Gina Atanasoff

7 posts

Hailey Gesler Gives CT Some Pride

Hailey Gesler and her mother Alexis Wilson

Thirteen-year-old Hailey Gesler and her mother Alexis Wilson have made Connecticut history by planning and executing Fairfield County’s first ever Pride parade! The idea was Hailey’s, who is a seventh grader at Bethel Middle School.

Initially, Hailey and her friend Marcella Antunes were assigned a project. The focus of it: a social awareness issue. Hailey had also been wanting to have a parade in Bethel, so this was the perfect thing to do for her assignment.

Having a Pride parade is “hard at first,” Hailey recounts. But eventually, her and her mother “got the hang of it.” At first, the project had minimal publicity until a local coffeeshop shared the event on Facebook. Then, seemingly overnight, it blew up, and the two of them gained lots of supporters.

Bethel, Connecticut is not the best place to be LGBTQ+, with minimal resources, organizations, and groups for non-straight or transgender individuals to go to for help or fun activities. But, Alexis found that the community was “very welcoming” to the event. “Bethel needed it,” she says, as the only LGBTQ+ focused things in town take place at the high school’s GSA, and the middle school doesn’t even have a Gay-Straight Alliance that Hailey could be involved in.

So, when Hailey told her mom she wanted to have a parade, Alexis figured they’d gather some friends, walk down the street, and “make a stance” on the issue. Little did she know that it would actually have a huge turnout and a plethora of eager people ready to volunteer from around the county. In fact, everything in the process was smooth sailing. The Parks and Recreation department were “so amazing,” she says, and the only hiccup that came up was when a drag queen who was planning on coming pulled out at the last minute.

The parade electrified the town of Bethel. Colorful pride flags were on every corner, and joy was all around. On Sunday, April 24th, with hundreds of people in downtown Bethel, the community saw a vibrant side of the town that had no opportunity to show itself before.

Hailey Gesler and Marcella Antunes

As for the future, the mother-daughter duo intend on starting a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter in the Bethel area by September. They also talked to the advisers of the high school’s GSA about creating a middle school club to bring more awareness to parents and kids about LGBTQ+ people and issues. Hailey and Alexis intends to make being LGBTQ+ more common, de-stigmatized, and less of a big deal.

Hailey’s parting words: “be yourself,” and have pride! Don’t be afraid to hold hands with the person you love as you walk down the street, “hold their hand.”

Her mother’s advice to other people who want to organize events like Pride: utilize all the volunteers you have. “You never have too many,” she says. Also, talk to your town and work with them, especially people like the Parks and Recreation Department and the town police. Use your resources!

Alexis and Hailey are already planning Bethel Pride for next year! We look forward to seeing more from this awesome team.

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By Joely Feder

Joely is a high school intern for Connecticut NOW. Her interests include intersectional feminism, women’s literature, YouTube, and documentaries such as, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Joely also runs CT NOW’s Twitter and Instagram.

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Isha Dalal Gives Connecticut a Voice

Isha Dalal photo
Isha Dalal

Isha Dalal, a seventeen-year-old senior at Trumbull High School, is the creator and founder of the organization CT Voice. CT Voice has the goal of getting teens involved in making social change–whether it’s issues like illiteracy or lack of education, like the organization is working on currently, or cyber bullying and other social issues. Isha began working on Voice at the end of her sophomore year, and now after about a year later, her organization is thriving.

The young innovator began working on the organization after she had been volunteering at a literacy center in New Haven. Here, she met a young boy who was very bright–though he did things like eat paper. Isha saw that he wasn’t reaching his full potential–and on top of this, his mom worked very long hours, fostering an environment where learning to read wasn’t easy. And thus, CT Voice began. To help on this endeavor, Isha got in touch with the State Commissioner of Education, who supported the idea completely. Now, Isha’s organization has collected upwards of 5,000 books through a book drive, and is currently fundraising, too.

