Quality Education: Africans Are Among the Best Educated US Immigrants, Study Finds #education #globalgoals

af

African Graduates

By Salem Solomon

WASHINGTON — When you picture an African immigrant in the United States, do you imagine someone with little or no schooling, struggling to find work? New research shows a different reality: African immigrants in the United States are college-educated and employed at about the same rates as the general population, and far more likely to be educated and working than their counterparts in Europe.

The report, by the Pew Research Center, found 69 percent of sub-Saharan African immigrants in the United States have some college education. That number is six percentage points higher than the level for native-born Americans, and far higher than levels in Europe.

In Britain, about half of sub-Saharan African immigrants have some college education. In France, the number is 30 percent. In Italy it is only 10 percent.

The Pew study, based on 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Eurostat’s Labor Force Survey, also found about 93 percent of African immigrants in the United States were employed, whereas in Europe employment figures ranged from 80 percent in Italy to 92 percent in the U.K. These numbers were roughly equal to the general population in each country.

Monica Anderson is a research associate at Pew and a co-author of the report. The research team wanted to compare demographics of African immigrants in the United States to their counterparts in Europe, Anderson told VOA by phone.

“What we found is that the sub-Saharan African immigrant population [in the U.S.] really stands out and that they are a very highly educated group,” Anderson said.

“The majority of sub-Saharan African immigrants in all of these countries that we looked at are employed, and when you look at their employment compared to those who were actually — who were born in those specific countries — there’s really not a lot of difference,” she added.

MIGRATION ROUTES

In 2015, about 2.1 million African immigrants were living in the U.S., according to Pew. That number has more than doubled since 2000.

They came to the United States in different ways – to study, for employment opportunities, and through family reunification programs, the latter denounced by President Donald Trump as “chain migration.”

Some Africans come to the United States as refugees and asylum seekers. In 2016, about 31,000 Africans were admitted into the United States as refugees, accounting for 37 percent of all admissions. About 19 percent of admissions came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where conflict has displaced nearly two million people in the past 18 months.

Thousands more come through the State Department’s diversity visa lottery, which provides 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. In 2015, the last year for which data is available, African immigrants made up 46 percent of applicants invited to request immigrant visas.

EASE OF REACH

One explanation for the difference in education levels is that Europe is much easier to reach for low-income Africans who travel by boat or other means.

Since 2010, violence, turmoil and poverty have driven approximately 1.5 million Africans to leave the continent for the United States or Europe, and the numbers have grown each year, according to the United Nations.

Hundreds of thousands have risked crossing the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats, hoping to make it to Italy or Greece.

In contrast, Africans coming to America often have the money to travel by plane, and the permission to enter the country once they arrive.

“It is also about proximity, and I think there are other studies and literature out there about how proximity might impact the kind of characteristics that different groups might have when they’re migrating,” Anderson said. “So those who have a lower socioeconomic status may not have the capabilities or have the resources to move to a distant country.”

BETTER OFF?

Higher education and employment levels don’t necessarily translate into a higher quality of life for African immigrants in the United States, based on previous research by Pew.

Despite high education and employment rates, black immigrants — including those from Africa, the Caribbean, Central America and South America — have a median household income that’s about $8,200 lower than the U.S. average, Pew researchers found.

Forty percent of black immigrants are homeowners, 24 percent less than the overall U.S. population, and 20 percent of black immigrants live below the poverty line, compared to 16 percent of the overall U.S. population.

These numbers suggest that, despite relatively high education and employment rates, African immigrants face challenges getting access to all the opportunities that other groups enjoy.

 

Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions: This Is What You Should Do if You See Someone Being Sexually Harassed #sdgs #globalgoals

har

Simple steps can help derail an incident.

We know that the only people who can really stop sexual harassment happening are the people actually harrassing others. But experts say we can all play a role in lessening the emotional impact on those who are targeted.

One factor that made the case of Hollywood produce Harvey Weinstein — which sparked the #MeToo movement last year — so shocking, is that so many people knew about the assaults and harassment, and did nothing.

It’s known as the “ bystander effect ” or “bystander apathy,” and it describes the social phenomenon of being being less likely to help a victim when there are a lot of other people around.

