Category Archives: Politics

25 Surprising Stats to Share on Women’s Equality Day (and Everyday!)

women's suffrage rally

Each year, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated to commemorate women earning the right to vote on August 26, 1920. While you may not have heard of it, it’s been in practice since 1971 and is a big enough deal that every president since then has published a proclamation regarding women’s equality on that day.

While equal status for women has improved in nearly every aspect of life since the 1920s, women in the U.S. and around the world still don’t really hold equal status in many ways. Today on Women’s Equality Day, let’s take a look at some stats that show both the progress that has been made and that which still needs to be made in helping women earn equal status, respect, and pay as their male counterparts.

  1. Women still make less than men

    The pay gap between women and men has certainly narrowed over the past few decades, but there’s still a pretty big different between the salaries of men and those of women. Some of that may have to do with the career choices women make to help them balance motherhood, but even when those factors are removed, women still often make significantly less than their male counterparts, a gap that amounts to 10 to 20 cents less for every dollar a man earns. Over a lifetime, that can really add up.

  2. But in some professions, that is changing

    While women may make less than men on average, there are some professions where women do actually earn equal pay and may even draw bigger salaries than men. Oddly enough, many are professions where women are the minority, like construction supervision and scientific lab work. Women do also tend to earn slightly more than men in female-dominated fields like elementary teaching, occupational therapy, and information clerking, as well. Overall, however, women still earn just 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, and while an improvement from a decade ago (in 2000 women earned just 76 cents per dollar), it’s still a significant gap.

  3. Overall, women’s employment is more insecure, part time, and temporary

    One of the factors that may account for why women make less than men is that women’s jobs tend to be more unstable and aren’t always permanent. This movement in and out of the workforce can cause salaries to take a hit and can make it difficult to advance to higher positions. This also places women in a precarious position, making it difficult for many to switch to more permanent positions, care for families, or support themselves.

  4. Domestic violence is still disturbingly common

    As any number of recent high-profile cases will show you, domestic violence against women is still very common and occurs at all levels of income and in every cultural and racial group in the U.S. While assaults by an intimate partner also happen to men, they happen to women at a much higher rate and remain a serious problem for women all over the world, even in the U.S. Consider these stats: a 1996 study found that 25% of women and 7.6% of men had been raped or physically assaulted by a partner during their lifetime. Each year, approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Domestic violence makes up 20% of the nonfatal violent crime against women in the U.S., but just 3% against men. 84% of spousal abuse victims are female, and 86% of dating abuse victims are female.

  5. As is rape

    Sadly, it’s still very common for women to be subject not only to physical and emotional violence, but also sexual violence. Consider this: 18% of women reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. Just 3% of men report the same. What’s worse, studies have found that just 10 to 16% of assaults which conform to the legal definition of rape are ever reported. Why does this affect women’s equality? The prevalence of violence against women is a reflection of the reality that many still see women as objects to be owned and controlled. Additionally, the downplaying or justification of these kinds of behaviors creates an environment where women aren’t respected as equally important members of society.

  6. Women hold just under 17% of the seats in Congress

    Despite women making up more than half of the population in the United States and holding key positions in leadership, business, and education, women are still a relative rarity in American government. Currently, just 17% of the seats in Congress (that’s 90 seats in all) are held by women. It’s not much but it’s a 17% improvement over where things were a century ago. Things aren’t much different globally, with an equal 17% of members of national parliaments worldwide being female.

  7. More women own and operate business than ever before

    While women are still greatly outnumbered by men in the business world, huge strides have been made in getting women to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. Today, 30% of all businesses are owned and operated by women. These businesses collectively bring in $1.2 trillion and employ more than 7.6 million people, making women major players in the American economy.

  8. While women are now allowed in the military, there are still major equality issues

    Today, women make up almost 15% of the active duty members in the United States military. Sadly, these women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire (20% of women in the military are sexually assaulted), according to recent statistics. Even worse, these crimes are often covered up or result in discipline of the victims, not the perpetrators.

