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Monday
Sep222014

EngenderHealth: WTFP?!

There are few things more important to me, as a woman and mother, than making decisions for myself about my health. This includes, but is not limited to, choosing my own contraception. Choosing when to get pregnant and making my own choices about having children are things that I have taken for granted at times.  After visiting with women in Ethiopia and asking them about their choices, I realized my freedom and privilege to even use the word "choice" about my health.  In fact, I probably didn't see the importance of being pregnant and taking good care of my health as a teenage mother. I was lucky in that I didn't even choose prenatal care until the 6th month of my first pregnancy because I was afraid of telling my parents that I was pregnant. While I delivered a healthy baby girl I can't stress the importance of what I missed out on while I was living in denial. It didn't have to be that way, either. Those choices I made were out of sheer ignorance of medical facts and I've worked since then to make sure that other young girls who find themselves in the same position don't make that grave mistake. Especially in a place where we have access to such great medical care. 

More than 220 million women in developing countries want access to family planning but can’t get it. That's nearly a quarter of a billion women who would like to have a choice regarding on family planning. It's a freedom I take for granted. When women get the option, there is a decrease in two important areas: one, they decrease the percentage of newborn deaths by 40% and two, there is a 30% decrease in maternal deaths. These are remarkable statistics and something that can be an easy fix. What does that lead to once we ensure that women are choosing their own family planning? It allows women to stay in school longer, earn more money in their lifetime, and raise healthier children. 

EngenderHealth, a global women’s health organization, is working to raise awareness among Americans of the importance of access to contraception around the world. So, what exactly are some of the barriers to these women in developing countries that keep them from getting adequate family planning?

Lack of supplies and the cost of them.

Gender inequality. 

A limitation of trained medical professionals (doctors, nurses, and midwives).

Why do you need all these information? Because there's something you can do to help. EngenderHealth is asking "WTFP?!" in a campaign this September. Where's The Family Planning?! is a global movement that is expanding the access to contraceptives and family planning. Since 89% of adults in the United States believe that women should have this access, you can do three things to help this movement: 

1. Tell your friends. Share WTFP?! #WherestheFP digital content, including the videos and photos linked here.

2. Be an advocate. Integrate family planning messages and information into your work, your social media, your personal life. 

3. Join the conversation. Partner with us, with me, on #WherestheFP campaign activities.

EngenderHealth would be happy to have your voice. They do important work like training health care professionals to provide maternal and reproductive health care and they partner with over 20 different governments for this express purpose. As a supporter, I find no greater joy than helping them work towards transforming the lives of women. Women, I might add, who are no different than me as far as their goals and desires and hopes for a future. More than anything, I agree with EngenderHealth’s mission of ensuring that every pregnancy is planned and that every child is wanted and that every mother has the best chance at survival. 

Find out more by clicking here and be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

 

How will you get involved? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a Social Good Goodies bag. 

 

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

5. Sign up for EngenderHealth newsletter at the following link, and leave a comment on the post saying you did so.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 9/22/14 -11/4/14

Be sure to visit the EngenderHealth brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

 

 

Wednesday
Sep172014

I Speak Girl

There are few things in life I do better than speaking the secret language of teenagers when I'm at work. In fact, I'd say that I am fluent in speaking Girl. Whether it's a 6th grader or a junior in high school: I can get them to talk to me. It's a storyteller characteristic. In order to get people to open up to me and speak then it behooves me to place myself in a vulnerable enough position to gain their trust. 

 

So, when Kari Bedford, a local photographer who happened to take the wedding photos for my daughter last year, asked if I could wrangle up a few girls for a project she's working on I knew it was a no-brainer. Can I get young girls to follow me into the creative realm and do stuff for picture taking and meet off-site from school at a new studio for a photographer they've never met?

Ummm, yeah. Easy peasy. Have you seen the amount of selfies they take? I HAVE AND OH MY GOD I HAVE SEEN SO MANY SELFIES. 

