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AUG. 3, 2017

Meet the Woman Trying to Become the First Female African American Mayor of Cincinnati

She’s got her eye on the glass ceiling.

Tess Sohngen

By Tess Sohngen

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

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Around the world, fewer than one-quarter of lawmakers are women — an imbalance in representation that affects how laws are crafted and passed and how equality is created in societies. Global Citizen’s series, “Who Run The Gov? Girls!”  chronicles the massive uptick in women running for office, regardless of political party, in the US and around the world, highlighting the candidates and the groups helping them to run, the challenges they face, advice & tips for running, and the results.

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Yvette Simpson knows how to win a battle  — against political opponents, against systemic poverty, against racism.

Simpson, a 38-year-old city council member in Cincinnati, Ohio, was raised in poverty by a mentally-ill mother and absentee father who was addicted to cocaine. She’s also a lawyer, an advocate, a campaign advisor, and she’s won both of her elections for city council.

In May, she pulled a major upset in the primary election against incumbent Mayor John Cranley.

Now, she faces her next major quest for victory. If elected in November, Simpson will become the first African American female mayor in Cincinnati history.

Read More:250,000 Women in Office by 2030. This Group Is Making It Happen

Simpson was raised with her sister and her two cousins by their grandmother in a Lincoln Heights housing project where she learned that one didn’t need material things to be successful.

“Our life was a struggle. We were poor, but we had a lot of love,” Simpson told Global Citizen. “We lived in a community that was more like a village than a neighborhood.”

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She lived there until high school when her grandmother became sick, after which Simpson bounced around to the homes of different family members and friends. But Simpson had a goal, and despite the obstacles she would have had to overcome, she was determined to break out of the cycle.

“I had a real sense of justice, a real sense of honor and integrity, even back then,” Simpson said.

At 8 years old, she decided she wanted to be a lawyer.

“I think, based on what was going on in my life, I saw the law as a way to make change,” Simpson said. “Things just shouldn’t be the way they are.”

Supported by her mentors and school counselors, Simpson worked hard and graduated from high school with a full scholarship to Miami University, becoming the first in her family to attend college. She went on to receive her law degree from the University of Cincinnati, then her M.B.A. at Xavier University, before practicing law at two Cincinnati firms.

As an attorney, she realized quickly that she could only have a limited effect on the cases in front of her, she said.

“You can’t make community change one case at a time,” Simpson said. “I wanted to do something more impactful in my community, but I was not sure what that was.”

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In search of that missing something, Simpson helped establish Miami University’s first pre-law program and served as its director until 2012.

During that time, Simpson met Roxanne Qualls, a previous mayor of Cincinnati and the second woman to hold the position, who was then teaching at Northern Kentucky University. Qualls had left public service to teach at Harvard University before making her way back to Cincinnati.

started paying attention to more of what was going on in Cincinnati. I felt like I could do better, and the only way I knew I could do better was to be involved,” Simpson said.

Read More:How the First Latina Senator Is Fighting Lack of Diversity in Congress

Simpson became involved in Quall’s study on why more women don’t run for office. Although Simpson had no intention of running for office, she worked on Quall’s campaign for mayor in 2013, knocking on doors and making phone calls to constituents.

“I hated campaigning,” Simpson said, reflecting back on her first experience on Qualls campaign.

Simpson swore she would not run herself. Nevertheless, she found herself wanting to create the laws rather than implementing them on a case-by-case basis. She saw running for Cincinnati’s council as the way to do just that.

“I think I said something like ‘when hell froze over,’” she said, laughing. “Well, hell has frozen over, and here I am.”

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Simpson called her first campaign in 2012 “the experiment.” She was convinced that she couldn’t win a campaign by just being herself, but that was the only way she wanted to win. So instead of dividing her time and trying to talk to as many people as she could, Simpson had long, deep conversations with constituents who related to her childhood growing up in poverty. She used the same techniques she had learned from Quall’s campaign and knocked on hundreds of doors and made even more phone calls.

“I challenged all my friends, that if I’m not me, if I’m not the person you know me to be, pull me out,” Simpson said.

She won that campaign, and the next.

