Sara is one of Torchlight’s most active members. She’s been an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights for nearly a decade, with experience at organizations like Women Deliver and International Planned Parenthood Federation / Western Hemisphere Region. As a consultant for The Torchlight Collective, she specializes in program design and implementation aimed at advancing the health and rights of young people, and also supports Torchlight’s external communications.
By: Arushi Singh
This was the question I heard repeatedly from sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service providers in South Asia when I was working for an international SRH organization. The socio-cultural context of conservative South Asia, where sexuality is taboo and women shouldn’t be sexual unless they are married (even then they shouldn’t be seen to actually enjoy sex), means that service providers frequently bring their values and biases into their service provision.
The kind of experience a young person often has when visiting a Kenyan health facility is just a nightmare. This is even more the case if you go for reproductive health issues.
For this month’s glimpse into the people who make Torchlight tick, we sat down with Reshma Pattni. Reshma is one of Torchlight’s co-founders and oversees the company’s financial and administrative systems, making sure that money gets to the right places and people have tools to carry-out their work. Reshma’s deep experience with social justice movements - she started going to protests when she was a kid - now informs the many layers of her work.
Hey community! You may remember December’s On The Record With: Lindsay Menard-Freeman. Well, we decided to make it a regular newsletter feature so that you can get to know the beautiful brains behind the faces of Torchlight members. This month we focus on Matt Matassa, our energetic communications and engagement pro.
The energy and engagement around the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali proved that investments in reproductive health and rights is a growing priority and the community has continued to evolve and innovate to help meet the the unmet need of women worldwide. Whether you attended in person or watched online, below are a few key items that you will connect you to a few key resources.
If you’ve interacted with the Torchlight Collective, chances are you’ve met our very own Lindsay Menard-Freeman (or LMF as we call her in-house). Lindsay, who co-founded the Torchlight Collective in 2016, is known for her infectious laughter, natural warmth and signature curls.
It’s that time of the year when you’re likely thinking about which organizations to donate to and also deluged with requests to give. At Torchlight, many of us have been on both sides of the giving spectrum - working as donors giving money and as nonprofits requesting donations.
In the lead up to the 5th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda the Kenya Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Network organized the #ICFPYouthRelay to highlight the role of youth in the process of holding their governments accountable and share young people’s stories and perspectives.
This year’s International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), from November 12 to 15, isn't just in Kigali - you can join, interact, and follow along virtually. ICFP brings together the family planning community to share best practices, celebrate successes and chart a course forward, so don’t let distance stop you from participating.
#YoungWomenSay, a partnership with Say It Forward, features blogs from incredible young women from around the world and harnesses the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to their lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations. This year’s campaign featured stories from 18 inspiring young women leaders from 14 countries in every region of the world. Read their blogs, check out the campaign’s Twitter moment, and watch the Instagram story.
I’m the middle child and only daughter. I was confused throughout most my childhood about what it meant to be the only girl in my family, alongside my three brothers. But my confusion was almost always sedated by my persistence, or what my mother calls stubbornness. Whenever I reflect on my aspirations and what I value in my work and personal life, I cannot help but think of my mother as the person who has had the greatest influence on my perception and ambitions.
I do all of the things other young people my age do, like hang out with my friends, watch Youtube and Netflix, and listen to music. There are days when I don’t feel pretty and days when I feel great about myself. But there is one thing about me that you couldn’t guess just by looking at me. I’m HIV-positive.
I grew up in what was referred to as a squatters community or captured land. Families living there were below the poverty line. It meant that most were living in poor conditions and seeking a way out. Some women sought refuge in sexual relationships which, more often than not, resulted in early motherhood. I too wanted a better life. Through the help of mentors and teachers who could see my potential, I started to perceive good in myself as well.
Being born into a Pakistani family, it’s not easy to stop listening to what people are saying about you: about the way you dress, you walk, you talk, or you smile. I had to choose between walking away or giving in to people’s expectations. I chose to walk away from the negative aspects of my life and find myself. I believe that taking a stand and leaving behind everything that’s hurting you is the only way to grow, so that’s what I did.
Leading a Generation of Tech Enthusiasts for the Environment / Kuongoza Kizazi cha Wanateknolojia kwa ajili ya Mazingira - #YoungWomenSay
Very few people recognize the role that women play in environment conservation. Research shows that women are more heavily impacted by climate change and natural disasters. Yet, the media seems more keen to portray women as vulnerable victims of environmental disasters and rarely highlights the many innovative solutions that women - especially young women - are using to combat climate change.
I was born and raised in a very small town in Georgia, a country located in the Caucasus region. Living in Georgia in the 1990s was challenging as the country was suffering from socio-economic difficulties after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I remember the times when we had to prepare our homework in the light of a candle or lamp, with no heating in the winter. But what didn’t need electricity were the ideas in our minds.
Growing up, people most often identified me as the “dark-skinned girl” or the “charcoal seller’s daughter.” I come from a community where most daughters end up taking over their mother’s work, and I didn’t want to sell charcoal as a profession. I woke up each day and said to myself that I needed to change.
I remember when I was around eight or nine years old, I used to doodle encouraging messages to myself on my school notebooks. “You are really cool!” or “Kinga is amazing!” were my favorites. While I really believed in my superpowers -- which I thought were both being an optimist and knowing how to communicate with animals -- that didn’t mean that I thought I was better than anyone. My notes were just reminders that I was a strong girl who had hobbies and was surrounded by friends.
I believe in introspection, where one digs deep in their heart to search for who they really are and what their purpose is. This introspection isn’t just for personal gain, but to meaningfully improve the lives of those around them. This process led me to realize that girls and young women often suffer in silence. This has motivated me to speak louder and begin my journey of elevating the voices of the voiceless. I am eager to affect change that will make my community a better place for girls and women.