and straight women. The body positive movement aims to provide equal representation of marginalized bodies including the bodies of people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and non-traditionally thin body shapes. I doubt anyone hasn’t seen the wave of this movement in social media, which uses hashtags such as #myswimbody #beautybeyondsize, #bodypositive and #loveyourbody, where women of all shapes, sizes, heights and colors picture their own bodies as beautiful despite societal standards. The body positive movement has also recently reached the fashion industry in how Ashley Graham became the first plus size model to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. During her appearance on The Ellen Show, she discusses recent milestones in her career and the impact she’s making toward increasing body representation in media. …

The Yellow Movement

The road to equality begins when women raise their voices. At the Women Deliver conference, I met a university student from Ethiopia. Describing herself as an emerging feminist lawyer, she talked about the Yellow Movement at Addis Ababa University. This student led movement works to engage students, faculty and the community around issues of violence against girls and women. They hold weekly open discussions to create awareness, fundraise scholarships for female students, host an annual blood drive for maternal health and lead an orientation for female first year students at the university. They visit women’s shelters, offering support to local organizations while wearing bright yellow t-shirts; yellow represents the sun and a promise of a new day. The Yellow Movement is pushing back the darkness created by inequality and oppression. The Yellow Movement emerged in a country where violence against girls and women is so common that it’s largely socially acceptable. Research from the Population Council found that 23% of female survey participants reported that husbands have the right to beat their wives if they …

I Feel Rage – And You Should Too

I have never been raped, but the threat of rape is embedded into my conscious and subconscious. It’s a part of me; it’s a part of being a women in the vast majority of the world. Recently, I got a treadmill. In the middle of a run, my partner casually walked in and began talking to me. I jumped, nearly tripping on the machine as my heart rate seemed to double. I screamed, yelling that he should never, never surprise me on a run again. Never. He didn’t understand why I was so upset; he was just asking if I wanted him to pick up a post-run latte for me. When I’m running outdoors, I explained, I’m on alert for any man who might sneak up behind me. Even though I was running in my own home and even though I heard a familiar voice, I panicked because my brain is so programmed to fear approach during those moments when I’m alone on the trail. The threat of rape is very real. I feel it …

To Brock Turner’s Father: Gentle People Do Not Rape

In your letter to the judge, you write that your son, the convicted rapist, is a person with “an easygoing personality — that people like to be around, whether they are male or female.” You proceed to state that your son has “a very gentle and quiet nature and a smile that is truly welcoming to those around him.” I have something to tell you, Mr. Turner: Gentle people do not rape. Your son is not a victim here. Your son is not paying “a steep price for 20 minutes of action”. Your son is a rapist – and for the crime he committed, his sentence is anything but steep. It is a travesty. Brock’s life has not been “deeply altered by the events of January 17th and 18th”, as you claim in your letter – Brock’s life has been altered by his decision to rape a woman. Referring to it as “actions” or “events” is a ridiculous attempt to not acknowledge what your son actually did to this woman, and the fact that no …