Since joining the council, Simpson has called for a different approach to how the city handles prostitution and human trafficking in way that aims to help women and children victims rather than arresting them. She hopes to increase resources and collaboration with neighboring communities to address the issue.

“It is one of worst kinds of modern day slavery that we see,” Simpson said. “We should not at all tolerate the sale of human beings.”

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Read More:This First-Generation American Is the First Muslim-Jew to Run for Office

Drug trafficking has also been a big issue on her plate as a councilwoman. Ohio’s rate of opioid overdoses doubles that of the national average, and the epidemic has hit Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland especially hard. Last summer, Cincinnati police responded 174 overdoses in just 6 days.

Now, Simpson hopes to create environments like the one she grew up in, villages that support their community members and prepare their children for success.

Cincinnati had the second highest rate of child poverty across all US cities in 2012, with over 53% of children living in poverty. That percentage has since fallen to 44.3%, which officials are still calling “an abominable number.”

“We have to change the environments our children live in,” Simpson said.

Recognizing that the issues around child poverty are multifaceted, Simpson believes it can be done. Her personal story is just one example.

When a child was shot in his neighborhood of Avondale, a community of Cincinnati, parents were afraid to let their children play outside during the summer. Simpson worked with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America to send all the neighborhood kids to camp. Each morning she and her team went to the neighborhood and knocked on doors to make sure every child went to camp. A local principle also showed up each morning; she acknowledged that by knocking on doors and seeing where her students lived gave her a better understand of her students’ lives.

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As Simpson continues to impact her community, she remains conscious of the fears she had before she made her first run for public office.

“How long do you have to be in public service before… you feel like the mountain is too big, too strong, you can’t move? Now I’m six years in, running for mayor, and I’m still here.”

Although Simpson won the primary in May, squaring off head-to-head against incumbent Mayor Cranley will be a tough fight. Cranley beat Qualls in 2013 for the mayoral bid and became the youngest person to serve as mayor of Cincinnati at age 39. Nevertheless, Simpson believes this is her year.

“We are now a city that people are paying attention to,” Simpson said. “Our motto is: We can’t wait. The time is now.”

Tess is an Editorial Intern at Global Citizen. Taking chances on unique opportunities has led her to write for a start-up in London, report for grass root organization in Cincinnati, and volunteer in Zanzibar. Helping create a world in which everyone can achieve wellness, food security, and happiness is her mission.

   
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About Our Partner

CHIME FOR CHANGE is a global campaign founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. The campaign uses innovative approaches to promote gender equality. Co-founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, CHIME FOR CHANGE works with a coalition of partner organizations, including the Kering Foundation, Facebook, and Hearst Magazines.

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AUG. 3, 2017

Another African Nation Just Promised Free Sanitary Pads to Help Girls Stay in School

One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school because of their period.

By Colleen Curry

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

botswana_students.jpgFlickr/Nashville First Baptist
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Botswana just took a major step toward getting more girls to stay in school and complete their educations — all by way of sanitary pads.

The country’s parliament adopted a motion on Wednesday to provide sanitary pads for all school-aged women in the country, making Botswana the latest African country to take seriously the menstrual hygiene needs of its school-going population, according to OkayAfrica.

Earlier this summer Kenya’s president signed a law enacting a similar program, and the president of Uganda has promised to do the same, though he has not yet done it.

Read More: This African Feminist Was Jailed for Demanding Free Sanitary Pads for Girls

These changes were prompted by a campaign called "Ensuring the Dignity of Women", which since 2015 has been calling on governments to provide free sanitary pads to school-aged women, according to Mmegi Online.

One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses multiple days of school during their period, according to the UN. Once they begin to fall behind their male peers, they often find it hard to catch up, which can lead to higher rates of girls dropping out of school early.

When half of a country’s population falls behind in education, a country’s future suffers.

The program will extend to girls in both private and public schools, according to Africa News.

“Government provision of sanitary pads to all schools would improve access to education in a country where many could not afford sanitary products like pads,” said one member of parliament, Polson Majaga, according to the report.

Read More: Kenya Will Give Free Menstrual Pads to Girls

Ngaka Ngaka, another MP, said that poor academic performance in his constituency was “primarily due to the fact that some girl students had to miss school when on their monthly menstrual as parents could not afford to provide them with sanitary pads.”

