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Let’s keep standing with Standing Rock

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By Stephanie Wang

Undoubtedly, a Trump presidency threatens the legacy of President Obama by reverting the policy moves he’s made the past eight years.  His decision to build the Dakota Access Pipeline is devastating, and as an environmentalist and an activist, I cannot reconcile the idea of building the pipeline when it will only set forth a precedent of placing money above lives, culture, and the environment.

Building the Dakota Access Pipeline will have terribly negative impacts on the Sioux population living in the region, posing both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians. The Dakota Access Pipeline will destroy sacred sites that have existed for hundreds of years and destroy ancient burial grounds, which is a direct violation of federal law. In addition, the pipeline could potentially contaminate the water supply of the Sioux Indians – an oil spill at the Missouri River would befall an economic and cultural catastrophe upon the Sioux population, permanently contaminating the Missouri River, a major water source for those living in the area. Without question, the Dakota Access Pipeline poses both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians and completing the pipeline will signify that oil and the energy is more important than human lives– what will be the cost of such “progress” that the Trump administration is determined to greenlight?

Naturally, the construction of the pipeline has been extremely contentious, with thousands protesting near the Standing Rock area. These protests have lead to hundreds of arrests and the use of force and other violent tactics to disperse the protesters. On largely peaceful protests, police have used attack dogs, water cannons in freezing temperatures, and explosive teargas grenades, injuring hundreds. Freedom of assembly is a basic right in the United States, and yet, it’s something that’s being infringed upon in Standing Rock.

The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the decision to build the pipeline, “a purely political action” but when there are humans lives at risk, it cannot be purely political. When we are reduced to simply making decisions for the bottom line, at what cost will it come at? How many lives will be sacrificed and how can we possibly justify it? Once the Dakota Access Pipeline is built, what will stop the Trump administration from building more, disrupting and endangering more communities? What will stop the Trump administration from entirely disregarding our civil rights in the name of economic “progress”? That’s why we can’t stop protesting against the pipeline being built.
Now, more than ever, we need to show our support and solidarity for the Sioux Indians and the protesters in Standing Rock. It can be as simple as reblogging, sharing, or retweeting an article on #NoDAPL, signing a petition, or attending a #NoDAPL protest in your city. You can also get involved by writing to government officials and oil companies urging them to reverse the decision or by donating money to the Standing Rock Sioux for legal, sanitary, and emergency purposes. Every action counts and every action will help ensure that the Obama administration’s actions and the protests of the Sioux people to stop the building of the pipeline were not in vain.

For more ways to get involved, check this link out.

Ready for Hillary?

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By Issy McConville

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President. And so of course, yesterday also saw many unsavoury characters emerge from the dark regions of the internet and manifest their opinions on Twitter; most especially under the Republican-led hashtag ‘Stop Hillary’. (more…)

Let’s End Violence Against Women

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By June Eric-Udorie

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Trigger Warning

Jayden Parkinson was only 17 years old when she was killed. She was killed by her 22 year old ex-boyfriend, Ben Blakeley, after he discovered that she was pregnant with their baby. Blakeley had been obsessive and controlling and had regularly beaten Jayden. In November 2013, Jayden broke up with Ben because she had had enough of his “possessive, controlling and abusive behavior”. Often, we say, but why did she stay? This is how we blame the victim instead of blaming the perpetrator.

The truth is that the greatest risk of homocide and violent occurs when a woman leaves an abusive partner. 76% of women who leave report experiencing post-relationship violence.  It takes incredible strength to endure – and leave – these relationships. This is why we need to make sure there is the best support possible to prevent this from happening, protect women who are in danger, and prosecute perpetrators.

We can’t pretend Jayden’s is a one off incident. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violations worldwide and remains an issue of growing concern. In the UK 31% of women and girls experience domestic abuse and 2 women are killed each week by a current or former partner. In England and Wales at least 233 women and girls are raped every day. 6o,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) and there are nearly 3,000 cases of so called ‘honour violence’ in the UK.

We may try and deny that violence against women and girls is not an endemic in the UK, but the statistics and personal stories speak loud and clear. Women and girls are regularly facing violence through no fault of their own, simply because they were born female. The violence experienced by women and girls is a way for men to exert their power and control over women, to silence women and to remain dominant in society (I am not saying that all men are perpetrators of violence, but the vast majority of violence acts committed against women are done by men).

