30 July 2015

Friendship is The Answer

Since 2011, 30 of September is the International Day of Friendship. This day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. 

"On this International Day of Friendship, let us cultivate warm ties that strengthen our common humanity and promote the well-being of the human family. "
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

We can find countless stories that are turned into poems, books, movies, series, pictures, drawings and paintings about all kind of friendships. Friendship is something very primitive and relatable to most of the people in all cultures, ages and layers of the society. I know what is friendship, you know what is friendship and a person from another continent who comes from rural village also knows what is friendship. It has a power to unite and it is a very strong tool to encourage other people. A single friendship between two people can be life changing for many.
Instead of cultivating prejudices and hate towards new and unknown by hiding under the words "hate" and "enemies" we should want to understand and befriend it - either people, views or beliefs. Same advice works for individuals as well as conflicts in the world.
Friendship can be used as a great tool for women empowerment worldwide. Instead of connecting to other women and telling them what to do we should simply be supporting, understanding friends who give good advice. A good friend can help to become more confident and self conscious more than an inspiring article or video online. All we have to do is to take good care of the girls and women around us instead of criticizing each for our looks or behavior.
We are very diverse in the world and activists in some cultures want to appear as superior when it comes to feminism and gender equality. These activists are strongly convinced and are trying to convince the rest of the world that "we are right and you have to follow our example". Confidence is awesome and these actions are mostly driven by good intentions but it tends to patronize and discriminate activists from developing countries with the same views. And it is discouraging. That's why it is so important to have friends that are coming from different backgrounds, cultures and religions so we can unite and fight the real problems not each other!

Talking about good friendships...look IHBG team is growing, changing and moving around! Recently we met in Brussels, had amazing days together to refresh our knowledge and learn more about sexual and reproductive health and rights, communication, advocacy and plan new activities! Meantime we found few new and amazing friends so keep tuned to find out more!

And don't forget:
Happiness is only real when shared
J. Krauker

Happy International Day of Friendship!
Always yours,


07 June 2015

Girls, let's get inspired!

Weekend comes to the end, we need to get inspired for the next week!

Maya Angelou

Emma Stone

Share these quotes with your friends because we deserve nothing less but the BEST!

More quotes here.

women and wanderlust

In northern hemisphere summer has come. During this season many people are taking the vacations and heading off the road. Either it's to take "All Inclusive" and relax at five star hotel or to hitchhike and Couchsurf it will be an adventure!
There are many ways of how to travel and one of them is solo traveling. Many people choose this way to challenge themselves and explore unknown and why not to, we know so little about ourselves!
Although in recent years the number of women solo travelers have increased it is still considered to be more difficult and dangerous for female than male wanderers. It's a pity how fears of unknown can stop us from so many life changing experiences but does the fear always tell us the truth?
Unfortunately the women who can enjoy traveling and wandering are not the majority of women. The world is rich in cultural diversity that we want to see and learn about but sadly cultures have created conditions that restrict women from traveling. It can be based on economical point of view or to patriarchal "ethics". Some women can feel relieved and be thankful for the ability to travel while other can't but at the same time not really. The same conditions will also apply to any other person who wants to enter this kind of culture. For example, in Saudi Arabia it's made almost impossible for young and unmarried women to enter the country without a male assistance. The government simply won't issue the visa. Similar situation is in UAE and Qatar if you are planning a longer stay. In Lebanon female travelers can apply for the visa on arrival if they can prove that they formerly have not taken job as an artists. Ridiculous truth and there are many more countries that are very skeptical to issue visas for young women, especially the ones who travel alone.
Women face many gender-based restrictions during their life-time but the fact that you can not exit or enter a country hits very hard. It's a horrible feeling and it feels very wrong.
Not so long time ago we could never imagine a women traveling alone. Now there are many woman out there that are having nomad life style and it's beautiful that they can fulfill their dream. We have to keep traveling and fight to open borders and give this chance to evryone. It's still not 100% safe to travel as a female but it also applies for men. While female are facing to be beaten up in the same situation a male is in a danger to be killed. While majority of woman are risking to get raped only few men are.  It's always a risk and it's a choice. Not everyone is made to sing and not everyone is made to travel but the same as singing traveling should be gender neutral.

