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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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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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Helping Young Girls Escape A Life of Torture

Amidst the widespread poverty, lack of opportunities and constant threat of abuse, there is one scourge that terrifies the young girls of Kenya the most. The threat of female genital mutilation (FGM.)

A common ritual among rural tribal families, the practice peaks during Christmas and holiday seasons. All the more reason for schools to remain open during the holiday. The fear of FGM forces hundreds of school girls refuse to go home and hide in their classrooms.

Despite being banned in 2011 by the Kenyan government, women and more precisely young girls are still subject of this atrocious ritual. Some communities like the Maasai consider it an important part of their culture and women who do not undergo it lack respect later. Several local churches still push worshipers towards this horrendous practice.

The vice is rampant in the country, as high as 90 per cent in several counties. This horrifying practice leads to higher rates of girls dropping out of school, affecting education and employment in the county. Girls are forced to undergo this procedure so that parents get dowry.

FGM supporters believe that the practice reduces infidelity and prevents HIV and Aids. There is also a worrying trend of younger and younger girls being forced to undergo the procedure. A quarter of those surveyed in a recent report were as young as 5 years old.

On the other hand, the number of girls enrolling in both primary and secondary schools has increased sharply since the ban on FGM. Some counties have turned all girls' schools in their division into rescue centres. With help, most of them can study and excel in life.

But poverty remains a roadblock. A lot of poor families cannot afford to send children to school. These young girls are the most prone to FGM, early marriage, teen pregnancy and no hope of redemption from a life of servitude.

Activists regularly call on families to shun this abhorrent traditional practice that ends up affecting the lives of their children. Sensitisation events are regularly held in rural locales. Girls, boys and even parents come in solidarity with those under threat of FGM.

With heightened awareness, girls learn how to protect themselves and know whom to approach when threatened. Due to the intensification of such campaigns, the practice of FGM has not stopped, but merely been driven underground.

Girls can with the support of local communities, organisation and schools stand up for themselves. This is where international agencies including the WLUF are contributing in a big way. By helping the threatened girl children of Kenya with the necessary assistance, a lot of lives can be bettered.

 

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She Wanted to be an Actress

Mimi was 15. She was sweet, funny, adorable and outspoken. Mimi was new to the One Girl at a Time program in Sun Valley, California.

During one of the meetings last year, Angel Covarrubias the program leader and her team, spoke to the girls about dreams and goals. Mimi raised her hand and shared that her mom told her to never have dreams or goals. Her mom thought they were silly.

Angel then asked Mimi what she wanted to do and she said she’d like to be an actress. Angel’s team spoke about the importance of overcoming obstacles that often get in the way of accomplishing what they most desire and doing whatever it takes, offering a new perspective to Mimi about the power and purpose of having dreams and setting goals.

Mimi attended the bimonthly meetings another three or four times and then wasn’t at the group again. Later, Angel learned that Mimi had stopped going to school altogether.  The program continued through the rest of the school year without Mimi in it.

In the fall of 2016, Angel learned that Mimi had been working as a prostitute. She had become a ward of the court (a minor who has an appointed guardian such as a governmental agency for the minor’s protection) and had been put in a home because she was a “sexually exploited victim”.

Angel then learned that Mimi was killed in July of this year, run over by a hit and run driver who police suspected might have been her pimp or an upset customer. She is just one unfortunate example of the many girls who have fallen prey to sex trafficking. This epidemic is wide spread, on the rise throughout the world and in our backyards.

The Women Like Us Foundation is on a mission to eradicate sex trafficking by promoting prevention and awareness. Unfortunately Mimi was lost to this horrific problem but her story only strengthens the foundation’s mission to eliminate it, making it their top priority for 2017.

The teen girl mentoring program One Girl at a Time is one of the best ways the foundation is educating young women on sex trafficking and how to recognize recruitment tactics. The program also emphasizes the value of living purposefully while teaching life skills and promoting leadership, offering the girls healthy alternatives to live with hope and intention in the face of difficult circumstances.

Additionally the foundation is driving awareness through their documentary, outreach and events, and funding women led organizations that promote education.

