Thursday, July 1, 2010

Women's Fund Blog Has Moved

The Women's Fund blog has moved! Please visit us on our new website:

To go directly to our blog page, click here. Keep up on the latest blog and news from Women's Fund; subscribe to our feed by clicking under "Subscribe" in the right column.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lawrence Taylor's failures reflect our own

Today's post is contributed by Women's Funding Network. As an expert resource, we would like to share timely information about the topic of sex trafficking. Victims of sex trafficking in central Indiana can receive support from The Julian Center and IPATH (the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans), which runs a 24-hour hotline: 1-800-928-6403.

We welcome your input and feedback on this post and this issue.

Contributed by Women's Funding Network

Hall of Fame linebacker and Dancing With the Stars personality, Lawrence Taylor, may face up to four years in jail. Taylor is accused of third degree rape after having paid for sex with a 16-year-old girl in May. His next court appearance was scheduled today, June 24.

The message of the story is not limited to a celebrity gone bad, wasting his fame and fortune as hardworking Americans struggle. The real American tragedy is it takes the alleged personal failure of an individual celebrity to shine a national spotlight on our collective failure as a society to protect our children.

Unfortunately, what allegedly occurred in a New York Holiday Inn hotel room is not an isolated incident.

Through coercion, abuse, and imprisonment, as many as 300,000 American children – particularly teen girls – are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation each year.

Women's Funding Network, in partnership with “A Future. Not A Past.,” recently released findings of a pilot study that explored the demand for adolescent girls who are commercially sexually exploited in Georgia. The “Demand Study” details a first-of-its-kind study to quantify, describe, and understand demand for commercial sexual exploitation in Georgia.

The numbers are staggering – 12,400 men pay for sex with a young female in Georgia every month. These men account for 8,700 paid sex acts with adolescent females each month, which means that each adolescent female is exploited an average of three times per day.

Unfortunately, Georgia isn’t the only state where girls are being commercially sexually exploited at alarming rates. Research found that in New York, 2,880 adolescent girls were commercially sexually exploited through Web sites, massage parlors, and escort services in February 2010. Of those, a strong majority, 67 percent, were commercially sexually exploited over the Internet.

In Michigan, 117 adolescent girls were commercially sexually exploited through Internet Web sites and escort services in February, 2010, and 87 percent of the teens were commercially sexually exploited through the Internet.

Sex traffickers and “johns” are clearly moving their activities off the streets and into the veil of anonymity that the Internet provides.

According to the complaint against Rasheed Davis – the 28-year-old man who allegedly pimped the teen girl to Lawrence Taylor – he took nearly nude cell phone photos of the 16-year-old girl and used them to connect with customers online.

It is time to have an open and honest conversation about what and who is sustaining this growing market.

Web sites must do more self-regulation to ensure minors are not commercially sexually exploited on their sites. If they don’t do enough, the public and government must intervene.

Hotels must also take action. Hotel staff members have to be trained on easy and acceptable corporate policies to report incidents of sex solicitation in their hotels, particularly when they believe a minor is involved. Similarly, hotel management needs to stress reporting such activity is expected. Hotel guests can also be made more alert by receiving information on warning signs and where to call to alert authorities — just by adding this information to their hotel key cards.

Businesses are not the only ones that have to make a shift.

As Taylor faces his day in court, the time is now to enforce zero tolerance for the commercial sexual exploitation of our children. We must move from denial to outrage to action. Our children are waiting, and they deserve no less.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Engaging and Informative New Website will be a Resource

Women's Fund has a new website! I, for one, am excited about the opportunities the new site will bring. Not only does it look snappy, it will allow our donors, grantees, and new friends connect with us. The new site highlights Women's Fund as an expert resource for issues impacting women and girls in central Indiana and thanks those who contribute to our success.