There are lots of reasons bystanders might choose to ignore a situation — because you don’t feel empowered to do something, you don’t know what to say or do to resolve a situation, or because you don’t want to seem patronising or like you’re shoving your nose into something that isn’t your business.

But, in reality, the most important thing is making sure the victim knows that they aren’t alone.

So, whether you witness someone being sexually harassed in the street, at work, on the bus, wherever, what can you to help?

1. Assess the situation

Before you do anything, you need to work out exactly what the situation is and how best you can intervene. It’s very important that you don’t put yourself in harm’s way, as it could cause the situation to escalate.

Ask yourself are you safe? Is the person being harassed at threat of physical harm? Will intervening directly make things worse? Are there other people around who can support you?

2. Direct intervention

If you think it’s safe to do so, you can intervene in the harassment directly. That means directly addressing the person who’s doing the harassing. It’s key to be firm , don’t apologise for interrupting their behaviour.

According to Hollaback! , a global movement to end harassment, it’s important to stick to saying something that feels natural to you.

Some example are: “That’s harassment,” or “don’t talk to them like that,” or “that’s inappropriate.” What you say doesn’t have to be smart or witty, it only needs to make the person aware that what they’re doing is wrong.

If the harasser responds, says Hollaback , don’t engage in an argument. Instead, interact with the person who is being harassed.

3. Distraction

If you would rather not interact with the harasser, or it feels as though the situation would escalate if you did, creating a distraction can also help put a stop to the incident, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).

You do that by engaging with the person who is being harassed, not by talking about the harassment, but by talking about something completely unrelated.

You could pretend to be lost, ask the time, greet them like you know them and invite them to walk with you or get a drink. It can be good to insert yourself between the harasser and their target, to literally get in the way — although, again, only do this if you’re not putting yourself at risk too.

4. Find someone to support you 

If you don’t want to get personally involved, you could still help by finding someone of authority who can resolve the situation, adds RAINN. Who that person is would differ depending on where you are, but some examples could include a bus driver, a teacher, a shop manager, a bouncer, or a security guard.

5. Check in with the person who’s been harassed

Sometimes harassment can happen very quickly, and be over in an instant. For example, if someone shouts something from the window of a passing car. If that happens, you can still help support the person who has been harassed , by checking in with them to see if they’re okay. Ask if they’re alright, if you can help them. You could offer to sit with them, or walk with them to where they’re going if they’re upset.

6. Document the incident

If someone has already stepped in and you don’t want to overcrowd the incident, you could still help by documenting it. This of course depends on your own safety, and it’s sensible to keep your distance if you’re filming on your phone, for example.

Sometimes just knowing that they’re being caught on camera is enough to diffuse a situation, particularly in our social media world. But having the incident on camera can also help if the person who’s been harassed wants to report it.

It can help authorities follow up on an incident if you also film nearby landmarks, and state the time and date of the incident on film, says Hollaback .

But once the incident is over it’s important that you ask the person who was harassed what they want you to do with the footage, and you shouldn’t post it online without their permission — or you could make the incident even more emotionally difficult for them that it already was.

Reduced Inequalities: France Is Giving $61,900,000 to Help People in Syria #sdgs #globalgoals

suffer

By Joanna Prisco, for Global Citizen

After seven years of strife and an estimated 400,000 deaths, Syria’s Civil War shows no signs of resolution. But renewed aid efforts from Europe may help those struggling to survive there.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would contribute 50 million euros ($61.9 million) toward humanitarian aid for Syria, reported Reuters.

“This evening I brought together NGOs working on the ground in Syria. Faced with the humanitarian situation, France is setting up an emergency programme of 50 million euros,” Macron stated on his verified Twitter account.

Following a chemical attack in Douma last week, France had already deployed a humanitarian medical shipment via Turkish authorities, according to France Diplomatie, and participated in US-led airstrikes on suspected chemical weapons facilities, as reported by the New York Times.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated earlier this year that “from a humanitarian standpoint, the US has been a massive donor to this situation.”

