Boston is finding ways to make transit free

A handful of US cities started fare-free programs for their public transit during the pandemic.

One such city is Boston, which has gone completely fare-free on three of its bus lines that serve many low-income people and people of color, expanding a program already in place on one line.

Ridership on those lines is about double what it was the year prior, and also up since before the pandemic whereas most other MBTA lines are down system-wide.

“I think what’s so exciting about this is that it doesn’t look all that different. But for the people who are using free buses, it feels very different,” Stacy Thompson, executive director of the transit advocacy group Livable Streets said. “And what that means is that when it is pouring rain outside, when it’s snowing, you can get on the bus faster; the bus moves faster; there’s more money in your pocket if you’re not making a transfer and that’s your only ride.”

Fare-free programs, while already awesome for people trying to save money, also save time because no one has to pay at the front of the bus. It eliminates fare evasion and its related enforcement, which is costly in and of itself and also tends to mostly affect the people least able to pay fines. It also incentivizes people to use public transit which is better for the environment than individual cars.

The US capitol, Washington D.C. is also looking into implementing a fare-free program for most of its transit. 

“These programs were sparked by opportunities to bolster transit’s role as a social equalizer, evenhandedly providing access to jobs, health care, education and opportunity,” said Art Guzzetti, vice president of mobility initiatives and public policy at the American Public Transportation Association.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.


How the US is celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

Amongst the attack on reproductive health and LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, International Women’s Day hopes to shine a light on equality and a better future for all women. 

To celebrate this year, participants are being asked to embrace themselves, as a public display to embrace equity, and share it on social media. That’s this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity.

“Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have,” the IWD writes on its website. “A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA. And it’s critical to understand the difference between equity and equality.

“The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.”

While some countries have massive rallies and events for International Women’s Day, in the US the festivities are a little more low-key and widespread.

There is the 4th annual International Women’s Day Together We Ride: A Bike Ride for Equity, Inclusion and Positive Social Change from March 8th to the 12th. 

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a day-long virtual arts festival where museum staff, artists, musicians, and bartenders will host online programs highlighting women in the visual and performing arts.

Amazon Web Services is conducting a chat with executives from Boeing, Cornerstone, Laserfiche, and MapBox, about how to #EmbraceEquity within their organization and community. 

There are many many more events that you can look up on the International Women’s Day website, with different events in every state. 

Aside from that you can just take part in the #EmbraceEquity initiative, and even if you don’t have social media you can share your embrace photo on the International Women’s Day website

“IWD provides a critical moment to amplify and reinforce commitment, and to forge action promoting gender parity,” the IWD writes. “Celebrating women’s achievements is also key. The IWD campaign theme continues all year through, unifying action to help forge an inclusive world.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.


Older women give advice to their younger selves

To mark International Women’s Day, women living in Lottie care homes across the country are sharing lessons to their younger selves to help inspire others.

Amazing! Lay it on me.

Barbara, aged 81, says ‘Love each other. Support each other as women. Have respect for yourself. ’

Pat, aged 90, shares ‘Don’t work so hard, enjoy life’.

Learn as you go along’, shares Nancy, aged 89.

Don’t get married be single and free’, shares Joan, aged 91.

Keep going, never give up’, shares Elizabeth, aged 70.

Be kind to yourself and others‘ shares Jean, aged 92.

If you want to want to support women around the country, consider getting involved with a charity like Women in Sport.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.


7 influential women to watch in 2023

On International Women’s Day 2023, we at Smiley News want to celebrate the women who are paving the way to a better, more healthier and happier world.

Some women you may never have heard of, others you may know – but they’re all united by one mission: making a positive impact.

Whether it’s improving wellbeing, reducing inequalities around our world, or educating others about the injustices in our world, these women are all trying their best to make a difference.

This International Women’s Day, the theme is #EmbraceEquity.

“Imagine a gender equal world,” they say, “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

“IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid.”

So to celebrate women’s achievements, here are 7 women doing their bit, as recognised by Smiley News.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe

Nokuzola is an award-winning period activist working in South Africa. She has had many victories so far, including having tampon tax scrapped, and garnering huge financial support for ending gender inequality.

Powered by the driving force of personal experience, Nokuzola set out to create Team Free Sanitary Pads, a campaign group to tackle gender inequality and period poverty across the country.

Her prime focus for 2023 is expanding on the need for a menstrual rights law in South Africa and globally (Scotland with Monica Lennon & recently Spain).