  9. More women are heading to college than men

    Perhaps one of the greatest achievements in women’s equality over the past few years is in education. More women graduate from high school than men, attend and graduate from college, and earn graduate degrees. This is a significant change from even a decade ago and may also have big implications for the working world as more women are prepared for high-powered, education-intensive jobs than men. Some predict that it might help even out the pay gap.

  10. Yet globally, women are much more likely to be illiterate

    While women in the U.S. and many other first world nations have it good when it comes to education, the same doesn’t hold true for many other places around the globe. Worldwide, 70% of the more than 855 million illiterate adults are women. The phenomenon is largely due to the belief in some nations and cultures that it’s unnecessary to educate women or send them to school, so many remain unable to read or write, which makes it hard to work or take part in other parts of society.

  11. Women hold as many jobs as men

    Women were once a rarity in the workplace and even in the U.S., many men begrudged women for taking jobs they thought belonged to them. Yet as of 2010, women made up just about 50% of the workforce, on average across all industries. This is impressive progress and should be celebrated, but as you’ll see from our next stat, it’s also important which jobs women are working, not just that they have jobs, when it comes to equality.

  12. Women are far less likely than men to make it into the upper echelons of management

    Women are increasingly taking on management roles in business, but still lag far behind men when it comes to their distribution in top leadership positions. Just 13% of board members are women and fewer than 3% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. These numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before, but they’re still far from impressive.

  13. The workplace isn’t always friendly to women who have children

    It will never be easy to balance taking care of a family and working full-time, but many modern businesses don’t do much to help women out. The United States is one of the very few countries in the world that does not mandate paid maternity leave. Amazingly, 178 other nations in the world manage to do so, even some that are much worse off economically than the U.S. This, and other work-related factors, have made it hard for women to balance the economic necessity of working with the demands of caring for children, which according to a Pew study, leaves many feeling very stressed.

  14. Women are more likely to have an unstable retirement

    A variety of factors contribute to women having a much less stable retirement than men. They make less during their working years, are less likely to have a pensioned position, and will spend less time in the workforce than men. Add to that smaller Social Security checks and longer life spans and you have a perfect storm that leaves many women unprepared to support themselves throughout their older years. Education on financial planning is one key way to help change this, but evening out the playing field in the workplace is also a critical step.

  15. Wyoming has the biggest gender gap in pay

    Like real estate, gender equality in pay is all about location. In Wyoming, women earn just 64% of what their male counterparts do, the biggest gap in the nation. Women there earn about $32,426 on average, while men earn $50,854. The state with the best record is Washington, D.C. There, women earn 91% of their male counterparts.

  16. Women are still underrepresented in STEM professions and other traditionally male fields

    Colleges, employers, and the government are all working hard to draw women into fields that are currently heavily male-dominated, but at present there’s still a huge gender gap when it comes to STEM and other traditionally male professions. Here are some stats to consider: women hold just 27% of computer science jobs, 5% of electrical engineering jobs, and only 24% of STEM jobs overall.

  17. Discrimination is still a major factor in the workplace

    In 2004, 24,249 individual sex discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In recent years, several major gender discrimination cases have gone to court, include those involving Walmart and Morgan Stanley. While women are making strides in the workplace, these stats show that treatment once they’re there isn’t always equal or fair.

  18. Women account for two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty

    Globally, women make up a much higher percentage of those living in poverty, with more than 8.6 million living well below the poverty line. Unequal opportunities for education and access to jobs, especially high-paying ones, contribute to keeping women poor around the world. In the U.S., the trend holds true. 13.9% of those living in poverty are women, compared to 10% of men.

  19. Title IX has helped women get access to sports and sporting opportunities

    Before Title IX, young women made up just 7% of the students participating in high school sports. By 2001, that number had risen to 41.5%. That’s an increase of more than 800%, bringing the number of female student athletes to well over 2 million today.

  20. More female participation in the workforce is good for everyone

    When considering the national bottom line, women in the workforce is a really, really good thing. Goldman Sachs calculates that increasing women’s participation in the labor market to male levels will boost GDP by 21% in Italy; 19% in Spain; 16% in Japan; 9% in America, France, and Germany; and 8% in the U.K. That’s a substantial gain, and on that should be serious motivation for women to get out there and work.

