Author: Emma Saloranta

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Stories of Power: Women in Politics

Recently, there has been a growing focus on the importance of reliable, accurate gender data on the situation of women and girls. There are many reasons why data is important: we need accurate data so that we can prioritize. We need accurate data to know where we are starting from, so that we know if the programs we are implementing are actually working. We need data to know whether our work is benefitting people equally and reaching those who are most vulnerable. But data does something else too: It tells powerful stories. As the world is hopefully nearing a day when a woman is elected to be the president of one of the most powerful nations in the world, let’s see what kind of a story data tells us about women’s political participation globally. The aspect of women’s political participation and empowerment is also included in the Sustainable Development Goals, under Goal 5 about gender equality and women’s empowerment, for which target 5.5 is: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership …

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In Solidarity with Syria: The Power of Global Action

The conflict in Syria has continued for five years. Nearly 300,000 people have lost their lives, millions have had to leave their homes and flee as refugees to other parts of Syria or across borders, and parts of the country, like the capital Aleppo, are in ruins. Not long ago, a picture of a dust- and blood covered 5-year old boy Omran sitting in the back of an ambulance was seared into our brains as a symbol of a war that seems to have no end. We are viewers, through our TV and computer screens, many of us paralyzed and not knowing what, if anything, we should – or can – do. But there is always something. Some action each and every one of us can take to somehow help the people trapped in this conflict. But what we cannot keep doing any longer is be silent. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, described the situation in Syria in these words: “Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause …

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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 …

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The Cycle of Life: Meaning of Menstruation for the Future of Girls

This post was originally published on Huffington Post. My periods started when I was around 12. It felt messy, dirty, complicated. I didn’t like it — but, as most of us who are born biologically female, I dealt with it. For me, menstruation was a necessary evil — but nothing I couldn’t handle. It was certainly not something that had the power or potential to entirely alter the course of my life and future. But for millions of girls across the developing countries, the story is very different. For them, the start of menstruation can mean the end of education, and therefore, the end of any real future prospects of economic independence, earning potential and financial security. In most developing countries, girls have little if any access to reliable information and education about their bodies, including menstruation, and many myths and taboos exist around menstruation and its meaning. For example, in India and Nepal, girls and women are often banished outside of their villages and communities during their menstruation because they are seen as “impure” …

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This Mother’s Day, Give the Gift of Kindness

I’m lying in bed awake at four in the morning, nursing my restless and sick son so that he can sleep. This is my second Mother’s Day, and I can honestly say that the last two years of my life, starting from when I got pregnant with him, have been the most rewarding, but also most challenging, exhausting, frustrating and at times heartbreaking years of my life. Why heartbreaking? Because I never knew that one single person, this tiny little human being, could make me doubt my abilities as a mother, a woman, a wife, a professional and a person so completely and utterly as he has. Obviously, it is not his fault. It’s not really him who makes me doubt myself, but the society around us – a society that constantly tells not only mothers, but women, that we’re not good enough. That we’re not performing to the standards set to us by others, that we’re not succeeding in “having it all”, that we’re not enough. The pressure is even worse on mothers, because of …

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I Breastfed my Baby in Public and Found an Unexpected Ally

A few days ago, my son and I had a rough moment. We were at a family fair in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and he was exhausted but just could not calm down and fall asleep. We’ve been traveling a lot over the pats few weeks, and he is such a great traveler that sometimes I forget that even though he doesn’t always show it, all this change and stimulation must be exhausting and overwhelming – and sometimes it just all becomes too much. I was desperately pushing him in his stroller around the bumpy streets of Dumbo, and he was screaming and crying uncontrollably. In between his screams I could hear a desperate “Mama, mama… Moooo! Moooo!” – “Mo” is what he calls breastmilk. I knew that if I could nurse him somewhere for a few minutes, he would not only calm down but probably fall right asleep – but I couldn’t find anywhere to sit down. Finally I found a ledge coming out of a wall that was just wide enough for me to prop myself …

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Zika Virus: The hypocrisy of telling women to delay pregnancy

Featured image: Marcos Freitas/Flickr, Creative Commons If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably seen headlines about the Zika virus outbreak which began in Brazil and is now spreading to other countries in Latin America. The virus is spread through mosquito bites, and common symptoms of the disease include rash and joint pain. The disease is usually mild, and rarely requires hospital treatment. That is, unless you’re a pregnant woman. After the outbreak in Brazil, authorities have reported numerous cases where the virus has caused severe malformalities in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant, including microcephaly, which is a condition where the baby is born with an abnormally small head and severe brain damage. As a result several countries in the region, including Brazil, El Salvador, Jamaica, Colombia and Honduras, have urged women not to get pregnant and advised foreign pregnant women against traveling to the region until further notice. El Salvador’s Deputy Health Minister has taken the most extreme stance so far – urging women in El Salvador to postpone pregnancy until 2018. Advising …

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Enough with the Breastfeeding Hypocrisy

Featured image: Elina Tuomi  In early December, a Chinese mother made international headlines because she nursed her baby in the Beijing subway. A fellow passenger had taken a picture of the mother breastfeeding and shared it on social media with the caption “let me remind you that this is the Beijing subway, not a bus in your village”. Last week a Finnish celebrity stylist and a TV personality posted a picture to his Instagram and Facebook profiles of a mother nursing her baby on a Finnair flight from Helsinki to New York. His caption read “I know I am going to raise hell with this post but would it be too much to ask for mothers breastfeeding in public to cover the activity with a scarf?!” – his hashtags included #decency and #firstclass. A few days ago, a Republican State Representative Josh Moore from New Hampshire stated in his Facebook page that if a proposed bill banning women from exposing their nipples in public does not pass, if women choose to expose their nipples in public …

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Five Ways to Promote Gender Equality in 2016

We are only few days away from New Year’s eve, and the air is filled with the exciting promise of the endless possibilities of the new year. The chance to start over, clean the slate, make resolutions about being a better You – perhaps related to a healthier lifestyle, spending less money, being better at keeping in touch with family and relatives, exercising more, spending less time on the internet, learning a new skill. Resolutions often reflect the person we think we would like to be – an ideal version of Me. This New Year’s, perhaps you can make a resolution to do one thing in 2016 to promote gender equality in your community. It doesn’t need to be anything big or grand, because even the smallest of things can make a huge difference in a person’s life – and, the smallest of actions are often the catalyst for a bigger wave of change and progress. Here are five suggestions on how You can step up for gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights in …

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The Value of a Rape

We’ve all read the news about the refugee crisis in Europe. We’ve seen images of people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, flooding to the borders of European nations as they flee conflict, war and terrorism in their home countries. The pressure on Europe is on, and our nations are now faced with a situation where we can either show our humanity and compassion – or turn the other way. Unfortunately, the refugee crisis is bringing to light an uglier side of Europe – of how we value the security, safety and humanity of women and girls, both those already living in our countries and those coming to us looking for a refuge to flee from the horrors they face at home. In my native country, Finland, two rapes in which the suspected perpetrators are recently arrived refugees have dominated the news cycle and social media over the past few weeks, and given more fuel to the already rampant anti-immigration rhetoric that is happening not only in Finland, but all over Europe. My problem isn’t with the …