18th of March 2016
At the headquarters of DAA it's quite impossible feel lonely, since there are no less than five cats. And there's always one that comes around to give me hand in everything I do. If I’m sitting at my desk, he’ll be my cute colleague and sleeps in the other office chair. When we are eating, the cat is spoiling us with its pleasurable company. When I'm unboxing T-shirts, the cat is helping me by getting into the box so that I have no other option than to procrastinate and do the unboxing when the cat has other things to do, like sleeping. When I'm making pictures of clothes, the cat offers itself as a model, all for free. Guess which one I am talking about? It’s the one and only Ziggy from Designers Against Aids.   Even though I love all the cats here, Ziggy is definitely the most social cat in the house. He likes to be petted and stroked on his little cute head, but he doesn’t like you to pick him up like a baby. Which is understandable: he’s all grown up now, he's heavy and he has a bad hip. I'm definitely going to miss the cats when my internship ends. I might secretly take Ziggy with me, but ssst, don’t tell anyone! Oh and while I’m finishing this blog, Ziggy just jumped on the other office chair to professionally help me post the blog online. Oh how I love him!  
17th of March 2016
Today is everyone’s lucky day, ‘cause it is Saint Patrick’s Day!  But what is this day actually all about? Today we celebrate the one and only Saint Patrick -who was actually Italian and not Irish. But since he had been a slave in Ireland, he was familiar with the culture and the language. After the slavery he went back to Ireland to convert the people to Christianity. He was very successful too, since he had a special method: he tried to combine people’s old beliefs with the new ones of Christianity. And during his preaches, he used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, because a shamrock has three leaves. Since then, the Irish consider a shamrock as a symbol for good luck. Moreover, green is the national colour of Ireland and of the festive day as well. And certainly when worn on St. Patrick’s Day the colour should bring good luck too!  Now you should know that my favourite colour is green, my favourite symbol is a shamrock and I absolutely love Irish accents (I almost went on Erasmus to Ireland instead of England). So yes, I am quite fond of this holiday, even though it is not celebrated in Belgium (unfortunately). I personally like this holiday so much because it is, these days, all about luck. I have always been that kind of person that catches her eyelashes and can’t throw them away without making a wish; the same goes for seeing a shooting star. I do believe that you create your happiness yourself for a big part, but some people just have more luck than others. They have more resources to do things they like and love. For example, I read an article about a gay man who took his own life because his family couldn’t accept him the way he was. He had been living a double life for 13 years and couldn’t deal with it anymore. When he finally told his parents, they advised him to go see a psychiatrist (follow the link below to read the full story). Those are the kind of people that could use a bit more of luck, as they deserve to be as happy as anyone else. Which is why we should bring this under the attention more and tell everyone that being gay is OK. And for the first time, gay and lesbian marchers are participating in today’s St. Patricks parade. Yay, you go guys! Do you feel as lucky as I do? Or could you use a few extra shamrocks?   Article: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/21/my-boyfriend-killed-himself-because-his-family-couldnt-accept-that-he-was-gay
16th of March 2016
After the Oscars it's time for another memorable film festival: the London LGBT Film Festival. It’s the biggest one in Europe and obviously takes place in London. This year it’s a special edition, since it is already the 30thedition of this 10 day long event. Today, the festival will be opened with the world premiere of 'The Pass' of Ben A. Williams. A film that focuses on the lives of two young Premier League footballers and three of their most momentous nights in 10 years times. Over 50 more films and 100 short films will be shown, next to a lot of special guests, workshops, club nights, etc. On March 26 the festival will be closed with the film 'Summertime' by Catherine Corsini about two women who fall in love in the seventies in Paris. The festival will be divided into three sections; Hearts, Minds and Bodies, that will include British film and new British talent, transgender representation and Queer Science and new technology. The latter will be looking more into the future of queer cinema and media. HEARTS will include films about -obviously- love, romance and friendship. BODIES will feature the other side, namely stories about sex, identity and transformations. MINDS will reflect arts, politics and community in which pop artists will also be celebrated.   The London LGbT Film Festival is definitely something that should get a lot more attention, since the film industry is an important way of showing real life scenarios that aren’t marginal or banal. Even though LGBT culture is still thought of as minority, many of the films are  fine pieces of art and have complex and compelling characters.  Furthermore, this could be yet another way for LGBT people to feel better and less insecure about themselves, since many people can often relate to characters from films very well.   Number 1 on my personal film bucket list in this festival? Carol! Since it has been voted the best LGBT film of all time, I absolutely need to see it. The film features Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, two of my favourite actresses, which makes it definitely a must-see for me. Another crazy fact about this film: it got no less then six Oscar nominations and nine Bafta nominations - I guess that says enough, right? Have you seen any LGBT films that you would like to share your opinion about? Please do so, ‘cause I’m certainly a bit of a film freak!
