Don’t add me on your email list (or Social Media!)!

I was working in a marketing team at a company before I stepped my foot into nonprofit world. At my Host Organization, I train organizations how to effectively fundraise from individuals using GlobalGiving’s platform – and surprisingly individual fundraising is so much similar to consumer marketing. I enjoy thinking about different approaches that compels individual donors.

Here’s what seems to work in both consumer marketing and individual fundraising worlds:
-Personalized email (not “dear donor”)
-Contents that have pictures (cuter the better)
-Communicating updates in a timely, but not too frequent manner
-Contents that have a story (not just numbers, that’s boring).
-Include something that is relevant to the donor (why should the donor care?)

While a lot of nonprofit organizations are doing this already, sometimes I come across cases that are cringeworthy. Bad spelling, email addressed to the wrong person, photos attached the wrong way, etc etc.

What infuriates me the most though – are emails that pop into my inbox without my consent. I receive so many emails that I don’t recall signing up for on a daily basis. I recently had to ask one of our partners why he kept emailing me, and his reasoning was “We hope that you can check the content to see if we are writing the right thing, and maybe one day ‘you will have a change of mind’ to donate to us”.

Now, THAT’s a turn-off.

Emailing people just because you had a contact with them is never okay.  Especially if you are asking for donations or asking for their money to buy their product.  You only have so much patience with dealing irrelevant information in your inbox, and continuously receiving emails that you’re not interested will lead to one action: mark the email as spam.
I think the same goes to social media.  I do not wish to see the advertisement for baby shoes, or worse, selling my eggs to infertility treatment facilities in Hawaii in my Facebook feed (why are they so hard to turn off even if I select no?).
Don’t rub the information to people’s face.  Always give them an option to opt-in/ opt-out.  Though you can send millions of emails and tweets, there are definitely limits to people’s patience.

India grants full recognition to transgender individuals as “third gender;” makes discrimination against LGBTQ community illegal

In a landmark ruling for the LGBTQ community in India, the Indian Supreme Court earlier today granted full legal recognition to transgender individuals as a “third gender.” This encompasses all male-to-female, female-to-male, intersex, hijras, and other social minorities of transgender individuals that are part of South Asian societies. On further reading of the judgment it is also clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is now illegal all across India.

 

Following the shocking re-criminalization of consensual same-sex activity in December 2013, this verdict comes as a sign of hope for India’s LGBTQ community, especially in its mention of the right to privacy and its call to ensure that necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures are taken in India to ensure the rights of citizens irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation. This ruling also provides for self-determination of gender identity and sexual orientation, irrespective of whether an individual has had SRS (sex reassignment surgery) or not.

 

In other provisions that are being seen as a first in the world, the Supreme Court has now called for reservations in employment, education, and other fields for transgender people, in an attempt to negate the ill effects of social ostracism that the transgender community in India has faced over centuries. The hijra community (a social community of transgender and intersex people in South Asian regions) has been well documented for over 3 millennia in India’s culture, but has always been ostracized and disrespected. Till recent years, transgender individuals were subject to extreme social ostracism, and lack of education and job opportunities led many into begging or sex work.

 

Part of the judgment also notes that India should “Repeal all laws that criminalize consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex who are over the age of consent, and ensure that an equal age of consent applies to both same-sex and different-sex sexual activity,” which could be the lead in to overturn Section 377 of the Indian Penal code that still criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct, a remnant from an 1860 British Colonial Era law that exists in many constitutions across the Commonwealth countries even today.

 

This recognition will ensure that transgender individuals have the right to self-identify as male, female, or other, and apply for passports, voter ID cards, driving licenses, and other important documents with the gender that they identify with. The ruling also protects individuals against discrimination on the basis of gender expression, such as dressing, mannerisms, and speech, making it one of the broadest rulings in favor of the LGBTQ community across the world in recent years.

Black and Beautiful

“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter”. –Excerpt from Lupita Nyong’o Essence Magazine Speech

 

Are you living in a box defined by society despite having capabilities and talents that need to be shared with the world? It is time to break free stop being a victim of the world. Stop existing and start living the life you are meant to live, not what society expects of you. There is only one you and life is not a rehearsal.

