Evaluating the Progress of Women’s Opportunities

Back in November, The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new project to collect data that will measure the progress made in the effort to increase the participation of women and girls in political, social, economic and cultural life around the world. The No Ceilings: Full Participation Project will essentially evaluate movement on the goals set forth in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at its Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. By gathering data, the Foundations and their partners will glean important information about progress made, as well as about areas where more work needs to be done.

As we in the non-profit sector know, evaluation is a critical part of social impact. We can’t really know where we need to go unless we know where we started, and where we are now. This project will yield highly informative data on how the state of women and girls has improved in the 20 years since  the Beijing Declaration. By partnering with technology companies and other organizations, the Foundations will provide advocates around the globe with information they can use to create even more change. Read more about this project, and connect to their blog to be a part of the conversation.

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #7

Each month on the blog we have featured one of the winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month is the final installment for the series, as we had 7 winners this year. This month’s featured essay by Yureni Garcia was the Region 8 winner, earning the student $300 towards her education. Garcia plans to study at Palomar College in San Marcos this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member Janet Stoddard for sponsoring.

Yureni Garcia

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #6

Each month on the blog we will feature one of the eight winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month’s featured essay by Jakari Peet was the Region 7 winner, earning the student $300 towards her education. Peet plans to study at San Bernardino Valley College this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member Stephanie Downing-Cornwell for sponsoring.

Jakari Peet

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #5

Each month on the blog we will feature one of the eight winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month’s featured essay by Nancy Gutierrez was the Region 6 winner, earning the student $300 towards her education. Gutierrez plans to study at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member Elena Luna for sponsoring.

Nancy Gutierrez

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #4

Each month on the blog we will feature one of the eight winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month’s featured essay by Jordyn Oliver was the Regional 5 winner, earning the student $300 towards her education. Oliver plans to study at Willow International in Clovis, CA this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member David Beale for sponsoring.

Jordyn Oliver

SAVE THE DATE(S)!

We Heard You!

Our members have made it clear: you want a conference! Despite budget cuts and trying times, our members and supporters recognize the importance of face-to-face meetings, so we’re providing them to you! It’s clear that our members and supporters need and want to convene, so we’re planning three regional meetings (North, Central, and South) in the Fall so that members can come together for learning opportunities, networking, and capacity building! These meetings will be formatted differently than our usual conferences so we can make them as affordable as possible to attend.

We are holding three regional meetings:

  • Sacramento-September 28th, 2012
  • Fresno-October 4th, 2012
  • San Diego-October 8th 2012

Come to one, or join us for all of them! Stay tuned for more exciting information about these meetings and their content, and mark your calendars! For more information, e-mail us at tnca@teennowcalifornia.org, or call 619-741-9650. Thanks, and see you at the conference!

Exhibitors Wanted!
We are looking for vendors, agencies and others to exhibit at our Regional meetings! Exhibitor registration is currently open for the Sacramento meeting, on Sept. 28th; for the other meetings look for registration in the coming days. Find out more.

2012 Scholarship: Featured Essay #3

Each month on the blog we will feature one of the eight winning essays from the TeenNow California 2012 Scholarships for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California. The essays are simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking; each lends insight into trials of adolescent childbearing and the need for continued support for young families. This month’s featured essay by Estefania Diaz-Lopez was the Region 3 winner earning the student $300 towards her education. Diaz Lopez plans to study at City College in San Francisco this fall. We wish her the best of luck!! Thank you to TeenNow member Patricia Keehan for sponsoring.

Estefania Diaz-Lopez

Estefania Diaz-Lopez

Interview with Dr. Tamu Nolfo, Alliance for CLAS–FREE Services!

Explanation of Benefits: FREE Services for Organizations to Ensure Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services

An interview with Tamu Nolfo from ONTRACK Program Resources

What is CLAS? Community Alliance for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS). CLAS offers a completely free service funded by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs to help organizations improve outcomes around cultural competency with the end goal of reducing disparities.

Why CLAS? Organizations are encouraged to take advantage of this service because not only is it imperative that organizations offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services for clients and students, but with health care reform and other changes promoting integration, organizations are expected to be aligned with the 14 federal CLAS standards. Additionally, funders are putting cultural and linguistic requirements into contract language; organizations need to be aligned with the CLAS standards in order to meet these contract obligations and to open up opportunities to partner with primary care providers and “move into the future” of funding.