But last month President Donald Trump suspended $200M funds allocated for recovery efforts, as reported by Politico.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is so dire that officials have lost track of how many people have died, according to the New York Times.

The new injection of French funding will be designated toward organizations already operating in Syria, such as the U.N. office for humanitarian affairs.

Macron’s meeting at Elysee presidential palace gathered together two dozen NGOs, including Action Aid, Handicap International, the Red Cross, and Care.

Women & Girls: This Map Shows You Where Women Are Being Harassed in Real Time #abuse #sdgs

map

“Free to Be” map allows women and girls to anonymously share experiences.

By Joanna Prisco

When a woman or young girl is harassed in public, there have historically been few resources for one to share the experience with local officials or warn others.

Until now.

A new real-time mapping tool called Free to Be has launched in Sydney, New Delhi, Kampala, Lima, and Madrid, that allows users to anonymously drop a pin in locations where they feel unsafe or have been threatened.

Free To Be is a crowd-mapping website that enables young women to identify and share public spaces that make them feel uneasy, scared or happy and safe,” the site reads. “It empowers young women to call out unsafe experiences and geographically identify spaces where change needs to occur.”

The site was was designed by Plan International in collaboration with CrowdSpot, Monash University’s XYX Lab “and, crucially, young women.”

Prior to launching the tool, Plan International, an NGO that advocates for children’s rights and equality for girls, conducted a survey of 400 young women on their experiences in the Australian capital.

Embed from Getty Images

“We’ve found 90% of girls in Sydney are feeling unsafe being in their city at night,” said Plan’s head of advocacy, Hayley Cull, in an interview with ABC Australia.

“That’s an extraordinary statistic.”

Meanwhile, “92% felt uncomfortable taking public transport alone at night, and nearly half had experienced street harassment,” reported Business Insider Australia.

The Free to Be maps are already being populated with identified “Good Spots” and “Bad Spots” by users whose experiences have ranged from cat calls to random gropings to one woman being followed and harassed by a stranger on a bike.

The goal is for the accumulated data to eventually be shared with local officials to affect change.

“In Melbourne, more than 10,000 people visited the website, with thousands dropping a pin – happy or sad – on places they loved, avoided, felt safe or unsafe in,” states the Free to Be site.

Embed from Getty Images

“Once the map closed, we presented data to key decision-makers including the City of Melbourne, Victoria Police, Metro and Public Transport Victoria. Plan International’s Youth Activists have been working closely with these organisations to make change and we’ve had some amazing responses.”

Partnerships For the Goals: Gates, Jolie, the Obamas: These Are the Most Admired People of 2018 #sdgs #2030now #globalgoals

ad

Gates and Jolie beat out former presidents, royals and Oprah to claim the top spots.

YouGov recently released their annual study highlighting public figures people look up to the most. The list includes celebrities, activists as well as former and current world leaders.

The survey queried 37,000 people from more than 35 countries to determine who are the women and men our world hails as most admirable.

Entertainers rounded out most of the top 20 for women, while businessmen, politicians and athletes dominated the top 20 for men. Many of these men and women work to tackle global issues and have left a lasting impact on the world.

The World’s Most Admired Women

Angelina Jolie

Angelina-Jolie.jpgAngelina Jolie poses for photographers upon arrival at the BAFTA Film Awards, in London, Feb. 18, 2018.
Image: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

While famous for her work as an actress, Jolie has also committed her life to humanitarian efforts. As a Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, she focuses on preventing and punishing sexual violence.

Michelle Obama

michelle obama ap .jpgImage: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The former first lady’s transformative work includes the launch of Let Girls Learn , an initiative that helps educate girls around the world.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah-Golden-Globes-MeToo.jpgImage: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/AP

Aside from being a general beacon for empowerment of everyone, everywhere, Oprah stole the show at the Golden Globes with her powerful speech on the #MeToo movement.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen-Elizabeth-Social-Share.jpgBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II waves to the crowd in Ascot, England, June 22, 2017.
Image: Alastair Grant/AP

The Queen recently waged a war on plastic in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of royal households.

