Editors note: Sandra Fluke is a Los Angeles-based attorney and activist who is running for the California State Senate in the 26th Senate District for the Democratic Party.
(CNN) — I cant help but feel humbled and grateful when I hear the stories of women who marched for womens rights in the 1970s and the suffragists who fought for the right to vote. What they accomplished deserves more than a nod and lip service. We must honor them by making our generations mark on the concerns facing women today. Unfortunately, that still includes goals weve fought too long for, like reproductive rights.
Today is International Womens Day and March is Womens History Month. As we celebrate all that women have accomplished in the struggle for gender equality, we are also redefining what counts as a womens issue.
Worldwide, about one in three women is victim of gender-related violence. From military sexual assault, to domestic violence, to rape on college campuses, we must do more to prevent violence against women.
Many people think of sex trafficking as a womens issue, but labor trafficking also has impact on women. Some of the industries in which labor trafficking is common, including domestic work, are dominated by women. And in industries like agricultural work, women are singled out for sexual abuse or exploitation.
Ive represented victims of human trafficking in Los Angeles, which is a major trafficking destination because of its port, international airport, and proximity to Asia and Mexico. Financially desperate adults are lured to Los Angeles by traffickers, only to be forced to work as laborers in Southern Californias agricultural sector. Runaway youth come to Los Angeles to find stardom or a warm place to sleep on the street, but many will be exploited through pornography, a thriving industry in the San Fernando Valley. We have a responsibility to improve our current labor trafficking laws.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul said recently, look at how well women are doing at colleges across the country. What he failed to consider is that women are graduating not only with a degree, but with staggering level of student debt. Instead of telling women that theyre doing just fine, we need legislators who are going to fight for students so they can attain the degrees they want and enter chosen professions without an insurmountable amount of debt.
Senator Paul also forgot to mention that some of the best-paying jobs, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM), are still overwhelming dominated by men. Only 3% of tech startups are formed by women. We have a thriving tech industry, but men hold far more computer and mathematical occupations than women.
Why arent more women getting tech jobs? We need programs that promote STEM education for those who have historically been left out of these high-paying jobs.
We often talk about the impact of pay discrimination on womens pocketbooks because it costs women on average more than $10,000 annually and jeopardizes their retirement security.
But we forget that many poverty issues also impact women. Raising the minimum wage is actually a womens issue because 64% of minimum wage workers are women.
Women are increasingly becoming the sole or primary earners in their household, so economic issues that hold women back have huge impact on our entire economy. Lets help women financially support their families as we create more good-paying jobs in our communities.
Many women not only face pay discrimination in the workplace, but struggle at home as well, trying to provide care for their family on top of their job. Women are still mostly the caretakers for their families, so they are disproportionately affected by the lack of guaranteed sick days and the lack of paid family leave. It is hard to overstate how far behind America is compared to our global competitors when it comes to these basic policies that protect families.
When we talk about womens issues, we must look comprehensively at the challenges all women face to ensure our policies reflect the support women truly need, because these concerns impact not only women, but their families and communities. Our generation is ready to do that.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sandra Fluke.
(CNN) — Last week, 19-year-old California university student Adeline Munguia was reported missing after she stopped responding to Snapchats and texts from her roommate.
As it turns out, Munguia was fine — shed just turned off her phone for a while — but the expectation of constant, instant communication was so normal in her social circles that taking a break was a shock to her friends.
Theres a growing movement that wants to make taking such a break from our electronics the rule, not the rare exception. Friday marks the start of the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging, an initiative launched by the national nonprofit group Reboot to help people take a break from their always-on lifestyles.
Participants are encouraged to put away their phones, tablets, laptops and other Internet-connected doodads from sunset Friday to sundown Saturday for a digital sabbath. The time might instead be used for quiet reflection, communing with nature, reconnecting with family or friends, focusing on a project and even getting a rare, uninterrupted nights sleep.
I think that people are overwhelmed. Its physically taken a toll on people, said Reboots communications manager, Tanya Schevitz. If you think you have to respond to everything all the time, thats an unrealistic expectation.
Participants are encouraged to sign a pledge on the events website and post a photo of themselves saying why they unplug. Some recent examples:
… to focus on the faces in front of me.
