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The Menace of Sex Trafficking in the U.S – Brought to Light

According to human rights advocates, human trafficking happens every day in major cities across the U.S. Now, in the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that as much as one-fifth of all homeless youth in the U.S. are victims of human trafficking, most likely for purposes of sex. The study also showed that LGBTQ youth accounted for nearly one-third of the sex-trafficking victims.

Among the dozen cities the report investigated, along with Toronto and Vancouver were: Anchorage, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, California, Phoenix, Arizona, St. Louis, and Washington.

Sex trafficking though is not exclusive to cities alone, it occurs in all sorts of areas, including rural. People are prone to the risk of being sex trafficked - if homeless or living in poverty, if involved in the child welfare system or those with a history of childhood abuse, family conflict or violence.

They’re also likely to be victims of trafficking if they experience things common to teenagers: A desire to be independent or to test societal boundaries, if they feel misunderstood or think their parents don’t care enough or being attracted to material goods.

Too many youth desperate and alone on the streets making them vulnerable to traffickers. We are living in a world where desperate kids are bought and sold. If we wish to cut down the menace, reduce the number of youth who are being trafficked, we first have to deal with youth homelessness.

Increasingly some pimps are even branding their victims, often with tattoos on their bodies. Tracking chips too are becoming more popular in the world of sex trafficking. Tags are often found on victims' hands - between the thumb and the forefinger, as well as underneath their arms and on necks.

There are several things that members of the public can watch out for to spot a victim of sex trafficking. Physical indicators, such as malnourishment and multiple STDs or pregnancies. What a concerned person can ask themselves about a suspected victim is whether or not they are being exploited in any way — either for money or something else of value.

The Women Like Us Foundation has highlighted this nefarious practice in the past. We have shed light on incidents in the U.S as well as in other parts of the world. The recent statistics only bear testimony to how entrenched this practice is within our society.

We have made considerable efforts in the past as well as ongoing to tackle the menace on three fronts – Education, Homelessness and Trafficking itself. We have achieved considerable impact on our own and also worked hand-in-hand with like-minded organizations towards this goal. But much still needs to be done and any help is welcome. Learn how you too can contribute here...

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A few tips on Finding and Working With a Mentor

A common question that entrepreneurs often ask is how to find a mentor to help them with their business. Budding entrepreneurs need someone they can call on for advice on day to day problems, sit down with to discuss the more arduous matters and so on.

A mentor is one who’s seasoned in the business you’re in; they have knowledge and experience in your particular area and an interest in helping you achieve your goals. But mentorship is also a two-way street. These are people who give support and advice to those in need, but there are limits on how much you can impose on them.

A mentor is generally someone who has a personal interest in you. Nowadays you can find mentors through social media, but the best kind of mentor is someone who you already know and wants you to succeed. Seek out someone near and dear; even a friend of a friend, then commence a formal relationship.

Choose a mentor who has experience in your specific business. Make sure that they can be useful to you (and not just a fancy title or a lot of money) before you drag them through your business woes.

Set your expectations accordingly. Keep in mind that a mentor is not going to solve all of your woes. They can be relied on for periodic counsel, but not to offer in-depth business advice (not unless they offer that).

Know what to bring your mentor. A mentor is meant to be a bigger-picture thinker and strategist. They help you keep yourself collected and provide you perspective and a sense of longevity for your business. If they’re open to questions and discussions, great - but Choose your questions wisely.

You can never assume that their time for you is infinite. Make a list of things you want to discuss and the problems you hope to solve with your mentor. Take notes and keep track of the time.

At times, your mentor may make an introduction or pass you a contact. It’s your duty to make it good and to convey the utmost respect. You need to understand that you are now responsible for this person’s reputation. So be responsible in all communications, prompt with your follow-ups and so on.

Mentors spend a lot of their time and effort in guiding and supporting you - all for free, as a favor, or even as a way to give back. Make sure you acknowledge this — by showing your gratitude.

Treat this key relationship with care and it will serve you well for years to come. And hopefully, you too will be in a position to mentor someone in the future—returning the favor will feel twice as good as receiving it!

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How Entrepreneurs Can Excel In Their Chosen Career

If you feel secure and comfortable in your job, it may be time to reassess your current commitment and job satisfaction. Why? Sometimes being too comfortable is an indication that growth just isn’t happening. And if you’re not learning and moving forward, you’re losing out.

The Role of Learning

Everybody wants to move up in one’s career and life. In today’s constantly evolving workplace, It’s safe to say that whatever you learned back in college has become pretty much irrelevant.

The days of steady upward career trajectories are numbered, and can in fact even be harmful to you in the modern era. A one-track career can narrow your knowledge base, and might lead eventually to a dead end. So it’s recommended that you commit to learning constantly, open up-to lateral moves and so on.

 

Dealing with Failure

Unfortunately, we tend to internalize failure as being “our fault,” even if it is the result of external factors or part of natural career progression. Get over thinking that failure means you’ve been at fault. The important thing is that you made an effort and not that it didn’t succeed! Owning up to our failures is never a cause for shame. In fact,  good leaders would rather hire someone who has experienced a lot and learned some important lessons in the bargain.