 

In middle school, we live in the Land of the Adolescent where their brains are not yet fully formed. Where kids speak in coded language and constantly make up new words at breakneck pace. Where sometimes the only complete sentences uttered by them are song lyrics. Where what is in their heads is out of their mouths so fast that they don't have the speed bump necessary to slow it down should it be inappropriate or rude. 

I love it here. It's absolutely nuts but I never wonder about my fashion choices or my hair or my words because they will tell me when they don't like something. This land is where my skin toughened up and where my back became waterproof. 

Very little bothers me when it comes from people that don't mean anything in my personal home life.

Oddly enough, there are times when I meet people who shouldn't mean anything to me that end up profoundly affecting me.

I have been called every name you can imagine. Ever. (Sometimes I am slightly impressed by the imagination and creativity and compound words they create.) (All of them are NSFW.)

I have been threatened physically by students and parents. 

Once, while supervising lunch a rather difficult student yelled, "You are a such a fat bitch!" at me. 

In my most sing-song, high-pitched Princess voice I responded:

"Excuuuuuuuuse me. But did you call me FAT?"

This land is rough terrain. 

**************************************************

Learning to speak Girl means being as good a listener as you are a speaker. The girls who showed up last night at Kari's photography studio ended up in the street, playing outside when they were waiting to be picked up by parents. The street was closed off as are many streets downtown right now for construction purposes so I wasn't too worried about them since I could see them from where I sat inside the studio.

I heard a commotion and noticed a group of boys on bikes had ridden by them and one fell off while doing some trick so I went outside to see. The sun was just setting and I caught them with my camera as they took off around the corner.

  

The girls were interested in my camera and we talked about my very amateur status and lighting and shadows. They let me practice on them while the sun set in the background.

 

 

Once the girls were picked up by their parents I took off and headed for home. My car was parked a bit away due to the street closing and as I turned the corner I saw the group of boys on bikes again. By the time I reached them I made eye contact with a few and then stopped to tell them I had taken their picture earlier. 

"Yeah, that's when I fell off my bike. They all laughed."

The other boys laughed again when he said that. 

I told them I was practicing with my camera and they asked to see the shot so I obliged them and then asked if I could take another of them, right here, in front of me. They obliged that, too. They smiled for my camera and laughed at me when I would say, "Oh, just one more picture! You're all so handsome." 

 We chatted about where they went to school and if I knew so-and-so and we spent a few minutes making connections. They told me who their cousins were who go to my school and I told them who my teacher friends were who work at their schools. Only one of them said he was out of school already.

Walking away, I promised them to post their picture on Instagram so they could see it and, looking past them I noticed a White police officer on a segway. As they rode away from me I heard their low voices say that they needed to split up and "There's the police" which an emphasis on "po". My body froze in that spot to watch them.

Everything changed. Their body language changed instantly and their comfort in posing for the camera just seconds before were now gone. No longer boys, they were men in an instant, morphing to fit the audience in a flash. With just the addition of the police officer who, by the way, had not approached them. The air shifted and became still. I don't know if the sun was still settting or not, but it hung in the sky not moving.

Everything changed. 

His presence was enough.

His Whiteness was enough.

Their youth was enough.

Their Blackness was enough. 

 

What was just there, this brief sense of stranger trust, was gone. I had laughed when one of the boys said he was going to lift his bike over his head for the picture. Just like a middle school boy, I thought. Bravado. Strength.

Nothing happened.

The police officer didn't know which group to follow and I turned away so that I didn't watch him too closely, either. Whatever the ending was, I didn't watch. I didn't want to place all the blame on him for boys who've lost their innocence too quickly because they don't get to be boys. Kari purposefully blurred this photo for me because I feel like it represents what I could almost see if I squinted hard enough: Black boys who get to be innocent kids having fun playing outside on a beautiful Autumn day.

I speak more than just Girl or Middle School. My fluency in the language of children was tested last night and I know that I code switch.