Yasmin Benoit

Out of all the letters in LGBTQIA+, the ‘A’ is one of the ones which often gets forgotten. Still a novel concept to many outside the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘asexuality’ – a lack of sexual attraction to others – is perhaps dismissed the most in a world that revolves around sexual attraction.

Yasmin Benoit, 26, activist, heavy metal fan, lingerie model and cake hater, feels very differently. From a young age, she knew she didn’t feel romantic or sexual attraction in the same way her peers did – but it took until her mid-teen years to discover the term ‘asexual’ on the internet… and even longer to decide if it applied to her.

She partnered with Stonewall to launch the UK’s first-ever asexual rights initiative. The Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project works to research the problem of ACE discrimination in the UK, in the hopes of making this a better, and more accepting world.

Meg Zeenat Wamithi

Meg Zeenat Wamithi is CEO at Mindmapper UK and global mental health educator.

As a teenager, she struggled with her mental health and felt like she couldn’t get the support she needed. So rather than sit back, she decided to do something about it. “I had two options: either wait for someone else to do it… or do it myself,” she told Smiley News.

Using her strength, she now inspires people in schools and workplaces around the world through Mindmapper UK, which delivers talks and workshops focused on mental wellbeing and personal development.

Holly Bruce

Holly is a councillor for Glasgow City Council, one who is taking the UK by storm as she puts a feminist lens on one thing you thought it would never matter for; city planning.

The book Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World inspired Holly to act and, when the opportunity rose to join a leadership programme in Glasgow for young women under 30, she jumped at the chance.

“What I’ve started is more of a policy shift and a structural shift and will change how we decide how our cities are built or adapted,” explains Holly. “And the cultural change is a whole other conversation.”

Though the motion was unanimously backed by Glasgow City Council, movement will be slow to start; beginning with shifts in data collection and policies, before real physical, structural changes are able to be implemented.

Rhiane Fatinikun

After an accident several years ago where she was nearly run over, Rhiane Fatinikun was diagnosed with PTSD. 

“After that, I just wanted to find something new to do – for my wellbeing more than anything,” she tells Smiley News. Rhiane would have the idea to go hiking – and now, that idea has blossomed into Black Girls Hike.

Four years after their inception, Black Girls Hike has had success after success. From TED Talks to visits to Windsor Castle, to joining forces with the Duke of Edinburgh award, Black Girls Hike is opening up the countryside and proving that nature is there for everyone.

Kazna Aska

Involved in fundraising from an early age, integrating community values into her clothing line was natural for young designer Kazna Asker.

“I became very community-based when I moved to Sheffield,” explains Kazna, whose family is from Yemen, while she was born in Liverpool.

Kazna’s work combines streetwear with Islamic wear and Islamic modesty. Kazna’s work prioritises community and doing good, whether that is highlighting marginalised communities in her work and the models who wear it or raising funds and awareness for charities.

Inspired by the Dutch social enterprise Makers Unite, Kazna decided she wanted to use fashion and her designs to help people. It is important for Kazna that the money goes straight to the refugees who need it the most, and so she makes sure to donate to M.A.PIsra-UK and Saba Relief.

Sally Orange

As the only person who has run a marathon on every continent dressed as a piece of fruit, Sally Orange’s history is nothing to be sniffed at.

An avid mental health campaigner, military veteran and adventure athlete, Sally has recently taken on the ultimate challenge – The World Marathon Challenge. She ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 different continents.

For the World Marathon Challenge, she chose 7 charities; The Duke of Edinburghs Award (DofE), The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA)Marathon Kids UK, Armed Forces, Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST)Ripple Suicide PreventionWalking with the Wounded and Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

“I have raised money for over 50 charities in the past, so it was kind of quite hard to just pick one!” she said. “So I thought well, it’s 7-7-7; it fits well to do seven charities. That means that I can get the message further and wider.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.


Giving women a face in the courtroom

Women have come a long way in all different industries and facets of life, but there is still a lot of room to grow. Take the realm of law for example. According to the Florida Bar women make up around 38% of Bar membership but are nowhere near proportionately represented in law firm partnerships, judgeships, or law school deans.

This is something that the two women behind Themis: Trial By Women wanted to address. 

Themis is a trial group under the law firm Hale & Monico that is the world’s first women-founded, women-led trial attorney group and was founded by Allyson West and Kelly Olivier. 

“Women attorneys are uniquely suited to serve as trial lawyers, applying empathy, humility, focus, dedication, and a deep understanding of client needs,” Allyson tells Smiley News. “We noticed that in Chicagoland, and throughout other communities in the United States there is a lack of legal representation for women, by women.”