  21. Unions often benefit women more than men

    It can be to a woman’s advantage to work in a unionized environment. Women who work in unionized professions make 82% of men’s incomes. While there’s still a substantial gap, it’s much less than in professions without unions. There, women make only about 72% of men’s incomes.

  22. Yemen in the worst country for women’s equality; Sweden is the best

    The Gender Inequality Index measures gender disparity by looking at reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation. According to 2011 results, Yemen is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to equality for women, followed closely by Chad, Niger, Mali, and the Congo. The best countries for women are in Europe, with Sweden taking top honors and the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland rounding out the top five. Where was the U.S.? All the way down at number 37.

  23. Minority women in the U.S. are considerably more disenfranchised

    There are big differences in equality for women when comparisons are made between ethnic and racial backgrounds. Women of color are more likely to be unemployed, and even when they are employed, they make fat less than men; just 66 cents on the dollar for African American women and 56 cents on the dollar for Hispanic women.

  24. Primary responsibility for childcare, domestic work, and caring for elders still falls on women

    While men now bear a much fairer share of work around the house and caring for dependents, women, even those who work full-time, are still largely responsible for these tasks. Some of it has to do with men working longer hours (men work 8.3 hours a day on average, women 7.8 hours), but there is still a pervasive cultural attitude that housework and childcare are female jobs. Married mothers who work full-time put in an average of 51 minutes a day on housework; married working fathers just 14 minutes. They also spend more time on childcare, averaging 30 minutes more.

  25. Globally, conditions for women aren’t great and lack of equality is an everyday concern for many women

    In many places, women cannot participate in the workforce, can’t travel, can’t vote, get paid significantly less for their work, or are regarded as less intelligent, able, and valuable than their male counterparts. While much progress in equality still needs to be made in the U.S., let this Women’s Equality Day be a reminder of just how much more critical progress there is to be made outside of our borders, too.

This is a guest post by OnlineMBA.com, the #1 online MBS news destination.

Photo by roniweb/Flickr

Earn More for Your School with Box Tops for Education and eBoxTops — $25 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway [Closed]

Earn More for My School

Box Tops for Education have been a nationwide fundraising program for countless schools all over the country since 1996, when the program was first launched by General Mills. Back then, Box Tops for Education were only found on a small selection of General Mills cereal, but the program grew exponentially and it wasn’t long before dozens of other trusted food and household brands jumped on board. You can now find Box Tops for Education in every aisle of the grocery store, on over 200 different products you probably buy already.

During the 2010-2011 school year, over $59 million was earned for schools participating in the Box Tops for Education program. This year, the sky is the limit with more Box Tops for Education being offered on select brands, as well as a new way to earn even more your school with eBoxTops.

Box Tops for Education have teamed up with Walmart to give families a head start in collecting even more Box Tops to benefit their schools. Right now, participating products at Walmart don’t just have one Box Top on the package, but are loaded with four Box Tops! Just look for the Box Tops for Education display at your local Walmart to earn four Box Tops on more than 100 different items, including Cheerios, Hamburger Helper, Nature Valley, Totinos, and more.

A brand new way to earn Box Tops is Earn More for My School, a website developed exclusively for Walmart shoppers. When you sign up for a free account on Earn More for My School, you will automatically receive access to numerous opportunities to earn eBoxTops. Every time you complete an opportunity, your digital Box Tops will be automatically sent to your designated school. Not to mention, you will also earn 2 free eBoxTops just for registering and opting in to emails from Earn More for My School. You can also earn more eBoxTops on the official Box Tops for Education website.

Giveaway

Walmart gift card

To help you get started collecting Box Tops for Education to help support the fundraising efforts of your local school, one lucky Woman Tribune reader will win a $25 Walmart gift card. This giveaway will end September 1st. To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Information and Walmart gift card giveaway were provided by General Mills and Walmart through MyBlogSpark. No other compensation was received, and opinions are my own.