Overly Helpful Stranger Danger
You have to trust yourself to be able to learn how to trust others. First and foremost important rule is to follow your inner feeling. It works! If you have even the tiniest suspicion do not accept the help from a stranger and do not feel guilty about saying no. By connecting to strangers you will learn how many amazing, kind and openhearted people are in the world!

If you are healthy and not pregnant you will get them anyway  so why not on the way? If you are usually suffering from very uncomfortable moments during the menstruation maybe it's time to change the environment, it can help! You can still use your favorite hygienic products or to try out menstrual cup which is reusable and more environment friendly. Just one golden rule - hygiene is the priority. In case you do not have the access to clean water intim area wipes can be a solution
Rape Danger
When you will start to travel you will realize that not every person wants to rape you. Yes, there are dangerous people and dangerous situations. Yes, we need to be concerned and aware but the media always is giving us the negative image of everything and it sticks to our minds. In fact, there are much more amazing people who want to help you than the ones who wants to harm and benefit from you.
Eyes Open

Always be in charge of your own stuff. Pack light so you don't need assistance to put on or carry your bags. Don't forget to look around you to see what is happening. Either you are in a big city, rural village or forest make sure that you have the control over the situation. When you are in a public transport try to memorize people around you and see if there is someone who seems interested in you. It can be great start of friendship or a way to escape. Never brag around about traveling alone and don't be afraid to tell that your friend is somewhere near even if it is not. Also, do a regular check-ups with family or friends so they know how are you , where are you and that they need to react if you are not giving any news.
Money and Documents
Don't keep your money in one place but spread it along your stuff. Put them at the least money-keeping places but don't forget where you put them. Have an emergency money. Always have copies of your passport and other travel documents. Hard copies, saved in memory stick and some internet storage you can access from any computer. Other than that make sure that your documents won't get wet either it rains or your bag falls into the water. 
If your friends and family are trying to scare you with horrible hitchhiker stories take them as lessons and thank them for caring but don't let it scare you off. In fact, to be a woman hitchhiker sometimes it is easier than to be a man. Also drivers are people that can be scared of strangers and woman might seem less harmful, just like female drivers might seem. It's sexist and it's a reality that female can get help much easier than male.

11 May 2015

I ♥ Being a Girl people, Viktoria

Greetings to everyone!

My name is Viktoria Derkach, I am from Ukraine

Since April 2015 I have joined I <3 Being a Girl Community and I’m very excited and highly motivated to take part in all the activities of the Working Group!

In my life firstly I enjoy life! That I’m alive, can breathe, see, hear, feel, love, walk etc.
Secondly, I enjoy traveling. I’ve already been to more than 13 countries and I’m not going to stop, cause it’s a great opportunity to discover the world, meet new people, cultures and traditions, learn new languages and see different sights.
Thirdly, I enjoy helping people. It concerns different fields: work, study, volunteering, everyday life. It makes me happy when I can as minimum give an advice as maximum do something for a person.

As for my work with SRHR, it started not long ago. I started volunteering in Women Health and Family Planning Foundation only this February from participation in the process of planning and conduction of the event, dedicated to the International Contraception Day and St. Valentine’s Day. Before (till now) I was working in Kiev branch of "All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV" in Project RESPECT "Tolerant attitude towards people living with HIV and most-at-risk groups from  health workers from pilot health facilities in Kiev" as  an assistant manager of projects and programs; was a volunteer in  Left Bank center for HIV – positive children and teens and provided lectures for teenagers (clients of the Centre) on different topics, like hygiene, relations with opposite sex, reproductive health etc; also took part in a Project of cultural exchange “Summer Camp” at the school for smart pupilsLycée pilote de Sousse” in Tunisia, where I was teaching English to students aged 14-18 years, holding discussions, debates, presentations and creating projects on different topics, like feelings, health, future plans, relations, friendship, love etc; also was a volunteer in NGO “AIDs Healthcare Foundation”, where I organized a flashmob, dated to Valentine's Day and HIV / AIDS topic with the slogan "Protect your love!", during which we performed dances, distributed condoms and brochures about love and sex, contraception, health etc. But I’m really interested in the SRHR area and happy that I can do my first steps as I <3 Being a Girl working group member.