They came up with the idea last year. It was a way for them to continue working at Hale & Monico while being able to work on a project that they were very passionate about. 

“It speaks to our passions and is kind of similar to what Smiley Movement is all about – we want to make a little change in our area of the universe, which is to hopefully creates a safe space for women, both attorneys, and clients,” Kelly tells Smiley News.

Kelly and Allyson are both already trial lawyers who take cases through litigation and other legal processes but through Themis, they, among other associates, would be taking a specific focus on cases involving women.

“This specialty group would be a focused group where we represent female clients or individuals bringing in action on behalf of another woman and we would take that case through litigation from start to finish,” Allyson says. “And if a trial is where it goes, that’s where we would take it.”

The pair have been working together for over a decade, and even though they’re veteran trial lawyers, at this point they still felt like they didn’t get the respect they deserve in the courtroom, and in came the idea for Themis.

“We just started talking about how we were getting we’re feeling really tired and really rundown and as we started talking, we realized that even though we’ve been practicing lawyers, trial lawyers, specifically in the courtroom for over 10 years, we still sometimes will get confused for the court reporter,” Kelly says. “We often were only the women in the room frequently and we wanted to change that.”

Kelly explains how she and her male counterpart were in a trial together on a medical malpractice lawsuit case involving a woman losing her baby.

A female juror approached Kelly when the trial concluded and shared that at one point during the trial she had been upset because she felt she was being mansplained about the female body during the male lawyer’s examination of a male expert witness. After that experience, Kelly went back to Allyson and that’s when they started talking more about how women attorneys should be representing female clients.

“After I had that experience, I had a lightbulb click because Allyson and I had already been having these conversations,” Kelly says. “I went back to Allyson and I said, ‘you know women attorneys should be representing female clients.’”

Through Themis, the pair just wants to help women find a way to be represented in trials and the courtroom.

“I think that this is important because while women are making up 50% or more of law students becoming or wanting to become a lawyer, the number goes down and down and down as it gets to litigation as it gets to trial attorneys,” Allyson says.

A safe space for representation

With that, they also want to create a safe space where people can feel represented, and understood with a level of care and empathy that might not be readily available with other trial groups. 

“Who’s to say that there’s not a woman somewhere else saying I have something that I need help with? I have a lawsuit that I can bring but I’m too afraid to reach out or speak out because I don’t see myself represented,” Allyson says. “I don’t see a face in that room that I think I can connect with.

“So I think back to the safe space.”

Themis is open to all types of gender identities including trans-women and non-binary or gender-nonconforming individuals. They just want to serve as a space where people can be represented.

The women are taking up their first case under Themis in the coming summer.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality. ¨


‘One stop shop’ for homelessness opens

A ‘one-stop-shop’ for people experiencing homelessness has opened up in Devon.

Tell me more.

The Freedom Centre in Barnstaple provides a safe space for those who are in need, mainly those who are experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough. They provide food, clothing, housing support, medical services, beds and even a gym.

The Freedom Centre, created by the Freedom Community Alliance and Devon’s local council, even has temporary ‘sleeping pods’ – lockable rooms that provide a place for people to get a good night’s rest.

It sounds amazing.

It is – the work the Freedom Centre is doing helps to tackle the issue of homelessness as close to the root as they can get, by helping people tackle substance misuse and even help to find jobs.

Most significantly, the Freedom Centre provides a safe space for people to return to when they need help – and what is more important than that?

If you’re interested in supporting the Freedom Centre, you can do so by donating to or getting involved with the Freedom Community Alliance

This article aligns with the UN SDGs No Poverty and Reduced Inequalities.

Equality Planet

Project Petals: on green space and youth climate leaders

One of the most prominent landmarks in of New York City is Central Park, a well-regarded green space in the United States. The problem is, a lot of that funding is centralized and outer boroughs don’t see as much attention… like the same green ‘pop’.

This is something that Alicia White, the founder of Project Petals, wanted to change. 

Being from Queens herself, she witnessed a lot of the underfunding of green spaces in her community firsthand. In 2015, Alicia started the organization in an area formerly known as Railroad Park.

She had no idea the project would explode as it did. 

“I got a bunch of neighbors and volunteers together to clean up this one park,” Alicia tells Smiley News. “I connected with local council people and senators in the area to try to get funding.”

People started reaching out more, asking for help or even just advice on how to fix up and maintain green space in their community.

“From there, I thought, this would be a good organization to help other environmental leaders throughout New York City get the resources, tools, and education that they need to be able to have clean environments in their communities as well.”

