Girls In Robotics: Something for Everyone

Team 4678, the CyberCavs, is a high school robotics club from Woodland Christian High School in Breslau, Ontario. It’s part of a worldwide organization called FIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC. FRC is known as ‘varsity sports for the mind’; each year the organization devises a new competition, and teams are given six weeks to design and build robots that perform the competition’s tasks. These tasks include things like throwing frisbees, stacking totes, lobbing balls into goals, and maneuvering robots around obstacles. Teams attend regional competitions, and the winners of these competitions attend the World Championships in St. Louis, USA.

Now in its fifth year, the CyberCavs club boasts approximately 50 members, where one third are girls. There are many aspects to a robotics club…from designing, building, and programming robots to public relations and finance. The beauty of a club with varied departments is that members are given the opportunity to sample a variety of work. “I learned how to use power tools and take better pictures,” says Lauryn, a third year member who divides her time between the Build and Public Relations departments. “I’ve gotten good practice at designing documents and writing information about an organization,” says first year member Freda. Shae is in her fourth year, and looks forward to the coming season. “I hope to learn more about building robots. I look forward to supervising the team’s CNC milling machine and using a program called Autodesk Inventor.” Joy-Hannah, a team alumnus in her first year of university, says, “During my first year in robotics I helped out with building by doing lots of riveting, but mostly I have been a part of Public Relations. I worked on a variety of tasks such as gaining sponsors, sewing mascot costumes and the team standard/banner, as well as various other promotional aspects. I enjoyed this because it was a chance to show how interesting robotics is. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that there is a place for everyone in robotics, no matter their interests or abilities. I also acted as the photographer for the team at competitions, which got me the best seat in the house.”

In preparation for the 2017 season, the club invested in several VEX robot kits. VEX robots can be assembled, disassembled and reconfigured in a multitude of ways, and is a great learning tool for students who are new to robotics. Jean, a first-year member, loves programming the VEX robots. “If it doesn’t move as we expect, we can fix it to make it match our requirements. And if it works, we can try to make it better.” She hopes to have a career in programming, so the CyberCavs robotics club is a great way to help her hone her programming skills.

What would the CyberCavs girls tell other girls about robotics? “You don’t need to know how to build a robot to join,” says Shae. “It’s a lot of fun, with all kinds of opportunities,” says Freda. “It’s interesting and I’m learning a lot of skills,” adds Jean. “I don’t see it as a big deal for girls to be involved in our robotics club,” notes Catalina, while Helen sums it up: “It’s a great chance to be a part of a team, and there is something for everyone.”

Diva International Inc. (Diva) is proud to sponsor the CyberCavs robotics club. Diva is passionate about providing opportunities to youth, and supporting girls in science, math and technology. For more information on Diva’s initiatives, please visit divacup.com.

 

Camions of Care

camions of careMy passion for menstrual hygiene began during my family’s experience with homelessness. During this time, I gained both insight and inspiration through conversations with homeless women that I met. In the spring of my sophomore year of high school, when my family saved up enough money for us to move back into our two-bedroom apartment in Portland, I founded Camions of Care. What started as a personal project to use savings to buy and hand out feminine hygiene products to homeless women and women-in-need on my way to school, with the help of an amazing and driven youth team of peers, is now an exponentially growing organization.

Camions of Care is now a global youth-run nonprofit that strives to manage menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service—through the global distribution of feminine hygiene products and development of youth leadership through campus chapters. In the last year and a half, our network of 1,900 volunteers has distributed over 16,000 care packages of feminine hygiene products to 38 nonprofit partners in 12 different states and 9 different countries, and has expanded our chapter network to 34 established chapters at university and high school campuses around the US. Each care package is worth under two dollars and provides enough for one menstrual cycle. These care packages contain 9 tampons, 4 maxi-pads, and 5 panty liners, providing all of the products a woman may need for her average five-day period.

Camions of Care strives to develop youth engagement through our campus chapters. We continue to expand our network of 34 campus chapters at universities and high schools around the United States. Our chapters (nationwide at various high school and university campuses) work to support Camions of Care through advocacy and education. Some of our larger Tier 3 chapters also distribute feminine hygiene products to their own local partners. Every weekend, a volunteer team travels along our designated routes making deliveries to some of our (38+) nonprofit partner organizations and directly to homeless women-in-need.