15th of March 2016
While I was browsing a bit on the Internet, I stumbled across the wonderful story of Maud Fernhout, a young Dutch photographer. As she was thinking about writing an essay about gender stereotypes and how to overcome them, she decided that pictures and quotes would be much more powerful. She even decided to launch two projects: “What real men cry like” and “What real women laugh like”.   19-year-old Maud wanted to make sure that the message made people think about how we perceive genders and the roles that stereotypically come with them. Why do we always say that men can’t cry? If they have lachrymal ducts (tear organs) and emotions, aren’t they allowed to cry as much as women do, whenever they want? People always say ‘Be a man’ or ‘Man up’, but what does that even mean? And have you noticed that a lot of women don’t like laughing out loud, showing their teeth? Many women -and men- find it ‘Unladylike’ to have their mouth all-open when they laugh and some even hate their laughs.   Maud made a series of photos to show that this can be done differently and that gender roles shouldn’t be literally lived by. She’s telling everyone -and certainly young people- that it is OK to be whoever you want to be. And if that means you feel like crying, then you should do it. If it means you want to show your teeth and just have fun and laugh, then you should do that too.   I absolutely love this project, since it’s made by a young photographer who shows young people like myself. The best thing about this project is that it just makes you smile the minute you see all those girls laughing and it shows you compassion in the boy’s cases. I love how ‘real’ this campaign is and it makes me happy to see that other young people are fighting gender stereotypes too- just like we do here at Designers against AIDS. ‘Cause let’s admit it, most of these stereotypes seem to date from the Middle Ages.   Check out all the pictures and her website on this link: http://www.maudfernhout.com/
14th of March 2016
As a ‘90’s kid’ I went through a lot of changes. When I was younger I didn’t grow up to have internet until I was 14 years old, I didn’t have my laptop until I was 18 years old and started university. I saw the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Rocket Power. And when that wasn’t on television, I went outside to play with my neighbours and build camps. I didn’t have a phone until I was 13 years old (which is early enough in my opinion) and it was a black and white one that had one game on it: Tetris. How happy I was that I had my own cell phone, even though it was my sister’s old one.  Before I went to university, I didn’t feel a lot of pressure from social media and society, at least not as much as I do now. In the past 20 years so much has changed and so much has been invented. At this point in my life I kind of lost track of it all. I feel like everything is going way to fast and I’m not following at the right tempo at all.   When I was 16, Facebook became popular. I just used it as a communication canal rather then being influenced by certain messages. Nowadays we have Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, … If you are my age, it’s expected to have these kind of social media accounts, at least a few of them. And what if you don’t? Then you are sometimes considered as being ‘out of this world’. Even though I'm pro social media, since it can spread messages to a big group very quickly, I feel like the last two years it has developed way too fast. When I scroll through my Instagram and see pictures of bloggers and models with fabulous outfits, perfect hair, perfect make-up of looking perfectly 'natural', it is easy to think that those people are flawless- at that you are not. It is hard to be as ‘perfect’ as they are, but it is even harder stand up against it and act as if you don’t care.   I can put all of those things in perspective; at least I try to do so. But I wonder what it must be for people who grew up with Facebook and Instagram and who had a smartphone almost right after jumping out of their mummy’s womb. What if they only get to see all those perfect boys and girls that seem to have everything we can only dream of? Would that even make us happy? It’s OK to have flaws, right? Even though I do get insecure sometimes when I look at all those ‘picture perfect people’, I am happy with how I look and even more happy about who I am. Why? Because Photoshop doesn’t exist in the real world, it’s just a virtual thing. I still prefer real life above virtual (sometimes fake) life; I’d rather miss the perfect picture than miss the perfect moment.   Imperfections make us unique -and unique is what we should go for!