How can CLAS help my organization? CLAS services include several elements. Some organizations are recognizing there may be changes in demographics of the populations they’re serving: an organization may have started out serving one demographic, primarily straight African-American individuals for example, and are now serving more Hmong, Russian, or LGBT individuals of all backgrounds. The consultants at CLAS have expertise in specific areas and can assist organizations in figuring out what cultural and linguistic training is appropriate for current services provided. CLAS consultants look at organizations’ workforce and ask if they have the right people providing services, the right training, and even the right volunteer linkages to provide the most appropriate services. CLAS services can help with data collection. CLAS can help your organization look at the demographics of the community it is serving and see if you are in fact serving who you should be serving. If, for example, your organization has a goal to help young women who are pregnant not get pregnant again within 5 years, CLAS can help find out if there are disparities in services among ethnic groups. CLAS can also help organizations with client satisfaction surveys, finding out if clients are equally happy or if there are differences in client satisfaction based on culture or language.

How does my organization go about getting CLAS services? CLAS’s services are FREE! Interested organizations fill out a very short application online and will be contacted by CLAS for a detailed assessment. After a coaching call, CLAS will create a tailored technical assistance plan of action with your organization. Your organization will be matched with a consultant who will go to you for on-site training and consultation (all paid for!). Each site is eligible for free, tailored services (this means that if your organization is working with three schools, each school is eligible). CLAS offers certification for services, which can be helpful for funding purposes. CLAS services are available on a first come, first serve basis.

For further information, check out the CLAS website: www.allianceforclas.org or contact Tamu Nolfo at tnolfo@ontrackconsulting.org (ONTRACK Program Resources is the organization that manages the contract)

Not sure what cultural competency means? Want to learn more? Watch Dr. Tamu Nolfo explain in this great video! What is cultural competency?

Check out the benefits of CLAS here: CLAS Flyer 2012

Call for Videos, Photos, and Testimonials – Your 30 seconds of FAME!

Hello valued members!  We are putting together a short “ask” film to be used to raise funds for Teen Now California’s many projects such as, teen parent scholarship program, advocacy efforts, technical assistance and more. If your membership to our organization has been helpful to you in your work, we want to hear from you! We are looking for short and concise testimonials on your work in teen pregnancy prevention, membership experience or how TeenNow California supports you in the work you do. We are accepting any footage you feel could be used for this purpose even if you’ve used it for your agency programs (please ask permission to share it). You may use your smartphone, computer webcam, or personal camcorder for submissions. Record  a personal testimonial, a group of colleagues, or students you work with and are willing to contribute for their 30 seconds of fame! Photos and written testimonials are also very helpful and may be included in the video. We prefer videos in MP.4 format, but any format or link is fine. Thank you in advance for your time and assistance! Please email materials to lschmidt@teennowcalifornia.org by August 24th. Enjoy your next webinar on us if your submission is used in our video! Thanks again for your commitment to this work and support of our mission to increase the knowledge, skills and resources of individuals concerned with preventing teen pregnancy, supporting young families, and promoting adolescent sexual health.

The Purity Myth–Book Review

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

Book reviewed by Lena Schmidt

“Any way you slice it, women’s identities are so tied up with whether or not we’ve had sex, or how sexual or abstinent we are, that it’s become almost impossible to think of ourselves as women outside of that framework. And really, while it’s pop culture that gets the most attention in this regard, it’s the virginity movement that’s reinforcing the notion” (79)

There is no working medical definition for virginity. Most Americans support comprehensive sex education.  And yet federal money sponsors archaic purity balls and misleading abstinence-only education. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti uses cringe-inducing anecdotes, examples, and a colloquial, yet serious tone to address these issues. Valenti demonstrates that the conflation of sexuality and morality, the passive model of womanhood upheld by the virginity movement, the misinformation provided by abstinence-only programs, and messages espoused by religious institutions and the media are hurting young women.