In addition to the feminine hygiene products that Camions of Care purchases, we also obtain donations from local businesses, community centers, and nonprofit organizations. These feminine hygiene products are then directly distributed or put together into care packages through our community care packaging events.

Camions of Care helps women feel dignified and clean during their periods by giving them feminine hygiene products. The women that we serve are low income or homeless, and generally would not spend the little money they have on menstrual hygiene. Our services thereby give these women the materials to take care of their natural needs, which they otherwise would lack easy access to. Psychologically, having control over one’s own body is a step towards self-confidence and feeling in control of one’s life. This ability to care for immediate needs is an early step in helping women get off the street or to bounce back from a difficult situation. Additionally, most reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. By distributing feminine hygiene products, we help women stay healthier.

In the fall of 2015, Diva International established an ongoing partnership with Camions of Care. However, while menstrual cups may seem like a great solution for some women-in-need, limited access to clean water and health care services pose a serious health concern as the cup cannot be properly cleaned. As such, Camions of Care has partnered with Dress for Success Oregon’s HOPE program to distribute The DivaCup to women recently released from prison and who are living in transitional housing. To date, Diva has donated over 100 cups, and I am excited to see how this partnership will develop in the months and years to come!

Camions of Care is always striving to find sustainable solutions and we are continuing our efforts of securing reusable products like menstrual cups and fabric pads that provide more long term solutions. Camions of Care works to empower women and youth, period.

 

 

Nadya

Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

Menstrual Hygiene is Key to Global Development

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and breaking the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key. However, a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

MHDay_banner_blue_FBWomen’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. That is almost a full week of class, or 25% of one school month. Think about that… because of periods alone, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary because of what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I, myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness.

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a biological function. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of the right to reach one’s full potential. Limiting the potential of essentially half of the world’s population due to menstruation is in itself a fundamental barrier to continued global development.

eng_facebook_girls_1This is one of the many reasons why a day like Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed every year on May 28th, is so important. Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness around menstrual health, the barriers that people who menstruate face, and the effects that inadequate education, sanitation, and understanding about menstruation can have on women and girls all around the world.

We all need to become advocates for menstruation. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. It is clear that menstruation impacts more than just one week of each month in a woman’s life. The menstrual movement is a human movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period!

 

 

NadyaNadya Okamoto
Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

  

Guest Post: Your Pelvic Floor and The DivaCup

Ah, the magnificent vaginal canal. While many may not use the word magnificent to describe the vagina, we at Diva know how important the vagina is to a women’s health, reproduction, and overall daily comfort. Whether just learning about puberty, or a woman well-versed in all things vagina (and period), there is still lots we can learn from the experts.

Keri Martin Vrbanac is an expert pelvic health specialist who is on a mission to help women find support for their pelvic region (and with The DivaCup). We sat down with Keri, bringing her some case studies that our Consumer Care Team often see from women who are finding some challenges with using a menstrual cup. For some new users, and also some long-time Divas, finding continued success with the cup can take some time as the vaginal muscles (the muscles that hold The DivaCup in place) may require additional support.

The below are just snapshots of the many ways pelvic health physiotherapy can help women find better success with The DivaCup and in turn, better vaginal and pelvic health!

Scenario 1:

I’m a runner and a yoga enthusiast. At 19, I wanted to change my period care routine to a better option so I invested in The DivaCup. I purchased the Model 1 as I am under 30 years old and have not had children. Unfortunately, my experience thus far has not been great. I’m having a really hard time with insertion and rotation. It almost feels as if the cup is too big for me. Please help!

Keri: It is possible that your pelvic floor muscles are hypertonic, or in other words, too tight. Some women with hypertonic pelvic floor muscles may experience pain when using any internal menstrual products or may have pain with intercourse. The only way to know the status of your pelvic floor muscles for sure is to visit a pelvic health physiotherapist in order to have an assessment completed. If it turns out that the floor is too tight, your therapist will educate you on how you can remedy the problem and perhaps return to comfortable use of The DivaCup.

Pregnant person

Scenario 2:

I used The DivaCup for six years before I became pregnant. Fast forward a year and a half and my period has returned. I’m using the Model 2, I am 33 years old and my cup just doesn’t seem to stay in place very well. I am also experiencing leaking; something I have never had an issue with before! I used the Model 1 for a number of years and then switched to the 2 when I turned 30. Could it be that I need the smaller size again?