Be in strong and good company (or network). Remember that it is the number one unwritten rule of business success. A strong network can help one stay apprised of the curve-balls business can (and will) throw you and it can also function as your support system when you need it.

One good way to accomplish both these is to get involved with startups in your area of expertise. People who work at big companies tend to dismiss startups as being not serious or a flash in a pan. Its right that most startups fail to take off, but a few will definitely succeed. And there  can be a lot for one to learn from them even from those that fail.

Instead of being negative, get involved with younger ventures. In addition to the satisfaction you might get from mentoring entrepreneurs, you stand to gain a lot in the bargain.

Keep in mind that change is always good. And well, it’s the only way to keep up in these times!

 

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How to tackle the spreading menace of Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking, though widespread, is largely unknown and misunderstood.

Modern day slavery that involves the use of force, coercion or fraud to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,  every year, thousands of people, mostly women and young girls are deceived, threatened or simply forced into commercial sexual exploitation. This isn't a crime confined to far-off locales, but also playing out in our neighborhoods, foster homes and the internet.

Human trafficking exploits the most vulnerable and is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, the second-largest behind drug trafficking. Today, an estimated $150 billion industry, victims are mostly children and account for as much as half of those sold for sex. With around three-quarters of victims coming from foster care or some other type of guardianship, poverty, domestic abuse, prostitution, gang activity and pornography are all intricately entwined in the illegal scourge.

The International Labor Office Estimates show that currently there are 20.9 million slaves. Victims are bought and sold, changing hands multiple times. Most victims get to live an average of a mere seven years from the time they are initiated into their first commercial sex act. Homicide, suicide, abuse and sexual diseases take their toll.

Efforts to eradicate human trafficking include strict legislation to stiffen penalties for buyers. States like Florida and Missouri are enacting new regulations that plan to utilize even consumer protection laws to target traffickers. But such efforts are rare, time-intensive and costly. In the law enforcement, many local officials and prosecutors simply do not possess the resources, training or manpower to effectively handle criminal cases involving trafficking. More effective would be creating awareness of the problem.

Not surprisingly, as much as 88 percent of the victims have contact with health care providers. So it's very important that healthcare professionals be made aware of the signs of someone being sold for sex. This also holds true for the hospitality industry as traffickers frequently use hotels to ply their trade and in moving their victims from one place to another.

The need of the hour requires the work of many and an appraisal of the social attitudes and habits that make trafficking profitable. Join us in the fight to end sex trafficking globally. Together, we can build awareness of this horrendous practice and motivate people to take steps to prevent its spread.


 

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SEWING A NEW STORY

Sewing a New Story

Women Like Us Foundation creates awareness and offers grants to women leadership that fights human trafficking and offers support to victims.

FOUNDER KRISTEN KEEN

FOUNDER KRISTEN KEEN

“For the first time in my life I am starting to see and feel differently about myself.” “ I do matter and my life counts too,” says Kansas.

Rethreaded began with a woman who had the passion and drive to actually change lives. Kristin Keen began forming authentic relationships with women on the streets and even in prisons where she visited. Kristin knew the need for these women was to feel safe in an environment where they could not only prosper but more importantly heal. Kristin started partnering with the local City Rescue Mission bringing her light into what appeared to be insuperable darkness. In 2012 Rethreaded was born.

Things we need to know….

Human Trafficking is the exploitation of another human’s vulnerabilities for the sake of a profit. Human Trafficking can happen to any person, at any age. There is no discrimination in the sheer evilness of this multi-billion dollar industry that denies freedom to millions of people around the world. Human trafficking is very much about exploiting, control, and manipulation. The sole purpose is to break a person’s spirit entirely. Kristin was determined not to let this cycle continue.

Rethreaded has directly helped over 30 women locally and 2,000 lives globally through making and importing survivor made goods. The iconic Grace Scarf has become a local symbol of freedom in the community as it represents the beginning of a new life. Rethreaded also partners with other freedom companies to continue to change the narrative to one of hope, grace, and reconciliation. There is great potential to keep reaching even further to help more survivors.

We are stronger together when we use our voices and resources to come along side these women in providing the proper tools that will help empower them to reach their full potential.

Rethreaded recognizes that healing is a critical component to reshaping these valuable lives and works within their community with other local organizations who focus on counseling, rehabilitation, and treatment. Rethreaded also bridges the gap by offering job training and employment within 5 facets of the company that include production, inventory, sales and marketing, finance and administration. Rethreaded has a 5- year model to assist in the restoration, development and experience needed to move on and pursue other careers even in leadership positions. Rethreaded believes in pressing in and stepping out to help create the lives these women long to have. It takes great courage and compassion to set such a task in motion and Rethreaded is doing just that.

Survivors come to Rethreaded and find a place of empowerment as they journey through the healing process. The language they use to describe themselves starts to change, the chains that bind are breaking and their lives are being transformed as they step into their true identity. Each day at Rethreaded is truly a tangible miracle.

Visions for the future are already becoming a reality at Rethreaded. They now employ 12 women full time and have implemented the Survivor Advocacy Program which provides employee assistant benefits for all our survivor employees. This program includes life skill classes, case management, and crisis intervention. Since all survivors are coming out of intense trauma, the Survivor Advocacy Program has been incredibly beneficial to our survivors and even the rest of the company as a whole as they increase their retention of women to 100%.