The Huggies® MomInspired™ Grant Program Helps Innovative Moms Fund Products and Businesses Inspired by Motherhood

Huggies MomInspired Moms are natural–and often creative–problem solvers. As soon as a problem arises, they tend to have the uncanny ability to know just what to do, or at least have an idea of what would make a common parenting hurdle much easier to overcome. Have you ever thought why isn’t there a product out there like “this” yet? Well, maybe what the current market of baby and child care needs is you, and if you have a great idea for a product that you know would make the lives of parents easier, and the lives of children much more enjoyable, Huggies® may be able to help you see your ideas through from start to finish.

The Huggies® MomInspired™ grant program, now in its third year, celebrates the natural creativity of moms. They have long recognized that there is a dynamic and talented community of moms out there, and this grant program gives moms a chance to channel their moments of ingenuity into products that help improve the lives of children and their parents.

In 2010 and 2011, the Huggies® MomInspired™ grant program awarded 21 grants to hardworking moms with big ideas, which has gone to provide resources and seed capital to fund business startups and new product innovations inspired by motherhood. Past recipients of the Huggies® MomInspired™ grant have developed products such as:

  • Nausea relief band to ease pregnancy symptoms
  • Magnetic baby clothing for easy diaper changes
  • Sleep coaching

Huggies® is now accepting applications for the 2012 Huggies® MomInspired™ grant program until July 31, 2012. Moms can learn more and submit original, innovative, and viable new business and product ideas now at HuggiesMomInspired.com. In fall 2012, the Huggies® MomInspired™ grant program will award up to twelve $15,000 grants to moms who want to launch a new, innovative baby or child care product that excels in easing parents’ messes and stresses.

No one knows what type of products or services parents need quite like other parents, and this is an amazing opportunity for any mom who has a great idea to see that project followed through without having to worry about how it will be funded.

This post is part of a compensated campaign with Huggies®, Huggies® MomInspired™ Grant, and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The CowParade, Raising Millions for Non-Profits through Creativity Since 1999

CowParade Austin 2011 Happy People

The CowParade is the largest and most successful public art event in the world. Since the first CowParade in 1999, events have been staged in over 32 countries and 75 cities worldwide, and over $20 million has been raised to help support crucial and life-saving non-profit organizations.

The first time I heard about the CowParade, I immediately thought of the obvious–why cows? Turns out that this art display and event is the only CowParade, and not the PigParade or the OstrichParade, or a parade of statues of any other animals, because cows are just universally recognized and liked. Everyone knows what a cow is, most children begin their vocabulary with the word “Moo,” and cows are generally non-threatening animals that can easily elicit happiness in the people who see them. All of those reasons are why if you ever see a CowParade, you will see large, three-dimensional fiberglass cows being used as the canvas for innovative and extremely talented artists sharing their creative vision with their community while helping to raise money for a great cause. In fact, over 10,000 artists have expressed heir creativity in this unique way since the event’s inception, and thousands of children have been engaged in CowParade scholastic art competitions, making the CowParade a great outlet and opportunity for young artists as well as older artists.

In 2011, CowParade Austin raised $1.49 million while giving 40 incredibly artistic fiberglass cows new homes. In an attempt to get local companies excited about the event and compelled to sponsor the well-known cow sculptures, the US Money Reserve and its founder, Milton Verret, were presenting sponsors of the event, which helped to underwrite the initial costs for CowParade Austin.

After the three-month cow art display throughout the Austin area, the cows were auctioned off, with each cow being sold for an average of $7,500. That is an incredible payoff for the artists who created the art displays on cow statues, as well as for the non-profit organizations who benefited from the event. In CowParade Austin’s case, that was the Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Superhero Kids Fund, founded specifically to address quality of life issues for children and their families battling cancer and blood disorders.

This year, the CowParade will be touring many new venues around the world, including Brazil, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Shanghai, and Panama, among many others.

Have you ever seen a CowParade art event? What do you think of this outside-the-box way of raising money for non-profit organizations?

This is a sponsored post written by me. Incentive was provided to me, and opinions are my own.