 

Over time the world has metamorphosed from the Stone Age to modernity. With this change human beings have not been left behind, we have come a long way from the times when we only wore to hide to the fashionable clothes designed today. The one thing that hasn’t changed much is the negativity related to the word ‘Black’.  From being the color of mourning, to being associated with evil, death, and witchcraft, the negative connotations are endless. From blackmail to black sheep, blacklist, blackout the list goes on and on.

 

Many years ago this was not the case, in the 14th century, royalty, clergies and judges wore the color black. As for me, the color denotes power, strength, might, boldness and beauty. Unfortunately the unattainable beauty standards that the media impose on us have left many coveting timeless beauty. Just turn on your television, flip a fashion magazine or surf the internet and you will be flashed with paid programing on beauty products that promise age defying results for younger looking skin.

 

Thanks to Photoshop, smaller waist, slimmer thighs and lighter skin what every girl growing up hopes to achieve. Many girls have put their lives at risk to achieve this illusion despite the fact that even the models seen on the cover of magazines and on television do not look like that in real life. Many lives have been lost to dangerous cosmetic surgeries, use of dangerous skin lightening creams eating disorders for those who want to remain thin.

 

Since in many parts of Africa the lighter skinned you are the more beautiful you are, more and more girls are bleaching their skin. To them having a fairer skin is seen as the ticket to a better life. Young girls are growing with low self-esteem because they are not considered beautiful. It’s a high time the fashion magazines and the beauty industry as a whole to start rethinking the message they are sending out to the next generation. Real beauty is not just skin deep.

Did you know?

AMBER Alert and other Inter-Country responses

In the last 3 month in Washington DC, I have received four AMBER Alerts on my phone. For a while the AMBER Alert made me wonder of all possible doubts about my phone being infected by a virus. This thought lingered since the time I received this anonymous, continuously vibrating message on my phone which popped up on the phone screen from nowhere and disappeared after a while. In fact, it was strange to know that some of my colleagues at work were surprised too on a day we received it together.

Initially, for a couple of minutes at work, I misunderstood this abbreviated term as a virus alert on my phone till this curiosity led me to do a quick web search over the mystery behind it. Nothing could have left me more amazed about what I figured out in the next 5 to 10 minutes. I was quite impressed to know about the organized technical and practical response set by the United States Department of Justice. Through all these 7 to 8 years of experience in the Indian Non-profit sector and devising strategies for and working with Task Forces on finding missing, trafficked and exploited children I never saw such an example and far-sightedness of technology.

Active AMBER Alerts

 The US Department of Justices’ AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between the law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the widest reachable wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. It started back in 1996 in Dallas – Fort Worth. It is a nation wide system which is now active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The AMBER Alert system has also been adopted in the Canadian provinces and continues to expand into the Mexican border states.

The primary goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly stimulate the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child who has gone missing. In case citizens or commoners have queries and clues they asked to direct calls to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) who are managing the secondary distribution of AMBER Alerts.

I worked with the famous Childline network in India on more than 100 cases of missing and trafficked children and women across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Childline is an India based network which ensures a integrated child protection response. The Childline’s 1098 service is India first toll free tele helpline launched back in 1996 for street children.  The same year when AMBER Alert was launched. Similarly in Europe, the European Child Alert Automated System (ECAAS) was started in 2007 with the support of the European Commission to start the ‘Child Abduction Alert’. This is an automated system for child alerts that will enable law enforcement in the partner countries to quickly notify the public when a child goes missing and ask for their assistance. Equally significant, the partner countries: Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Portugal will be able to communicate with their partners to launch the alert in cases where there is information that the child has been taken to another country.  

