World Water Day 2017: Wastewater

Author: Ashley Benedict

World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.

Why wastewater?

Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting the environment, and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials. Wastewater continues to be produced at an increasing rate due to increases in population, but our treatment of waste water is seriously lacking.

Here are some statistics from this Factsheet on the World Water Day website:

  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
  • 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
  • Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.
  • 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources.
  • By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 50% today5 . Currently, most cities in developing countries do not have adequate infrastructure and resources to address wastewater management in an efficient and sustainable way.
  • The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.
  • The costs of wastewater management are greatly outweighed by the benefits to human health, economic development and environmental sustainability – providing new business opportunities and creating more ‘green’ jobs
  • By 2030, global demand for water is expected to grow by 50%

How to reduce & reuse your wastewater

Instead of wasting wastewater, we need to reduce and reuse it. In our homes, we can reuse greywater on our gardens and plots. In our cities, we can treat and reuse wastewater for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, we can treat and recycle discharge for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

We’re all wasters when it comes to wastewater. Every time we use water, we produce wastewater. And instead of reusing it, we let 80% of it just flow down the drain. We all need to reduce and reuse wastewater as much as we can. Here are three ideas for all us wasters:

  1. Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth or doing dishes or scrubbing vegetables. Otherwise you’re just making wastewater without even using it!
  2. Put rubbish, oils, chemicals, and food in the bin, not down the drain. The dirtier your wastewater, the more energy and money it costs to treat it.
  3. Collect used water from your kitchen sink or bathtub and use it on plants and gardens, and to wash your bike or car.

By exploiting this valuable resource, we will make the water cycle work better for every living thing. And we will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6 target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

Want to know whether you’re a waster? Take this quick quiz.

Here is a short video on how wastewater is reused. Below is a video on how we can further reuse our wastewater:

The water passing through us and our homes is on a journey through the water cycle. By reducing the quantity and pollution of our wastewater, and by safely reusing it as much as we can, we’re all helping to protect our most precious resource.

Everyone involved in development cooperation is being urged by a UN expert to work together to ensure that the human rights of water and sanitation are available to all people around the world.

The appeal comes from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation, Léo Heller, on World Water Day and aims to shed light on the key role of development cooperation in the realization of the rights to water and sanitation. Read the full UN Human Rights article here.

Interested in learning more? Check out these stories!

 All information found from the World Water Day website. All credit goes to the authors. 

How do you plan on reducing and reusing your wastewater? Are there any other ways you currently take action to conserve our freshwater? Let us know by sending in work, comments, and questions to

(Cis) Women’s Bodies Are Being Used to Further the Transphobic Agenda, and It’s Not Okay

Author: Ashley Benedict

Have you ever had to make the difficult choice of which public restroom to use? Probably not, because society has conveniently given us gender coded signs to show us where we should “go”. Men head towards the sign with the pants, and women head towards the sign with the dress. It’s all very… binary, and it can leave those who fall outside of society’s gender expectations feeling not only ostracized, but beyond stressed.

Under Title IX, the right of transgender students in public schools to use whichever bathroom coincides with their gender identities is protected. Except, not anymore. Public schools have now been “advised” to no longer adhere to this crucial right. And who are the ones being used as the scapegoat? Cisgender women.  Continue reading

Call for Submissions: Spring Break!

Author: Ashley Benedict

Spring break is here, and most of us will be traveling, volunteering, working, or watching Netflix for the week. (And trying to catch up on school work, though we’ll likely procrastinate on that).

What else can you do, if you find the time? Well, you can submit to Feminist Voices!

Unfortunately, as the intern for this blog, I will not be able to actively check the e-mail for most of Spring Break (though I do have posts scheduled for the week) but I’m hoping that some of you will take this week off as an opportunity to submit some work for me to come back to!

For those who aren’t sure what to write about, here are some recent issues you can build ideas from:

  • Recent anti-semitism and anti-muslim hate crimes throughout the country
  • Immigration reform
  • Transgender rights
  • Clean energy and cutting funds to the EPA
  • HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)
  • “Religious freedom” to discriminate

The Women’s Center accepts all kinds of submissions, including, but not limited to:

  • Persuasive essays or personal stories
  • Creative writing, e.g., poetry, flash fiction, short stories, etc.
  • Book/movie reviews – anything that critically examines current events or media sources and their impact on social justice issues
  • Photography (along with a brief description of how the photograph relates to a specific topic)
  • Audio/visual, e.g., songs, skits, commentary videos, etc. (Note: for those interested in submitting audio or video pieces, please visit our FAQs page).
  • Art pieces that make a statement
  • Satirical comics or comics that address feminist myths, current social issues, etc.
  • Ideas for our Question of the Day polls

Check out our Get Involved page to find out more! We at the Women’s Center encourage submissions from anyone who wishes to share their opinions and let their voice be heard. You can also draw ideas for posts from our theme of the month!

The theme of the month for March is:


Take this break to think about how you can contribute and what issues you are passionate about. Your voice matters! Contact us through the contact page or send in submissions or questions to

Hope everyone has a relaxing break!