… to be open to the divine.
… to connect.
The concept has caught on since the first unplugging day in 2010. Organizers have signed up more than 200 local and national groups as partners, including the Ad Council, Digital Detox and Google. Many will be hosting their own official events such as in-person gatherings and phone-free parties.
Without the safety net of a smartphone, event-goers will probably work on dying social skills like maintaining eye contact, making small talk and communicating verbally in more than 140 characters.
Although the official holiday lasts for just 24 hours, the idea is to create more awareness of how we interact with our devices and the impact this has on our work, family and mental health. Then people can take smaller steps to carve out device-free pockets of time during the day and eventually find a balance that works for them.
Day to day, throughout your day, you should be thinking about unplugging moments, Schevitz said.
Concern about our dependence on our electronic devices has grown in recent years as its become increasingly difficult to step away from the online world. Phones beep and blink and beg for our attention with e-mail, text notifications, breaking news or updates from social media. Even when a phone is quiet, many of us still reflexively pick it up to check news and messages during moments of downtime.
Researchers are still studying the impact that smartphones and mobile technology have on our lives. In the work sphere, theres increasing evidence that multitasking is inefficient. The brain cant fully focus on a task when its constantly jumping around to do bite-size tasks like checking e-mail.
At home, the divided attention can have a negative impact on relationships with children and partners. Schevitz recently heard stories about overly connected families firsthand when she spoke to a class of eighth-graders about unplugging. The students shared tales of their parents working at all hours or not listening because they were glued to their smartphones.
It takes willpower to step away from technology. Schevitz has some tips for people interested in cutting down.
1. Replace the phone on your bedside table with an alarm clock. That way, youre not checking the device right before bed and first thing in the morning. The stimulation and even the light from the smartphone screen can disrupt sleep.
2. Set goals and schedule times when you think it would be beneficial to go sans phone. Make sure some of those times are when youre alone, not doing anything at all. People instinctively pick up their smartphones when theres a lull in a conversation or when theyre waiting in line. Look around, observe people, be alone with yourself and think about what you might be missing in those moments.
Psychologists have been researching something called attention-restoration theory. The idea is that people can better focus on tasks after taking a break to experience nature and giving part of their brains a rest. Something as simple as taking a walk or looking at photos of nature can reset peoples attention spans and reduce stress.
3. Before you drop off the grid, be sure to give people a heads up. As the Munguia incident illustrates, going cold turkey can be jarring when your friends or bosses expect instant responses to their messages. Set boundaries — like letting your workplace know you wont be checking e-mail after a certain hour — and stick to them.
The more people who participate, the less unusual it will seem, according to Schevitz.
What we we need to do is reset societys expectations, she said.
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(CNN) — The Winter Olympics motto was Hot. Cool. Yours.
From eye-popping helmet designs to Formula One-influenced bobsleigh, the Sochi 2014 Games offered a bewildering array of technological innovation as well as some seriously pimped up athlete equipment.
As well as the funky headgear, who could forget the Norwegian curling teams pants, which were reminiscent of an abstract Mondrian painting?
Bobsleigh was in the vanguard of exploring new technological improvements, with a number of teams hooking up with leading F1 marques or car manufacturers.
Under Armour: Dont blame our suits
Tech takes speed skating to the next level
While the Italian National Olympic Committee worked with Ferrari, the U.S. two-men bobsleigh team benefited from its collaboration with BMW.
The result? The first American two-man bobsleigh medal in 62 years.
The U.S. speed skating team had less luck with its Mach 39 Under Armour suits, leaving the Winter Olympics without a medal for the first time since 1984.
Despite the criticism of the teams suits, last week U.S. Speed Skating renewed its partnership with Under Armour for another eight years.
Look, we got beat up a little bit last week and speed skating is obviously getting beaten up, Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank told CBS This Morning show.
So what we dont do is we dont retreat. We dust ourselves up and we come back bigger, better and stronger than we ever were before.
Television companies got in on the act using a hexacopter — or remote piloted aircraft — to transmit live video of snowboard and ski jump competitions to a screen near you.