CT Voice at State Capitol photo
CT Voice at the State Capitol

Isha and her team of other volunteers have broadened the organization through platforms like social media and press. The book drive also raised awareness of CT Voice, too. All of this is thanks to young leaders like Isha, with a specific goal in mind and the perseverance to get it done. Not only this, but another aspect of Isha’s determination is to thank as well: getting the community involved! Isha has managed to get dozens of teens to take part in CT Voice, which allows it to thrive as there are constantly kids with new ideas, willfulness to help with projects, and volunteer in general!

In the future, we can expect to see things like a library on wheels from CT Voice, and in the next few years, we will also be looking out for what new issue this awesome organization is tackling next.

Joely Feder photo
By Joely Feder

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Joely is a high school intern for Connecticut NOW. Her interests include intersectional feminism, women’s literature, YouTube, and documentaries such as, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Joely also runs CT NOW’s Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Kennedy Williams Empowers Young Women Through Girl Scout Sisterhood

Kennedy Williams photo
Kennedy Williams

Kennedy Williams, a student from Glastonbury, Connecticut, has an abundance of accomplishments for a woman of her young age. The high schooler from Glastonbury High School has been a Girl Scout since the age of four, initially drawn to the caring and supportive environment of the organization.

In the past few years, Kennedy has earned her Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn. The project required fifty hours of community service, and Kennedy’s centered on literacy. She created six “little free libraries”, planned a free book drive, and eventually stationed these libraries all over Connecticut. Some are in senior citizen homes where other Girl Scouts can read to seniors. Currently, Kennedy’s own library is in a juvenile courthouse.

Now, Kennedy is working on earning her Gold Award. The focus of this project is mental health awareness. After a rough transition to high school, Kennedy realized that teachers and counselors must be more aware of students’ struggles. And thus, her project began.

Of her proudest accomplishments, mental health advocacy remains center. For instance, Kennedy recently joined other Girl Scouts across Connecticut in attending the organization’s Lunch with your Legislator event at the state Capitol. There, she discussed mental health awareness, change in public schools regarding the issue, and the creation of a mental health awareness fair. Additionally, Kennedy also met with state legislators to discuss her own experiences regarding her transition to high school, even giving a speech regarding mental health.

Williams with State Senator photo
Williams with State Senator

As for her future, the young leader plans on going into the STEM field. Being a minority, she hopes to use the leadership skills she learned in Girl Scouts to push forward in her career, unapologetically progressing and establishing herself professionally.

Joely Feder photo
By Joely Feder

Kennedy’s parting message: always support each other, community and a so-called “sisterhood,” much like the one she experiences in Girl Scouts is powerful for young women. Support alone is important, but having a support system is even better. Also, make sure you spend time for yourself, this is key in order to grow and progress.

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Joely is a high school intern for Connecticut NOW. Her interests include intersectional feminism, women’s literature, YouTube, and documentaries such as, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Joely also runs CT NOW’s Twitter and Instagram.

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Leadership, Girl Scouts, and Community with Alexis Volpe

Alexis Volpe photo
Alexis Volpe

Alexis Volpe, a senior from Middletown, Connecticut, is doing some awesome things.

 

The seventeen-year-old has been a Girl Scout since she was little, and the organization has enabled her to be a leader and impact her community in many positive ways.

 

Alexis has accomplished a multitude of things. As of now she serves as a Girl Board Member on the Girl Scouts of Connecticut Board of Directors. Additionally, she is the president of her school’s Future Business Leaders of America club, and is in the process of starting a Girl Scout Daisy troop in her town so that she can continue being involved in Girl Scouts after high school.

 

Her proudest memories include earning her Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. She worked for two years on the project–putting in eighty-five hours of hard work. The project focused on putting on a fashion show for disabled students, and it ended up wonderfully, with an inclusive and fun show. Everyone had lots of fun!

 

Not only has Volpe earned her Gold Award, but in 2015 she also won Miss Stamford’s Outstanding Teen, and in 2016 Miss Middletown’s Outstanding Teen. Miss CT is a scholarship organization that awards students with awards based on community service and other admirable achievements.