The “purity myth” is the idea that women can be pure and that if they are, they are good. Valenti argues, however, that the forces of sexism, homophobia, racism, and money make this standard practically impossible. As Valenti notes, historically, interest in virginity was about establishing paternity. And although each woman gives virginity personal meaning, the current social and political definitions affect women on a large scale (22). Valenti argues that the main objective of the purity myth is to enforce traditional gender roles. She explains, “virginity has become the easy morality fix. Idolizing virginity as a stand-in for women’s morality means that nothing else matters—not what we accomplish, not what we think about, not what we care about and work for. Just if/how/whom we have sex with” (24). Valenti explains that programs that promote this doctrine have an anti-feminist social agenda masquerading as teen pregnancy prevention. As one purity ball proponent says, “We want to do everything we can to help them enter marriage as pure, whole persons” (69). Valenti finds boiling down a girl’s ability to be a “whole” person to her being a virgin problematic and challenges us to differently measure women’s worth.

Valenti takes issue with abstinence-only programs and purity balls, the most visible and well funded arms of the virginity movement. Most of us are aware of how subject girls are to inappropriate sexual attention, and how younger and younger women are presented as sex objects in the media. What is news, though, is how this sexualization is coming from someplace other than an easy-to-blame hypersexualized pop culture—it’s also coming from the virginity movement” (69). For example, “while proponents of date nights [between fathers and daughters] and purity balls argue that they’re aiming to protect girls from sexualization, by focusing on girls’ virginity they’re actually positioning girls as sexual objects before they’ve even hit puberty” (69). This message, combined with abstinence-only education that “tell[s] young people that using condoms is like playing Russian roulette,” means they’ll be less likely to use a condom, not that they’ll be less likely to have sex (105). Valenti cites a 2007 study from Congress which found that middle school students who had received abstinence-only education were just as likely to have sex as teenagers as those who had not. So, Valenti notes, “if students who take abstinence classes are just as likely to have sex as their peers, but have less information about how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs—or worse, believe they cannot prevent pregnancy and STIs at all—that leaves them completely unprotected” (119).  Bottom line, according to Valenti: girls are sexualized by many arenas of society, given little guidance to develop into sexually healthy adults, and punished for any non-pure behaviors.

Valenti insists virginity shouldn’t be revered at the expense of women’s well-being. With all the focus on young girls “being good,” where is the purity movement when a woman is raped? Or contracts cervical cancer? Or has a baby? Or comes out as lesbian? This lack of support, arguably, is what is really hurting young women.

This conundrum is particularly harmful to young women of color and women who have survived coerced sexual behavior. Valenti points out, “in the media, the sexuality of young women of color—especially African Americans and Latinas—is never framed as “good girls gone bad” (as it generally is with white girls); rather, they’re depicted as having some degree of pathologized sexuality from the get-go. This reinforces a disturbing cultural narrative: that “innocent” white girls are being lured into an oversexualized culture, while young black women are already part of it” (47). Similarly disturbing, “federal guidelines for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs associate sexual abstinence with all things virtuous and sexual activity with a life doomed to failure. Not only is this untrue, but it serves to inflict greater harm upon those who have survived coerced sexual behavior. Such messages are likely to cause further feelings of hurt, shame, anger, and embarrassment…” (109). This attitude is particularly troubling as Valenti reminds, “Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them” (151).

To combat the purity myth and encourage healthy development of sexuality, Valenti offers the following suggestions:

  • Take a sex positive approach: Trust young people enough to tell them the truth about sex and sexuality–that it is supposed to be pleasurable!
  • Support comprehensive sex education: “it’s time to take a stance on sex education that isn’t so passive—young people deserve accurate and comprehensive sex education not just because they’re going to have sex, but because there’s nothing wrong with having sex.”(120)
  • Rethink/redefine masculinity: “Because as long as men are disconnected from women, as long as they’re taught that we’re not what to be, and as long as they believe that the only way to define themselves is through women’s bodies and sexuality, the purity myth will live on” (187)

This book is highly recommended for teachers, counselors, parents, or anyone concerned with the world young women grow up in today. The book is also recommended for young men and women interested in learning some complexities of the world they live in, and how they can use their knowledge to challenge systems that oppress them.

To learn about and support comprehensive sex education in California, become a member of TeenNow California: http://teennowcalifornia.org/Join.php