Keri: There is a possibility that your pelvic floor muscles have become weak following your pregnancy/delivery and are no longer strong enough to hold your cup in place. It is possible for you to strengthen those muscles through proper exercise, but before you begin any form of pelvic floor muscle exercises, you should visit a pelvic health therapist to determine if your pelvic floor is tight or weak, or both. Kegels are not for everyone and in some cases can actually cause more harm than good so consulting with a specialist before incorporating these kinds of exercises is important.

Scenario 3: 

I am 38, don’t have kids and am using The DivaCup model 2. The cup is easy to insert and rotate, but after a few hours, it begins to move up. Around this same time, the cup also starts to leak. I’m sure I am inserting the cup correctly, but when it moves up it makes it difficult to remove. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Keri: Your pelvic floor muscles may be hypertonic or too tight. Trying the smaller sized cup may help, but as there is a small difference in the size (Model 1 is 1/8″ (~0.3 cm) smaller), it may be that your muscles need to be elongated or relaxed. Sometimes a smaller pelvis can also affect the tone of the musculature but not always. The only way to know the status of your pelvic floor muscles for sure is to visit a pelvic health physiotherapist to have an assessment completed.

Scenario 4:

I’m 26. I do no have kids and have been using The DivaCup model 1. The cup is amazing. As a nurse I can go an entire shift without worrying about leaks… until I go to bed. While sleeping it seems as though the cup moves lower and begins to leak. Do I need the bigger size? Why is it that it fits fine during the day, even on my painful heavy days, and not at night?

Keri: Just like the rest of the muscles in our body, the pelvic floor muscles will relax when we are resting. Our pelvic floor muscles do not have to work as hard when we are sleeping because we do not require as much support. Position changes throughout the night may cause a shift in the position of the cup as well. Supported sleeping with a pillow between your knees may help maintain a more restful position and prevent frequent position changes.

Scenario 5:

My period has returned after having my fourth child. I’m 39 years old and using The DivaCup model 2. The cup doesn’t seem to want to stay in me. It falls so low that it is essentially falling out. I am really frustrated that I’m not finding success with the cup. All my friends rave about it.

Keri: It is possible that you have a bladder or uterine prolapse which means that one or both of these organs have lowered into the vaginal canal. With less space available, The DivaCup may be pushed downwards. A pelvic health physiotherapist can diagnose a prolapse and work with you to decrease its impact on your life.

Pelvic floor and working out

Scenario 6:

As a gym enthusiast I love lifting weights, I also love The DivaCup, except when it leaks. I find that when I go through my weight routine, the cup begins to move out of place and leak, almost as if the seal has been broken. Could my muscles tense so much that they are breaking the seal?

Keri: Yes, your pelvic floor muscles could be tight OR they could actually be weak. With weight lifting, we increase our intra-abdominal pressure and this in turn causes a downward pressure on our pelvic floor muscles. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can determine the status of your floor and tailor your program to address this issue as well as provide tips for safe exercise and maintaining your pelvic health.

Keri Martin VrbanacKeri Martin Vrbanac

Keri is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and the owner of A Body In Motion Rehabilitation in ON, Canada. Keri has been practising physiotherapy since 1997 where she graduated with distinction with her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Keri’s career as a physiotherapist has brought her to Australia, the United States of America and back to Canada where she has settled in Conestogo with her husband and her two amazing little girls! Keri’s passion for pelvic health is contagious and she continues with ongoing education to fuel her passion and remain current. Keri is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, The Ontario Physiotherapy Association, The International Pelvic Pain Association, The National Vulvodynia Association, and The Association for Continence. You can contact Keri at abodyinmotion@theboardwalkmedical.com.

Endo What? A Documentary on Endometriosis

EndoWhatPosterEndometriosis is a painful and debilitating disease in which endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus and it affects more women than you think. In fact, an estimated 176 million women around the world have endometriosis. How can this disease be so wide spread and yet barely talked about? The documentary Endo What? is looking to change this by presenting accurate information straight from the experts about this disease. The only film of its kind, Diva International Inc. was proud to partner with the Endo What? team as a sponsor. With its world screening tour continuing throughout March (aka Endometriosis Awareness Month) we thought we would share a bit about the experience! We recently got the chance to speak with Shannon Cohn (Director/Producer) and asked her a few questions:

What was the turning point that led to this documentary’s creation?