I think the world would be a better place if everybody would: 
- see not only their needs and interests, but also of the person near;
- listen not only to the opinion of society, mass media and celebrities, but always have your own opinion;
- read biographies and success stories of well-known people in history for self-motivation and for knowing what to strive for;
- try to set unrealistic targets and don’t stop on reached. so there are no unrealistic goals, there are only ones that need more time and efforts.

Before I'm 80, I'd like to know that all my achievements and vital actions brought, bring or will bring benefit not only to me but also to my loved ones, family, friends, and humanity in general. That is what will make me happy and I’ll know that life is lived not in vain.

I ♥ Being a Girl people, Julia

Dear awesome people,

My name is Julia Danyltsova and I am from Ukraine. 

Since March 2015 I have joined I <3 Being a Girl Community and will be happy to inspire and get inspired within the Working Group!

A bit about myself in this article. :-)

Long-long time ago... (September 2012)... I have been doing my internship at Women Health and Family Planning Foundation. This is where I learned what SRHR is, where I have done my first steps in advocacy. I became a volunteer and member of youth group after finishing the internship. This experience totally changes the life. I have started volunteering on international level by joining YSAFE network. Just a year ago I became ASTRA-youth member and I’m constantly developing my skills in advocacy by taking actions on national, regional and international levels. Now I am YSAFE Steering Committee Member and I <3 Being a Girl working group member which are challenges for me.

The world would be a better place if everybody would:
  • see: at least 5 countries different to their motherland 
  • listen: to their hearts
  • read: a love-letter from a person they love
  • try: to do things which make them happy and to avoid everything which disappoints them

Before I am 80, I’d like to know that this world is safe and happy place for my children, grandchildren and grand-grandchildren.

I enjoy:
  • Travelling
  • Getting acquainted with new people / countries / cultures
  • Spending time with my friends
Let's get acquainted!

08 May 2015

Music: fun vs treatment

It's Friday and many of us are planning week-ends. Check out some intersting facts about music!
Listening to the music is something we do all the time: in the transport, at the office, with friends, during workouts and at the parties.

What music to listen to benefit twice? 

Music can make you cry, laugh, feel excited or angry. It’s a powerful medium that can be used as a tool if we know how to use it. Experts say music can improve our mood and even change behavior.

It all starts when the music goes in our ears and right to our brain, lighting up all different parts.
“You’re seeing areas involved (in the brain) with movement, memory, emotion, planning, taking action,” says Bob Miller, a music therapist at Western Psychiatric Institute of UMPC.
He says music can affect us emotionally and physically, even reducing stress.
“It can affect our heart rate a little bit. It can affect our breathing rate,” Miller says. “It can help to even participate in singing, and music can help reduce stress hormones and to increase levels of hormones like dopamine or serotonin that can really help us feel better.”
Music can also change your mood.

If you want to relax, pick the right music — something that has a slower tempo, repetition — either in the melody or the background or beat. That helps us disengage so we don’t have to pay attention to it.

And if there are words, it helps to find something in another language so you are not thinking about what the words are saying. If you had a hard day, you can choose music to help you work through that on your drive home.

Miller says you could start with angry or intense music to get out any negative energy and then use other music to bring you to whatever state of mind you’re looking for — relaxed, upbeat.

Music can even be used as medicine. Trained occupational therapists use music to help kids with special needs, like autism and developmental delays. Jami Dantry and Amy Demi use “The Listening Program” with children at schools in Follansbee, West Virginia.

