Half of the world does this, but it’s still hard to talk about

 

The ability deal with menstruation sanitarily, silently, and safely is, without a doubt, a privilege afforded to very few women. Although many people living in the United States might consider menstruation as an uncomfortable topic for discussion, open dialogue about periods and menstrual health is a vital part of maintaining the safety and dignity of all women. The impact of open dialogue about menstruation is threefold for women who don’t have easy access to sanitary napkins or tampons—women without financial means, women who live in towns without affordable menstrual supplies, women who are taught to be ashamed of their own menstrual cycles.

In 2012, Good Neighbors launched the Good Sisters Club in Malawi, which aims to foster conversation about periods among girls in rural Malawi. But our advocacy isn’t simply lip service: our Clean Body initiative has helped hundreds of young girls and women to empower themselves and their bodies by using hygienic and reusable cotton maxi pads when Aunt Flo comes to visit.

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Instructors provide girls with stencils to trace the outline of the sanitary pad on fabric.

The ability to comfortably menstruate has not always been afforded to these Malawian women and many others. But as the Good Sisters Club has grown, the impact sex and menstrual education has had on these women has become all the more salient. Regardless of what society might suggest, having a period should not be a source of shame for any woman.

Good Neighbors has partnered with Menstrual Hygiene Day—which is celebrated annually on May 28th—in order to further address these inequalities and facilitate more meaningful period-­related discussions. But while Menstrual Health Day is a great place to
start these life-­changing conversations, menstrual health awareness needs to expand beyond May 28th.

Courtesy: MenstrualHygieneDay.org

Courtesy: MenstrualHygieneDay.org

The next time you run to the nearest Duane Reade or CVS to purchase some maxi pads, remember that not every woman has the same privilege of access. Every time you open a new box of tampons, consider the role you play in ensuring the confidence and menstrual
health of women who are taught to conceal their periods in unsafe ways that might lead to infections or viruses. Using the resources provided on the Menstrual Hygiene Day website and many others, you can facilitate crucial menstrual health-­related discussions within your own community.

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Girls in Chaseta, Malawi, sewing their own reusable sanitary pads

Good Neighbors is launching its recruitment efforts for the LA Big5K run/walk on Saturday, March 14, 2015, benefiting the Good Sisters clubs throughout Malawi. Our goal is to raise funds to grow the Good Sisters Club in Katsumwa from 50 girls to 120 girls, and provide enough fabrics and sewing materials so each girl enrolled can make their own reusable sanitary pads. In addition, we plan to build a private toilet and sanitary facility so girls can take care of their needs with dignity, and also provide school book bags for each girl so they can hide their sanitary pads when they go to school, to avoid any unwanted attention. By supporting Good Sisters, our goal is to increase awareness of gender inequality throughout their community, so girls can support and empower each other in a safe environment.

You can join Team Good Neighbors for the LA Big5K and support the Good Sisters project in Malawi!  Learn more here!

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Club Day at Van Nuys High School

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Written by Amanda Kaufman, Treasurer of VNHS Good Neighbors Club

Van Nuys High School holds an annual “Club Day,” a day for different clubs to fundraise by setting up booths in the Quad selling food, snacks, and drinks. For most students, what defines Club Day is the wide selection of good food available for students to purchase; however for the students helping out at each booth, Club Day is a responsibility that promises rewards beyond just the food but also publicity (and with publicity, new members), and more funds for the club.

The wonderful members of Club Project Cookstoves working hard! (From left to right: Sean Kim, Nicholas Lee, Sung Lee (awesome dad!), Bea Aguillan, Joe Lee

The wonderful members of Club Project Cookstoves working hard! (From left to right: Sean Kim, Nicholas Lee, Sung Lee (awesome dad!), Bea Aguillan, Joe Lee

Our club, Project Cookstoves, organized a booth selling Korean Barbeque. Members of the club brought pans and grills to cook the meat onsite. To bring attention to the booth and to attract more customers, members of the club walked among the crowd of students and teachers while holding up posters promoting Project Cookstoves. In addition, next to the food was a box for donations.

Poster made by student Xena Peterson

Poster made by student Xena Peterson

Overall, it was a successful event for Project Cookstoves. Our club raised over $200 from both selling the food and obtaining additional donations. The apron-clad students behind the tables experienced how hectic things could get, so they should definitely be commended for their hard work, diligence and efficiency! A special thank you goes to the parents of Jae Chung and Joe Lee, who provided a lot of the food. We look forward to more opportunities to raise both funds and awareness for Project Cookstoves in the future.

Thanks, Amanda, and everyone at the Project Cookstoves Club at Van Nuys High School! You guys are awesome and we appreciate all your hard work and dedication to spreading awareness about this project! Visit our website for more information about Project Cookstoves.