Zero Discrimination Day

Author: Ashley Benedict

Today, March 1st, has been anointed as “Zero Discrimination Day” for 2017. In a nutshell, this is a day that promotes diversity and recognizes that everybody counts. The theme this year is the role of discrimination in healthcare, specifically pertaining to those who live with HIV/AIDS, and below is a video that highlights this issue:

Here is an interactive website with stats pertaining to a number of issues worldwide.

Non-discrimination is a human right, and so is universal healthcare. Data from 50 countries from the People Living with HIV Stigma Index show that 1 in 8 people living with HIV report being denied health care. Around 60% of European Union/European Economic Area countries report that stigma and discrimination among health-care professionals remains a barrier to the provision of adequate HIV prevention services for gay men and people who inject drugs.

From UNAIDS website and press release statement: “This year we are calling on everyone to make some noise for #zerodiscrimination. Individuals and communities can join voices and transform the world. Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to highlight how everyone can be part of the transformation and take a stand for a fair and just society.” In this day and age, it’s imperative that we become aware of acts of discrimination and work to dismantle our own prejudices.

How do you stay mindful of possible acts of discrimination committed by both by yourself and others? Do you call out acts of discrimination when they occur? Do you plan to? Let us know by sending submissions to

It’s Time To Love Your Body

Author: Ashley Benedict

We’ve all had those times where we look at ourselves in the mirror and don’t like what we see. We point out our own imperfections and compare ourselves to others we see as more beautiful than we are. We stare at those jeans two sizes too small and hope that one day, we will fit into them once again. We count calories and keep track of the number on the scale, celebrating whenever it falls. We stare at our stomach rolls when we sit down, thinking that maybe if we just skip one meal, perhaps they’ll disappear. We are taught to hate the body we’re in, and to aspire to meet unrealistic and idealistic images of what beauty is. I’m here to say: no. You don’t have to feel this way. Self-love is possible.

This blog post analyzes the statistics in relation to body image and eating disorders and what causes them, as well as how to combat these negative self-images.

Continue reading

National Random Acts of Kindness Day

Author: Ashley Benedict

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Though we should engage in acts of kindness 365 days a year, the reality is that most of us don’t. We don’t buy lunch for our friends, donate blood, or donate to charity every day. Today, however, is a day we can use as an excuse to show some kindness towards the people in our life (or, even better, those who aren’t). It’s always nice to be on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness, but it also feels good to be the one giving. Here are some things you can do to brighten someone’s day and show some kindness today (and every day):

1. Smile at a stranger.

This is the simplest – and perhaps most awkward – thing you can do. But hey, you never know if they’ll smile back, or if your smile will end up making their day just a little bit better.


2. Give a genuine compliment.

Tell someone you like their shirt, or pants, or shoes. Tell your friends how great they look. Tell your coworkers how rockin’ they look every day. Shower your significant other with compliments. I know I always feel good when people compliment me. Spread the love.


3. Offer to buy lunch for a friend

Obviously, if you’re tight on cash, don’t feel obligated to show kindness through purchases. But if you have plans with a friend today, perhaps offer to cover them, and maybe they’ll return the favor someday. Kindness is contagious. Even better, reach out to your local homeless community and buy hot meal or two. Even a small coffee would likely be appreciated.

4. Make a donation

Most organizations love and life off of donations. Check in with some local non-profits to see what kind of items they look for and often need. Here on GVSU’s campus, Replenish is a great place to start if you find yourself wanting to donate.

Replenish hours of operation: Monday through Thursday 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. and Friday 1 p.m. -3 p.m.; Kirkhof Center room 0074-lower level

Donations are accepted on site at Replenish or at the Women’s Center during open hours. Off-campus entities can request someone pick up their donations by contacting the Women’s Center at 616-331-2748 or Donations may be in the form of perishable and non-perishable food items, gift cards to local grocery stores, or a monetary donation. Donations are tax-deductible and the donor will be provided with a receipt from University Development reflecting their contribution. Some of the items that are most popular include laundry detergent, pasta sauce, cereal, peanut butter, canned chicken/tuna, pasta, soup, granola bars, and feminine hygiene products.

5. Donate blood

If you find you have an extra few hours today, perhaps drop by a local blood bank and offer to donate blood. There is a national need for blood donations every day (every 2 seconds, actually), and knowing that you’ll be helping someone out there and potentially saving a life is as good enough a reason as any to go out and take the time to donate. Blood banks often run out of type O and B blood. Do you have one of those blood types? Your donation would be especially appreciated. Go to to find some donation centers or blood drives near you. GVSU also has multiple blood drives coming up, so be sure to check those out!

6. Hold the door or elevator open for someone

For most of us, this is a common courtesy we do subconsciously every day. However, try to do it every time you open a door or ride an elevator today. Those around you will appreciate it, and it often leads to them doing the same for other people! If the person is super far away though, things may get awkward. Hold the door open at your own risk of becoming a door stop.


