Entries Tagged as 'Spotlight on a Cause'

Spotlight on a Cause + Interview with Molly Hayward – Founder of Cora

12/6/2014

I’m so thrilled to be able to introduce Molly and her fantastic venture Cora to you all today. Molly and I first met years ago when she interned at the Foundation for Development Cooperation, where I worked for just over four years. Molly added so much wisdom and value to a project I was running on women’s leadership in the Pacific, she absolutely blew me away with her capabilities.

And now just a few short years later it’s no surprise to me that this amazing lady has kick-started her own venture, Cora, which has a mission and vision so very close to my heart. I’m sure you’ll love what she’s doing just as much as I do!

Molly

Let’s dive in:

Let’s begin with Cora’s main message, distilled down to its essentials?

At Cora, we believe that every woman and girl, in every part of the world, has the right to safe, healthy, and positive experience of womanhood and menstruation.

In developed economies, women use products that are made with cotton and synthetics that are contaminated with toxic chemical residues, posing serious health risks. In developing economies, many girls and women who are poor are unable to access affordable menstrual products, so they resort to using old rags, mud, ash, and other materials that are ineffective and can cause serious infections. For this reason, many girls stay home from school for days each month during their periods, causing them to fall behind and often drop out completely.

Cora provides women in the U.S. with safe and healthy organic feminine hygiene products in a convenient and customizable monthly box. For every box shipped, a girl in a developing country is given a month’s supply of sustainable sanitary pads so she can stay in school, play with her friends, and be her radiant self, every day of the month.

What inspired you to embark on this journey with Cora?

Menstruation is as universal to women as breathing, yet it a largely negative and disempowering experience for most girls and women. When I learned that girls miss school for days each month because they can’t afford sanitary pads, and that the products used by women in my society were making us sick, I knew that I wanted to create a way to provide both groups with something better, and tie them to one another. I wanted to make our inherent interconnection tangible.

How do you integrate good development practices in to Cora’s activities?

Our model addresses safe and healthy menstrual management holistically on a global scale.We partner with organizations on the ground in developing countries to establish women-owned and operated manufacturing units to create sustainable, plant-based sanitary pads, which create jobs for women and support the local economy. Cora then purchases the pads from these units, creating a strong revenue stream, and provides the pads to a girl who would otherwise miss days of school during her period.

Cora image

Any particular achievements you’ve gained so far you’d like to tell us about?

We are currently crowdfunding to raise $28,000. Running the campaign has been very challenging, so it will be a great achievement to meet and hopefully surpass our goal so that we can launch our operations and our giving initiative in India.

How do you measure success in your venture?

By the number of lives we touch! I don’t think we’ll consider ourselves truly successful until the stigma around menstruation is history and no girl or woman is ever disempowered by her period.

Let’s get personal:

What are the top three best pieces of advice you’ve received?

  1. Start small and grow with your business
  2. Don’t wait for your product/service/offering to be perfect—just get it out there and course correct as you go
  3. Ask for what you need

Who are your five biggest heroes and give us a little insight as to why they’re so great:

  1. The young women I recently met at the New Light Soma Memorial Home for Girls in Kolkata —many of the girls are the children of sex workers in Kolkata’s red light district. In spite of being born into unthinkable circumstances, they are thoughtful, ambitious, warm and full of hope and love. They will be the first recipients of Cora’s pad-giving initiative in India.
  2. Simone DeBeauvoir – She looked womanhood from every angle of experience and asked questions that no one had asked before about what it means to be a woman.
  3. Danielle LaPorte — she is my high priestess of consciousness and soul-driven business and living.
  4. A two-way tie between Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop, and Yvon Choinard, Founder of Patagonia. Both were among the first entrepreneurs to prove that for-profit companies can be used to solve environmental and social problems.
  5. Richard Branson — fearless entrepreneur who is constantly pushing the boundaries of what seems possible, and has fun in the process!

What books are on your bedside table at the moment?

  • Women Who Run with the Wolves (Pinkola Estes) (Oooh – this is on my list! – C xx)
  • Total Freedom (Krishnamurti)
  • Her Blood is Gold (Owens)

How do you cultivate peace in your daily life?