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Motherhood in Malawi

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Pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby should be among some of the most happiest experiences in life. But in Malawi (and most African countries), many women lose their lives during pregnancy or childbirth, and many children don’t survive past the age of five. Good Neighbors is helping to change this situation by building a new health care center specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.

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Women and children checking in and waiting in line to see a doctor

Malawi has less than five medical personnel per 100,000 people, and poor clinical access and conditions lead to 1 in 16 women dying from maternal complications. In the village of Chiwoza specifically, the nearest health care center is over 20 miles away and there is no means of transportation available. In best case scenarios, women ride bicycles alone to the hospital while they’re having contractions; and in the worst (and most common), they give birth on dirt roads because they can’t get to a hospital in time.

Pregnant women walk over 20 miles from Chiwoza, Malawi, to the nearest medical facility to give birth

“I did not know when my baby was due because I had never been to a hospital. I suddenly felt contractions and needed to go to the hospital. I had no choice but to walk and then give birth on the street. When I got home with my newborn in my arms, the baby had already passed away. It was truly heartbreaking. ” ~Berias Ruciano

Weighing babies to ensure they’re at a healthy, normal weight

Weighing babies to ensure they’re at a healthy, normal weight

In 2011, Good Neighbors launched a project to improve medical services in the village to prevent what happened to Berias from happening to other women. We distributed nutritious meals and likuni phala (a maize-based porridge which is a staple in Malawi) to mothers and children under five years old who were underweight . We also held health seminars on malaria and AIDS prevention for mothers.

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Chiwoza Health Center

Good Neighbors opened the Chiwoza Health Center in September 2013.  Built with the support of community residents who helped purchase and stack bricks, build fences, and work on landscaping, the local community members were empowered to support the health of their women and children.

At the Chiwoza Health Center, Good Neighbors provides basic medical services with a special emphasis on maternal health. It offers support to mothers by providing sanitary delivery rooms, waiting rooms, recovery rooms, and education/teaching rooms for young children. Additionally, the health center has provided 96% of residents with basic medical services and is maintained and operated by local community members.

Photo Credit: Chanhak Park

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Young Activists You Need To Know

The other day, a girl in one of my classes explained to me that the overwhelming pessimism of today’s current events has shocked her into a state of complete apathy. “I don’t know anything about politics,” she told me, “so how can I change the way things are headed?”

Although I understand where my classmate was coming from, I had to politely disagree with her. Some of today’s greatest activists aren’t political pundits by any means. From fighting female genital mutilation to improving First Nation indigenous peoples’ quality of life, here are four young activists who are proving that huge, progressive leaps forward often start with small steps.

Kelsey Juliana

This Oregon teen made headlines when she sued the state of Oregon for its failure to reduce the same carbon emissions that are the driving force behind global climate change. But Miss Juliana isn’t just taking climate activism to the courtroom—she’s taking it to the streets. She’s just completed the Great March for Climate Action, which began on March 1st in Los Angeles and ended November 1st in Washington, D.C.

If you’re shocked by Kelsey’s dedication to protecting the environment from the bottom up, don’t be. Climate activism runs in her family—in the ‘90s, her parents participated in anti-logging protests.

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Janani Balasubramanian; Photo Courtesy  darkmatterrage.com

Janani Balasubramanian; Photo Courtesy: darkmatterrage.com

For those of you who love poetry, performance art, and gritty radicalism, look no further than DARKMATTER, a South Asian activist duo composed of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon. DARKMATTER’s spoken word pieces convey their brutally honest opinions about about gender, racial, and economic inequalities. But DARKMATTER’s work isn’t just meant to be admired from afar—it’s meant to bring about actual change through community action and participation. Janani and Alok’s university workshops are just as empowering as they are entertaining.

Fahma Mohamed

Photo Courtesy: The Guardian

Photo Courtesy: The Guardian

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, isn’t necessarily considered a problem in the United Kingdom, and Bristol student Fahma Mohamed has teamed up with The Guardian to end this misconception—and FGM in general—once and for all. By starting with Bristol and working her way up to international attention, Mohamed’s EndFGM campaign is now on its way to influence in the United States and Kenya.

Undoubtedly, Mohamed’s been making the right connections: EndFGM has received support from girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. And thanks to her hard work, Miss Mohamed has earned herself the title of Good Housekeeping’s Outstanding Young Campaigner of the Year.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney

Young Ta’Kaiya Blaney has the voice of an angel—and she’s using it to expose the oppression endured by First Nation indigenous communities. As a member of the Sliammon First Nation, Blaney was called to action by proposal of the Northern Gateway Pipeline to be built from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, British Columbia. Her song “Shallow Waters” directly addressed the environmental and cultural repercussions of constructing the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Blaney has continued to champion indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection through her music performances. But she’s made it clear that she’s more than a singer. “I feel that advocating and speaking at mere conferences isn’t enough,” Blaney admitted. “Actions speak louder than words.”