8th of March 2016
Since it is International Women’s Day and I am a woman myself, a blog just had to be written. Today, everything is dedicated to women, but why?It might feel like we, as women have gotten far already to become equal to men, which is true, but we still have a long way to go. International Women’s Day already exists since 1909 and it’s a day to celebrate women’s achievements while calling for gender equality, as well as bringing out women’s struggles and discussing them.The United Nations decided in 1996 to link a specific theme to ever IWD, this year it’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.  A very nice initiative I think to put something else in the picture too. You might think that we don’t need this day anymore, because we have already got so far. Well you are actually wrong. There is still a gender pay gap across the whole world and women are still not equally presented in business or politics. Think about all the CEO’s of companies and presidents: most of them are male. Education, health and violence towards women are also still a big issue in a lot of countries. As this is a personal blog, I’d like to share my experiences with you when it comes to equality. Although I know that gender equality in Belgium is way better than a lot of other countries, there are still things that are just not done.  I have experienced them personally and  many -actually most- of my female friends have experienced them as well -and worse.I have been scared when I walked home, I have been followed, I have had my bum slapped many times as if it’s an OK thing to do, I have been called inferior to men, I have been called many names that I’m not going to say out loud, by men I didn’t even know. Maybe I will be called whiny and a feminist for saying the latter, but so be it.But here is the thing, although I got raised equally, I got a really good education, I have everything I want and can do everything I want, some things are considered ‘normal’ and ‘not worth mentioning’, while they actually are not. And why? Because we are used to it, not only men, but women too.For example, take the fact that if you say something about gender equality, many people will simply laugh it off and make jokes about it. Or ask you if you're 'one of those feminists'. Is it really something to have a laugh about then?  Is being a feminist wrong?Whenever I say that I think I’m beautiful, I feel weird because I’m not supposed to say that since I don’t look like a standard model. Whenever I speak up for myself, I feel weird because people might think I’m just bad-tempered. Whenever I wish to take leadership, I feel awkward when men are in the same team. Whenever I talk about ‘manly’ things, I feel weird because people would joke about it, as ' it’s not done'. Whenever I say I don’t really like to wear heels and dresses, I’m not a ‘real’ girl. Whenever I talk about all these kind of things, I feel moany because a lot of people experience a lot worse. And yes, that is absolutely true and I feel very lucky, but that doesn’t mean that the fight for equal rights should stop. Not only for women, but also for men. Every person should be able to stand up for him- or  herself, no matter the gender. Everyone has a voice, so use it! 
7th of March 2016
I’ve been here for a month now, can you believe it? The duration of my internship is 8 weeks and I’m starting my 5th week now. Basically that is only 20 days left. I get scared of thinking how fast it went and certainly if I imagine how fast those final 20 days will go by.  On the one hand I feel like I have only been here for a few days, one the other hand I feel like I’ve been here for ages because I feel so comfortable here.  I have learned a lot, a lot more than you learn in school. Don’t get me wrong- I’m absolutely pro education. What I am trying to clarify is the fact that you can learn so many theoretical things, but you’ll still have to be able to put them into practice. Which is why you need to do an internship, either if it’s obligated via your school or just voluntarily, it is always a good idea. It’s the best way to find out what you are good at, what you want, what you don’t want and to learn so much more than you already know of course. When I was younger, the thought of doing an internship really scared me, actually it did until the day before I started here at Designers Against Aids.  I can’t speak for other companies, organization or internships, but I really don’t have to be afraid here. I get a lot of responsibility, which is –in my opinion- the best way to learn as much as possible in this short amount of time.  Some exciting things have been happening here and I got to be a part of it and do something good for humanity. I wanted to directly do something for a good cause rather than giving money and not knowing what is exactly done with it.  What makes me the happiest is the fact that my personal blogs have been read a lot and the fact that they maybe made someone think about life in a new way. Even if it’s only one person you can help, it still means the world.  I definitely believe I made the right decision to choose Designers Against Aids as my first internship and I’d recommend everyone to do it.  You get to learn a lot, you are not sitting behind a boring desk all day, the people here are fun, you get to work for a good cause, you get to do what you like, you get all the guidance you need, you get free cuddles from the cats, the DAA headquarters is an amazing place, you get to write in English, … Shall I keep on going?  To put it bluntly- if you work at DAA, you won’t just have an educational internship; you’ll have a lot of fun as well!   