 

In facing challenges in leadership, Alexis is no stranger. For example, in sophomore year, Alexis was told by many of her peers that she couldn’t be section leader of the percussion section of her school’s band. She persevered, as the only girl in percussion, and is now section leader.

 

Joely Feder photo
By Joely Feder

As for her future, Alexis is looking to stay in Connecticut, continuing band into college and retaining leadership positions in Girl Scouts and her community. Her best advice for young girls looking to do awesome things: Do what you want to do and ignore any stereotypes thrown in your way.

 

Here at CT NOW, we think that’s some good advice! Be you and persevere, by doing this you will achieve whatever you set out to do.

 

Let’s honor this outstanding teen!

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Joely is a high school intern for Connecticut NOW. Her interests include intersectional feminism, women’s literature, YouTube, and documentaries such as, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Joely also runs CT NOW’s Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Guest Blog: 2017, The Year of Women RARING to Run!

By Patricia Russo

WOW! What a difference a GLOBAL Women’s March makes! Since that March, the Women’s Campaign School at Yale (WCSYale.org) has been flooded with inquiries from women raising their hands excited to learn more about our five day training the week of June 5th, and wanting to learn more about getting civically engaged.

Since the March, we heard from over 700 women from across the country. And those of you who know me know I eagerly responded to every query! The conversations went something like this: “Hello! Thanks so much for contacting us. Where did you vote on Election Day?”, “Oh, I’m not registered to vote. But I’m mad now! I marched and I want to run!” I then directed them to their local Registrar of Voters, gave them a local political homework assignment, and then asked them to please contact us in one year if they were still excited about politically participating.

That was about one third of the women who contacted us after the March.

The next one third who contacted us were YES! registered to vote, however they had not voted in the November 2016 election. Reasons were rampant: “My car died. I forgot. The two candidates were so similar, I just couldn’t decide.”
But, they’re mad now, they marched and they want to run for office.

I also gave this one third a local political assignment to complete, in the hope that they too would return to us and apply in one year.

The remaining one third were truly “Ready to Run”, and are currently applying…en masse! I am thrilled to report our online application numbers have reached an all time high in the history of our School, and climbing.

Here’s my concern about the 2/3 who are truly not ready to run. They will take a webinar elsewhere, believe they are ready to run, run prematurely, lose, not run again, and there goes our political pipeline…and then we are doomed to continue on this hamster wheel we have been on of not enough women in the pipeline.

Which is why we are the in process of raising $100,000 to fund a new one day intensive training program: WCSYale: The Basics which we hope to launch this spring throughout the country to help women not ready for our five day intensive, to find their political footing, to help them understand the political basics so that they can effectively launch themselves politically in their individual communities. We are excited at the response we have gotten from women interested in funding this new initiative as well as from women who are interested in participating. Many have shared with us: “I don’t know what I don’t know”. We want to help harness their enthusiasm and new found passion into effective and successful political activism so that we can create and build a political pipeline worthy of not only 52% of our gender, but of our entire population of American people.

His holiness the Dalai Lama said: “Western Women will Save the World.” Every day in every way I am inspired by these words, and I know them to be true.

 
For more information about our new one day training initiative, our June 5-9 session, inviting the WCSYale to speak at your next meeting, or any other queries, please contact me at: PRusso@WCSYale.org or 203.734.7385.

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Patricia is the Executive Director of Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

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In the Name of Feminism… Be Conscious About Dairy.

By Gina Atanasoff

There’s no question about it: a mother’s love is unparalleled to any other bond, even from the day we are conceived. After carrying us for nine long months, from the moment we are born, through childhood obstacles, high school heartbreaks, and any other struggle we may have in life: our moms are always there to love and support us.

Regardless of species, whether human, dog, cow, or even horse, a maternal bond exists between mother and child. Love is universal.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Okay, so what on earth could dairy have to do with feminism? I love cheese with my wine, ice cream on a hot day, and cream in my coffee! Pairing dairy with feminism simply makes no sense.”