Photo by CowParade Austin

15 Self-Defense Tips Every College Female Needs

women's self defense One out of every five college women will be the victims of rape or attempted rape. Thousands more are robbed or otherwise assaulted. Avoiding becoming a statistic means taking control of your own safety. There are many things you can do to protect yourself should the need arise, but they need to be ingrained in your mind so that you can make use of them when you are in shock or are otherwise incapacitated. Here are 15 tips that will help ensure your college experience is memorable for the right reasons.

  1. Assess the Risk

    A big part of protecting yourself is gauging potential threats before they become actual threats. Do you know the people you’re going to be hanging out with? Do you know where you are and where this party is that you’re going to? Is your cell phone charged? Are you wearing a lot of jewelry? Asking yourself questions like these can prevent the need for physical self-defense.

  2. Trust Your Instincts

    Whether it’s intuition or some kind of evolutionary self-defense mechanism, humans, especially women, frequent have a sixth sense that warns us of danger. Rape and assault victims often describe having felt a feeling of foreboding or that “something wasn’t quite right” just before their attacks. One of your best defenses is that voice in your head that says you should cross to the other side of the street or go a different way. Don’t ignore it.

  3. Taking Resistant Action Can Significantly Reduce Your Risk

    Stalling or screaming has been shown to increase the risk you will be injured in an attempted rape. But direct action, like warning the attacker, fighting back, and running away can lower the risk of a rape being completed by as much as 80%.

  4. Alcohol Lowers Your Defenses

    Although date rape drugs and “roofies” get more attention and much has been made of women pouring their own drinks, rape as a result of incapacitation due to alcohol is about 18 times more prevalent than incapacitation due to being drugged. In other words, the real danger is not in someone spiking your drink, but in having too much of that drink.

  5. Groin Grab

    Every woman’s self-defense class teaches this move. If an attacker is close to you, in front or behind, grabbing his testicles with all your strength is a simple and effective move to employ. If the attacker is wearing tight jeans, knee or punch him in the groin instead. Slapping him just before attacking the groin is a good way to keep him from blocking the move. And be ready to run as soon as you complete the move, while he is recovering.

  6. Eye Gouge

    The Three Stooges-style eye poke is easily dodged by the attacker because he can see it coming well before it arrives. But if you are able to place your hands on the side of his face and then slide your thumbs over his eyes, he won’t have time to defend it. This can be an extremely damaging to deadly move depending on how hard you press.

  7. Give Them the Elbow

    A great way to escape when having your hair pulled from behind is to turn slightly and thrust your elbow into the attacker’s face. The elbow is a very tough bone and can do serious damage. Follow it up with a kick to the groin or by smashing his foot with your foot as hard as you can, then run.

  8. women's self defense

  9. Everyday Items Can Double as Weapons

    If you’re a coffee drinker, that steaming liquid in your hand becomes a powerful weapon when you pop the top off and throw it at an attacker. Ballpoint pens, keys, nail files, combs, paper clips, and hair spray can all buy you precious seconds in which to escape if you use them as weapons.

  10. There’s No Fighting with an Attacker with a Knife

    Don’t buy into martial arts videos that teach you karate moves for escaping from a knife-wielding attacker; 95% of those techniques fail. Your best defense is to throw your purse at the attacker or hit him with it, screaming loudly, and run. Don’t stop screaming, and be aware of your surroundings. Look for a crowded place to run to. If you have to physically block a knife attack, keep your arms low to block his arm. Loose clothing like sweaters can be used to entangle the knife.

  11. Be Vigilant at ATMs

    Robberies at ATMs are a huge area of crime, and college campus ATMs often have less security than a bank would offer. Don’t go at night unless you go with a friend. If you see someone suspicious lurking near an ATM, don’t use it. Knowing exactly what transactions you want to make before using an ATM reduces the time you are vulnerably facing the machine.

  12. Have Situational Awareness

    Predators look for people who are distracted or look like they don’t know where they are going. This means walking around talking on a cell phone is inadvisable. You need your focus unhindered to effectively take in your surroundings. If you park somewhere, memorize where your car is so you can walk straight to it. Also, don’t walk around with headphones blaring in your ears.

  13. Know Where the Call Boxes Are

    All campuses now have (or should have) call boxes placed around campuses for use in an emergency. All you should have to do is run up to it and push the button to be connected with campus police. Memorize where these are and don’t count on having your cell phone with you. It may be taken or dropped in a struggle.