4th of March 2016
Today’s blog is all about women, all women everywhere, from every age. Well it’s not only about women; it’s actually about women and the use of condoms. When you think about condoms, you think about the barrier device for guys, made from latex. But did you actually know about the existence of female condoms? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. But to be fair: I don’t have any close friends that use female condoms. Which brought me to the following simple question: why? Is it because it is inconvenient, because it’s expensive, because it’s not comfy, because you can’t find them in regular drugstores? Or is it just because we don’t know a lot, let’s even say, nothing about it? I started wondering what the reason could be and decided to do a little research to get a few facts straight.   Before we can even start talking about the technical details, we need to know what it looks like. Thank heavens for Google images! Basically it just looks like a large male condom, but with a flexible inner ring that will be inserted into the vagina and an outer ring that will hang out of the vagina for about an inch or 2,5 cm.  Now on to the technical side of this little thing with a big importance. In America it's apparently pretty easy to find a female condom in drugstores. However, in Europe you have to go pharmacist and most of the time you have to order it before you can buy it. That is definitely pretty inconvenient. And I haven’t even said something about the price yet; apparently it’s around 2 euros or more for one female condom. Seriously?! If you know that a package of 12 Durex condoms costs around 8 to 9 euro, then yes, that is expensive. Okay so far, so… not good. But how do you use that thing exactly? Is it as hard as finding one? The answer is no, apparently (‘cause I am not speaking from personal experience) it's very easy to use and basically almost the same procedure as inserting a tampon. You have to hold the flexible ring between your fingers and insert it in the vagina and then you put your finger into the condom and just push it further in, like you would do with a tampon. All done! The female condom has a lot more benefits than the easy use though: besides giving women an opportunity to share responsibility for preventing infections and unwanted pregnancies, they can be used by people who are allergic to latex since it is made from Polyurethane. The external genitals are also more protected, since the outside ring covers them. The female condom can also be brought in hours before sexual intercourse, so it doesn’t interrupt any pleasure. Well, it seems like the female condom is definitely underrated -and still way to expensive! I also think that they should discuss these condoms a lot more during sex education, because to my experience, I never even got any information about the female versions of condoms during sex ed. Shouldn’t female and male condoms be given the same attention? I vote YES! What do you think?
2nd of March 2016
Remember I wrote a blog two days ago about the fact that more and more people from the LGBT community are represented in television shows and films? Well, I recently discovered it’s not only happening in other countries but also in Belgium, where the headquarters of DAA are located.When I was younger my family and me used to watch this television soap opera called ‘At Home' ('Thuis' in Dutch). It’s about families that live in the same village and practically everyone knows each other. It’s a typical soap opera where it seems like everyone had been in a relationship with each other at least once, and had a baby, married, got divorced and married again. The most unreal things happen in" At Home", going from murders, doppelgangers, trying to kill someone but afterwards just hanging out with each other again, dating your own father but only knowing that afterwards, to adopting the child of your brother. I guess I can just keep on going writing down all those unbelievable events, but it works as the series is very popular. Recently I discovered that they are trying to represent something very important in the television soap opera genre, something very 'now' and meaningful: Franky is a character in the series who has admitted he is gay years ago and who married another guy and went to live in America. Now, after a few years of living there, he came back to his family and told them he got divorced and, here it comes, he wants to change into a woman since he has been feeling more like a woman  than a man. The series is portraying an actual theme of society  this way. The person that is being replaced is a woman and Franky’s name is now Kaat. Even if the producers couldn’t find any real transgender actors for this role -or at least none of them applied- I think that the message they try to give is still clear and good!After a bit of research I found out that the characters also had to do research their roles, so they went to Flemish transgender organisations and talked to several transgenders, to make the story even more credible. Another good thing is that it’s just one of the many storylines, so the characters don’t really make a big deal out of it. Which is how it should be, since everyone is entitled to feel however she or he wants to feel and make decisions without being rejected by their family or friends. I’m so happy that ‘At Home’ finally made this good storyline besides all the others and that they decided to help bring the LGBT community to the attention without making a big deal out of it. Because that’s how it should be: a normal thing, in order to make people feel comfortable. Especially our family or friends should be our 'home', the place where you can be yourself without worrying and where you can say whatever your heart desires. Home is where the heart is, at least that’s how it should be!Excuse me while I go watch the next episode of ‘At Home’ now.