Let music be the only medecine you'll ever need! :-)

I <3 being a girl! What about you? ;-)

05 May 2015

Experiment: To shave or not to shave?

Isn't that a little bit ridiculous that we are thought to feel ashamed of our own bodies? Either those are body parts, sounds or smells which are considered as simply gross and unwelcome. Their existence is ignored. Even if body shaming is taught for both genders, woman are still more restricted than man. In most of the times women are told that they should feel ashamed for being proud of their body and exposing it in its natural state. As a punishment to "rebels" for being themselves they are often the black sheep among the peers or even in surrounded society. People always want to be accepted and to belong, that's why in most of the times we take the choice to go against yourself than majority of the people. It appears in all societies and in all levels. Either it's the way of speaking, behavior, choices, priorities or general body appearance.
One of them, very generalized and stigmatized, is women and body hair. True that lately this topic is reaching the tops and is discussed not only in private and secret meetings but also in media, conferences and even we can hear it in public transport as a chit-chat between two people, which is great!
Few days ago I watched this BuzzFedd video where several women and a man took a 30 day challenge to not shave any of their body hair. How it went for them you can see in a video but also me, member of the IHBG, took a bit longer challenge several months ago for a personal research reasons without any intention to share but this video encouraged me to talk about it and where else if not here!?

Motivation: I wanted to know how it feels to let it go! I have been born and raised in Eastern Europe and in my culture it is taken for granted that women have to get rid of their body hair. Since puberty I have been spending time and resources for it. I remember that I was disgusted to see a woman with hairy  legs and armpits. Meanwhile, I was also bothered by my own reaction to a females natural state (considered as unattractive and aggressive) but not males. And I just simply wanted to know how it looks and feels like.

Feelings during the experiment: at first I felt very, very uncomfortable. Whenever I saw my body hair it felt like it does not belong there, that it's not part of me, it's not natural. I was checking it out whenever I had a chance and I had to make sure that no one else notices my little experiment. First couple of weeks I was anxious, always long sleeves and trousers. Just like for the BuzzFeed people, my biggest problem were armpits. 
Time went by and eventually I got used to different self. My body hair did not bother me anymore and at the end I was happy that for the first time I had a chance to see how I actually look! T-shirts and tank tops were not problem any more.

author: Bula Anarbekova
Conclusion: This experiment made me more confident and less judgmental. As soon as I stopped to bother about my own body hair also I stopped to care what are the choices by other women. Even if I don't mind body hair at all my choice is to keep it off because it is less hot (I really felt a difference) and because hairy armpits and quick showers don't work (even with deodorant). It always took more extra time in shower and still, at the end of the day, my clothes were more smelly than before. I could never wear the same shirt the next day. Too much work.
But now I really don't bother to shave one or two days later than I would do before this experiment, usually people don't even notice and even if they do, no one cares that much. It's in our mind.
Stereotypes disproved: I didn't turn my feminism into aggressive one, I did not change my sexual orientation, I did not become less of a woman than before.
All I did was that I got to know myself more and broke my own prejudices.

After doing little research I found out that historically the body hair (in some societies) have been considered unattractive to men and women because of the medical reasons. Although the hair purpose is to protect, the lack of proper hygiene in armpits and pubic area made suitable environment (warm and mild) for vermin and diseases to develop, eventually people noticed that and realized that no hair means no problems.
Nowadays, when we are aware of hygiene body hair are still not accepted. Nowadays we are victims of very stigmatized social construct which shames women, especially young women, defining them primitive and aggressive. Unfortunately persuasion of aggressiveness as a quality for a men but not suitable for a women is still very strong in our society. That is why the stereotype of being a real men includes wild body hair. Although it's slowly changing and for many men hair removal is a trend which is a choice while for women it's still a must.
Anyhow, I don't want to generalize hair removal as a worldwide trend because there are many other cultures (besides Western culture) who do not empathize hair removal as a necessity to fit in the cultural norms. Couple of years ago, while visiting India, I was travelling with another friend and a Indian companion who noticed that I have a razor in my bag. He was very surprised and did not know that any woman in the world ever uses a razor and that it is even a common thing. We had a very interesting conversation for both of us. At that time I was surprised by his reaction but now, when I realize that Western culture does not define the world, I think that it was pretty amazing experience to have!