99% of the buyers in the sex trade are men and Rethreaded believes that a man’s journey into buying sex is just as broken as the women who are victims. “We need men who will stand up and be a voice to other men about the effects of this form of modern day slavery.” Sewing a new story is such a beautiful depiction of what it means to create a whole life for both men and women.

To find out more about Rethreaded, their survivor made goods, and ways you can help, go to www.Rethreaded.com

Written by Shannon Stoddard

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Women Positioned to be the Newest Tech Leaders

The technology industry has gained a reputation for being unwelcoming to and biased against women. Figures from the World Economic Forum show that only 24% of information and communication technology jobs are held by women. Women occupy just 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley and outside the valley, its 25% with 5% of tech startups being owned by women.

But the figures don’t tell the truth. These statistics mask the fact that more and more women are building tech businesses and designing innovative products. It’s no secret that traditionally, VCs haven’t been the most inclusive. In fact, only one in 10 dollars of venture capital funding goes to start-ups with at least one woman founder. Despite facing uphill battles in the tech industry, female founders are successfully raising funds from Venture Capitalists.

Today, VC-backed women-led tech firms bring in as much as 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. When they do secure funding, female leaders not only do well, but excel with their ROI being a whopping 35 percent higher on a global scale.

Why diversity counts in Technology

Women establish businesses differently than their male counterparts. From being able to think outside of the box, to pulling in thinking that strays from conventional business structures, there’s a need for continued gender equality in this burgeoning space.

To advance this growing trend, the tech and VC communities must continue to open doors and offer support to as many diverse ventures, and populations as possible. This diversity requirement extends to the workplace and leadership as well going beyond the traditional “all-boys club.”

The technology sector is increasingly looking at not merely science or computer graduates, but students from other streams as languages, social sciences and philosophy among others. A much broader approach than other industries in recruiting, and the more diverse the better.

As Nicole Eagan, chief executive of UK-based cyber security company Darktrace says - “To build a company you need a diverse team — you don’t want clones.”

Moving ahead in this vein is increasingly evident in the real world.  An overwhelming majority of world’s leading women entrepreneurs coming from the field of technology.  CIO magazine’s Top 20 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 is populated almost entirely with leaders from the tech sector. These include path-breakers leveraging technology in niches as varied as Health Testing, Business Networking, Rocket Science, Health Food, Finance, Fashion, Marketing and VR. You can check out the whole list here...

It might not be long before some of these innovators and disruptors find their place among the world’s leading personalities as the head of a tech behemoth of the future. And make no doubt about it, the future is female.

 

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4 Ways for Women Leaders to Achieve Success

The internet has created massive opportunities that shove gender bias aside, by empowering and enabling all entrepreneurs (especially women) to pursue their passions. Thanks to the growth of a sharing economy, solopreneurship, traditional entrepreneurship, and other creative paths are the future for women in leadership. But dreams don’t become goals without hard work.

Beyond having a sense of purpose, passion, and strong business acumen, mastering execution is what can truly propel female entrepreneurs forward.  And what does this even mean? In short, the skill of taking actionable steps to realize one’s goals.  

Here’s how it can be done:

1. Maintain focus.

Visualization is a powerful tool and when the going gets tough. Focus on a specific goal for motivation. It has been found that small business owners who use visual goal-setting in their businesses go on to achieve over half of such initial goals. To-do lists, keeping a journal, online reminder tools etc., can help you visualize and manage your workloads.

More importantly take action, no matter how small. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s easier to reach the ultimate goal.

2. Rejection and Sacrifice

Success tastes sweeter when the idea deserves the struggle. Entrepreneurs in general spend a lot of time, money and effort just to get their ideas off the ground. But keep at it and you can see your efforts bear fruit. Everyone would like to be in upper-management, but getting there isn’t easy.

Set simple, clearly defined goals, and figure out if your goal is worth the sacrifices it needs before making your moves.

3. Opportunity in Adversity

Success is built on failure. Every achiever can recount quite a few times when things just didn’t go their way. What makes such entrepreneurs stand apart is their persistence and the ability to keep going, no matter what.

4. Networking and Motivation

You can benefit hugely by being around others who demand your best. Invest in people and environments that provide inspiration, motivation, support and productive challenges. Take time to interact with positive people who are hard-working, inquisitive and able to dream big. They can give you the push necessary to stay on target.

Remember, in the real world, your people skills are that which sets you apart, more than your technical skills.

Being a woman should never determine the success or failure of your venture--your candor and hard work on the other hand, definitely should. As we have seen above, execution is that which separates the dreamers from the doers.

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The Challenges and Rewards of Entrepreneurship: How Women Can Tackle Their Business Goals

Male or Female, in order to become a successful entrepreneur, there are certain specific qualities that one must embody. It takes a certain kind of person to run a successful business. It’s even more challenging for aspiring female entrepreneurs to lead and propel their ventures to the highest possible levels of success.

Consultancy firm KPMG conducted a survey of 200 women entrepreneurs from the Inc. 5000 list to identify the characteristics and explore the contributing factors that female entrepreneurs cite as essential to their success. These are the key takeaways of this study.

