Governor Deal Signs Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law

May 5, 2015 continued the celebration of the 2015 Georgia General Assembly “Year of the Child” with Gov. Deal’s signature on SB 8 and SR 7, otherwise known as the Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law.  Thank you and congratulations to Sen. Renee Untermann, Rep. Andy Welsh, and Rep. Chuck Efstration for your relentless support in bringing Georgia to this day.  Congratulations also to Georgia Cares, Street Grace, youthSpark, and Wellspring Living for your success in advocating for victims.  Your work to repair the lives of Georgia’s victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is inspiring.  We thank you, and Georgia’s children thank you!

 

8 Steps to Bone Health

May is National Osteoporosis Month.  Take steps now to improve bone health for yourself and your family.

Commissioners Nellie Duke and Sharon Baker as "Calendar Girls" promoting osteoporosis awareness.

Commissioners Nellie Duke and Sharon Baker as “Calendar Girls” promoting osteoporosis awareness.

In 2004, the Surgeon General declared osteoporosis to be epidemic in the United States, affecting 4.5 million women over the age of 50 nationwide.  In Georgia, osteoporosis causes 75 fractures every day and costs $1 million per day in medical expenses.

The first sign of osteoporosis is often a fracture.  Sometimes the fracture is caused by trauma, such as a fall.  However, when the disease is severe, the bone becomes so fragile it breaks and causes the fall.  Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because frequently, there are no early symptoms.

The Georgia Commission on Women launched the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative to raise awareness about osteoporosis and to encourage women to be tested and learn about their individual risk.  Bone density screening is the test most often used to diagnose osteoporosis and monitor treatment.

Women most at risk for osteoporosis are those who have low body weight, smoke, or take steroid medications. Early menopause, cessation of menses before the age of 40, is a major risk factor because the levels of estrogen, a bone-protecting hormone, decline.  A family history that includes fractures, particularly of the hip, is also a factor.

Here are eight steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis:

1.  Do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Weight bearing exercise in particular strengthens bone.  Walk with a friend.  Work in the garden.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

2.  Strength and balance training will help strengthen your muscles and prevent falls. Convince a friend to try a yoga or a T’ai Chi class with you.  Both are fantastic ways to tone muscles and improve balance.

3.  Protect yourself from falls. Install handrails on stairs and grab bars in the bathtub.  Make sure all rugs have skid proof backing.  Get rid of clutter, and ensure you have proper lighting in all areas of your home—including a night light in the bathroom. If your doctor recommends a cane or walker, use it.

4.  Schedule a regular eye exam to check for problems that might affect visual acuity.

5.  If you have a fracture during middle age, ask your health care provider to order a bone density test.

6.  If you are 65 or older, bone density testing should be done to determine a baseline bone status.

7.  Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Eat dairy products and green vegetables such as broccoli. Ask to have a Vitamin D blood level done and take supplements as recommended by your health care provider.

8.  If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, take your medications as ordered to prevent further bone loss.

Osteoporosis is preventable, but you must start now.  Maximum bone density is reached by the age of 30, so prevention must begin early.  Encourage your daughters and granddaughters from the time of birth to make deposits in their bone density bank by exercising and eating a balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

Ask to be screened if your health provider does not suggest this test.  The sooner osteoporosis is detected, the better the treatment outcomes will be.  Many medications are now available to help prevent further bone loss.

 

Sharon Baker is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She is a Nurse Practitioner and expert on women’s health and osteoporosis.  She lives in Rome, GA.

International Women’s Day 2015

The Georgia Commission on Women celebrated International Women’s Day on March 9, 2015 in the State Capitol Rotunda.  It was a fun event with speakers from around the world.

 

 

Photos by Sharon Baker

Girls Are Picking Up STEAM

Did you celebrate Pi Day on March 14?  My family sure did, but we are totally geeky like that.  Judging from my Facebook News Feed that day, I have a whole bunch of nerdy friends too.

Pi Day is celebrated by math fans the world over because the numerical representation of the day—3.14—is pi.  This year, March 14, 2015 was declared the Pi Day of the Century because when you add the year, you get 3.14.15 or the first five digits of pi.  Isn’t that cool?

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  It is very useful in mathy things like finding the circumference or area of a circle.  Engineers use it any time they are working with circles or building things with cylinders, like engines.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory put together this cool infographic talking about how they use pi in building and maintaining spacecraft and measuring planets.  Pi is awesome.

We marked the day at my house by eating round cinnamon rolls for breakfast, debating who knows the most digits of pi, and having a pizza pi for lunch.  We wrapped up the day by wishing each other a Happy Pi Day on 3.14.15 at 9:26:53 pm.  By the way, this English major always loses the pi debate, but then again, I am competing against two junior math fiends and a Georgia Tech electrical engineer.  I am going to need to up my game.

Right now in education, everyone is talking about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).  These disciplines are the future in our information-based economy.  Schools are implementing STEM programs from early elementary school through high school to expose students to the STEM disciplines and encourage them to continue in these fields for their college studies.