In China, which is a home to a centuries old scourge of buying and selling of children, abduction appears to be less lethal but no less painful. There seems to no system in place to find missing, abducted children, parent with a very less amount of help by police are forced to find their children on their own. More than 60,000 children are estimated to go missing each year. Children from China are less expensive to buy for adoption than South Korea. These children are mostly abducted and put up for adoption. A lack of coordinated child alert systems in these countries makes it harder for parents to track their children for years. United Kingdom uses the Child Rescue Alert System (CRA) which started in 2007 based on the AMBER Alert system. The CRA is managed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

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Back in 2012, the abduction of April Jones triggered the first nationwide Child Rescue Alert ever used in the UK as investigators started weighing up the risk to the child in the hours after her disappearance.

Child Alert systems such the AMBER have proven to be beneficial for a well coordinated response in saving lives of many innocent children. In my experience of tracking, rescuing and reintegrating missing children in India, i can validate this with a firm belief that there is a high amount of coordinated intelligence, presence of mind and a proactive community and inter-agency response needed to make it happen, keeping in mind all legal and sociological grounds to protect a child.

 

Incorporating Monitoring and Evaluation methods into Liberia’s Governance System

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How the M& E System will directly support better resource allocation and the achievement of program goals

It is amazing how Liberia has been listed as one of the poorest economies in the world. With a country blessed with so many natural resources, Liberia should be one of the fastest growing economies of our time. Global Security watch classifies Liberia as “a rather strange place”. This is because Liberia should not be a poor country, but it certainly is. According to Global Security, Liberia’s per capita income was equivalent to that of Japan in the 1970s. Today, we are now ranked by the World Bank among the very poorest countries in the entire world! The question that comes to mind is, “ what went wrong?”.  Can this be ascribed to years of mismanagement of our resources, corruption and most importantly, a failed or dormant monitoring and evaluation system?

Since the ascension of Madam Sirleaf’s government into power, efforts have been made to create and build upon systems that will promote good governance, the rule of law, and economic viability. One of such highly successful tools was the Poverty Reduction Strategy which has been classified as largely successful. Another tool that the Government is set to launch is the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. In order to build an effective monitoring and evaluation system, we need not reinvent the wheels. We simply need to get the old cart rolling again. Denotatively put, we need to merge our M&E plans with government’s existing tools and make them more effective, efficient and measurable. For example, having a good monitoring and evaluation system in place from the economy point of view will mean directly supporting the last three pillars of the PRS. Economic Revitalization in Liberia’s case implies an attempt to stabilize our economy and bring us to a point where there is full equilibrium of all our natural and human resources. By closely monitoring and evaluating the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning’s goals through the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, we will help the Ministry better clarify the Government of Liberia’s procedures on how it plans to allocate resources efficiently for the greater good of its citizens taking into consideration its costs and potential outcomes of its decisions and thus enabling it to base every decision it makes on the cost-benefit analysis. Periodic monitoring and evaluation of the Framework will also ensure effective linkages between Policy, Planning and Budgeting within a multi-year span. Another positive aspect that directly monitoring this Framework will produce is the improvement in the public sector through fiscal discipline and better resource allocation based on the Government’s existing programs.

As the government attempts to once again restore all sectors of the economy, rebuilding our infrastructure and raising incomes will depend solely on an effective monitoring system. This government’s plans, objectives and goals are in the interest of the Liberian people, and have created the atmosphere for potential investment. However, if we do nothing about the serious corruption that has saturated in our country today, even the monitoring and evaluation system will be of no use. Therefore, the M&E system must firstly seek to reform programs that are at the very root of Liberia’s problem starting with the strengthening and reforming of our weak judicial system.

According to the Governance Commission of Liberia’s mandate, the Liberian government is striving to “achieve a system of governance that is inclusive, participatory, just and accountable which encompasses a merit-based and transparent system of public administration and management of public institutions and national resources.” However, in order to have a good governance system in Liberia, we need a lot of reforms, including political and legal reforms, reforms in our public sector and most importantly, how this government’s progress and performance is being evaluated, audited and monitored.