Success Factors:

  • Hard Work

  • Perseverance in tough times

  • Willingness to take risks

  • Ability to hire and manage capable individuals

The study also explored why some women tend to go for entrepreneurial ventures as opposed to more traditional or conservative roles. They found out that half of the women entrepreneurs surveyed wanted to control their own professional destiny.

Other factors that motivated women to turn entrepreneurial were the desire to advance their careers and the opportunity to leverage their expertise to create something new.

And the major challenges that women entrepreneurs encountered in building their businesses were:

  • Hiring the right people

  • Time management

  • Funding growth

  • Managing cash flows in tough times

Despite these hurdles, women entrepreneurs ran 30 percent of all small businesses, together employing 8 million people and generating $1.4 trillion in sales.

One of the major issues that keeps women from creating an impact is the difficulty in raising funds. Both venture capital investment money and loan approval rates are scarce for women-owned businesses and highly disproportionate to their contribution to the economy.

 

The main underlying problem is that the worlds of business, finance and politics are still overwhelmingly male dominated. There are four men for every woman running an S&P 500 company. Women entrepreneurs get constantly overlooked while looking for funding in favor men. But there is cause for hope. There are women venture capitalists and firms with female partners often invest in female-run startups at a higher rate. And with more Women Venture Capitalists arrives better opportunities for female entrepreneurs to seek funding for their ventures. Solutions are available, though not easily within reach.Several available options include:

  • Women specific loan programs from the Small Business Administration

  • Angel firms and organizations that specifically lend to females.

  • Newer funding sources, such as peer-to-peer fundraising sites.

  • Networking with established women entrepreneurs

With lots of proven successful businesswomen in our world, society as a whole can ensure they get a fair chance to accomplish great things. This is evident in by the astounding growth of 68 percent for women run businesses since 2007. However, by being resourceful and motivated enough, women can (and will!) achieve their goals of building the business of their dreams.

 

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5 Black Women Pioneers Everyone Should Know About

What do most people think of when they hear “February?” Generally their minds immediately go to Valentine’s Day, and the associations of February as a month of romance and love. But more importantly, February is Black History Month. Black History Month, which was established in the U.S. in 1976, 50 years prior in 1926, was only recognized as Black History Week. In America, and throughout the world, Black History Month is a remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

Although the achievements of African Americans must be recognized every month of the year, an unfortunate reality is that for many people—particularly children-- education on black history has become something of an afterthought.

The education that is provided is often limited to specific black figures--Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcom X, to name a few.  While all of these figures offered magnificent achievements that propelled the Civil Rights movement (and humanity) forward, there are numerous other African American leaders who brought and are still bringing so much to the table.

African American women’s significant contributions as judges, educators, authors, athletes and community leaders should not be a secret.

 

Listed below, are five eminent Black women trailblazers who are deserving of greater mainstream attention:

Octavia Butler

One of the best-known women writers in the field of American Science fiction. She was widely admired for blending science fiction with African-American spiritualism. Her more famous works include Kindred (1979) as well as the Parable series. She’s quoted as saying “People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn't bother me. It's other people doing the calling that bothers me.” A true creative disruptor, Butler changed the perception that African Americans lacked an interest in Science Fiction with her compelling narratives.

 

Clora Bryant

A much under-appreciated musical genius, a trumpeter who broke ground for women in the male dominated world of jazz. She enjoyed a very successful career in the first half of the 20’th century, collaborating with giants like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. She made history in 1989, becoming the first female jazz musician to tour the U.S.S.R., on an invitation from Mikhail Gorbachev himself.

Zora Neale Hurston

The daughter of two former slaves, Hurston was an illustrious anthropologist, writer and folklorist and a prominent fixture of the Harlem Renaissance scene. Her most celebrated work of fiction is Their Eyes Were Watching God  published in 1937. With its overt feminist themes in relationship to the protagonist’s black identity, the book was well ahead of its time and is considered a literary classic today.

Katherine Johnson

Until the box-office success of Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson’s remarkable achievements in physics and math were elusive to most. The now celebrated physicist and mathematician made tremendous contributions to the United States' aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA. When NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenn's orbit around Earth, Johnson was the “go-to” for the verification. f those numbers. Glenn himself held Johnson in the highest regard, refusing to fly unless she verified the calculations.

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Kamala Harris

The current Californian Senator who has also served(2004-2011) as its Attorney General. Harris is the first woman, Jamaican American, Asian American as well as the first Indian American attorney general in California. She is also the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. For Harris, Black History Month “is a moment in time to celebrate the accomplishments and the contributions that Black people in this country have made not only as Americans and to their fellow Americans, but contributions that have had international and global impact.”

These women pioneers have achieved massive progress in their respective fields, but still remain under-appreciated, and likely because of their race. Black History Month should serve as the launchpad for greater awareness of their incredible progress and why such women are the need of our times.

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Why Women Leaders in the U.S. are a Rare Breed

In the last decades of the 20th century, women have made considerable progress in the U.S. but their advancement in the leadership ranks has stagnated. With women constituting over half of the U.S. population, they also hold almost the same share of all professional-level jobs. But when it comes to leadership positions, women lag substantially far behind their male counterparts. They make up only 25 percent of executive/senior-level positions or managers. They hold even less (19 percent) of board seats, and make up less than 5 percent of the CEOs.