7. Pay it forward.

Like previously stated, don’t feel obligated to do this if you’re tight on money. But it’s always a nice surprise to find that someone has paid for your coffee or movie, and again, it often leads to a chain of people doing the same.

8. Call a loved one

A lot of students live on campus, and may not be able to see their loved ones as often as they would like. If you’re one of those students, try to set aside some time today to call up some family members and let them know how much you care about and appreciate them. They won’t be expecting it, and I guarantee it’ll make their day to hear from you.

9. Ask if you can help

If you see someone on or off campus struggling with something, it can never hurt to ask whether or not they would like some help. Most people will probably appreciate the extended offer, and if they take it, it’ll feel nice to know that you’ve done something for another person with no external reward.


10. Volunteer

Perhaps the most important thing you can do, if you have the time, is volunteer. Come to the Women’s Center and ask about organizations we work with, and how/when you can help. Call up some local non-profits and see when they need volunteers and the kinds of duties they complete. A lot of organizations tend to rely on volunteers, and it’s always nice for them to see people taking an interest in their work.


The great thing about all of these ideas are that they are small things you can do any day of the year. Make a habit out of extending kindness to others and engaging in random acts of kindness. If we all tried to focus on those around us a bit more, I think our society could be a lot more empathetic and compassionate. Find more information on the website:

What kind of random acts of kindness do you do on the daily? Which ones do you plan to do in the future? How do you feel when you do something kind for others? Or when others do something kind for you? Let us know! Submit personal stories, essays, and more to


Say Her Name: Kimberlé Crenshaw

AUTHOR: Ashley Benedict

“We are in a battle for the future.”

If you haven’t heard the name Kimberlé Crenshaw, there are two things you need to know: she coined the term Intersectionality and helped create the Critical Race Theory. This past Wednesday, January 18, Crenshaw graced Grand Valley’s campus to deliver a keynote presentation entitled, “American Democracy: Revolutionizing Our American Myths.” The central focus of this keynote was looking towards the future while examining the past. How do we move forward in this post-election America? What led to such an unexpected outcome? How has our past influenced the current situation in our country?

Crenshaw examined the effects of post-racialism and colorblindness and how these two phenomena are “perfectly consistent with white supremacy.” She emphasized to the audience how these racial tensions are not new and highlighted the history of Civil Rights and the true legacy of Martin Luther King Jr – not the glossed over version advertised to us. She explained how these phenomena have given rise to discourse of blame surrounding minority populations.  At the same time, many people use the post racial card and the idea of exceptionalism (e.g., the historical election of our first black president), to deny the fact that racial issues continue to exist within this country. Post racialism, specifically, has a particularly nasty “underbelly” that many don’t recognize:

Racial difference + Inequality + Racial Power = Individual/cultural intervention

Another point she touched on was the role of higher education in politics, and how law “really helps create race” instead of being a neutral force that stays in the middle; law backs up exclusion and helps facilitate primary power relations.Too often, the law is a catalyst in perpetuating systems of oppression; this can be problematic, since many people look to the law to fix these existing systems. In short, this means that, historically, lawmakers have passed laws that are exclusionary in nature, e.g., segregation laws. Higher education has always prided itself on being “neutral” in politics, but Crenshaw explained how, in her experience during the time where African American students were just being allowed to enter white-dominated colleges, even liberal-centered institutions refused to acknowledge the issues. She spoke about unfulfilled promises from lawmakers, and the fact that “inequalities represent unfulfilled promises.”

On a separate note, Crenshaw touched on the concept of intersectionality and what exactly this term means. She discussed the Say Her Name movement, which brings attention to the black women killed by police in our country. She discussed the fact that these women often aren’t talked about, mostly because their deaths don’t receive any media attention – not like names such as Michael Brown and Treyvon Martin. The idea of intersectionality works to explain this. Many people look at racist acts and sexist acts as separate issues; they aren’t able to identify the fact that for many African American women, these two issues are realities with which they are forced to deal with every day. She explained that you can experience both racism and sexism simultaneously – or any other -ism and -phobia. The intermingling of these ongoing issues is what Crenshaw termed as “intersectionality.”

You may be asking yourself: what? That’s a lot of complex issues to cram into an entire keynote, and it’s even harder to relay back to people as a secondhand source. To truly appreciate and understand the content that Crenshaw touched on, it’s preferable to simply do your research on her writings and listen to her speeches. I promise you, it’s worth it.

If you are interested in being more socially aware within your community, Crenshaw provided Four Commitments to the audience for those motivated to actively engage in social justice:

  1. Resist normalization
  2. Engage in local struggle
  3. Creative conflict at home
  4. Practice intersectional fusion politics

“In this age it’s safe for us to assume that time is not on our side.”



Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born 1959) is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of the field known as critical race theory. She is a full professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues. She is known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory, the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

Source: Wikipedia



Watch Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk.

Check out this book on Critical Race Theory.

Crenshaw also has a handful of scholarly works!