 

-Janice C. Pratt

 

 

 

 

Sources:

CIA World Factbook

www. globalSecurity.org

www.emansion.gov.lr/ Poverty Reduction Strategy Final Document

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invest in Girls and Women for a Brighter Future

8047347304_2ef969f23c_zIt’s no doubt development drivers like the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) have played a gigantic role in setting the global agenda and galvanizing development efforts for nations. They have been used to address social issues that affect the well-being of the most vulnerable groups of people at the grassroots levels across the globe- making momentous strides for girls and women- such as the significant reduction in maternal deaths to almost half from 543,000 in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010, and the huge decline in newborn deaths from 4.4 million per year in 1990 to 2.9 million per year in 2010. Commendable progress has been made in other areas including poverty eradication, access to universal primary education, and combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Nevertheless, challenges remain. A toolkit recently released by Women Deliver called Invest in Girls and Women, Everybody Wins reveals that 800 women still die every day during pregnancy or childbirth, and many cannot access basic health care. The unmet need for voluntary family planning has affected women’s full potential growth and development. This has resulted in 80 million unplanned pregnancies, 30 million unplanned births, and 40 million abortions every year. Other health issues like malnutrition, heart disease, and breast and cervical cancer continue to plague girls and women at alarming rates.

It’s obvious that more efforts need to be focused on investment in women and girls, because they play a pivotal role in the development process. As we review and re-frame development drivers for the post 2015 agenda, lets us not only reflect on the progress made so far,but also focus on a new development framework that prioritizes the rights, well-being and health of girls and women.

According to the toolkit, the approach of investing in girls and women would involve a ripple effect model that saves lives and improves health; strengthens national and global economies; builds a brighter future for communities; and develops a more sustainable world.  Governments and civil societies, women and men, boys and girls- everyone must unite to ensure that girls and women’s rights, health and well-being are addressed on all levels for a brighter future and a better world.

Photo by Erik Torner

Men’s Engagement: New Intervention for gender Equality

In recent years, gender equality has regained prominence among social activists, policy makers, and government officials. Two years from the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), questions abound as to whether we are any closer to achieving gender equality, and what is the most effective intervention to facilitate the goal.

During this year I have work on different projects related to women’s empowerment, but Men’s Engagement is remain the most important one for me, it is help me to make a “mind shift” in the way that I understand women’s empowerment.

New policies and strategies have been designed to guarantee equal opportunities for women, such as gender mainstreaming and positive discrimination, but questions remain about their enforcement. Increasingly, the gender and broader community have realized the importance of men’s role in advancing gender equality. The idea is built on the premise that lasting gender equality is possible only by tackling and changing deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms and roles that have restricted the status, movement and agency of women. Rather than as perpetrators and aggressors, men should be viewed as positive allies and advocates for women, and engaged in programs to address women’s economic, social, health, and political empowerment.

Inherent in the involvement of men in gender work is the recognition that men are gendered beings and are active participants in the everyday social construction of gender. In this view, women’s empowerment is not solely the domain of women, but a social change effort that involves both men and women.

 

Peer education program

Definition of peer education
Peer education is popular concept that implies an approach, communication, channel, methodology, philosophy, and strategy.
Peer is refers to one that is of equal standing with another, one belonging to the same social group especially based on age, grade, or status.
Peer education is now viewed as an effective behavioral change strategy, and it draw on several well-known behavioral theories.
In article published in 1999 south to define peer education as something that could best be viewed as an umbrella term covering arrange of different approaches as such peer programing, peer education, peer helping ,counseling or facilitating as well as a variety of other terms.
Application of peer education:
Peer education has been used in many area of public health, including family planning, drugs use, violence prevention, and nutrition.
Use peer education in the field of HIV and AIDS standout because of the number of examples of it is use of the resent international public health literature. Because of this popularity, global efforts to further understand and improve the process and impact of peer education in the area of HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment, care and support have also increased.
Peer education typically involves using the members of given group to effect change among other members of the same group. Peer education is often used to effect change at the individual level by attempting to modify a person’s knowledge, attitude, beliefs, or behaviors.