STEM careers are often in innovative industries and pay better than your average job.  Most of these careers require at least a bachelor’s degree.  The earlier we can get kids interested in these fields, the better.

Last summer my son attended a fantastic camp at Georgia Tech as part of their CEISMC Summer Programs. He has always been interested in robots and building things, so we signed him up for the Artbotics program—a camp that is all about STEAM.

The kids studied the Disney Imagineers and used the “brains” and motors from Lego Mindstorm robots to make their own animatronics.  They used squishy circuits to “wire” the backs of their projects for lights, sound and other cool effects.  (If you do not know about squishy circuits, you need to watch this TED Talk. They are super fun.)  The kids worked in teams of two or three all week, and on the last day, they held a presentation for parents to see their work.

The amazing projects the elementary age kids built that week blew me away.  They painted scenes on sturdy foam board and made elements of their scenes move.  There was a poster with an astronaut on a spacewalk, one of a garden scene with floating butterflies and twinkling fireflies, and another of a reenactment of a World War II battle in the Pacific.  The kids were very proud of their projects, and I enjoyed listening to them tell about their ideas.

Out of about 20 kids in the camp session my son attended, only four or five of them were girls.  We do not always think about signing up our girls for robotics camp, but these girls had a blast that week.  I loved the animatronics take on robots, and the art component seemed to make it more “girl friendly.”  It would be great to see more girls taking advantage of these kinds of programs.

Women are underrepresented in STEM careers, and that is unfortunate.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce report, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” women hold less than 25 percent of jobs in the STEM fields even though women make up half of the U.S. workforce.  STEM jobs pay women 33 percent more than non-STEM jobs, but women are earning STEM college degrees at a much lower rate than men are.

We need to do something about that, and it starts with encouraging our girls to study science, technology, engineering, and math as early as possible.

Georgia mamas, I challenge you to find a way to work STEM and STEAM into your daughters’ interests and passions.  I will commit to doing the same.  Talk to your school and find out how they are using STEAM in the classroom.  Look for opportunities in your community for camps and activities that promote STEAM.  Find online resources for your kids to explore STEAM at home.

Let’s help our girls discover the power of STEAM.

 

Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

International Outreach

The Georgia Commission on Women had the honor of hosting a delegation from Egypt touring the United States to learn more about our efforts for equal rights and opportunities for women.  Six women and one man were here to exchange ideas and find ways they can better advocate for women at home.

We met for lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room on March 2, 2015 for a true cultural exchange—really, what is more southern than this Atlanta institution?  Over fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, we discussed the lives of women in Egypt and our guests’ efforts to make things better.

We learned a very unshocking truth—women in Egypt want what women the world over want.  They want safety.  They want opportunities for women to raise the standard of living for their families, and they want to be part of the political process.

Luncheon with Georgia Commission on Women and a delegation of Women's Rights Activists from Egypt

Luncheon with Georgia Commission on Women Members and a Delegation of Women’s Rights Activists from Egypt

Our new friends listed violence against women as one of their top three problems to address.  This surprised me.  We discussed how our legal system works to protect women in the United States.  We also discussed our efforts with our partner organizations to lobby our state legislature for stricter laws and harsher penalties for human trafficking.

Economic opportunity also made the Top 3 for our Egyptian guests.  They shared with us that in Egypt women are the sole supporter in twenty-three percent of families.  Most of these women make just enough for daily sustenance.  Women who want to start businesses in Egypt need more training and greater access to loans.  We learned the private sector does not supply small business loans, only the government, and Islam does not allow interest so loans require collateral which poor women in rural areas lack.  There are local programs by non-profits in place at the village level to bring women together in agricultural businesses—raising chickens, rabbits, etc.—and to provide training and interest-free loans.  The trick is to expand those programs and make them available to more people.

Our friends are also seeking political empowerment to ensure wider opportunities for women in Egypt.  They want a seat at the table in their government.  They want a hand in making the laws that will affect them.  They are finding some success, but they still have a long way to go.  As do we.  Most of the women we met are lawyers, and they are on the front line working to make changes in their laws and government policy.

The whole conversation intrigued me.  I was fascinated to hear about the lives of women in Egypt, and the passion of our guests inspired me as they work to make women’s lives better in their country.

My thoughts turned to our own efforts to achieve equality of opportunity, and I realized that we have come a long way in the United States in equality for women.  There are many more women working as doctors and lawyers than there were a generation ago.  Women have joined the top ranks of corporate offices and led companies as CEOs.  Women are in positions of power in Congress as well as state legislatures across the country.  We are governors, mayors, and city council members.  We head non-profits and start small businesses.

Our futures are wide open.  Today we have choices and options our grandmothers only dreamed of.  Our daughters and granddaughters will take us further still.  I grew up hearing that I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard enough.  I have a twelve-year-old daughter.  I don’t have to tell her she can be anything she wants to be; all she has to do is look around and know that this is true.

 

Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

Advocates in Action

Have you ever called or emailed your Georgia senator or representative and wondered if it made any difference?  Do the messages you leave and emails you send go into some black hole or electronic version of “File 13”?  Do you not even bother to contact them thinking it doesn’t matter anyway?