Project Petals is made up of two primary programs. The first is the environmental green space program, where they go into underserved communities and help build green spaces.

The second is the youth builders program which highlights potential young climate leaders in the community and helps them with resources, a platform, and education so they can then share that with their community.

“We want to identify environmental leaders, so we can be able to give them the physical tools they need, like shovels, soil seeds, to be able to bring their idea of these environmental spaces into reality,” says Alicia.

“In the future, they’ll be the people who are the stewards of our planet.”

As Project Petals started expanding, communities started using it for different needs. Like one community may be addressing food scarcity, while another is focusing on clean spaces for kids to play. They’ve even been focusing on providing solar power to nearly every green space, and through that, they have things like community movie nights.  

And eventually, Alicia started having urban planners come out to speak with the kids to help educate them on everything that’s behind building and maintaining a community.

“The first meeting started with like about 10 or 15 young people,” Alicia says. “And now when we have these programs, it’s 100 young people. So it’s pretty cool.

“We’ve had students that have actually gone to college and gotten into college because of our mentorship program, majoring in urban planning and architecture and engineering as well.”

Project Petals has 15 green spaces that they help resource and maintain in New York City. Through the pandemic, they reached over 10,000 people, in whatever form that came. They’ve also started considering expanding outside of New York with calls for Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, and others. 

“If we all start within our own communities to try to improve the environment around us, then we can all make a ripple effect and some type of impact,” Alicia says.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land and Climate Action.


UK hits women in business milestone

Women are in boardroom roles across 40% of the UK’s biggest firms – for the first time ever.

Wow! Tell me more.

This is according to analytics that suggests only 10 of the UK’s 350 largest listed companies remain with all-male executive teams. A huge win for gender equality, and helping women to succeed in the workplace.

The companies in question are the FTSE 350 companies, of which 152 of the FTSE 350 Boards had no women on them at all just a decade ago.

Sorry – FTSE?

Financial Times Stock Exchange – so the FTSE 350 are the top 350 biggest companies, according to the Financial Times Stock Exchange.

In terms of the boardroom, the FTSE 350 aimed to have 40% of their companies with women on the board by 2025. The statistic revealed today shows that we hit that milestone two years early, which is amazing.

Where do we go from here?

From her, the next goal is to have 40% women in FTSE 350 Leadership teams before 2025 – which just means we need more women in leadership roles across these businesses.

The great news is, we’re on track to meet this goal too – so we can be sure that momentum is on our side.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.


States tackle college costs by creating saving accounts for kids

College continues to become more expensive in the United States. To help people pay for college in the future, some communities are starting programs to provide college funding much earlier in life.

One such program is CalKids in California, which will automatically set up college savings accounts with initial deposits of up to $100 for every baby born in California on or after July 1, 2022.

In addition, it will make a deposit up to $1,500 for each of the 3.4 million low-income public school students in first through 12th grade.

“The message from the state of California is: Not only do you matter, but every child deserves the right to pursue higher education in the state of California,” Julio Martinez, executive director of ScholarShare Investment Board, which oversees California’s ScholarShare 529 program, said.

“We are trying to create a college-going culture that is inclusive to all in a manner that is equitable, especially for the underserved and underrepresented in higher education.” 

Even affluent families are beginning to struggle to pay for college and programs like CalKids are offering opportunities to be able to afford college without much trouble.

There are a handful of organizations helping people afford college, if you’re interested in supporting one check out We Will All Rise.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Dave Grohl helps feed the homeless with little fanfare

Celebs want to make a difference in the world, too – sometimes with little to no spotlight on them. This is one of those times. 

Foo Fighters frontman and rock legend Dave Grohl was spotted helping cook food for the less fortunate at an LA shelter.

Bringing his own smoker, and meat, and handling all expenses Grohl spent 24 hours cooking meat for the Hope the Mission.

The US-based nonprofit has a mission to prevent, reduce and eliminate poverty, hunger and homelessness. They do this by offering immediate assistance and long-term solutions – from food to housing.

“He arrived around 3 in the afternoon, and then he was in our kitchen,” Mission Director of Development, Grace Ancheta, told Today. “He was prepping the meat, he was cutting it up and he was there until he put it in the smoker.”

Grohl ended up helping make 450 dinners to support the homeless population in the area. 

“He wanted no glory for it,” Ancheta said. “He was like, ‘I just want to do this for you guys and give back in that way.’”

Find out more about Hope the Mission and support them.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.