Colleen Curry is a senior editor at Global Citizen. She has covered domestic and international news for outlets including ABC News, VICE News, and The New York Times, with a particular focus on women's issues, criminal justice, and LGBT rights. She is also pursuing her Master's in Creative Writing, and has had nonfiction published by Sports Illustrated and Marie Claire.

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About Our Partner

CHIME FOR CHANGE is a global campaign founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. The campaign uses innovative approaches to promote gender equality. Co-founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, CHIME FOR CHANGE works with a coalition of partner organizations, including the Kering Foundation, Facebook, and Hearst Magazines.

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AUG. 3, 2017

New York City Is Building 'Lactation Pods' for Breastfeeding Moms

They made their debut during World Breastfeeding Week.

By Colleen Curry

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

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It's a very happy World Breastfeeding Week for moms in New York City.

The city debuted its first "lactation pods" — or mobile rooms for nursing — in five locations throughout the city, with about 25 more to be constructed in the coming year, according to NY1 .

The rooms, which are about four feet by eight feet and come with benches, a table, electric outlets for pumps, and a locking door, will help fulfill a law passed last year mandating some city offices to provide private nursing areas for moms, according to the report. 

There will be 30 pods built around the city in total, at a cost of about $20,000 each, according toDNA Info .

 One already exists in a place with high demand: the Brooklyn Children's Museum. 

"When I went inside, it's very comfortable, it's very soothing, there's air on,"  Jane Xia told NY1.  "It's a great little space."

The city's health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, said the city wanted to encourage breastfeeding, especially in communities with low rates. 

"Part of making mothers comfortable is giving them more opportunities to have safe space to breastfeed," Bassett said. "Part of it is letting people know that they are entitled to breastfeed."

Other locations for the "pods" will include the hospitals in Queens and Harlem, the Bronx Zoo, and the Staten Island Children's Museum, according to the report.

The rooms are built by a company called Mamava which specializes in lactation suites and has already built many at airports, on university campuses, and even in shopping malls around the country. 

The pods aren't mandatory — by New York City law, women have the right to breastfeed in public wherever and whenever they choose. But the pods do provide privacy and comfort for those who want it, the commissioner said.

Colleen Curry is a senior editor at Global Citizen. She has covered domestic and international news for outlets including ABC News, VICE News, and The New York Times, with a particular focus on women's issues, criminal justice, and LGBT rights. She is also pursuing her Master's in Creative Writing, and has had nonfiction published by Sports Illustrated and Marie Claire.

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CHIME FOR CHANGE is a global campaign founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. The campaign uses innovative approaches to promote gender equality. Co-founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, CHIME FOR CHANGE works with a coalition of partner organizations, including the Kering Foundation, Facebook, and Hearst Magazines.

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The Maasai brand is valuable — and it should belong to the Maasai people
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CULTURE

The Maasai brand is valuable — and it should belong to the Maasai people

July 27 2017 | By: GUEST BLOGGER

 
   

By Meg Brindle, Light Years IP

I was at a conference in Kenya when I first met a member of the Maasai, a group of people who live in East Africa. He had a question for me – and the answers could have the potential to dramatically impact poverty for millions of low-income farmers, producers and others.

You’d recognize the Maasai from photos. Many are tall, elegant and very distinctively dressed. Often, when a generic image is used of Africans in photos or advertising, it’s of Maasai. Their designs and style get used by others – but the Maasai don’t earn a penny.

That’s not right. It’s cultural appropriation – but it’s also bad business. Increasingly, the things that make products valuable aren’t the ingredients that go into them – it’s the intangible things, including the brands. And companies are careful to look out for their brands, spending millions to protect and defend them.

Think about Coca-Cola or Apple. Their products are more than sugar, fruit juice, and water, or metal and plastic, chips and screen. Their brand value is much greater than the value of the physical resources. That’s because of the ideas, imagination, and presentation that come together in great products: what business calls “intellectual property (IP).”

So what does this mean for a semi-nomadic tribe of nearly 2 million across Tanzania and Kenya?

We’d been working with Ethiopian Fine Coffee to help them own their own brands and license them. We’d helped return $101 million to coffee exporters.