Prayer, meditation, time in nature, and long talks with great friends.

Please let us know how we can connect with Cora:

Website: www.corawomen.com

Twitter: @corawomen

Facebook: facebook.com/CoraWomen

 Support Cora’s crowd-funding campaign

Spotlight on a Cause: Those Most Vulnerable

22/8/2013

The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations” – Mahatma Gandhi

I began my International Relations honours thesis with this quote, extending it to include those who are also on our doorstep, having come across the seas fleeing persecution, in the hope of finding a place of refuge. This thesis was written nearly 10 years ago now, and expounded upon why Australia persisted with its mandatory detention policy, particularly of children and unaccompanied minors. Back then we were in the throes of the Pacific Solution, and keeping children behind razor wire for undetermined periods, allowing them to witness self-harm and far worse.

I couldn’t have fathomed that things could travel even further down hill from that point. But it has. The political spin, fear mongering, and blatant inaccuracies perpetuated by political bluster is unbelievable. That our two major parties are gaining our nation’s implicit approval to fight it out over who can be a bigger meanie to asylum-seekers, is just. freaking. crazy.

Care for you

I have wanted to curl in a corner, rocking back and forth with my fingers firmly shoved in to my ears over the horror we are dishing out to the most vulnerable people of our world. So rest assured, I could rant and write about this issue until the cows come home (even an Honours thesis wasn’t enough to cover off on it).

Instead, in the spirit of peace, I’m going to muster up the scraps of positivity I have about the situation and will forthrightly knit together as much of it as possible. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”.

However, for some incisive up to date commentary on the issue, you can read a great article by Julian Burnside here, one by Tim Costello here, and take a look at this farcical ‘would be hilarious if it wasn’t so close to the truth’ cartoon by one of my favourite political cartoonists, First Dog on the Moon, here.

Choosing Fear over Love

We as as a collective, are addressing the issues of our world’s most vulnerable from a place of overwhelming fear, and not at all from a place of love or compassion. I think we’re better than that. I want to shine light on this situation, and bring more love in to the picture, by highlighting the amazing work that is being done to ‘crowd out’ the negativity and bottom-dwelling ‘policies’ we’re seeing from our major political parties.

Here are two I’d like to highlight:

Welcome to Australia

Founded by Pastor Brad Chilcott in 2011, Welcome to Australia‘s aim is to engage everyday Australians in the task of cultivating a culture of welcome in our nation. Welcome to Australia is determined to emphasise that the Australia we love is known for its diversity, compassion, generosity and commitment to giving all people a fair go.

The movement’s approach to effective social and political change is to actively create opportunities for genuine relationships to be built between people of all backgrounds, enabling them to share their stories.

I'm part of Welcome to Australia's One Million Welcomers Campaign

I’m part of Welcome to Australia’s One Million Welcomers Campaign

When we know one another’s stories, we’re far more likely to care about what ends up happening to each other – which, as an aside, is why media should be given access to asylum-seeker detention centres, to humanise the debate some more. How we can muster up full blown national grief for a fictional character who dies in a television series (Offspring), yet be seemingly oblivious to ‘another’ asylum-seeker boat sinking off the coast of our country, is beyond me.

Welcome to Australia plays a fantastic role in asylum seeker advocacy on a national stage, as well as providing grassroots support to newly arrived asylum seekers, an example being their Sounds Like Welcome initiative, which gifts musical instruments to musician asylum seekers who are unable to purchase their own. Just awesome, awesome work. Welcome to Australia also showcases a number of stories of refugees in Australia, which are well worth the read.

The Hot Potato (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)

The asylum seeker debate is undoubtedly the ‘hot potato’ of Australian politics at the moment. In the interest of getting people truly engaged with the facts of the asylum seeker debate, the Hot Potato campaign has set off on a journey around Australia, driving a potato van and giving away 10,000 potatoes, in an aim to start 10 million conversations about this hot issue.

I think this initiative is awesome. They are actively debunking myths with a fantastic online resource and offline they’re enticing people with food, and very likely not just preaching to the converted (who can resist a free and tasty hot potato in flavours like African eggplant and tomato tagine, or Syrian Tahini and garlic labneh??).