The site has a variety of wonderful new features, including videos, profiles of "faces" of Women's Fund, our blog and news, and "by the numbers"—introducing statistics about women and girls in central Indiana and core information about Women's Fund. In addition:
  • Nonprofit organizations can learn about how to apply for a grant and research past grants and issues we support.
  • Donors can give easily and securely online, learn more about how we have used their contributions, and find out about other types and levels of giving.
  • Those interested in philanthropy education programs can learn more about GO: Give Back, including Power of Girls, and OPTIONS. OPTIONS Alumnae can view past participants and renew membership online.
  • Community members may learn about issues impacting women and girls and how Women's Fund is involved in helping women become self-sufficient by learning about issues we support, reviewing our research publications, and viewing our boards and staff.
  • Corporations can learn about how they may become Women's Fund Partners; online giving to our operating fund makes it easy to join other corporations supporting women and girls in central Indiana.

We hope you will find our new website user-friendly, engaging, and informative. Please post your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Camp Participants Empowered through Leadership and Learning

By Quiana Graham
Director, Youth & Family Programs
Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
OPTIONS Class 10 member

Every year March is designated as Women's Empowerment Month. During that month, we see public service announcements honoring great women such as Amelia Earhart, Madame C J Walker, Betsy Ross and other women who have helped to make this country great!

As a person active in the non-profit community, I work first hand with the National Girls Inc. office, which is located in downtown Indianapolis. I have read numerous scholarships of Girls Inc. graduates from throughout the country who seek financial assistance from the organization to continue their educational endeavors. Their essays recount how the organization has helped them to form personal value statements, increased their self-worth and overcome challenges that they have face in life. Each year I am amazed at the courage and strength that these young ladies demonstrate in the face of adversity!

At the OPTIONS Class 10 site visit this week, it was truly my pleasure to spend time with young ladies participating in Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis' summer camp. Having the opportunity to see the young ladies use deductive and problem solving skills, was refreshing. (Most youth I see remind me that common sense is not so common!) I think I learned more about pollution yesterday (point and non-point) than I remember from high school. (And that’s not just because I graduated 14 years ago!)

Through well-conceived curriculum, I think that Pat Wachtel, executive director, and her staff are doing an excellent job of empowering girls to become successful women. Because of my work with National Office, I can attest to the awesome work Girls Inc. does in young women’s lives worldwide. After my visit to the local Girls Inc. camp, I realize that everyday they are teaching young ladies to become the BOLD, SMART, and STRONG women that will be one day be recognized during March.

If you have not visited with the ladies of Girls Inc., please plan to go and be impressed!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Education is Key to Violence Prevention

I was taken aback when reading the New York Times column posted on the Women's Fund Facebook page last week. The article highlighted a group of 14- and 15-year-old boys' "draft" of girls in their Maryland community. I won't go into the details, but you can read the column by clicking here. What may be viewed by some as innocent adolescent behavior may also foreshadow long-term issues with respect for women, which can lead to dating violence and domestic abuse. Objectifying women and girls diminishes a girl or woman's self-confidence and self-worth. It can have lasting impact on how she views relationships, and lead the offender (in this case, boys), to believe it is acceptable to treat others in this way.

The Indianapolis Star recently featured a program conducted at Westlane Middle School in Washington Township. Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative was implemented in all seventh-grade health classes last year, and will be spread to two more middle schools next year. A nationwide initiative, Start Strong is targeted to 11- to 14-year-olds, promoting healthy relationships as a way to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. The program is not only targeted to the students, but also engages educators, parents and caregivers, and policymakers. Start Strong Indianapolis reports:
  • 11.6% of Indiana high school youth reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • As many as 13.2% of females and 5.3% of males reported being physically forced into sexual intercourse.

These numbers are too high. Start Strong Indianapolis is partnering with Clarian Health to reach 4,000 students through engaging curriculum co-taught by peer advocates; to team with parents, healthcare providers, caregivers, coaches, and other youth serving organizations; and, to work with the Department of Education to enhance current policies through Indiana schools to address sexual harassment, bullying and violence.