So, imagine this. Imagine you’re pregnant and expecting your child to be born at the hospital tomorrow. You have your husband, your family, and friends surrounding you. After nine months, you are already filled with unparalleled love for your child before you even meet him/her. Then, once you have endured the exhausting and excruciating experience of delivering him/her into this world, as soon as you give birth, without a chance to even hold your precious baby, your baby is ripped away, loudly crying out for you, and is dragged into a slaughterhouse for a brutal murder.

Imagine the gut-wrenching feeling of your own flesh and blood being stolen from you the moment you give birth. Remember the cries and the screams. Don’t let go of that feeling.

To all of the mothers who are reading this, I know your heart hurts by simply imagining this horrific scenario.

Now, let’s rewind and imagine you were captured, repeatedly raped, over and over, giving birth over and over, only to have each baby taken away each and every time. Picture mothers impregnated and impregnated, and their babies yanked out, screaming, and dragged towards execution repeatedly for years on end. If they were human, do you think this would this be legal?

Then over time, once the mother cow is too exhausted, infertile, and cannot produce milk anymore, she is sent off to slaughter.

This is the dairy industry in a nutshell.

To get some more information, check out PETA’s website on the dairy industry here.

“My god, that is so horrific. Why have I never heard about this?”

What’s appalling about this form of mass production is not only the horrific practices taking place (and also how legal it is), but how little we as a public are aware of what occurs to millions of mothers and babies every single day. Brutal acts of rape, murder, and exploitation are taking place every single day.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean anyone is asking you to cut yourself off from dairy cold turkey. Don’t worry! Rather, it’s simply important to acknowledge the source of where our food products come from and how they are produced. Of course, us women all want to fight for feminism in any way we can. That cannot be disputed. But regardless of species, the mother-child bond is unbreakable and is brimming with love. You are already aware of this fact.

All it takes is a little bit of compassion and empathy to make an incredible change.

So, in order to save an extra life a day, perhaps cut back on the cheese pizza for dinner or the feta cheese on that salad– just once a week. Or even once a month. Be mindful of dairy, for the sake of feminism itself. Because weak, defenseless, and helpless mothers and babies are going through worlds of pain, suffering, and unimaginable atrocities on the other side of that milk carton in its most raw and brutal form.

And the world has no idea it’s even happening.

The Fields Beneath restaurant in the UK announces their reasons for “ditching dairy.”

But, there is hope.

In 2012 the Washington Post had published an article by Brad Plumer entitled: Americans are eating less and less meat. Plumer states, “According to a Department of Agriculture report, Americans are projected to eat 12.2 percent less meat in 2012 than they did 2007.” We think we cannot make a difference in this mass-produced brutality. We think our small decisions and heartfelt attempts at salvaging humanity for these creatures and their dignity go unnoticed.

But for each ice cream cone or macaroni and cheese meal that you skip, supply and demand will determine these mothers’ fates. Just as the trends with meat consumption between 2007 and 2012, there is hope for all the mothers and babies in the world of the dairy industry… If we can all reduce our intake.

With enough people who have a compassionate mindset behind this small, daily effort of consciousness, we can actually see the industry conform to our needs as consumers. This can determine the fates of countless vulnerable mothers and babies. This will save lives.

All in all, help her. Because you can. Every day, you choose what to put on your plate three times a day.

Help her, for the sake of feminism.

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Gina is a member of Connecticut NOW and a senior political science and writing and rhetoric double major at the University of Rhode Island. Her interests involve women’s rights, animal welfare, immigration reform, environmental issues and foreign policy.

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12 Easy Things ANYONE can do to Fight for Women’s Rights: A simple and convenient guide to making small, daily contributions

By Gina Atanasoff
  1. Start having those difficult conversations

Of course, there are countless people in the world who can be challenged on their beliefs regarding women’s rights. Starting a dialogue with someone helps to unpack the real issues, whether it’s with your crazy uncle at the dinner table, or even with someone in your class or of a different culture. Try asking thought-provoking questions, seeing someone else’s point of view, or listening to what opponents have to say.