To learn more about how the Women Like Us Foundation is fighting sex trafficking, go to http://www.womenlikeusfoundation.org/sex-trafficking

To donate: http://www.womenlikeusfoundation.org/donate/  

or TEXT DONATE TO 323-244-4234

Blog author Molly Lyda, MA is a Life Coach and Therapist in Los Angeles, who supports women in finding balance and purpose in their lives through her program Intimacy 101: Create the Life You Want. She enjoys volunteering with the Women Like Us Foundation and working to make a difference in women’s lives. www.MollyLyda.com

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Why We Must End Institutional Gender Bias for the Advancement of Women’s Rights

Diversity is one of the more important issues in modern business, and women have to fight harder for it now, more than ever. Increasing the share of the pie for a group that’s over half of the world population seems only logical in every respect.

But rather than a common gender bias, it’s a combination of many things that contribute to the parity in the workplace. You don’t have to look farther than the recent findings on pay parity and glass ceilings. Every woman faces unique biases and challenges in their fields that should be dealt with in order to achieve true gender parity.

The concept of so-called women's issues has been discussed for decades and at times even used to sideline their political contributions. Many women in the U.S Congress are experts in varied fields including health, education, family and housing - all traditionally deemed women's turf. More reason for them to be taken seriously and their proposals advanced through the lawmaking process.

A recent study states that women in Congress have sponsored women's issues at a significantly greater rate than men since the 1970s. But, such issues face more tough passage than other comparable issues. Compared to 4 percent of all bills introduced in Congress becoming law, only 2 percent of bills related to women's issues become law.

The other, more worrying fact is that only 1 percent of such bills sponsored by women themselves become law. So what it comes down to is that proposals in areas of women's issues are not even taken seriously, unless proposed by men. An institutional bias? Most would think so. And more worryingly, this pattern has been fairly strong across the past 40 years, regardless of who’s in charge.

Disturbing though this trend is, these patterns are likely to continue. So what would it take to change this? Would more women in the Congress lead to changing these biases? Heightened awareness of such bias and a pressure to change the status quo is what is required. And it should come from the Congress or a larger group.

As a sign of the changing times, for the first time, women now make up a majority of students in law school. They now hold over 50 percent of all the seats at accredited law schools in the United States. And enrollment is on the up after dropping dramatically, by as much as 30 percent since 2010. In the context of increased standards for student graduates including test scores and grade point averages, women appear to be the more qualified applicants.

So now that we have gained the edge in enrollment numbers, we now need to translate it into an advantage in the professional field.

 

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In a Retrograde Step, Underage Sex to Become Legal in Kenya

In a shocking development, underage sex is soon set to become a reality in Kenya. An amendment to the Sexual Offences Act seeks to reduce the age limit (now 18) for consensual sex. If the amendment sees the light of day, it will no longer be criminal to engage in sex with children above 16. The amendment is at odds with the prevalent marriage law which does not allow those below the age of 18 to marry. A combination of these will increase the likelihood of girls being impregnated and abandoned since they are not of marriageable age.

And the proponents of the amendment have come up with a baffling, twisted logic – one that seeks to “protect” boys. “The boy child has become the unintended victim of the Sexual Offences Act. A lot of teenagers are in relationships without their parents’ knowledge,” says Federation of Women Lawyers chairperson Josephine Mong’are. “If the girl’s mother does not like the fact that you have a boyfriend, they go to the police station and claim rape or defilement,” She adds.

The so-called Romeo and Juliet laws and clauses protect young adults or teenagers who have attained puberty and have willingly entered into sexual relations. However, it is a retrograde step for the African country that has traditionally been averse to women’s rights and where child and sex trafficking is a scourge. Not to mention, the horrors of genital mutilation and widespread prevalence of HIV/Aids.

In a society where early marriage and the consequent abhorrent practice of genital mutilation remains a threat for a large no. of school going girls, this could have a disastrous impact. As highlighted in our previous post, teenage girls as young as 12 are the target of young men who lure them into the nefarious web of human/sex trafficking.

If passed into law, this could increase the instances of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) especially HIV/Aids. At present, Aids is considered to be the leading cause of death in Kenya, responsible for nearly 3 in ten deaths. An estimated 1.6 million Kenyans suffer from HIV infection, according to state data from 2014. No wonder the stigma surrounding the virus is rife in the country, especially the interiors.