Perceptions and stereotypes force many to see the shortage of women in leadership roles as disinterest in such positions or professions. But the fact is American women still face considerable barriers to reaching their full potential.

There’s a longstanding assumption in the American workplace that an “ideal worker” is someone who’s fully committed or devoted, with no conflicting demands. This inadvertently causes most women employees with care-giving responsibilities to remain stuck at lower-levels. Lots of hard working and high-achieving women take time off from their demanding professions to spend more time for themselves, or at least look for positions that allows more flexibility. No wonder many women professionals are marginalized when they set aside time for life outside the office.

There are several other structural barriers as well. There is an acute shortage of role models for women to look up-to. Women who seek to move up in the organization lack mentors and opportunities in male-dominated organizations. They lack the options to develop social and professional relationships with respect to organizational dynamics.

A combination of these factors have served to marginalize women, pushing them down or out of the workplace amid rising expectations to the contrary. The few women leaders that are around are burdened with helping to inspire and equip the next generation for advancement. Thankfully, many of these successful women are concerned with women’s plight for advancement, and are really passionate about inspiring the next generation to grow beyond the current levels.

The women leaders of our generation have their task cut out. They have to set the example and inspire the next generation to dream big. Whether be it heading a company, running a small business, making a partner at a law firm or even a stay-at-home mom, they should be empowered to advance in their careers and life.

Progress may be slow, but we can close the leadership gap even with one leader at a time. We need to raise awareness about the work of women professionals by providing equal opportunities for their participation and leadership in a broad spectrum of fields, preferably at the highest-levels.

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Fighting the Human Trafficking Menace in the U.S

A recent spate of news and developments related to human trafficking and law enforcement have again turned the spotlight on the menace of human trafficking - one of the most important human rights causes of our time. Human trafficking is the second most lucrative crime in the world, second only to drug trafficking.

As per the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, over 20 million people are currently victims of human trafficking around the world. The majority of whom end up being used as sex slaves.

 

In 2016, there were 7,572 human trafficking cases reported in the United States, drastically up from previous years. And human trafficking is more rabid in Florida, New York and Texas with 550 cases reported in Florida alone last year. Texas, one of the largest states in the country is a major hub for human trafficking and the problem is particularly severe in Houston.

But now the stakes have gone up, in part due to strengthened sex-trafficking laws and increased penalties. Traffickers now face 20 plus years in jail and are charged both federally and locally with kidnapping and racketeering. The heightened risks have led to unintended consequences.

Pimps are increasingly getting girls do illegal activities: Carjacking, carrying guns and drugs, robbing men who come for sex and so on. Forcing the girls into these lessens the risk of traffickers as they are victims and are likely to get off with less severe penalties. They accomplish this by encouraging the girls to take to drugs. This help them stay awake, work longer and to addict them to a habit they have to work for.

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Why We Need to Join Hands for Progress

A Stanford School of Business study has revealed that sexism retains a deeper hold in the American society than most imagined. One of the most perplexing factors is that women do not support other women.

This was no clearer than in the recent presidential elections, in which women voted for Trump (62%) over Clinton (34%) - a margin of 28 points. The outcome would have been quite different if the voting was more balanced. Instead, the polarizing contest showed that people always tend to have gender-specific approaches to their political choices.

Women are obtaining more and more of degrees - graduate as well as undergraduate – but there has been no progress in the real sense, merely more and more women occupying entry and lower-level positions. For the last 10 years, women have only occupied 14% of the top corporate jobs and 17% of the seats on the board. This is despite data that shows having more female leaders in business can significantly increase profitability.

The demographics at the top are often different from the workplace in general. The lack of women in the senior leadership is no doubt hurting organizations a lot. This has a percolating effect on lower levels, specifically on younger women who lack mentors and end up feeling they are unsuited to take on larger responsibilities.

There’s a lot of hype around women entrepreneurs nowadays. But if you look closely, most of these women have been forced to work for themselves because they couldn’t get the freedom and opportunities they were entitled to in the workplace. Now they have ended up doing the same jobs with no outright benefits, no security net to fall back on. They have chosen individual rights over solidarity.

Women have simply stopped making progress at the top in any field anywhere in the world. Though the reasons are many, but one obvious reason that inevitably comes up is that career oriented women are often aloof and non communicative. This leads to reduced empathy from others, more so from other women. However this bias can be easily overcome, by stressing on soft skills and communication. And more support for women colleagues and stronger relations with co-workers.

According to Angela Baker (Qualcomm, Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) and previously the United States Department of State) - Stand up for yourself and negotiate. You bring a lot to the table, and advocating for yourself will help you. Ask questions. Whatever be the industry or field, there are always people you can learn from.

As evinced throughout modern society, it needs a collective effort to change the status quo. We need to do it together, and the sooner the better.

 

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COME TO KENYA WITH US IN JUNE...Reaching Out to Help Teenagers in Kenya

Access to sexual and reproductive health services is limited for the poorest and hardest to reach communities in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans living in rural communities do not have access to family planning facilities. Teenage girls are the most vulnerable group that can benefit from family planning advice.

According to the WHO, about 17 million girls below the age of 19 give birth every year. The majority of these girls belong to low- and middle-income countries. Globally, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19. Infants born to teenage mothers also have a substantially higher risk of dying than those born to older women.