P.S. I suggest every single woman to leave that razor away for 30 days! Not to prove something to someone but for yourself, to get to know yourself better! And we would love if you could share it with IHBG!

27 April 2015

Feminist Eco Village "Herland"

IHBG has been introduced to a Feminist Ecovillage project called Herland. The idea is based on the novel by the Charlotte Perkins Gilman who was not only an author but also an anthropologist and sociologist. One of the project members have agreed to tell us what Herland is all about!
The Herland Intentional Community is an organization to design, create and build a new way of life in the form of an intentional community of the ecovillage form. With the express intention of being sustainable both ecologically and socially for the foreseeable future. You may be wondering what an intentional community is let alone an ecovillage. The intentional community movement is about creating a village or town with a purpose. Each community has certain ideals but most center on creating something more community oriented than the current system offers, hence the name. An ecovillage is a community which is designed with sustainability in mind so that humanity can continue into the future working with the environment as a system rather than attempting to conquer it.
Ecovillages are designed to be positive spaces both for the members and the planet in general. They acknowledge that mainstream society does not work for the needs of everyone and should not be the solution to protecting the environment. Typically in ecovillages you will see that houses are built using simple techniques and from local materials so that the craft of house building can be passed down easily from generation to generation ensuring that important skills that support nature are not lost. In contrast Intentional communities that are not ecovillages often use existing buildings often modernizing them by adding solar panels and water collection units, this does have it's advantages as reform means that members don't need to build from scratch however there are obvious disadvantages.
More and more as time goes on the current civilization is changing, inequality increases and this problem is only going to get worse as pointed out by historian Sir Glubb. This results in humanity working longer and longer hours only to be paid less and less, causing a never ending decline in living standards. (Not that the conservative alternative is any better, as it asks women to enslave them selves as both domestic servants and sex slaves aka housewife's). The situation has gotten so bad in fact that people today work longer hours then at any other point in human history, thus in terms of enslavement it can be legitimately be argued that the current system is the worst in history. Not only is this unsustainable from a sociological perspective but also from an environmental one as the current society destroys the planet which it needs to sustain itself, even NASA has been forced to point out that civilization will end relatively soon in catastrophic manner. It is out of these political conditions that ecovillages are born, the desire to protect the environment while also finding more long term safety and security, so that members can live happy and secure lives. As a result Ecovillages tend to be very positive and safe spaces which are ideal for creative and intellectual development as basic needs are dealt with, without the need to slave away in the daily grind known as work.
So what makes the Herland ecovillage unique compared to other ecovillages and intentional communities? Well, the Herland ecovillage is based on the values demonstrated in the novel Herland by Feminist and Sociologist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915). In the story she outlines a society based in a combination of cooperation and meritocracy, where the long term benefit is always seen as favorable rather than merely short term gain. Other factors that make this community so unique is not just the fact that it is a secular organization with anthropology and intersectional feminism at its core. But also the fact that it is a community for people in the LGBT community (including the T), serving as a much needed refuge, as 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. By including a wide range of people including LGBT people of color, those who are autistic, some who suffer from PTSD, all of whom are particularly vulnerable, the outreach of the Herland community is particularly impressive.
Herland is an independent housing village, each member having their private home available to them. While at the same time there is a community center so members can eat and play together to build on the community spirit. This design maximizes the ability to cooperate and accomplish things together while also providing for everyone's need for space and privacy. While the community encourages interpersonal relationships it does not require the members to be in any kind of relationship and so even those who are asexual will not feel any pressure to be in a sexual relationship if they don't want to. Basic housing is provided by the community however members are both allowed to and encouraged to experiment with different forms of architecture, from tree houses to earthships and every thing in between.
Herland is using permaculture to build a food forest for the members rather than using modern monoculture agricultural methods. This will help it blend into and heal the environment rather than mining the soil and causing harm as is currently done by mainstream society. This is diametrically opposed to modern methods which mine the soil and lead to desertification. It is also another example of looking towards the long term, as over a life time food produced from permaculture requires very low amounts of labor to maintain without pesticides, all while producing more food on less land and minimizing the negative impact on the environment. Even though the term permaculture was coined after the writing of Herland the agriculture seen in the novel closely resembles permaculture, as both have the same core values of protecting the earth and providing good lives for the people not just today but also moving forward for the foreseeable future and beyond.
The location of Herland is also currently unoccupied and so no indigenous people will be harmed and the area will be preserved for posterity. In fact it is the indigenous people who chose the location of herland specifically because they value the project. The location will be in the rainforests of south america in an english speaking location, high above sea level in the mountains. The area is rocky and the soils are poor. Locals are keen to see if permaculture can prove to be a productive system for what considered to be land that is too rugged and poor for most human activity.
While the Herland community is designed to be ecologically friendly and sustainable it is not about primitivism (it is not about returning to the stone age or stifling advancement at all). Members of the Herland community are well networked in the open source world (both software and hardware), working to create the worlds first feminist crypto currency and developing software that will help spread internet access to the poorest people so that more people will have the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the giant library known as the internet. All of this means that Herland is not just a community that offers a refuge for a few but also offers an example to show that women can work together in a practical way to build a better life that is in tune with nature, while also helping to improve the world for the 99%.
As a result of all of this I am sure we can all agree that whether we want to join the Herland Ecovillage or not it is a project of which we can all benefit from in some way shape or form. And as you can imagine there have been a number of people who have tried to stop the Herland Ecovillage and prevent it from forming. MRA's have tried trolling them and conservative Christians have tried demonising them. But the ones who have done the most to try and harm them have been Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists who are both envious of the project but also hate it as it supports Trans women, as a result Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists have tried bullying the trans members taking some transwomen near the brink of suicide. So supporting the Herland ecovillage is not just about supporting humanity, it is also about supporting trans rights.
If you would like to support Herland, the best thing you can do is visit their website www.jungle2jungle.org and follow them on their various social networks. However if you would like to join them then the best way is to join their facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/herlandcommune/ attribution: Shania Foley

