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.

Welcome to New Board President Jen Barber!

Jennifer0109retwebWe’d like to welcome Jennifer Barber, MPH, as the incoming TeenNow California Board President (Jan 1, 2013-2015). Jennifer is currently Executive Director & Founder of The Talk Institute and works part-time as the Adolescent Health Coordinator for Borrego Health in the Coachella Valley. Jennifer has been a board member in multiple regions of California for TNCA for 8 years. She has worked with several youth development agencies over her career including: Camp Fire USA, Girl Scouts of America, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She has also taught as a professor for many years at two local colleges, been a substitute teacher for her local school district, and is a master trainer and sexuality expert.  She brings with her an entrepreneurial spirit, infectious passion, and a clear vision of our core values as an organization. We are honored to have her lead TeenNow California!
TeenNow California Board President Brian Hayes has completed his term and is leaving the board (and California!) to be closer to family and to continue his career in sexuality education on the East Coast. Some TNCA highlights for Brian include, “Being able to meet people from all over the state who are just as passionate about this work as me. It never ceases to amaze me how many people share my love for helping young people make positive decisions with their lives.” Brian says, “I will be taking so much from my experience with TNCA.  From planning large scale conference, to speaking with Government officials, there is so much that TNCA has given to me.  I have gained valuable experience on running  collaboratives, on organizing advocacy campaigns, and even running confernce calls and online trainings.” We’ll miss Brian terribly and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors!

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


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.

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

iDeal4aCause–Featured Weeks May 14th-27th!

In honor of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we are thrilled to be a featured charity on iDeal4aCause! iDeal4aCause is a daily deal organization that connects local businesses with non-profits to earn money. We will be featured May 14–May 27. Every deal you buy on the site (deals for restaurants, adventures, and more) during those weeks earns money for TeenNow California! Please support our scholarship program for pregnant and parenting teens throughout California by participating!   

Questions? tnca@teennowcalifornia.org

Drawing Attention to the Urgency of Teen Dating Violence Prevention

Drawing Attention to the Urgency of Teen Dating Violence Prevention

by Lisa Fujie Parks, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

Five days before Cindi Santana was stabbed to death at South East High School in South Gate, California in December 2011, her ex-boyfriend, Abraham Lopez, was arrested for making a criminal threat against her. Santana’s mother notified South East High School when Lopez was released on bail, and campus security was informed of the potential threat. Yet three days later, Cindi was stabbed multiple times during lunch, allegedly by Lopez. Cindi’s death was a tragic wakeup call to all families, schools and communities in California to strengthen school and community responses to teen dating violence, also known as dating abuse.


February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAPM) – a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in youth relationships and mobilize communities to support young people in having safe and healthy relationships. Sadly, just as the month began, Myrna Umanzor, 15, a teen mom from San Leandro, California was murdered, allegedly by her 19 year old boyfriend, who took his own life the next day.


We mourn the tragic loss of life in South Gate, San Leandro, and other communities throughout the country, as we join with thousands working to engage youth and reach new audiences through Proclamations, educational events, media outreach, and other efforts. Although we cannot accomplish all of our strategic goals in one short month, these focused efforts will help elevate community understanding of the issues and solutions.


What is dating abuse?

Dating abuse is the use of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or technological abuse by a person to harm, threaten, intimidate, or control a dating partner, regardless of whether that relationship is continuing or has concluded, or the number of interactions between the individuals involved. One in four adolescents reports verbal, emotional, physical or sexual dating violence each year. 15-40% of youth report perpetrating violence toward a dating partner. Adolescents and young adults experience the highest degree of intimate violence of any age group, and young women ages 16-24 are most likely to be victimized. Among these women, pregnant and parenting teen mothers are especially vulnerable.


Dating abuse is associated with a host of adverse outcomes, including truancy, use of alcohol and drugs, eating disorders, depression and suicide. A substantial number of incidents occur on school campuses, threatening the safety of students and staff, distracting students from learning, and compromising the school climate. Yet, the distinctive aspects of dating abuse make it one of the most overlooked forms of violence. Many young victims do not recognize warning signs and confuse controlling behaviors as a sign of care. Fear and shame discourage victims from seeking help, and when they do, adults often minimize the potential for harm, unaware of the danger of increasing frequency and severity of abuse over time, and the heightened risk for physical violence during or after a break up.


Offering age-appropriate support

Young people who are being abused or being abusive, may not identify their experience as “abuse.” Conversations can be focused on the right to have boundaries respected and to be free from control. And conversely, it’s important to model and teach how emotions and conflict can be addressed while respecting boundaries and the right to a partner’s autonomy. When speaking with teens, it’s important to assure confidentiality, be non-judgmental and empathetic, apply harm reduction principles, and have current information for referral agencies and community resources on hand. And remember, during and after a break-up is the most dangerous time when the likelihood of physical violence increases.


What you can do during TDVAPM

Please use this month as an opportunity to build your knowledge, strengthen partnerships and help draw attention to dating abuse:


  • Spread the word! Sample Facebook posts and Twitter tweets can be found at www.cpedv.org/tdvapm.
  • Build your knowledge! Online professional learning opportunities during the month of February can be found here. Additional resources can be found on the Healthy Teen Network website.
  • Link to Black History Month! African American youth are overrepresented as victims of dating abuse. Honor Black History Month and TDVAPM and support our back youth in February and beyond!
  • Educate and engage teens and parents! Useful websites with resources and curriculum can be found at www.cpedv.org/tdvapm.
  • Strengthen partnerships! Year round, we encourage teen pregnancy prevention programs to partner with local domestic violence programs and adolescent health and mental health providers, youth, parents, educators and other stakeholders.
  • Stay Connected! Sign up for the Partnership’s Prevention Digest to stay abreast of teen dating violence prevention projects, resources and opportunities in California.


The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence’s Prevention Program advances effective teen dating violence prevention policies and programs through leadership, advocacy and a statewide network of prevention advocates dedicated to promoting healthy relationships and preventing teen dating violence. For more information about the Partnership’s efforts to address dating abuse, please contact Lisa Fujie Parks at lisa@cpedv.org or 916-444-7163 x117.


Finally, if you know of a teen or parent that could benefit from speaking to a caring, well-trained peer advocate, please connect them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline, a  project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 866-331-9474 (TTY: 1-866-331-8453), by texting “loveis” to 77054, or through live chat at loveisrespect.org.