Adolescence is the phase where children (boys and girls) can best focus on their education and acquire skills to be used as adults later in life. Teenage girls who become pregnant face considerable stigma and are often forced to drop out of school. In most cases, they end up in a life of early marriage and low-skilled jobs. An estimated 28% of girls are married off before their 15th birthday in Kenya.

This has an economic impact on the countries as well, losing out on the income an educated young woman should have earned if she hadn’t missed out on school. This is especially severe  in Kenya as 40 percent of its population are below the age of 15, and the country needs them well educated.

Most recently 26 girls from the Narok province were forced to drop out of school due to pregnancy. They apparently got pregnant during the Christmas holidays after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The horrendous practice makes girls feel they are old and mature enough and end up engaging in sexual activities. Officials blame this on the parents and the community, accusing them of abdicating responsibility and neglecting their children.

The patriarchal and male-dominated society hinders the empowerment of Kenya’s girls a lot. Myths about the use of contraceptives are entrenched in the Kenyan community. People often question the various methods used to prevent unintended pregnancies. They even have doubts about their effectiveness or whether the drugs and other methods of family planning will lead to sickness and death.

International aid agencies have long tried to educate girls on the several available options for family planning, saving many from the unintended pregnancies that often force girls to drop out of school.

Agencies like the Women Like Us Foundation are making efforts that can help change lives for the better. With some help, girls can stay longer in schools which open up a world of opportunity in life. 

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American Mothers Are Not Taking Enough Time Out

Trivia - what’s common with the United States and countries like Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland(?!) Out of 173 countries, only these four lacks paid leave, and that's a report from 2007!

And this is in spite of the fact that the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1952 calling for a minimum 14 weeks of paid maternity leave for all employed women. And close to a hundred countries follow it.

The U.S. federal Family and Medical Leave Act -- passed in 1993 -- provides eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off during the first year of birth. Only three states - California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, have enacted paid family leave legislation in the country.

And now a new study shows that the number of women in the United States who take maternity leave has remained the same for the past 20 years. Approximately 273,000 women opted for maternity leave on average every month between 1994 and 2015 in the United States. No change at all during all that time and fewer than half of the women were paid for it.

Only 47.5 percent of women were compensated in 2015. This number is increasing, but only by a measly 0.26 percentage per year. At this rate, it would take another ten years before 50 percent or half of the women in the US benefit.

But wait, the number of men taking paternity leave has tripled over the last two decades! Of course, it was a minuscule figure, to begin with. It was 22,000 per month in 2015 compared to about 5,800 In 1994.

Many studies have shown the positive health benefits of allowing mothers to spend time with their newborns. Not taking time off after giving birth can also lead to postpartum depression, a condition that half the women are prone to.

This leads to other health problems like anxiety, fatigue, headaches, body pain, and relationship issues with their spouse and other loved ones. Heading back to work too early can also hinder a woman’s breastfeeding ability.

Money is a huge factor for woman opting to take maternity leave. It can be very expensive in the United States to lose pay for 1-3 months especially after a child is born. Even in states with paid leave legislation, some are unable to utilize the full leave period, as it does not completely compensate for the salary. Women also fear falling behind at work or losing their positions if they take maternity leave.

It’s high time our policy makers realized the importance of giving a woman the chance to heal after delivery. It’s a strenuous process – both physically and emotionally.

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No, The World Has Not Given Up On Refugees

In the words of Emmanuel Kant: “Hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another because [all men have] common possession of the surface of the earth.”

On the 103rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal on behalf of migrants and refugees. In his Sunday message for titled, “Child Migrants - the Vulnerable and the Voiceless,” the Holy Father said that numerous refugee children are suffering at the hands of malicious and unscrupulous people.

Since this is a complex phenomenon, the question of child migrants must be tackled at its source. Wars, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental imbalance and disasters, are all causes of this problem. Children are the first to suffer, at times suffering torture and other physical violence, in addition to moral and psychological aggression, which almost always leave indelible scars.”

Of the 17 million displaced Africans in the world, approximately 3% are in Europe and the vast majority remains in Africa. Only two African nations were among the top 10 countries of origin for refugees heading to Europe in 2015: Eritrea and Nigeria.

Many travel clandestinely since transit visas are impossible to obtain and few African states welcome newcomers. A dense network of trafficking operations and interconnecting routes take the migrants to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, while another route leads 4,000 miles from the Horn of Africa to the richest nation in the continent, South Africa.

There have been repeated outbreaks of xenophobic violence in these destinations, with migrants targeted in frequent bouts of attacks. This violence is fueled by a chronic shortage of jobs, services and housing. But as European resistance to accepting new migrants stiffens, the intra-continental flow of migrants is unlikely to diminish soon.

Governments and leaders in countries to where refugees are fleeing conflict should be encouraged to ensure peace in their countries and create favorable conditions. If this is accomplished, many young people would be spared the suffering that comes from the trauma of being refugees and migrants.

In this context, the UNHCR and aid agencies should be commended for their initiatives throughout 2016. These organisations including the Women Like Us Foundation have been relentless in their efforts to end the suffering of African refugees.