That’s when I met the Maasai elder. He tapped me on the shoulder and said: “ We understand that IP works for coffee.  The Maasai have a brand that is used by many western companies without our permission.  Can you help us?”

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A group of Maasai people. (Photo credit: joxeankoret/Wikimedia Commons)

We engaged Maasai University students in researching the dozens of companies using the Maasai name, image and brand without their permission.  Our friends at Comic Relief were kind enough to help fund the feasibility study. Brand expert David Cardwell who did the Star Wars licensing deal helped. Our goal was to let the Maasai run the process with some good advice from others. To them, respect and removal of culturally inappropriate images are as important as income.

For six years, we have been about helping the Maasai to organize and form MIPI -The Maasai IP Initiative.  With outreach across Kenya and Tanzania and radio broadcasts, materials translated to Maa and Swahili, Light Years IP and the Maasai have reached 500,000 Maasai — a critical mass to own, control, license and where relevant, to create solutions with large companies that had used their brand name. One big car company, for example, returned the Maasai trademark and negotiations are underway with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy.

In 2012, a Louis Vuitton fashion show featured Maasai scarves and shirts modeled and sold for upwards of 1,000 euros each. Of course, the LVMH brand is valued highly and IP and brand experts can help us to quantify what portion is due to cultural appropriation of the Maasai iconic values of bravery, strength, and warrior images.

The Maasai are a proud people — respectful and honorable.  The Maasai leadership has been offended at the cultural misappropriation of their brand and name. They understand that it is valuable – and it’s theirs. Our analysis shows it is worth about $250 million.

Maasai elder, Isaac ole Tialalo, leader of MIPI has been to Capitol Hill and to Parliament in London with The African IP Trust, headed by Lord Paul Boating. It’s an honor for our support and advocacy group to help the Maasai achieve win-win situations with companies.

We think that the Maasai are an inspiration and model to other indigenous people who are about 6% of the world’s population and suffer both cultural appropriation and poverty.  The Cherokee, Navajo, and Tourag, for example, add value to countless products and companies. It is not easy to regain control after cultural appropriation, but we think it is the right thing to do.

If you would like to know more about this, go to lightyearsip.net/the-maasai/.

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Kenyan girls to fly to Google HQ after inventing app to end FGM
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TECHNOLOGY

Kenyan girls to fly to Google HQ after inventing app to end FGM

2 August 2017 4:43PM UTC | By: THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

 
   

Animated chatter spills out from a corner of tech giant Google’s Nairobi offices as five Kenyan schoolgirls discuss their upcoming trip to California where they hope to win $15,000 for I-cut, an app to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

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From left: Stacy Owino, Purity Achieng, Ivy Akinyi, Synthia Otieno and Macrine Atieno outside a classroom in school. The five girls from Kenya will be representing Africa in the annual Technovation challenge in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Technovation

The five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, are the only Africans selected to take part in this year’s international Technovation competition, where girls develop mobile apps to end problems in their communities.

“FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve,” Stacy Owino told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, while snacking on chocolate on a break from boarding school before flying to the United States on Aug. 6.

“This whole experience will change our lives. Whether we win or not, our perspective of the world and the possibilities it has will change for the better.”

The five girls from Kenya’s western city of Kisumu call themselves the ‘Restorers’ because they want to “restore hope to hopeless girls”, said Synthia Otieno, one of the team.

One in four Kenyan women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, even though it is illegal in the East African nation.

Although the girls’ Luo community does not practice FGM, they have friends who have been cut.

“We were very close but after she was cut she never came back to school,” said Purity Achieng, describing a classmate who underwent FGM. “She was among the smartest girls I knew.”

I-cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centres and gives legal and medical help to those who have been cut.

Its simple interface has five buttons – help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate and feedback – offering users different services.

Kenya is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, known for its pioneering mobile money transfer apps.

Technovation, which is sponsored by Google, Verizon and the United Nations, aims to teach girls the skills they need to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

“We just have to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to the next level,” said schoolgirl Ivy Akinyi who plans to become a computer programmer.

This story was originally published at Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell.

