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It’s been a long couple of weeks for me, both at work and in my personal life. We’re gearing up for the bi-annual (every 2 years?) International AIDS Conference in Vienna, and we have some pretty amazing stuff going on there, and trying to work across what we’re doing on the ground and online is a pretty hectic task. But I do love it, and I’m excited to see it all come together.
And seeing that I am a ‘happy-drunk’, I managed to volunteer to organise and host my sister’s friend’s Hen party. Though I did one for one of my closest friends a month or so ago, I have no idea what to do for this one. It doesn’t help that she and her friends are students, so budget-wise, that’s quite restricting – and I unfortunately can’t foot the bill! I have to sort it out pretty soon, seeing as it’s scheduled for this Friday – yikes!
On another note, I’m actually thinking about finally getting on the twitter bandwagon… still thinking about it of course. I’m half tempted, but then I think about whether I have the time to do it – I barely have time to blog these days! And then there is of course the fact that I have frequently declared that I’d never get on twitter because you’d have to be seriously narcissistic to be on it (unless you’re only following people, then you’re a potential stalker!), I do like to be a woman of my word. But then again, I am a woman, I do have the right to change my mind! Anyway, as it stands, I’m merely thinking about it. Right now I have to focus on overseeing our Vienna activities, writing my assignment (not to mention starting on my dissertation), and writing about two business plans, oh and organising the hen night! Do I really have time for Twitter?

Our office really can be a fun place to work, especially because so much of what we do revolves around sex. Sometimes I don’t even know how the conversations come up but I do worry about the poor emerging markets team hearing our rather graphic conversations – hmmm surely there’s an HR policy that goes against sexually inappropriate conversations? But of course it’s not inappropriate, it’s work related!

So the masturbation one came up … actually I have no idea how that one came up think it was from our fans on facebook discussing it. It was interesting to see the comments! People still believe that masturbation can make you blind because it’s some great sin from God. Hmmm ok.

Then it was that women don’t masturbate, only men do… hmmm ok. And then my personal favourite, normal people don’t masturbate.

I did like the woman who then said, but it was good for relaxation because you really shouldn’t have your body all tense. Interesting that no one said that it was a good method of safer sex!

Today was more fun, my colleague Julie Allen, has been asked to sit on a panel during the International AIDS Conference to discuss how you can make the female condom more appealing to men. Our response was, ‘surely you should make it more appealing to women first?’

We discussed who had ever tried using one – no one and who was willing to try one – to help give Julie some first hand research to use for her panel – no one. Finally someone admitted having tried it once. The downside, it sounded like shagging a plastic bag (heard that one before). The merits? Well, ‘as a guy, you don’t have to use a condom, what’s better than that?’

We decided to put it to the fb fans. Wow, shock, wow.

Mainly women responded – not that many but still – and pretty much all of them said that they didn’t think it was safe! Interesting.

So back to my point – how do you make it more appealing to women? Seriously have you seen it? Nothing is sexy about it. At least get the packaging to a sexy point like most male condoms. And can it not be easier to insert? Well maybe it is easy to use, but the instructional graphics on the pack seem quite complicated…
Anyway maybe the second generation female condoms (creatively titled FC2) are more sexy and less noisy (they claim this at least). Funnily enough, think i’ll stick to the male condoms for now.

I love winning awards. Shuga and Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track have won Gold in their respective categories at the World Media Festival. I’m obviously very proud, being that I was an executive producer on Shuga. Hoping this is the start to many more awards!

Here is a reminder of why they won!

All we need now is funding to do Season 2 of Shuga – let me know if you have $1million you want to give!

And Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track

One of the best things about Shuga was its soundtrack (along with the great messaging, acting, cinematography etc). The music was pumping and really profiled local talent. One of my favourite songs was from female rapper Stella Mwangi.
Here is the video to the song She Got It

This is a re-post from www.staying-alive.org but I really liked it so wanted to share:

When I told my friend Sam that I was a “vagina warrior,” he couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
“A vagina warrior?” He questioned, “What does that even mean?”
A fair enough response to such a statement… similar to mine when I first heard the term. “Vagina warrior” conjured up images of a jousting labia and an armored clitoris fighting other labias and clitorises for world vaginal domination… or something like that.
In reality, the term is far less comical and far more important.

Vagina Warrior: a vagina friendly person of any gender identification who embodies the spirit of equality and empowerment, and assists in the battle to end violence against women.

Sufficed to say, Sam was thrilled that despite his penis, he could join the Vagina Warrior team!

The term was coined by Eve Ensler, activist and author of the critically acclaimed Vagina Monologues. Ensler also created V-Day, her own “holiday” of sorts that corresponds with Valentine’s Day and raises awareness about violence against women and girls. On V-Day, Vagina Monologues is performed in thousands of locations worldwide.

But, as vday.org will tell you, “Performance is just the beginning. V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women.”

The money raised is distributed to thousands of different organizations but every year the V-Day team choose one particular initiative to spotlight. This year, they’re hoping to empower women and girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They rage with a raw yet truthful statement, “STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE.”

Certainly this type of brutality and dehumanization isn’t a fun or popular topic, but it is an important and all too pressing one.

Violence against women (and women not feeling empowered in general) is arguably one of the largest contributors to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sometimes it’s as complicated as rape and sometimes it’s as simple as a consenting young woman lacking the confidence to say, “put on a condom.”