These organisations have worked tirelessly to bring resources to the much needed areas in Africa. They help identify the most vulnerable individuals and devise responses to their specific needs. With increasing global turmoil, every little bit of help and effort can go a long way in alleviating the relief of those suffering, in any part of the world.

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When Thousands Marched for Women’s Rights in L.A.

True to the mission of Women Like Us Foundation,

we marched in tandem with the world.

It was unusually bright and sunny this Saturday as hundreds of thousands packed the streets of L.A for the Women’s March. After heavy rains in the Southern California region, and with even more heavy weather predicted it was as if the sun too had come out in support.

The local demonstration was coordinated in unity with the march in Washington, and drew an estimated 750,000. The masses streamed from Pershing Square toward City Hall and back again in a loud but peaceful stand for equal rights and a defense of civil liberties.The turnout was so overwhelming that the march which was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. was delayed by more than an hour. “In my 30 years of being (with the department), this is the biggest crowd I’ve observed in downtown. It was visually impressive,” observed Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Andrew Neiman.

The gathering in L.A. was so crowded that several participants were at times pinned in place, struggling to even get their arms up to take selfies. In attendance were dozens of celebrities, including Natalie Portman, Barbra Streisand, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, Jane Fonda, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Laverne Cox and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Pink was everywhere – lots of women wore pink hats and pink trench coats—to be visible to the news copters hovering above. Many others carried pink balloons that were decorated with slogans. And lots of women in the crowd wore pink, knitted cat-eared hats known as “pussyhats” in protest.

The event organizers had planned the Women's March in L.A. as well as in other cities around the nation to make a stand for equality. The huge rally in the capital (an estimated million strong) and marches from coast to coast were largely peaceful. It could almost certainly turn out to be the largest demonstration recorded in US history.

Most of the participants were marching to support women’s freedom and reproductive rights, after an election campaign that brought debates about misogyny to the forefront of the nation.

But above all that, the Women’s March emphasized the power of women, their work, and their ability to change the world. It was about all of us linking arms together and making a difference in the world. Supporting the rights of all people, unity, integrity, the love of mankind, the planet and the world. The Women Like Us Foundation too was proud to participate for the greater good of the world through supporting women’s leadership.

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The Unholy Nexus of Conflict, Migration, Crime and Trafficking

Images of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean are perhaps the most shocking ones of migration we have seen so far. But far beyond those images are stories of exploitation that refugees risk at every step of their journey to safety.

The increasing perils of trafficking are not restricted to those who cross seas into Europe but for all refugees seeking sanctuary amidst volatile crises across the globe. Warring parties often turn human traffickers and war-affected populations their victims. More so in Africa, where half of all human trafficking victims originate.

The risk of exploitation hovers over every step of a refugee’s journey - from the origin of their persecution, en route to a safer place, the arrival at a sanctum and during the long wait in their host countries. The problem warrants more concerted attention than it gets now.

Organized crime is diversifying with traditional drug smugglers now expanding into the growing (and lucrative) market of human trafficking. Smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean has become huge business as Europe witnessed the largest ever migration in 2016.

People smuggling has turned out to be “a very lucrative business” with the amount involved rising even as the risks fall for criminal gangs. A year ago, the cost for a migrant from West Africa to reach mainland Europe was around €4000. Now, that amount has doubled or more.

The increased fees have put many of the migrants at risk by not being able to pay. According to Europol, many of these children and women end up as sex slaves in Europe. As a result of the migrant crisis, thousands of prostitutes in Italy are of African origin.

Drug dealing is another common way for migrants to pay back their debt and has become widespread in Europe. Other extreme ways of smugglers recouping their fare include organ harvesting and forced labor.

In comparison, people of Kenya, the focus of Women Like Us, are far better off. A stable growing economy, government, and infrastructure lays the foundation for considerable improvement through the work of international agencies. The issues to be dealt with this African nation are access to education, increasing the awareness of exploitation, health and employment.

The United States has long helped Kenya in its struggle against poverty and health issues - mainly HIV/AIDS. Aid programs are designed to increase the uptake of and adherence to quality in treatment services, ensure long-term follow-up including laboratory and logistics support, while boosting community facilities and county response.

With such assistance, aid organizations have made considerable progress in recent years promoting education and empowering the women and girl children of Kenya. But much more needs to be done, and we all can help.

 

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5 Issues To Tackle This Year

2016 did not turn out to be that great for women, across the globe and especially in the US. 2016 left many women feeling disenfranchised and vulnerable, as vital issues like equal pay, reproductive rights, paid family leave and equality for the LGBT community were sidelined.

So let's hope that a few prominent issues take a turn for the better in 2017.

The Anti-Abortion Fight

Arguably the most high-profile attack on women's rights has been the continued fight against abortion access by so-called "pro-life" advocates. Their opposition has almost always been without consideration for the myriad reasons why women opt for an abortion in the first place. Their stance not only denies women the fundamental right to assert control over their own bodies, but also systemically exposes their lives to considerable risk.

Sexual Harassment and Assault

America went through a prolonged and contentious election campaign that unceasingly trivialized sexual harassment and assault of women. Leading lights of the country’s leading pastimes are routinely accused of domestic violence, only to be let off with negligible consequences. Nothing symbolizes this better in 2016 than Stanford athlete Brock Turner receiving a 6-month sentence for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman.