  14. Break His Nose

    With the right technique, even a child can break a person’s nose. If your attacker’s in front of you, throw your weight into a jab with the base of your palm up under his nose. For an attacker from behind, use the elbow. A bloodied nose can disorient him and make it difficult for him to breathe.

  15. Practice with Pepper Spray

    It’s quite possible you won’t have the time or an opportunity to reach for the pepper spray in your purse. However, if you get the chance, you need to be skilled in its operation so that you don’t accidentally spray yourself. Practicing reaching for and shooting the spray helps you learn how to do it quickly and also what to expect in terms of range when you pull the trigger.

  16. Don’t Lower Your Guard

    There’s a difference between being trusting and being naive. An estimated 90% of college women who are sexually assaulted knew their attacker. Be prepared to defend yourself at all times, not just when you are with strangers.

This is a guest post by Best Colleges Online, an online college resource guiding you toward challenging, satisfying academic programs that will propel your career into the future.

Photos by StreetSense/Flickr

Help Walmart and Feeding America Fight Hunger This Spring

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Walmart Foundation. All opinions are 100% mine.

Inbox (16 messages, 1 unread).jpgMore than 50 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Usually we hear most about helping those in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, which is when most charitable giving is done. This makes sense, but poverty and hunger affects millions of people every single day, not just during the holidays of selfless giving.

As the instability of the national job market continues, more families are finding themselves in need of a little help, and springtime traditionally brings a decrease in food and charitable donations to food banks across the country. To help increase meals for those in need during the spring hunger gap, Walmart has teamed up with Feeding America in a nationwide Fighting Hunger Together initiative that is expected to generate 43 million meals for families in need.

From April 9th to April 30th, you can Vote to fight spring hunger with Walmart on Facebook and rally support for communities in need of hunger relief. Among the 200 communities with the highest unemployment rate (as determined by a Department of Labor report), Walmart will donate a total of $2 million to the 21 communities who receive the most support as a result of the Facebook campaign. The breakdown is that $1 million will be donated to the winning community and the 20 runners-up will each receive a $50,000 donation.

My support will definitely be behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA, my hometown. I would love to see my community benefit from this initiative during a time when it really needs that support. Take a look at the communities with the highest unemployment rates that you will be able to vote for starting April 9th through Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together Facebook campaign.

During these three weeks of April you can also participate in this Fighting Hunger Together initiative by shopping at Walmart and purchasing select products from four of the most popular and recognized food brands in America that are also participating, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft, and Kellogg’s. Customers can donate meals to Feeding America or Action for Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization that works to fight childhood hunger. Just by shopping the brands you and your family love, you can help make a difference in the lives of countless families in need this spring.

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The It Gets Better Project is Headed to MTV and Logo

It Gets Better Project The It Gets Better Project was created by syndicated columnist, author, and LGBT activist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller in September 2010 as an inspirational response to anti-gay bullying and the hike in (publicized) LGBT teen suicides. Since then, more than 30,000 touching and motivational videos have been created by countless celebrities, public figures, and regular people like you and me with one resounding message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens who are being bullied and facing discrimination, intolerance, and hate today: It Gets Better.

This project has achieved amazing success; by just the end of 2010, it raised over $100,000 from $2,500+ grassroots contributors that has gone to increase support and resources available to teenagers in the LGBT community through the project’s affiliation with the Trevor Project suicide hotline, GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), and the ACLU LGBT Project. By the end of this month, the It Gets Better Project will reach an even wider audience with the premiere of the It Gets Better special that will air on both MTV and Logo on Tuesday, February 21st at 11:00 p.m. ET.
Continue reading The It Gets Better Project is Headed to MTV and Logo

Donate Your Jeans at Any Aéropostale Store to Help Homeless Teens

Teens for Jeans

I woke up yesterday morning to a familiar winter chill filling the air. The kind of chill that makes its way into your home regardless of how high the heat is turned up and immediately consumes you before you even open your eyes. The kind of chill that becomes a part of you if you have always lived in a place where it snows, as I have, where as soon as you feel it, you know that while you were sleeping, nature was busy transforming every inch of outside space as far as you can see into the distance a beautiful, pristine white.