Take a look at the gallery above to see the gear that made Sochi cool.
Editors note: African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africas most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.
London, England (CNN) — A young boy sits in his bedroom staring up at the poster of Bruce Lee hanging on the wall. Like most kids in Kafanchan, a small town in the heart of Nigeria, he is a big fan of the martial arts supremo, frequenting the local cinema which almost exclusively shows Hong Kong karate movies or Bollywood films.
Other times the young boy immerses himself in a world of literature reading work from acclaimed writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Charles Dickens. And while outwardly he may still appear to be a child, the die has been cast.
I knew I wanted to be a writer from when I was six, Biyi Bandele tells CNN. My dad took me to the local library, I was five or six and I just fell in love with the books.
Some three decades later and Bandele has become a celebrated novelist and playwright who most recently moved behind the camera to try his hand at directing.
Bandele inspired by Brixton upbringing
Nigerian soap-opera tackles HIV
A task he seems well suited for after receiving critical acclaim for his directorial feature film debut, Half of a Yellow Sun, based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies much-loved novel of the same name and starring Hollywood stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
What really particularly attracted me to Half of a Yellow Sun was that … there were these characters — middle, upper-middle-class characters, educated characters, Nigerian characters — who I suppose had been seen in quite a few novels set in Africa, written by Africans, but they had never been seen in any movie set in Africa, says Bandele. I felt it was a great opportunity to bring these people to the big screen, he adds.
I was really fed up of going to the cinema and watching a movie about Africa and all you saw were them as victims without any say over their own destiny, explains Bandele. They just seemed to live this passive existence but that was redeemed only by gifts from NGOs.
I felt like I could do a better job than [others] had and so I decided that I had to take the plunge and direct.
From writer to director
Talented and ambitious, Bandele left Nigeria at 22 after studying drama at Obafemi Awolowo University with two novels hed written in his luggage.
I then started directing theater because I think subconsciously, I was preparing to get into film … I kept thinking I can do this, I can do this better.
Biyi Bandele on becoming a director
I actually came [to London] because Id been invited to a theater festival … within weeks, I had a publisher, not just in the UK but in Italy and in France and in Germany, he recalls. Then I got offered a job to be the literary editor of a weekly Nigerian newspaper in London so I had actually come with absolutely no intention of staying.
Shortly after his arrival to the UK, his work was published and he received his first commission from the Royal Court Theatre where he was catapulted into arts.
Just three years later — his career flourishing in playhouses up and down the country — Bandele wrote a screenplay which was picked up by the BBC, who attached a young up and coming director to it. His name was Danny Boyle.
Working with Danny was a game changer, recalls Bandele. I wasnt that interested at the time in actually directing anything but I watched Danny … it was a joy working with him, he adds.
I then started directing theater because I think, subconsciously, I was preparing to get into film … I kept thinking I can do this, I can do this better.
Behind the camera
It was Bandeles empathy for storytelling — a trait he has held all his life — that spurred him to take Half of a Yellow Sun and begin a six-year production process from adaptation to the big screen.
Upon completion of his debut film, Bandele was approached by MTVs Staying Alive Foundation to direct Shuga, a popular TV series aimed at educating viewers on HIV/AIDS.
Set in Lagos, the eight-part series follows a group of young people trying to live normal lives as HIV/AIDS becomes more prevalent in their world. Bandele says this was a project he simply couldnt say no to.
Theres a culture of complete denial and I felt it was important for us to do the series to get people talking.
Biyi Bandele on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria
Nigeria has, depending on which authorities you listen to, between 3.4 million and 4.3 million people suffering from HIV/AIDS, says the director. But when you go to Nigeria and talk to anyone about this epidemic, people will tell you, We dont have a problem — theres a culture of complete denial and I felt it was important for us to do the series to get people talking, he adds.
We also knew from the TV-watching habits of Nigerians, the likelihood was that this 15-year-old kid was watching it and so was their parent and probably their grandparents … youd have several generations actually having this conversation and thats exactly what happened.
For Bandele, this is what it all comes down to — telling stories that matter whether it is on stage or screen.
I like telling stories but if telling stories actually has a positive effect on how people live their lives, the better.
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