You can keep up to date with their progress on the ASRC Facebook page. The last stop is in Brissie this Saturday, but their website will still be up to help you continue debunking the myths that surround this debate.

So the next time someone starts mouthing off that boat people are potential terrorists and a threat to our national security (Myth Number Six), you can respond to them by saying: No boat person has ever been proven to be a terrorist. Boat arrivals receive the most scrutinised security checks of all.

And maybe remind them how the 9/11 terrorists made their way in to the United States. By business class on aeroplanes.

Immigrant Nation

Unless you are one of our First Peoples, you are an immigrant, or you have an immigrant history. The irony of the oft quoted, ‘we grew here, you flew here’ chants so favoured by crowds of racist bogans, is not lost on our indigenous folk, that’s for sure.

And the fact that our country was officially ‘founded’ by the original boat people, aka The First Fleet, again that little rascal irony is doubled over in the corner laughing her socks off.

Our nation is built on immigration. We are a melting pot of cultural influences, and we are all the more vibrant, rich, and resilient for it. I urge you, if you’re so inclined, to do your bit to shine light on this issue, to more positively balance out the awfulness we are witnessing play out before us.

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Spotlight on a Cause: The People’s Food Plan for Australia

28/5/2013

Have you forgotten what tomatoes taste like? I realised I had when I was eating a felafel, spinach and tomato salad at Sourced Grocer last week. I bit in to one of the little red organic truss tomatoes and was met with a veritable explosion of flavour in my mouth. I truly had begun to accept that tomatoes only came with a hint of tomato flavour – not the fullness, sweetness and juiciness that a genuine tomato can offer.

It was reminiscent of being back in Positano late last year – a place where tomatoes, lemons and oranges are simply bursting with plump deliciousness. One of my favourite memories during my time there was stealing sampling a tomato which had grown outside someone’s garden during a hike to the top of Positano town. One of my besties and I shared in this illicit delight – and it was like we’d never tasted a tomato before in our lives. Sweet jeebus, it was perfection. The reason for this, according to a study recently published on Science Daily is that tomatoes grown organically or on organic farms accumulate higher concentrations of sugars, vitamin C and tasty compounds – which is associated with oxidative stress – compared to those  grown on conventional farms.

Tomatoes

So it is to this end that I have decided I will no longer entertain the presence of tomatoes that parade themselves as the real deal but are in fact far from it.

I featured Food Connect in a previous Thrilling Me post, because they’re doing wonderful things to help maintain the integrity of our food system in South East Queensland. But more broadly, a group called The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (a collaboration of organisations and individuals) is doing great things to secure a sustainable and connected food supply for Australia.

AFSA believe the Federal Government’s National Food Plan Green Paper (published in 2012) is not doing enough to secure Australia’s food supply into the future. It is marginalising thousands of Australians — including many small-hold farmers, food processors, food retailers, health workers, entrepreneurs, and consumers who eat the food — and desire a fair food system.

AFSA held widespread community consultations throughout Australia late last year, and are developing a People’s Food Plan that reflects the concerns and aspirations of the aforementioned groups. The Federal Government’s Food Plan is very agri-business and corporate heavy, and largely leaves the littler guys (many of whom produce the tomatoes I want to eat) out.

The key steps put forward by AFSA for achieving sustainable transformation of the current corporate food system are:

  • Prioritising health, equity and access to good food for all,
  • Decision-making that is genuinely participatory, democratic and inclusive,
  • Regulating for fair and safe food,
  • Reducing excessive waste in the food system,
  • Introducing food literacy and education via the school curriculum,
  • Supporting a return to Indigenous food sovereignty,
  • (re)Localising the food system,
  • Addressing the environmental problems associated with industrial food production,
  • Diversifying the current food economy by making space for new social enterprises,
  • Planning to preserve prime agricultural land,
  • Building fair food systems through co-operatives, small-scale businesses and social enterprise,
  • Enabling more food production in urban and peri-urban spaces, and;
  • Co-ordinating community efforts in food production and nutrient recycling.

If you’re interested in this cause, I would behoove you to please go and have a read of AFSA’s People’s Food Plan Working Paper or the short summary document here. And get involved with the great initiatives they have going on around the country.