Given the situation, an amendment of the clause can have disastrous consequences. International agencies including the UN and organizations like WLUF are at the forefront of the fight in Kenya against trafficking. In the region where underage prostitution and heinous trafficking threats are shockingly prevalent, the fight is going to get tougher. Without a doubt, much still needs to be done with regards to education on sex, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases among girls of the country.

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Thousands of Homeless Women Suffering in the U.S. Need Help

Out of the blue, 460 women and children were released from family detention centers in Texas earlier this week. This was after a judge ruled that these facilities were unsuitable to house children. While the decision is a welcome one for human rights, the unexpected release has left families in the lurch. Aid organizations are scrambling to provide shelter, food and emergency care for these families in the wet and frigid month of December.

At these detention facilities, refugees seeking asylum from Central America had reported horrific sexual and child abuse, poor legal representation, and lack of amenities and proper medical care. The answer does not lie in building family-friendly detention centers because, in doing that, refugees will still be seen and treated as criminals.

Most of the women and children who have been released now have nowhere to go and have no access to medical relief. Most of the women are alone, speak little to no English, and are now huddled on the floor of churches in Texas.

Aid organizations are stretched to their limits and need all the help they can get. Even as the release of these families is a win for those of us involved in upholding the rights of women worldwide, our work cannot end with that. While contemplating the plight of these women, let’s not forget the suffering of millions of less fortunate women in our own and poorer countries vulnerable to even worse cases of abuse and mistreatment.

Violence against women is one of the world's most pervasive human rights violations, with one in three women experiencing violence during their life. This affects the victim’s ability to access the full spectrum of their human rights. Such violence prevents women from creating better lives for themselves and their families. Domestic violence affects women and businesses, as most women work and are not able to leave abuse behind while at the workplace.

Among industrialized nations, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children. And families comprise roughly one-third of the total U.S. homeless population. A typical sheltered homeless family consists of a mother in her late twenties with two children. Almost every one of these women is likely to have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their life.

The impact of homelessness on mothers is profound. Women in our country and around the world have the right to live free from fear and harm. And it cannot be delayed any longer.

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Starting Early – Saving the School Girls of Kenya

In impoverished rural Africa, attending school can be a daily struggle for some children. Children who live in Kakamega, Kenya, have to travel 10 miles or more on average to school, usually on foot. Compare this to the average primary school child in the USA who has to traverse a distance of 3.6 miles, and generally in a vehicle.

The families that cannot afford to send their children on buses or other forms of transportation are forced to make their children walk long distances to school, and naturally causes parents to worry about the safety of their children.  As a result, many parents choose to keep their children at home.

Those children lucky enough to attend often have to depart hours before the start of school to arrive on time. The daily commute time and distance results in increased tardiness, exhaustion, and frequent absenteeism. Eventually, the tired child drops out of school: leaving without completing their studies. For many, especially girls, it’s the end--a total withdrawal from the educational system.

A far cry from the walk or ride to school that their counterparts in other countries have, girls bear the brunt of the many risks associated with a long, lonely walk to school. Motorbike riders, the country's makeshift transportation service often stop the girls on the road and offer them rides to school. They would befriend and try to persuade them to drop out. Boys and young men offer girls lifts, and girls fall victim to assault and rape.

It's also a situation that was remedied by a simple and cheap solution : a bicycle. Courtesy of World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit that aims to empower impoverished communities with the help of bicycles. With these bikes, girls can arrive extra-early at school, less tired than before. They also don't have to worry anymore about walking alone.

Apart from increasing school attendance and improving academic performance, retention of girls in junior secondary education has improved. Other key benefits include the improved livelihood of bicycle beneficiaries and their families.

However, there still remain other barriers, such as school fees, books, and meals. In Africa, where families value boys more than girls, and parents have little money, only the boys are sent to school.

According to UNICEF, one in five girls have experienced violence in the past year alone. Teen birth rates are high in Kenya and teen pregnancy is known to be detrimental to education. The looming menaces of poverty, child abuse, and other traumatic events can have a damaging impact on the development of a young mind.

The solution to these problems might not be as easy, but even a slight effort can make a huge difference.

 

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