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Your elected officials do listen to you.  After all, they want to get re-elected, and the best way to do that is to listen carefully and sincerely to the people who vote for them.  Just like you and me, they care about our state and want to do what is best for the people of Georgia.  We may not all agree on the best thing to do, but in my experience, representatives and senators seem to be sincere in the issues they champion.  Your voice is heard.  The phone calls and emails you send do matter.

I saw the impact regular citizens have on their elected officials with my own eyes on February 12, 2015 at DMST Lobby Day at the Capitol.  This is a yearly event sponsored by Street Grace, Georgia Cares, Youth Spark, and Wellspring Living.  More than 500 Georgians gathered downtown at The Georgia Railroad Freight Depot for a press conference featuring GBI Director Vernon Keenan, Attorney General Sam Olens, Senator Renee Unterman and others to rally the troops before we walked across the street to the Capitol to speak out for victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).

L-R Julianna McConnell of GCW and Street Grace, Heather Stockdale of Georgia Cares, Anna Bastian of Bastian Center for the Study of Human Trafficking, Karla Jacobs of GCW

L-R Julianna McConnell of GCW and Street Grace, Heather Stockdale of Georgia Cares, Anna Bastian of Bastian Center for the Study of Human Trafficking, Karla Jacobs of GCW

Two bills working their way through the General Assembly this year address the issue of DMST, and while we were at the Capitol, the Senate was debating and voting on their version of both bills, sponsored by Senator Renee Unterman.  Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) increases the criminal penalties for people convicted of sex trafficking and requires that they register on the Sex Offenders Registry.  It also increases protections for exploitation victims, including extending the statute of limitations to age 25 for actions stemming from the abuse.  Senate Resolution 7 (SR 7) is a constitutional amendment creating the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children’s Fund and a separate commission.  If passed by the House and signed into law, SR 7 will be on the ballot in November for the people of Georgia to vote on.

Lobby Day organizers gave each attendee two letters, one for their senator and one for their representative, asking that they support the legislation to combat DMST and create a fund to help victims.  Senator Unterman told us she did not have the votes to pass SR 7 that morning, and after the press conference, all 500+ of us walked to the Capitol to deliver our letters.

Usually, we go to our representatives’ offices and give the letters to their staff.  However, since the senate was debating our bills that morning, we went directly to the Senate and had our letters and other notes delivered directly to the senators on the floor.  Some of our advocates asked that their senator step outside the Senate chamber and talk to them in person.  The senators did, and our advocates were able to talk to their senator face to face and personally make the plea to support the upcoming bills.

We watched with excitement the closed circuit TVs outside the Senate chamber as Sen. Unterman took to the podium to persuade her fellow senators to support her bills.  She spoke passionately about protecting Georgia’s children and ensuring that the punishment for those exploiting children was severe.  Other supporters of the bills stood up and spoke as well.  When the votes were taken, both bills passed with only three nay votes each.  Now the House will consider its version of the bills, and the process starts all over again.

The morning we arrived, there were ten senators planning to vote No on SR 7, and by the time the vote was taken, seven of those senators had changed their minds.  It is not a stretch to think that knowing more than 500 people gathered at the Capitol to support the bills played a part in encouraging them to vote for the bills.

Your voice matters.  You, too, can be an advocate just like the more than 500 people who came to DMST Lobby Day.  If you feel passionately about an issue, let your senator and representative know.  They may not ultimately vote the way you want them too, but you will know that you were heard.

If you are unsure whom your current senator and representative are, you can find them at Open States.

 

Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

Hello World!

Hello World! I love this phrase. It makes me think of things that are optimistic, forward looking, and hopeful. It conjures up the idea of awakening, new birth, and new beginnings. It is Mary Tyler Moore and SpongeBob SquarePants all wrapped up in two little words.

I love the understated geekiness of it. It is the first program new software developers learn to write and is the signal that all is well and working properly. An input in one spot yields a “Hello World!” output in another spot. The birth of a new program. A new beginning.

We have a new beginning of sorts going on here at the Georgia Commission on Women. We have developed programs on everything from osteoporosis awareness to self-defense, but we have been limited in our reach to the places we could go personally. Georgia is too big a state for a team of only fifteen volunteers to cover, and it is frustrating that we cannot get to everyone. Now we are adapting to the times and embracing technology so we can connect with you easier and earlier.

We cannot wait to share with you our thoughts on all sorts of things happening in our state through our new website and blog. We have the capability not only to reach every person with an internet connection but also to get feedback and learn new things ourselves from you. Once you had to come to a town hall meeting to tell us what was on your mind. Now, you can reach us right here with a comment on our blog. (Please comment on our blog. Otherwise, it feels like I’m talking to myself.)

We hope you will engage with us. Our state has made great strides (Did you know Georgia leads the nation in the growth women-owned businesses?), but we also have many things we need to work on (Did you know Atlanta ranks as one of the worst cities for child sex trafficking?). There is much more for us to do. Together we can do great things, and we hope to get the conversation started here.

Hello World! Welcome to our new beginning! Pull up a keyboard, and tell us what is on your mind.