We’ve been working on the film for 4 years, but it’s been over 20 years in the making. That’s how long I’ve had symptoms of endometriosis. When my 2nd daughter was born 4 years ago I started thinking about how little things have changed since I first had symptoms at 16. Women still go to an average of 8 doctors for 10 years before they are diagnosed. They are still told it’s in their heads, that pregnancy and hysterectomy are cures, and that pain is normal. All is this is completely false. I thought: What if there were a film to help stop this vicious cycle? A film to put power in the hands of women. This is that film.

Why Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the most devastating and common disease that most people have never heard of. It affects 1 in 10 women or 176 million women around the world. The only way we’re going to stop the devastating narrative of the disease is to talk about our pain, our symptoms and get the right information out there. Only then can we act on it and make empowered decisions about our health, about our lives. This film and the one that follows are our contribution to changing that narrative once and for all.

What steps went into setting up and creating this documentary?

When I first decided to make this film, I started reading and researching everything I could get my hands on. Books, articles, journals… everything. It became clear to me that 95% of the information out there is incorrect. For example, endometriosis lesions are not simply misplaced uterine tissue. The lesions are similar to uterine tissue, but not exactly the same. Also, thorough excision surgery from a qualified surgeon is the cornerstone of good treatment and the true symptomatic profile is not well known, not well-taught. Endometriosis is not just “killer cramps.” It can just as often present with GI or urinary symptoms. I had a ton of GI symptoms and had multiple colonoscopies & endoscopies, CATscans, MRIs, ultrasounds and nothing ever showed up. I tried every diet under the sun and continued to have symptoms. It turns out it was endometriosis the entire time. Yet it’s incredibly hard to find that information amid the plethora of misinformation, politics and egos vying for attention and notoriety.

We started interviewing the world’s top experts, not just surgeons, but researchers, scientists, nutritionists, therapists and more. It was important to me to take a nuanced, multi-disciplinary exploration of the disease to give women the most complete tool they can use to take control of their health.

What do you hope to achieve with this documentary both long term and short term?

In the short term, I hope the film is widely-seen by women with endometriosis, their loved ones and the medical community including OBGYNs, pediatricians, primary care providers and gastoenterologists.  I hope women are empowered by the film and can starting being proactive in their own healthcare. I hope health care providers start to realize that endometriosis is more complex than they’ve been taught. Beyond that, I hope that we can get a copy of the film to every school nurse so that teenage girls may be treated when they first have symptoms rather than go 10 or 20 years like I did and so many others. Further, we plan to partner with local organizations in countries around the world to get copies of the film to lawmakers & put endo on national agendas.

What challenges have you had to overcome when creating this documentary?

Truthfully, navigating the political minefield surrounding endometriosis has been the biggest challenge. When I first started making the film I was unaware of this reality, but quickly learned there are a lot of politics, egos and power plays involved in endometriosis advocacy and care. Unfortunately, I think this is one reason that the field hasn’t advanced as quickly as it could. We navigate it by continually asking “Would this ultimately benefit a woman with endo?” If the answer is no, then it doesn’t happen. Beyond that, of course there are financial challenges as we funded this film on our own, filming whenever we could and editing as we went along. The endo community rallied in a tremendous way last fall in helping us raise funds to execute a large scale outreach campaign of the film and that’s what is about to happen now. It’s really happening & we couldn’t be more excited. Change is coming. Believe it.

The Diva Team would like to congratulate everyone on the Endo What? team for creating a truly amazing documentary that attests to the struggles women with endometriosis face.

For more information on this important film or to buy tickets to one of the stops on the Endo What? world tour, please visit: www.endowhat.com

shannon-imgShannon Cohn
Director / Producer
For over a decade, Shannon has produced award-winning feature films and TV series for Discovery Channel and NatGeo. Before that, she practiced international law and was part of the legal team that prosecuted Enron. She went to film school at NYU and has a law degree from Vanderbilt. She’s also a woman who lives with severe endometriosis. In her case, that means over 20 years of debilitating pain, miscarriages, multiple surgeries and misdiagnoses. She started thinking about how little things have changed since she first had symptoms at 16. Women still go to an average of 6-8 doctors for 8-10 years before they are diagnosed. They are still told it’s in their heads, that pregnancy and hysterectomy are cures, and that pain is normal. She started thinking. What if there were a film to help stop this vicious cycle? A film to put power in the hands of women. This is that film.