 

 

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Q&A: Street Artist Nick Walker for Good Neighbors

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We are kind of feeling like the coolest nonprofit on the block at the moment because we were lucky enough to get street artist Nick Walker to  collaborate with us on a beautiful wood-lasered  iPhone and Galaxy case.  The best part? A portion of the profits will be used to help us build new schools in Africa.

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If you don’t know Nick, he’s one of the world’s best known street artists and a major figure in the contemporary art world (his new solo gallery opened in New York last week, as you might have read in The Gothamist). As a forerunner of the British graffiti phenomenon, Nick’s work has become a blueprint for hundreds of emerging artists. He was selected by the late Stanley Kubrick to work on his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, where he created the artwork of the streets of New York on the film’s outdoor sets. Nick‘s iconic “Vandal” character was also featured in the Black Eyed Peas’ music video “I Gotta Feeling” which has been seen by over 160 million viewers on YouTube alone.

Below, Nick chats with us about his work, why he wanted to collaborate on this project, and what he thinks is the best street art city in the world:

What’s one of your most favorite pieces you’ve done? Where is it and why does it mean a lot to you?

I think it’s the ‘Giraffiti’ piece in Williamsburg in Brooklyn back in 2008. It took all night and we ended up having to get a longer ladder in the end to reach the paintbrush coming out of the giraffe’s mouth. If we had gotten the longer ladder the first time I think we would’ve finished earlier, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to meet [graffiti artist] Futura, who happened to be in the area getting his early morning coffee. It was the perfect end to a crazy night of painting.

What is one of your most favorite collaborations/commissioned projects you’ve done and why?

I’m really proud of my collaboration with Royal Doulton on a figurine due out in January 2015. It’s the first time Royal Doulton has used 3D scanning technology in their 200-year history and the figure will be included in their 200-year anniversary celebration.

Giraffiti

What was the most challenging/craziest/funniest experience you’ve had either trying to install a piece, or the behind-the-scenes work leading up to it?

There’s been a few but a memorable one was painting the shutters on Gansevoort street in the Meatpacking District. The chef from the restaurant next door decided he was going to test his 15-course meal on us and ply us with Mojitos all day for free.

Why did you want to do a collaboration for the Hope School project from Good Neighbors? What about the project is interesting?

If I can help build a school for children who otherwise might not have any access to an education, that’s a really cool thing. I think this project is really cool.

Vandal

What city in the world seems to embrace street art culture the most and why?

I could be wrong, but my guess is New York City—it’s where it began and it’s still going strong. Anyone who has grown up in that city has seen the art form evolve over the years. The people, the museums, and even a handful of cops have embraced it. It’s crazy the different kinds of people from all walks of life that stop in the street and pay compliments.

What is the inspiration/story behind the Vandal character?

I first came up with the Vandal concept back in 2005. I was walking through London and I saw one of those massive golfing umbrellas on the ground and on second glance I saw that there was someone underneath it lighting up a pipe. It stuck in my head and I got to thinking that umbrellas act as the perfect smoke screen for pretty much anything you like, especially graffiti, which is how the Vandal Triptych print came about. The second decoy is the outfit and someone dressed as a quintessential Englishman donning a bowler hat–someone you would expect to be doing graffiti!

The Vandal has one mission and, having heard the term “paint the town red,” he decided to take it to the extreme and paint it every color imaginable. But not just the town, the world!

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Why did you pick this particular piece for the PrinkTech collaboration?

I wanted to pick this image because the Vandal is in pouring mode and I wanted to experiment with the design within the paint flow and make it more detailed, rather than a flat colour.

When you were an emerging artist, what about street art was appealing to you to focus on this particular medium/genre?

When I was younger, the art was just known as Graffiti Art. I was strongly influenced by the graffiti on the side of the subway trains in the ’80s in NYC. The artist back then painted whole subway cars and it blew me away.

What was the weirdest/most odd thing said about your art?

I’m not sure, but one of my paintings did once bring a lady to tears!

triptych

Where can people see your work around the world?

Sao Paulo, Paris, NYC, London, Bristol, Los Angeles, Spain, Berlin, Tokyo, Osaka, and Shiga. I forget the names of the streets, though! I am represented by Brugier Rigail gallery in Paris and I have a solo show there in March 2015. My upcoming show will be in New York City this month, opening on October 16th and running for one week.

What’s the most unexpected thing/event/person/etc. that has inspired one of your pieces?

The former president of France (Nicolas Sarcozy) decided to ban the burka in Paris, so I ended up painting six women in burkas doing the cancan. It didn’t last that long though, because political elections were happening at the time and any kind of anti-government graffiti or posters were getting white-washed. You can see a video of it here.

What has been your favorite place to install your artwork so far?

New York. The energy of the city is great! Strangers pop up and offer you ladders and stuff–that kind of thing never happens anywhere else.

Thanks so much, Nick! To purchase your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone case, go here. And visit Nick’s official site here.

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