Get interested in where your food comes from, how it’s produced, and who produces it. If you’re not in Australia, perhaps take a look at the food system in your country. Do you have a fair food system in place?

Here’s to tasty tomatoes for everyone.

Anyone craving tomatoes now? Hmm? Okay, maybe it’s just me.

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Spotlight on a Cause: Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre

09/4/2013

Last month, during the flurry that was the week of International Women’s Day activities and celebrations, I met Jane Hegarty from Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre. We were sat next to one another at an IWD breakfast we were both speaking at, and I had the pleasure of learning about the amazing work that Zig Zag is doing for young women here in Southeast Queensland. I was so inspired by the work they’re doing, I signed up to be a member straight away.

A place of healing, support and social action for young women

In operation since 1988, Zig Zag is a community based not-for-profit organisation that provides a number of services to young women who have experienced sexual assault and/or are at risk of homelessness. The organisation provides a place of healing, support, and social action and change for women aged between 12 and 25 years.

ZigZag

Zig Zag provides a range of services to women in the wider Brisbane region including:

  • A medium-term housing service for young women aged between 16 and 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Counselling and support to young women aged between 12 and 25 years who have experienced sexual assault or abuse at some stage in their lives.
  • A resource library for any young woman accessing the service.

Zig Zag operates from a feminist perspective and strongly values and recognises the importance of young women’s unique experiences and expertise. I am a huge fan of a ‘rights based’ approaches in community development, which seeks to empower rights holders (the young women) while also strengthening the capacity of those whose duty it is to provide those rights (e.g. human services workers). This is strongly reflected in Zig Zag’s mission.

The Zig Zag Sexual Assault Service offers a range of services to the community including:

• Counseling and support
• Group work
• Community education
• Professional training
• Information resources for young women and for workers

There are also some great resources available on the site for young women, as well as useful information for human services workers and professionals working with young women who have experienced sexual abuse.

Jane and her team are a passionate group and are making a tremendous difference to the lives of young women in Southeast Queensland who have experienced significant trauma.

Zig Zag receives some government funding, but do also rely on donations from the public. If you would like to donate to Zig Zag, click here to make a (tax deductible) donation.

 You can also become a member of Zig Zag, by filling in the membership form found here.

Spotlight on a Cause is a monthly series featuring a great project or cause that I think my readers will find interesting and may potentially wish to support. If you have any suggestions for causes I should consider featuring, please pop them in the comments section below.

Spotlight on a Cause – International Women’s Day 2013

05/3/2013

The cause of women’s empowerment is one of my passions, and is imbued in the work I do day to day in development. So for the first Spotlight on a Cause post, I think it’s most fitting to feature a cause that I consistently support – UN Women Australia’s fundraising for International Women’s Day. I have worked directly on UN Women field projects in the Pacific, and seen the positive effects that many activities have directly had upon women’s empowerment in the region. I am also a long serving member of the Brisbane Young UN Women Committee, a wonderful group of women who volunteer their time to passionately advocate, raise awareness and fund raise for the broader UN Women cause.

IMG_0474

This year, the International Women’s Day cause being supported is the Critical Services Initiative in Papua New Guinea. The issue of violence against women in PNG is harrowing, with rates of VAW at epic proportions. This initiative’s aim is to achieve universal access to critical services for all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence. These services include:

  • emergency hotlines
  • immediate safety and protection
  • physical health care including emergency treatment, and emergency contraception and management of STIs and HIV-transmission
  • mental health care including crisis counselling
  • safe housing with access to basic necessities for women and their children
  • legal assistance
  • public education about where to access services

To find out more about how you can support this cause, please click here.

I feel so passionately about this issue, I wrote an opinion piece on violence against women in PNG, with my own personal reflections on it. The Punch have published it today, for those interested in reading it.

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On March 8 every year, people are encouraged to don purple ribbons in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment. I’ll also be wearing mine proudly this year.

And although that little purple ribbon will once again find its way to the bottom of my desk drawer after Friday, it never truly comes off me.

Are you doing anything to support International Women’s Day this year? Let me know what you’re up to in the comments below.

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