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2 August 2017 4:43PM UTC

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How Malawi chief Theresa Kachindomoto is working to stop child marriage
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How Malawi chief Theresa Kachindomoto is working to stop child marriage

7 March 2016 5:56PM UTC | By: GUEST BLOGGER

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By Hannah McNeish

After 27 years of being a secretary, Theresa Kachindomoto had no desire to return to the village where she grew up and be chief to the 100,000 people in Malawi’s Dedza district.

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Chief Theresa Kachindamoto poses outside her home in Dedza district.

“I said ‘No, I don’t want to be a chief,’ but the royal family said, ‘You have to do it, whether you like it or not’,” recalls Theresa of the 2003 decision that brought her home, to a house near Monkey Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi.

The youngest of 12 children, Theresa always assumed that one of her brothers would be made chief. But the elders saw how she interacted with people and thrust the power to change Dedza upon her.

Days after coming home, Theresa noticed there were girls in the district as young as 12 who already had babies and husbands. Malawi has the ninth-highest child marriage rate in the world, with one of every two girls married before age 18. The practice is particularly high in rural areas, where parents have many children and are struggling to care for them.

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Children in the Dedza district.

“The parents said, ‘Oh, we did this because we have nothing at home’ and were keen to get something back from their children, including a grandchild,” says Theresa.

She quickly brought her 51 sub chiefs together and made them sign an agreement to end child marriage. After the agreement was signed, Theresa dismissed four chiefs who still allowed child marriage in their areas.

“When I fired them, they tried their best to terminate these marriages,” she says. After three months, they succeeded, so Theresa reinstated them.

In 2007, Theresa required all the chiefs to sign bylaws forbidding marriage before the age of 18. Last year, Malawi’s parliament passed the same law—although under the constitution, children just require parental consent to marry.

Theresa has broadened her network of sub chiefs and 500 village head men and women that comprise Malawi’s traditional authorities to get help from churches, NGOs, and community organisations to stop child marriages. Over the past two years, she has annulled more than 850 unions.

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A girl at a Dedza school says that raising awareness around sexual harassment of girls has made her value herself and be able to say “no.”

Her mission to get children back home and in the classroom was unpopular among many parents. She says they would ask, “Who does this woman she think she is?”

But Theresa’s door-to-door tours of villages and sit-downs with community groups persuaded some people of the value of education for health and wealth reasons and the dangers of teen pregnancy, domestic or sexual abuse, and poverty risks of girls swapping the classroom for home life.

In this country—where girls can earn dowries and pay off debts—Theresa received threats of violence and even death. There was strong opposition from people who said that Theresa could not override culture and parental rights concerning daughters, especially when she only had sons.

“I said it is better for me to die and be unpopular, than let these children’s rights be violated,” she says.

“I don’t care. I don’t mind. I’ve said, ‘Whatever, we can talk—but these girls will go back to school.’”

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Girls at a school in Dedza are being taught life skills to stop widespread sexual abuse.

A soft-spoken woman, Theresa laughs when she’s called “tough.” But when it comes to protecting children, she takes no prisoners. More recently, she gave chiefs an ultimatum and stopped the practice of sending girls to “initiation camps” for “sexual cleansing.”

“Sometimes they go there around 7 years old or 12. And that’s why I said to the chiefs that this must stop or I will dismiss them,” she says.

She used the same method to stop the practice of having young girls have sex with an older man called a “hyena” in order to learn how to please a man. In a country where one in ten people has HIV, these “hyenas”—hired to take girls’ virginity or impregnate women who are struggling to conceive—are particularly dangerous.

Theresa’s moves have inspired other senior chiefs to start thinking about how to stop child marriages and end the cycle of poverty in their areas. Theresa is now trying to push the age of marriage up to 21 in Dedza, in order to inspire children to go to college. She also brings professional women from the cities out to speak to the local young women about their jobs and lives.

Last year, she brought Malawi’s female parliamentarians to visit the rural areas—and now many of the local teenage girls say “I want to be an MP.”

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A teacher registers new students at a school in Dedza.

“Educate a girl and you educate the whole area,” says Theresa. “You educate the world.” She is determined to fight for girls’ rights for as long as she is chief—“or until I die,” she says, with a shrug and a laugh.

#PovertyIsSexist. Add your name to our open letter to tell the world it’s time to do something about it.

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GUEST BLOGGER
7 March 2016 5:56PM UTC

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