Girl Rising, from DC to Nepal

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“Knowledge is power. And ignorance, ignorance is the enemy of change. But change is coming. And we are the change.” – Girl Rising

Earlier this month, 58 individuals from 12 countries decided to celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing stories of empowerment and change. Led by Virginia Campo, young women leaders from across the world broadcasted the Girl Rising documentary one after another, resulting in a marathon of screenings and meaningful conversations. Fittingly, the event was called the ‘Girl Rise-athon’. In DC, Women LEAD and Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies co-hosted the screening at Georgetown University. Having hosted this amazing film last year, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it again. Later, as I sat in the audience engaging in discussions, answering questions, and listening to Claire from Women LEAD share their admirable work with girls in Nepal, I found myself feeling energized, inspired, and connected, much like everyone else who was a part of the 24 hour event.

Girl Rising, a film directed by Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, tells the story of nine ordinary girls who confront tremendous challenges and overcome them to pursue their dreams. Beautifully written, narrated, and shot, the film conveys tales of immense determination and courage, successfully educating and sensitizing the audience without inducing guilt or pity. This is something that several past campaigns and documentaries have failed to do. Instead, Girl Rising echoes messages of hope and tenacity, reiterating the truth that these girls, and millions like them around the world, possess the ability to transform their lives and communities.

For me, each girl in the film, Wadley, Amina, Suma, Yasmin, Ruksana, and the others, reminded me of their counterparts that I have been lucky to meet and work with across rural India. For them too, illiteracy, bonded labor, early marriage, and sexual and physical violence are harsh realities that surround them everyday. Witnessing their strength, struggles, and triumphs firsthand and noticing the disparity between their achievements and the contrasting preconceived perceptions held by many in India and the world has solidified my belief in storytelling as an effective and indispensable component of social change. Girl Rising’s innovative storytelling managed to bring diverse and complex realities from around the world in front of a largely far removed audience in the United States in a respectful, educational, and objective manner. The understanding and curiosity it prompted was evident by the questions that followed post screening.

Of all the conversations that evening, two stood out for me. The first was regarding the role of men and boys in ensuring gender equality. Drawing from my experience in India, I shared a few examples of the challenges faced when working to empower women in predominantly patriarchal societies. These were real, often frustrating hurdles but they could be overcome by identifying and working alongside a few ‘champions’ within communities. Due to the codependent and interconnected nature of rural Indian societies, even men who support women’s empowerment hesitate to speak out from fear of being ridiculed or shunned. Encouraging them and giving them a platform to speak often helped many other mute supporters join in solidarity. Additionally, creating champions within panchayats (local governance bodies at village levels that are regarded highly by villagers and considered superior to state and national governments by them) have positive long-term effects for women’s empowerment. From her experience in Nepal, Claire added that while there is a definite shift in attitudes, it would be inaccurate to say that there isn’t any opposition at all.  Fathers who initially feel reluctant to send their daughters to Women LEAD’s program are encouraged to attend their open house to learn more about the program. Though they might come in fearing the organization is anti-men, they quickly see that Women LEAD is inclusive, with boys participating in one of their programs as part of Women LEAD’s vision of women leading alongside men. Fathers, brothers and friends are critical allies for girls, and Women LEAD has seen the huge difference it makes when these male allies believe in girls’ right to education and empowerment.

The second conversation revolved around what people in the United States could do to help girls in developing countries. While there are many different ways, two stand out to ensure effective contributions that lead to the quickest results. They both begin with sensitization and awareness around the issue; familiarizing oneself with what is really going on. The best way to do this is by spending time to understand the work of organizations like Women LEAD, that are dedicated to empowering women and girls to help them escape poverty and discrimination. Next, individuals can choose to strengthen the programs run by these organizations by contributing monetarily. Along with, or instead of donating money, individuals can also help by assuming the role of storytellers. By reaching out to their networks and educating them about the issue, individuals can help drive attention, interest, and ultimately funds to the important work of grassroots organizations.

Everyday, all around the world, women and girls are fighting for their right to be heard. They are challenging longstanding traditions that stifle them and slowly, often painstakingly, replacing them with practices that ensure equality and dignity. They are breaking the shackles that tie them to a predetermined destiny and are setting examples for generations to follow. Their stories deserve to be told and their achievements merit recognition, encouragement, and support. Films, rather movements like Girl Rising and organizations like Women LEAD create a fantastic platform to do both.

[This post was originally written for Women LEAD's blog]