1st of March 2016
This year’s Oscars are over again and oh boy, it was a memorable one! Not only did the shiny dresses and the lovely couples impress us, there's also the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar: a moment we’ve all been waiting for. I haven’t seen The Revenant yet, but I think he definitely deserves it for all his other great performances!   And there was another amazing winner: Sam Smith won an Oscar for his song in the latest James Bond film ‘Writing’s On The Wall’. We are very happy for him and he is a great singer, but he made a bit of a mistake during his speech, when he said that he read an article saying that not one openly homosexual person has ever won an Oscar before he did. Therefore he wanted to dedicate his win to the LGBT community and that he hoped that one day we could all live together as equals. What he didn’t know is that many openly gay people DID win an Oscar before him -and the article was only talking about actors, not other categories. For example the legendary Elton John, Stephen Sondheim and Ahnoni, the second openly transgender nominee. Sam’s mistake already got a lot of feedback, saying that he should’ve done more research  before giving an improvised speech. Luckily other people have put that 'detail' aside and said that his message still was very strong and important for society. I’m on ‘Team Sam’. However, I do believe that you should do some research before saying something important, although the message he wanted to give didn’t lose any power through that one mistake. Living all together, no matter what race, gender, age, culture is what we should set as our goal. I hope you agree!
29th of February 2016
I don’t know if you have noticed it lately, but a lot of Television shows and films are making a big change. They introduced a lot more LGBT characters and they’re not about to stop that. A change that we love! Back in the days we saw gays and lesbians portrayed on screen, however it was a good thing, in society there was a lot more taboo around it then now. LGBT people were often not a main character as well, so you probably won’t even remember them most of the times. However today, a lot has changed; gay marriage has been legalised in a lot of countries and a lot more people accept them. Since films and certainly TV-shows are still a big influence, it wasn’t a bad idea to enhance the visibility of the LGBT community.   Think about Gossip Girl where Serena’s brother is gay, 90210 in which Ted struggles for years with the fact that he’s gay but comes out of the closet eventually, Pretty Little Liars badass A, who turns out to be a transgender girl. And the one that is probably the most popular right now: Orange is the New black. Which is a women-in-prison narrative that includes a real transgender woman, and that’s a first! In this series LGBT and their sex life is openly discussed and shown, but also the struggle that comes with it is visible. The show has had a lot of critical acclaim for humanizing prisoners and for its depiction of the LGBT community without making it seem unreal. I highly recommend this TV-show to everyone, it’s fun, it’s corresponds more to reality and it can change your perspective on a lot of things.   I’d say, “we want more”, so keep up the good work TV-shows and films!  
25th of February 2016
I never really watch television, since I don’t have one. But yesterday I kind of felt the need to see Temptation Island, a Belgian reality TV program where it’s all about…well yeah, temptation. Since everyone is completely under the spell of this TV-show, I just had to see it! The intention of this program is testing four couples' relationships by separating them and putting all of them on an island. The women are staying together with 10 single males and the men are staying at a different place with 10 female singles. They stay in Thailand for 9 days and the couples can’t contact each other.   Wait...what, 9 days? Yes, only 9 days. Now you must know that the single boys and girls are doing everything they can to seduce the people that are in a relationship. And according to what I’ve seen, it’s apparently not easy to be faithful. Girls and boys sway around in their almost naked bodies, hormones all over the place, with only one thing on their mind -trying everything they can to break up the couples. As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but wonder; what happened to society and its constant balancing between brainless sexuality and intellectuality?   However everything doesn’t always have to be serious, I thought this television program was a bit too brainless for me. Is it really only about sex these days and resisting temptation? If it is so hard to be faithful in a relationship when you are apart for 9 days, then a lot of couples should start getting worried I guess. Is it only about getting to know single people and figuring out if you want to stick with your original love, or upgrade to a better “catch”? I might be sounding like a pessimist now, but I really hope that people see through these kinds of television programs and realise that a relationship is more than just physical attraction and the idea that it is okay to just give in to every sexual temptation when you are together with someone. To me, a relationship is about commitment, and for that commitment you have to work, really hard. And however I do like brainless television sometimes, I still can’t help but thinking about how superficial life can be. Well, as long as we see through it and understand the difference between reality television and reality without the television, I guess it’s okay, right? What do you think about these kinds of programs?
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Student blog

Enter the student's territory and follow the days of their lives at DAA's Youth For A Better World Education Center.
On this page the students of the Education Center will tell you everything about their stay at DAA, from the things they learn and the campaigns they create to what they have for breakfast, this blog will be their online diary: an opportunity for them to share their experiences and to give you a sneak peak into the life at DAA, where they learn to use their creativity for the good of society. Enjoy the ride!

 

 

 

 

 

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