But I wanted to speak Boy with them. Maybe with a special dialect of Innocent Black Boy. 

Or maybe I was just speaking Human.

I wonder about the proficiency of our world to speak it, too.

Monday
Sep082014

Personal Finance for Teens: The H&R Block Teacher Challenge

Personal finance was never an option for courses for me to take when I was in school. I did, however, learn how to write a check (this was in the 80s, mind you) and create a budget for my non-existent future at the time. I was to pretend that I had a swinging loft and took city transportation to my fabulous job as a Rockette dancer. Truth was, I ended up buying a car that I made payments on, purchased a house in a rural setting, and worked as woefully underpaid classroom teacher for the first half of my education career. Still, no one really taught me how to do personal finance. It came with the rest of my life lessons: the hard knock way. 

Luckily, I learned how to save money, pay off a credit card, and not buy things when they were at 19% interest rate. 

Because NO, THAT IS SIMPLY RIDICULOUS. 

In Illinois, we're required to give students a course in high school that lasts for 9 weeks called Consumer Education. While much of it involves purchasing and budgeting and comparing prices, it's surely not enough time to teach students important budgeting for their future. I've often wished we could do more as a school system.

 

The H&R Block Budget Challenge

It's like my wish is granted. Right now, H&R Block is offering to teach these basics to students using the Budget Challenge which is a simulation and an interactive competition for high school students.

Teens act as recent college graduates who've started their first job. They receive regular paychecks and have to make decisions about cell phone plans, where to live, credit card offers, etc. They must pay their bills on time and earn points for making smart financial decisions.

 

It's free to play the H&R Block Budget Challenge and they're offering both classroom grants and student scholarships to winning students for up to 200,00 students. Starting today, over $3 million will be awarded in total prizes for both teachers and students. 

When teachers sign up they have a chance to win $2,500 or $5,000 grants for their classrooms. For signing up, teacher receive a free print kit to get them started, including a classroom poster and lesson plans. 

$3 million is up for grabs right now. 

 

If you know a teacher, send this to them right away. If you know a teen, send this to them right away.

 

 

When it comes to personal finance I have some pretty strong opinions about educating the masses. Now, I'm no whiz when it comes to this, but there are a few things that I try to live by:

1. Never patronize places that are rent-to-own.

These places seem to prey on those in poverty and keep them paying for things 2 or 3 times over. As a person who came from a place of poverty while a teen mom I look back and am thankful that I did without a couch for a few months instead of paying $5,000 once the interest was all added up on the total bill. Even when I bought my home 4 years ago I had a living room that would accommodate a large flat screen tv. Instead of going into debt over it I waited until about 6 months ago to make this purchase. If I can live without it, I really try to do that.

2. Keep 10% of every paycheck for savings.

This isn't always possible, but with a reasonable budget, once monthly bills are taken care of, it's doable. Now, I simply have it taken out of my paychecks and put directly into savings that I can't touch except for a few times a year (I belong to a credit union and that helps). This creates a nice little nest egg for those unexpected expenses like large appliances that fail or home repair.

3. Use only 1 credit card.

In fact, it gets paid off with a zero balance and when I've used it in emergency situations I still try to keep the balance paid off within 6 months. I know this isn't always possible, but when I had multiple cards I paid one off at a time and then applied that payment to the next card and the next until I only had one. (For me, this was post-divorce when things got very expensive for a phase in my life.)

Teens can benefit from this and they are principles that were hard won for me. I'm even grateful that credit card companies can no longer prey on young adults in college. As I watch my own teen son balance his paychecks for his job I've been impressed that he can save money and not eat out at restaurants or spend frivolously. He's the youngest of my children but he benefitted from all that wisdom I've collected over the years. 

In any case, I really hope teens take the challenge offered by H&R Block because the lessons are free. Without them, teens are likely to turn into adults who struggle to manage money. My advice? Sign up for this today.

 

*This is a sponsored post for H&R Block. As always, opinions are my own.

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