And yet in these sad circumstances, there is reason to hope. If violence against women, inequality, injustice and dis-empowerment are central causes to HIV/AIDS then it would stand that peace, equality, justice and empowerment for women have the potential to be an arsenal in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Turning the tide for women won’t be easy and, as strange as it sounds, it certainly isn’t something that women can accomplish by themselves. We need to call upon all the penis-clad warriors to rise with us. Yes we need to educate our daughters, sisters, mothers, friends but we also need to educate our sons, brothers and fathers. (And of course those who don’t associate with just one gender as well.)

But, as my teacher (and vagina warrior on her own accord) Mrs. Mary Morris likes to remind me, “it’s all about setting manageable goals.” So perhaps we can’t change attitudes over night but we certainly can have a starting point.

So I’m going to use V-Day as a launching pad and issue a challenge to anybody who is willing to take it up.

Define “vagina warrior” on your own terms, what it means to YOU and how you can implement these principles into your life. That can mean removing certain derogatory words for women from your vocabulary, mentoring young people or having a heart-to-heart with someone you love.

I’ve sought out some incredible young people to give you their definitions. Use them as a starting place, an inspiration, a jumping off point. And, if you feel compelled, share with us your response in the comments section below.

For Cassie Hoeprich, director of the Women’s Action Committee at the University of Washington and Co-Producer of her schools production of The Vagina Monologues, being a vagina warrior “is more than just advocating for women. It’s about becoming aware of how all aspects of society have created inequalities within gender, but also within race, class, ability, etc. Acknowledging intersectionality can help us understand the different experiences that different women have. Eve Ensler has done quite a bit in advocating for what she had come to see the female voice as, but now it’s time that we start realizing it is crucial to actually include every voice instead of speaking for one another. Being a vagina warrior is respecting the range of people that identify as women and seeking allyship through out the process.”

For Tomek Latak Fior, artist and musician, “I consider myself a vagina warrior because when I’m talking to a girl I treat her as if her life and what’s going on in her world is as important and valid as my own. Like, if she mentions her period or concern over getting pregnant – I know that it’s legit conversation (instead of acting like a douche like some of my friends do). I see girls as human beings, not some idea of what “girls” are supposed to be like. I find that people like being treated like people.”

For my handsome friend Sam being a vagina warrior, “means treating all women with the same respect that I would want shown to my mom. It also means calling people out when they’re not showing decency and respect. I know a lot of guys who think that as long as they’re not being an ass, all is good. But they need to remind their friends to behave as well. I’m a vagina warrior because I treat women like people… I also really dig vaginas.”

The lovely picture of vagina warriors was taken by Lalita Love, a vagina warrior herself.

This post is by Carina Kolodny

Carina Kolodny is a writer and expert coffee shop loiterer based out of NYC. When not writing (or loitering) she can usually be found traveling the world or jumping out of airplanes. She became interested in HIV education while working with the Red Cross in Fiji. This was an enriching though terrifying experience as she hates snakes almost as much as she hates grammar. She counts Fiji, Cuba and Tanzania as second homes and strongly believes in the power of self love and red lipstick.

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile, I’d gone away to help a friend ‘find herself’. As a ‘grown up’ woman, I do find it sad and hard to believe how many so called grown women are still battling with self-esteem issues. I suppose in a way we all have those feelings once in awhile where we doubt ourselves in one aspect or another. But this women, she seems to perpetually be in that state. On the surface, she’s a beautiful successful woman. She’s intelligent, and has a body to die for. But inside, it’s like she hasn’t caught up with that exterior. She’s like a young girl, stuck somewhere between being a little girl and being a woman.
This causes all sorts of problems for her in her personal life, she always seems to be caught up in destructive relationships – with men who cared nothing for her. If you meet her you’d think she’s a strong, independent, opinionated woman, but know anything about her relationships and you’d wonder if it was the same person. She tended to be with men who treated her like a plaything, often times these men had other women in their lives and only called on my friend when they wanted sex with minimal drama.
The problem was as a young girl, she was violated in the worst way possible, raped by two men who she knew – well two different occassions but within a few months of each act, amounting to three times in total. I think this pretty much screwed up any self love she might have had for herself, especially since she’d been an 18 year old already struggling with her looks. And I don’t think she ever recovered.
But the problem with her and other women with self-esteem problems is that because they don’t love themselves they put themselves in situations that can be harmful – like having unprotected sex with men they barely know. That was the thing that worried me about my friend – she’d know to get herself tested but even if the men she was sleeping with didn’t want to get tested, she’d still have unprotected sex with them.
Her story isn’t unique at all and this is what bothers me. We focus a lot of our prevention campaigns around using condoms, getting tested and saying no to sex. But the reality is we need to tackle the fundamental issues of self love. It’s already a hard battle for women in my generation (not that i’m that old!), but what about teenage girls growing up in a world where someone as talented as Beyonce is half naked in all her videos? Or even the videos where men seem to be talking appreciatively (until you actually listen to the words) of the curvaceous, skimpy clad girl dropping it like it’s hot?
They are being groomed to be a sexual object to be here to provide sexual gratification to a man, who if he really likes her will ‘spend it all on her and make her bed rock’.
I know we hear people talking about self-respect, but how do we instill respect in women when the media is full of images that promote anything but respect for women – whether it’s self-respect or from men (that’s another blog post for another day)?
If women, young and older, loved themselves, had higher self-esteem and self-respect, they wouldn’t be putting themselves in situations where they are disrespected or put at risk because of wanting to bend to a man’s sexual wants.
I’m happy to say that my friend finally acknowledged that she suffers from seriously low self-love after spending a weekend with a man who treated her badly – but had lots of sex with her – and she’s now seeking help. I have to admit, she’s one of the lucky ones, considering her sexual network – she’s very lucky.