Even though violence against women and girls is widespread, there is little support for survivors. Rape crisis centres that provide invaluable support to women are strained. Refuges that offer women the support they need to rebuild their lives are being shut down. We all know too well that when the government introduces cuts, it is the women’s services that will suffer the most – with few consequences for the government. This needs to change urgently.

Currently, the UK government cannot be held to account for not providing vital services or introducing laws to protect women and girls from violence. There’s a petition on change.org asking the UK government to keep its promise ‘to help end violence against women and girls by ratifying the Istanbul Convention’. The Istanbul Convention, (otherwise known as the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence) is widely recognized as the ‘golden standard’ to tackling violence against women and girls.

Once the government ratifies (commits to) this convention, they can be held to account for their response to violence against women and girls. They will have to take all the necessary steps to prevent violence against women and girls, protect women and girls from violence by offering general and specialist support, and prosecute perpetrators.

The UK Government said it would ratify this convention but it hasn’t. 15 countries, including Denmark, France and Slovenia have. The question we must ask ourselves is, why hasn’t the UK ratified the Convention yet?

Every day the UK Government delays the ratification of this convention, women and girls are left without the full protection they rightly deserve.

Please sign the petition here and get your friends to sign it too. Also, please share the petition far and wide on social media with the hashtag #ICchange.

Thank you.

Being an MP is not for me

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By Becky Dudley

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Parliament: it’s a man’s world. To be more specific, it’s a straight, white, middle class man’s world. For something that’s meant to be representing our society as a whole, it’s doing a pretty awful job. What we need, more than anything, is far more people who aren’t straight, white, middle class and male to be in Parliament, representing all those currently lost in the sea of identical faces. However, with the way things stand, I, for one, will not be one of them. Despite wanting to prove a point and do what we’re not ‘meant’ to, I do not want to work in Parliament. I’m here to tell you why.

Firstly, let’s look at some statistics. In the last election, 650 people became Members of Parliament. 147 of these were women. That’s around 23% –  hardly representative of the UK population, which is 51% female. The statistics for ethnicity and class are just as bad (if not worse), and each are deserving of their own post; I could rant for hours on any of these. For now, however, I’m going to stick to looking at the statistic for women.

To try and rectify the obvious inequalities, quotas were introduced. To my mind, quotas are like Marmite – you either love them or you hate them. Like Marmite, I’ve not yet decided which side I’m on. However, what the quotas have done is given rise to new terminology – for example, ‘Blair’s Babes’ and ‘Cameron’s Cuties’. Both of these terms – which refer to the group of women working for the relevant Prime Minister – make me feel genuinely sick. They are demoralising, demeaning and downright disgusting. The use of the surname and possessive apostrophe signifies that all the women in these groups belong to the Prime Minister – playing into the ever-present objectification of women. Meanwhile, the use of ‘Babes’ and ‘Cuties’ reduces the women to pretty faces, to sex symbols. These women are all there on their own merit – they are far more deserving than these descriptions make them seem.

This is not the only problem that these women are facing. For women in Parliament, there is no way of being right. When they appear in the media, their clothing and appearance choices are far more likely to be commented on than anything else. There’s a plethora of negative stories, with each female Member of Parliament having faced their own equally awful battles, revolving around sexist comments, unfair media representation, and even discrimination based on their having children – regardless of the fact that men, too, have children and childcare responsibilities.

Even the physical representation inside Parliament is hugely biased. Whilst walking around on a recent tour, we noticed one female statue: that of Margaret Thatcher. We also played a ‘game’ of ‘Spot the Women’ with a painting of the House of Commons in session. It was far harder than the average game of ‘Where’s Wally?’.

But these all come into effect later on, once you’ve gained your votes and got the right to your bum on a seat. There are perils to face beforehand, too. To get in to Parliament, it seems that you must do two things: know the right people, and take up social drinking. Both of these are pretty exclusionary. For a start, how many average members of society have the necessary connections to get them into – or even near – Parliament? A quick survey of the eleven people I am sat with finds that no-one has these connections. Moreover, it follows that if connections are needed, then there’s likely to be a ‘sort’ of person who has them, a theory as close as proven by a look at the current government.