Whenever I wake up to newly-fallen snow, I get the same feeling: complete and utter excitement followed by a list of all the ways I could spend my day. You see, a day of snow still makes me feel like I have a personal snow day to take advantage of. It’s a sort of mental health day as commanded by the snow; nature’s little gift to the child in me.

When I look back on these days that I have spent doing very little besides playing video games, watching movies or old episodes of my favorite television shows, or reading a book and drinking freshly-brewed coffee, I realize that I really am lucky. There are a lot of people out there who can’t take that one day in the dead of winter and spend it doing only what they feel like doing. There are millions of people living in this country alone who do not have a home to keep them warm and protected throughout the winter season, and 1 out of every 3 homeless people are under the age of 18.

For the fifth consecutive year, DoSomething.org has teamed up with Aéropostale and P.S. stores for the Teens for Jeans drive.

From now until February 12th, collect your gently worn jeans, any brand, and drop them off at your local Aéropostale or P.S. store. Your jeans will be donated to local homeless shelters and charities that will directly impact a homeless teen’s life. So if you’ve been putting off cleaning out your closet, or if you’re still holding on to jeans that are either too small or too big, give them a new home with someone who will greatly benefit from your contribution. When you drop off your old jeans, you will also receive 25% off a new pair of Aéropostale jeans!

In four years of the Teens for Jeans drive, over 1.5 million pairs of jeans have been collected. To help and motivate youth to have an even bigger impact this year, DoSomething.org has some amazing prizes available for schools who sign up to host a Teens for Jeans drive. As of this writing, over 7,500 schools have signed up and the school that collects the most jeans will win new Aéropostale jeans for every student, a party for their entire school, and $5,000.

Visit Teens for Jeans to sign up your school (make sure it’s okay with your school principal first!), or donate your old jeans on your own at your local Aéropostale or P.S. store and get 25% off a new pair of jeans.

Hillary Clinton Delivers Historic LGBT Rights Speech in Celebration of International Human Rights Day

Hillary Clinton On December 10, 1948, after a nearly-two year process of drafting, revising, and rewriting, forty-eight nations voted in favor of adopting one of the most important texts to human beings everywhere–the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This text proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It is a simple, yet extraordinarily powerful idea, and one that in the past 63 years has led many nations to instill lasting change benefiting the citizens of their collective countries. However, this has not been enough to protect all human beings based on the simple fact that they are human beings. Even in the United States today, countless people are affected by broad injustice, discrimination, and intolerance.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a profound speech to a packed auditorium in Geneva where hundreds of human rights activists have gathered for International Human Rights Day, which will take place worldwide this Saturday. In the 30-minute speech, Clinton mentioned the uphill battles that have been fought and won through tireless activism and perseverance throughout history; battles such as repealing and abolishing racist laws, no longer accepting the notion that women should be treated as second-class citizens, and fighting for the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely and without prejudice. While success has come with these battles, much work remains for those who hope to see a world in which discrimination no longer plays a role in the daily lives of minorities or those who have been cast out as “others.” One group of those who are still being denied their basic fundamental human rights in large parts of the world, including in the United States, are those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender–the LGBT community. This community was the topic of Secretary of State Clinton’s speech, which is being heralded as a modern day “I Have a Dream” speech and after watching video of it twice now, I can definitely see why.

You can watch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s International Human Rights Day speech below, followed by a full transcript:

Transcript:

Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners. This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one of the great accomplishments of the last century.

Beginning in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere. In the aftermath of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations, and individuals around the world.

At three o’clock in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

In the 63 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. Step by step, barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.

In most cases, this progress was not easily won. People fought and organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change not only laws, but hearts and minds. And thanks to that work of generations, for millions of individuals whose lives were once narrowed by injustice, they are now able to live more freely and to participate more fully in the political, economic, and social lives of their communities.

Now, there is still, as you all know, much more to be done to secure that commitment, that reality, and progress for all people. Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.