08 March 2015

Sunday is for Horizons: Barbie alternatives FTW!

The world might be becoming a better place as I've seen alternatives for barbies (or fashion-dolls as they are called not to offend Mattel) coming up in news and posts. Here you have 3 different approaches each dealing with one of the problematic aspects of fashion dolls:  

1) The oversexualized and over-adult looks of the typical fashion doll leads us to taking the make-up off the Bratz dolls. The results are adorable. More here.

2) The unrealistic body proportions of the fashion dolls gets us to the Lammily, the doll that looks like an average teenager. 


3) The ubiquity of whiteness among fashion dolls is such that the fact that in Nigeria the local barbie alternative - Queens of Africa - outsell the pink-obsessed blonde.

06 March 2015

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: The Little Mermaid (1989)


It has been some time since we claimed that a classical piece (almost) nobody viewed as feminist masterpiece.... actually was one! (Remember the explosion in both your and our brain caused by the idea that Dirty Dancing (1987) was a feminist gem?)

So here comes another one in the you-would-have-never-called-it-feminist-until-now series*. The Little Mermaid (1989). Yes, the Disney sea-princess garbage where a young girl gives up her family, friends and talents in order to pursue a man she has seen once. Meh... or at least we thought so.

Well, read this paper written by Stephanie Stott, a student in Kim Magowan’s gothic lit class at Mills College called  The Little Mermaid: Our Favorite Gothic Villain and you just might want to give Ariel another try. Or at least know how to reframe the story in order to minimize the damage if young girls around you suddenly want to emulate the little mermaid.

* That's of course not actually true as somebody has analyzed these movies as such and hence we are reporting. But the great majority...