To look at the second option, social drinking, it’s clear that there are fundamental flaws here too. In 2009, it was found that around 15% of people in England are tee-total – they abstain from drinking alcohol, for religious, personal or other reasons. This means that 15% of the population wouldn’t be able to follow this route at all. Even for those who do drink, it’s a pretty dismal concept. What it’s saying is that, to gain a job in Parliament, you must firstly become just like every other person in Parliament. In short, you must become ‘one of the guys’.

With all of this in mind, the only conclusion I can find is one I would much rather not come to: Parliament is unrepresentative, and it’s unrepresentative for a reason. If it’s not hard enough for women to get in in the first place, life gets even harder once they’re there. I take my hat off to each and every woman working in Parliament – I couldn’t do it. It’s no wonder that the statistics are so awful. We need this to change, and we need it urgently. However, this can’t be a small change – every new woman in Parliament is a success for us all, but we need more. We need a huge, drastic change. We need 51% of the Members of Parliament to be women – something that the 50:50 Parliament campaign is currently fighting to achieve. We need to have our statues, our pictures, of women. We need the media to report on what we’re actually doing, not on what we’re wearing or looking like. In short, we have yet more need to start the revolution.

We Deserve #SREnow

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Powered by Girl is a girl-driven activist movement. Many of our team are young women living all over the UK. As a group who have been directly affected by the UK government’s inaction on Sex and Relationships Education, we’re here to speak out. We’re victims of a sexist, derogatory and dangerous culture of sex. As young women, we feel it’s vital that gender-based violence and information about consent is made available to every child and every teenager. That’s why we support the End Violence Against Women and Everyday Sexism Project’s petition for ‪#‎SREnow‬. Here are just some of our reasons:

Healthy relationships develop through understanding – not only about healthcare, but also about mental care. There is too much ignorance surrounding issues of consent and sexual orientation, and the best way to tackle this is by education. This is why we must support the campaign to make SRE statutory in UK schools – so everyone can enjoy happy and safe relationships – Issy, 20

Sex and relationships can be one of the most exciting things about growing up. Unfortunately it can also be one of the most dangerous. Young people need to be educated not just in safe sex, but on safe relationships, in order to equip this most vulnerable group in society to deal with these issues – information for everyone, no matter their sexuality – Amy, 16

At a time when children and young people are bombarded relentlessly by so many confusing and potentially dangerous messages about sex and relationships, comprehensive and in-depth SRE is vital. Biology does not suffice- exploring relationships and sexuality are often key aspects of adolescence and young adulthood- however, as we hear more and more of these experiences being negative ones, tackling the relevant issues through education is of paramount importance. By introducing SRE as compulsory, we can build fantastic foundations for not just adolescence, but for a lifetime of happy and healthy relationships – Cora, 16

It is vital that young people across the UK receive a decent SRE covering all key areas. Merely focusing on STIs, as was my one term of sex ed, is not sufficient. Consent should be central to SRE however schools are not required to teach it. When it comes to consent there are no ‘blurred lines’ and that needs to be clear. A 17 year old should not be learning about consent through discussion online before being taught about it in SRE or PSHE. Statutory SRE should teach responsibility and respect for people of all genders and sexual orientations and provide a safe environment to do so. We need to improve SRE and we need to do it now – Chloe, 18

With every minute that passes, roughly one incident of domestic abuse is reported to the police. That’s 60 incidents per hour; 1440 per day. Over a year, this amounts to around 525600 incidents- and those are the reported ones. It’s believed that far far more cases of domestic abuse go unreported. These are really shocking figures, yet they’re rarely talked about. School sex education lessons- even those titled ‘sex and relationships’- choose to focus on the biology of reproduction and ways of preventing pregnancy and/or infections. Whilst not saying these issues aren’t important, there is far more to ‘sex and relationships’ than this. There is little or no education delivered around consent, or sexuality, or happy and safe relationships. Young men and women are let down by this; they’re lead to believe that there is no choice but to go along with unacceptable behaviour, lead to believe that it’s not okay to be different or to speak up. This leads to so many problems further down the line that could be reduced with some basic education. If nothing else, the message could be delivered that it is okay to talk about these things. We no longer live in an age where we can pretend this isn’t happening, and transfer the problems to someone else. We need to act, to lay down the correct building blocks in the formation of happy, healthy adults, engaging in happy, healthy relationships. Legislation around this would be a hugely important step – Becky, 17

You can get involved by Tweeting using the hashtag #SREnow, and signing the petition here :)

SREnowpetition

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