I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home.

Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere.

The first issue goes to the heart of the matter. Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.

The second issue is a question of whether homosexuality arises from a particular part of the world. Some seem to believe it is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The Government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Now, some worry that protecting the human rights of the LGBT community is a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford. But in fact, in all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence, and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities, in ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other, whether they are women, racial, or religious minorities, or the LGBT. Former President Mogae of Botswana pointed out recently that for as long as LGBT people are kept in the shadows, there cannot be an effective public health program to tackle HIV and AIDS. Well, that holds true for other challenges as well.

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The fourth issue is what history teaches us about how we make progress towards rights for all. Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true. They are also unlikely to disappear if those who promote or accept them are dismissed out of hand rather than invited to share their fears and concerns. No one has ever abandoned a belief because he was forced to do so.

Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.

Reaching understanding of these issues takes more than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it.

But progress comes from changes in laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.

Many in my country thought that President Truman was making a grave error when he ordered the racial desegregation of our military. They argued that it would undermine unit cohesion. And it wasn’t until he went ahead and did it that we saw how it strengthened our social fabric in ways even the supporters of the policy could not foresee. Likewise, some worried in my country that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have a negative effect on our armed forces. Now, the Marine Corps Commandant, who was one of the strongest voices against the repeal, says that his concerns were unfounded and that the Marines have embraced the change.

Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.

A fifth and final question is how we do our part to bring the world to embrace human rights for all people including LGBT people. Yes, LGBT people must help lead this effort, as so many of you are. Their knowledge and experiences are invaluable and their courage inspirational. We know the names of brave LGBT activists who have literally given their lives for this cause, and there are many more whose names we will never know. But often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the majorities necessary for political change.

So when any part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men remains crucial. The fight for racial equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating Islamaphobia or anti-Semitism is a task for people of all faiths. And the same is true with this struggle for equality.

Conversely, when we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on. But when we do act, we send a powerful moral message. Right here in Geneva, the international community acted this year to strengthen a global consensus around the human rights of LGBT people. At the Human Rights Council in March, 85 countries from all regions supported a statement calling for an end to criminalization and violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

At the following session of the Council in June, South Africa took the lead on a resolution about violence against LGBT people. The delegation from South Africa spoke eloquently about their own experience and struggle for human equality and its indivisibility. When the measure passed, it became the first-ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of gay people worldwide. In the Organization of American States this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created a unit on the rights of LGBT people, a step toward what we hope will be the creation of a special rapporteur.

Now, we must go further and work here and in every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights of the LGBT community. To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws, because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes. They can and they do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a crime to be gay.

And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.

And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.

The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people.

This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.

The women and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated, and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay.

This evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago, writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.

There is a phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

I know that the thoughts I’ve shared today involve questions on which opinions are still evolving. As it has happened so many times before, opinion will converge once again with the truth, the immutable truth, that all persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights. We are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

The Micro Community of Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement is well into its second month. Thousands of people have joined together in New York City’s financial district to hold Wall Street and the corporate forces of the world accountable for their corrupt business practices and profiting from mass injustice made possible by severe income inequality.

Occupy Wall Street exemplifies what a real grassroots movement is and how it can thrive within our society that relies heavily on technology and social media. It is because of this that I have been able to diligently follow Occupy Wall Street on Twitter as well as watch the events unfolding within and around the peaceful protests on the ground via Livestream on multiple channels. It has been amazing to me to witness the thousands who have gathered in New York City and the countless people all over the rest of the country and throughout the world who have created their own events in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The message and mission of Occupy Wall Street has been targeted by multiple mainstream media sources as being convoluted despite the fact that they have released official statements and their own newspaper. The Occupy Wall Street protesters have been condemned as being “unorganized”, but when I saw the nearly-seven-minute documentary by Alex Mallis of the micro community that has emerged in Zuccotti Park, unorganized was by far the last word I could ever think to describe these people or this movement.

I have read more articles and have watched more minutes of video on Occupy Wall Street than I can possibly count and still, after nearly a month after first seeing this video, I can’t help but keep going back to it.

Photo by an0nyc