Plight of Female Refugees

The large-scale issues facing women worldwide are too many to summarize, be it the uneducated millions of women and girls to the victims of genital mutilation. Some of the most prevalent struggles of our times are being faced by female refugees, particularly those escaping conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Compared to their travails, Women in America are exceedingly fortunate.

Gender Equality

By having predominantly male dominated organizations making decisions and products for women, the desires, preferences and wants of women have largely been ignored. This situation shows no sign of improving despite over 50 companies signing the Equal Pay Pledge last year. At least in the world of media, things are changing for the better with the success of the female lead of Star Wars, Orange Is the New Black and Samantha Bee’s late night show.

Equal Pay

More work needs to be done to boost the economy and expand the middle class. One step through which American families stand to benefit significantly is by closing the wage gap. Closing the pay gap would yield an astounding average benefit of $6,551 per working woman! This is money that can help families prosper and aid the economy in the process.

Even more can be guaranteed through paid sick, family and medical leave—not just for mothers, but for all workers.

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UN Confirms that Kids are the Major Victims of Trafficking

To no one’s surprise, it has emerged that children and women in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking worldwide. This is according to the latest 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons from the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.)

As per the report, the most prominently detected forms of trafficking are for sexual exploitation and forced labor - as much as a third of all humans traded around the world. However, victims are also being trafficked for forced marriages, used as beggars, fraud or production of pornography.

UNODC says that young girls and women tend to be trafficked for purposes of sexual slavery and marriages. They comprise over 70% of the victims. Men and boys are typically exploited for forced labor in the mining sector, as soldiers, porters, and slaves.

And kids are increasingly bearing the brunt of human trafficking with close to 30% of detected trafficking victims worldwide. In the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, children comprise over 60% of the victims.

The UN agency has also emphasized the link between ethnic conflict, armed groups, and human trafficking, noting how such groups often engage in trafficking, abducting and coercing women and girls into marriages or sexual slavery.

Data reveals that trafficking in persons and regular migration flows closely resemble each other in respect of some destination countries in various parts of the world. Factors like transnational organized crime in the country of origin and a person's socio-economic standing increase such vulnerability to human trafficking during the migration process.

Click here to get the full report.

In Kenya, the late onset and poor performance of the short and long rains last year have extended the dry season into 2017. Currently, 1.3 million people are affected by the severe drought with the numbers expected to rise. Amidst such extreme conditions and poverty, the fate of women and young girls can only worsen.

In Kenya, reaching the emergency services when you need them is excruciatingly difficult. The government’s 999 emergency number had been disconnected in 1998 due to the claims that the state lacked both the facilities and the personnel to deal with callers. It has since been reconnected in 2013 but suffers from constant overload.

These conditions make efforts of our organization – “Women Like Us” that much harder on the ground. But such struggles only strengthen our foundation’s resolve. Our primary goals remain a focus on initiatives to raise awareness about the plight of millions of victims of trafficking, especially women, and girls.

More resources are clearly needed to identify and assist potential trafficking victims, as well as aid them in sustenance and life skills. That’s where we all can contribute and assist.

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How US Sports Tackled Women’s Issues in 2016

Apart from Hollywood, there’s no other field in the U.S that generates media frenzy like Sports. And in several instances, the media spotlight was trained on women’s issues in the sporting field like never before. And the issues were those important to women in any other field – discrimination, gender diversity, equal pay and violence.

2016 was a landmark year for women in sports on and off the field with lots of controversies and lawsuits related to gender equality, domestic violence, and sexual assault. All these garnered the kind of attention the country only reserves for its male-dominated sports arena. The U.S. Women’s Tennis Association, the national soccer team and the NCAA incited national debate over equal opportunity and pay for female sportspersons as well as violence against women.

Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

Women achieved more progress in the male bastion of NFL in 2016 than they did in the previous half century. Landmark initiatives led to the women breaking into the NFL coaching ranks for the first time, as also the hiring of the first female NFL official.

Soccer in the U.S

Though low on the popularity charts, you will be surprised with the following fact. The US women’s soccer team outperformed the men’s team in the most recent World Cups and produced nearly $20 million more in revenue. What shouldn’t come as a surprise is that the women’s team earned significantly less money — roughly a quarter less.

Unwilling to take this sportingly, leading players of the women’s national soccer team filed a federal wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) back in March. The short-changed athletes have been outspoken of their poor playing conditions as well as unequal standards of travel, accommodation, and food. A decision is awaited.

The Elephant in the Room

Often swept under the carpet, the issue of domestic violence raised its ugly head again. NFL has in the past displayed callous indifference the toward domestic violence victims, especially in the two years past. In 2016 the New York Giants firing kicker Josh Brown following a domestic violence incident turned out to be a key turning point.

In a repeat of 2014, the player initially received unqualified support from his team following the incident. But only to be released following the release of further damaging information. The NFL is now finding itself under increased scrutiny of the enforcement of its domestic violence policy.

The complainants continue to wage their fight in the court of public opinion. Appealing to fans and the media, against a system that’s discriminated against them. Such heightened public attention on the nation’s most prominent sporting bodies will hopefully translate into more concrete reforms in 2017.

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