 

  1. Try squashing any sexist stigmas/stereotypes in your daily interactions

By confronting the sexism that exists in our daily lives, it really gives others a reality check. Some people may not even realize their own judgments, stereotypes, or predispositions until someone calls them out on the “why” or “how” aspect of their ideological positions. By doing this, it creates a sense of awareness and critical thinking on the part of others who may be unknowingly perpetuating sexism.

 

  1. Join a women’s organization

It’s important to support other women and stand up for a greater cause. When organizations accumulate massive waves of support, it really sets an agenda for lawmakers when the population can get behind a specific political cause. Becoming part of a women’s organization can provide a sense of empowerment, togetherness, strength, and support. For instance, going online to an organization’s website such as the one for the National Organization for Women: now.org is simple and easy. You can click the Join Now or Email Sign-Up links to get started. Websites like this one provide resources, blogs, voter mobilization links, information about global feminism, and so much more.

 

  1. Donate to Planned Parenthood

A great way to empower women and fight for equal rights is to help out the “largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S.,” said by Deborah Goldschmidt and Ashley Strickland of CNN as, “offering sexual and reproductive health care, education and outreach to nearly 5 million women, men, and adolescents annually worldwide” (CNN: Fast Facts and Revealing Numbers). Helping those in need of reproductive health care makes such a drastic difference in their lives.

 

  1. Call your representatives

How are our representatives supposed to know what we want if we don’t tell them? The process of representative democracy itself desperately depends on reaching out to our elected officials! They’re the ones who pass the laws and make the rules; by calling their office and emphasizing: “I am your constituent, I vote, and I care about this issue,” you catch their attention more than ever. Take action!

 

  1. Volunteer at a women’s shelter

Needless to say, domestic abuse is a huge problem in this country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.” If this is a path to action that sounds interesting, volunteering at a shelter will make a very direct impact on those who desperately need it.

 

 

  1. Attend a peaceful protest or demonstration

This is definitely something ANYONE can do to help show support for women’s rights. Regardless of your gender or age, attending a women’s march, walkout demonstration, or protest in general with even with a group of friends or family, shows our public officials we care enough to come out during our very busy lives to speak out. And without question, men who come out to protest for women make an extremely loud statement. At the end of the day, feminism is not a “man vs. woman” issue. It’s an equality issue.

 

  1. Speak at a town hall meeting or committee hearing

Democracy thrives when we take action. By going directly to the source, by confronting and speaking to your committee leaders and legislative members makes a direct impact. If there’s a bill circulating in Congress that you disagree with, voice it. Don’t be afraid to make yourself heard or for people to disagree with you; that’s what democracy is all about.

 

  1. Read up on women’s history

Take a class! Do a scholarly Internet search. Go to a museum. Learn, learn, learn. Ask your grandmother or great-grandmother what it was like for her growing up. In the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “knowledge is power.” The best thing you can do to empower yourself is learn from the past and pave yourself a future from it.

 

  1. Teach young men and boys how to treat women

Children learn by example. It’s imperative that raising children in a very equal and respectful environment will make a huge difference in the way they grow to treat women in the future. In a perfect world, if we all raise our sons and grandsons to respect women and understand equal treatment, they will likely turn out to be feminists themselves.

 

  1. Teach young girls that they can do anything boys can

Show young girls their worth. Sit down your daughters and remind them that they are worth as much as boys. Encourage them to pursue engineering, sciences, and math. Introduce them to sports. Treat young girls the same way as boys and never let them doubt their worth in comparison to another gender.

 

  1. Provide strong female role models to kids

Characters such as Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen in books are strong female roles. Elsa and Anna from the film Frozen are also a wonderful role model for children, in addition to real figures in history like Rosa Parks, Cleopatra, or Malala Yousafzai. Teach them that women have changed the course of history, are independent, intelligent, capable, and worthy. Exposure to such characters at a young age is very impressionable and can set a permanent tone for a child’s perspective on the world (to both boys and girls)!

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Gina is a member of Connecticut NOW and a senior political science and writing and rhetoric double major at the University of Rhode Island. Her interests involve women’s rights, animal welfare, immigration reform, environmental issues and foreign policy.

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