Women's Fund is proud to be part of the solution, helping prevent domestic violence before it starts. Women's Fund has supported the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center's Healthy Relationships program for all 5th and 7th grade IPS students over three years. We are glad other groups are partnering together to champion and make violence prevention efforts a priority. These dedicated efforts will have long-term impact on the students involved and on the health and well-being of our community.

If you mentor a young person, I encourage you to keep communication lines open and make an effort to model and encourage healthy relationship behavior.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Community Centers and How They Care for Their Communities

As an OPTIONS alumnae, and a donor to Women’s Fund, I’m committed to learning more about where my dollars are going – and sharing with readers what I learn. This time, I decided to explore the community centers that Women’s Fund has funded, including Concord, Hawthorne and John H. Boner Community Centers. Each has received operational support from Women’s Fund so I was interested in learning what the centers do for their communities.

I had an interesting and enlightening conversation with Niki Girls, executive director, Concord Neighborhood Center. While I toured the Center through OPTIONS, it’s been awhile, so it was nice to reconnect with Niki. The topic of our discussion … the challenges in our neighborhoods and the role community centers play.
After 28 years at the helm, Niki has seen a lot in her community (Concord serves Indy’s south side). She has helped a lot of people and has made an incredible impact in the lives of south side children and families. One thing I quickly realized in our conversation is that a lot of people, including me, don’t know and understand the comprehensive services community centers provide. As Niki put it, “we’re here if you’re three or 93. It’s the nature of who we are.”

The challenges her families face today are probably no different than others in Central Indiana:

  • Unemployment continues to be prevalent, challenging families who are searching for summer programs and activities for their children. Concord helps by lowering fees and subsidizing programs.

  • Families are stretched financially during the summer with children at home, often times causing an increase in food, water and electrical bills. Concord helps with financial assistance.

  • Working parents are looking for summer camps, programs and activities for their children. Although operating at capacity for day camp, Concord looks to ways to take care of as many kids as possible. They also have added teen programs two nights a week to give older kids in the neighborhood something to do (and to keep them out of trouble).

Niki credits Women’s Fund as one being instrumental in allowing them to continue serving families and individuals in their communities through their grant dollars. And after talking with Niki – and getting a sense of how passionate she is about her Center and “her families”, I felt proud that my contribution is supporting her in the work she does.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Caregiving... What I didn't know

I had not thought intentionally about the topic of caregiving prior to joining the Women's Fund team. Although there are many children in my extended family, I do not have children of my own, and my older family members were generally in good health. In short, I did not have to think about it. With grandparents facing health challenges, peers with young children, and regular exposure to the topic through Women's Fund, the issue of caregiving permeates my thoughts more regularly now.

Caregiving is more than an issue Women's Fund focuses on, it is an issue impacting all of us in one way or another. Many of us are responsible for the care of children, or are faced with elder care issues. The related statistics are striking. Following are some facts about caregiving, which we have uncovered in our research publication, Still on Shaky Ground 2006:
  • In central Indiana, there are only 24 licensed childcare spots for every 100 children under the age of six whose caregivers work outside the home.
  • In the Indianapolis metropolitan area, an estimated 63% of children under six have all parents in the labor force, while an estimated 71% of children 6-17 years old have all parents in the labor force.
  • 59,000 Indiana grandparents are raising their grandchildren; up 10,000 from 2006.
  • 20% of households where grandparents raise grandchildren live in poverty.

Caregiving issues affect all socioeconomic strata, yet they disproportionately impact the impoverished. Fortunately, there are organizations in our community addressing issues faced by caregivers. In addition to Women's Fund's support of many organizations, The Indianapolis Retirement Fund, a special interest fund of CICF, provides funding focused on helping community members as they age, for example.

We have highlighted many of the organizations we have supported on our blog. And, we will continue to do so, as they have an important role and impact the well-being of our families and our community. If you have any resources you have found particularly helpful, we welcome you to share them with us and our blog readers.