Hillary Clinton

clinton dnc victory ap.jpgImage: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As a former secretary of state and presidential candidate, Clinton has spent her life breaking glass ceilings and advocating for the rights of women both domestically and abroad.

Emma Watson

emma watson UN Women malawi.jpgUN Women/Karin Schermbrucker
Image: UN Women/Karin Schermbrucker

Watson is a dedicated advocate for the UN’s HeforShe campaign working to promote gender equality.

Malala Yousafazi

2017-Women-Malala.jpgImage: Mark Garten/UN Photo

As the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala is staunch advocate of education as a basic human right and uses her own organization and voice to empower girls around the world.

Read More: 15 Times That Malala Nailed It

Priyanka Chopra

GCF17_PriyankaChopra_DanielDorsaForGlobalCitizen102.jpgImage: Daniel Dorsa 

Chopra advocates for girls’ causes and education as an ambassador for both Girls Up and Girls Rising and through her own foundation.

Madonna

madonna-woman-of-the-year (1).jpgImage: Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

When not pushing musical boundaries, pop icon Madonna works to end extreme poverty among orphans in Malawi.

Gal Gadot

gal gadotImage: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

Gal Gadot is a Wonder Woman both on and off screen: She uses her platform to raise funds to build schools and take a stance on the importance of education.

Angela Merkel

Angela MerkelImage: Michaela Rehle/Pool Photo via AP

Merkel made headlines with her open door refugee policy that took in millions fleeing conflict in the Middle East.

The World’s Most Admired Men

Bill Gates

AP_17128846109365_Bill_Gates_AP Photo_Nati Harnik.jpgImage: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

As the founder of both Microsoft and the world’s largest private charity, Gates promotes global development and tackles issues in health and education.

Barack Obama

Barack_Obama_Birthday_FINALS_011.jpgImage: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Having ranked first in 19 of the countries surveyed, the former president continues his legacy as a leader of global change

Jackie Chan

J-C-jackie-chan-18739719-1280-960.jpg

Considered one of Asia’s premier philanthropists, Chan has founded multiple charities focused on expanding educational opportunities for children.

Dalai Lama

DalaiLama WikiCommons.jpgImage: Yancho Sabev / Wikimedia Commons

The spiritual leader and activist is renowned for his peaceful approaches to global relations and attempts to end human rights violations.

Warren Buffet

Warren BuffettImage: Fortune Live Media / Flickr

While he donates billions to charity, philanthropist Warren Buffet also uses his status to advocate for ending global poverty.

David Beckham

david-beckham-coiffed-hairstyles-for-men.jpg

Michael Jordan

mj

Jordan actively contributes to charities that target and help at-risk youth.

Pope Francis

Pope-Francis.jpgPope Francis waves as he leaves the Shrine of Our Lord of the Miracles after a mid-morning prayer with contemplative nuns, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, 2018.
Image: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Pope Francis has brought ending poverty and eradicating injustices to the forefront of his mission as head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City.

Lionel Messi

lm.jpg

Messi’s charitable work includes building classrooms in Syria so more than 1,600 displaced children can return to school.

Imran Khan

The Pakistani politician’s foundation works to engage and mobilize local communities through better access to basic services.

Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at ratification of Paris Agreement on Climate Change with the UNImage: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Modi has made humanitarian efforts central to his role as Prime Minister of India by making improvements to health and education a priority.

Women & Girls: This Woman Was Just Nominated to Be the First Black Woman Brigadier General Ever #sdgs #globalgoals #2030Now

dada

Marine Corps Colonel Lorna M. Mahlock is quickly rising in the ranks.

Representation matters. Whether it’s in politics, art, or, yes, war, leaders must be chosen to represent the people they serve.

But in the United States armed forces, this is all too often not the case. Despite changing demographics, active duty members of the armed forces continue to be made up disproportionately of men, and specifically white men.

That’s why the nomination of Marine Corps Col. Lorna M. Mahlock — a black woman — to the rank of brigadier general is so important.

If confirmed, Mahlock will be the first woman of color to serve in this post, according to ABC News.

Other than its historical significance, the nomination, made by Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, also highlights the progress made on increasing diversity in the Marine Corps after it launched a campaign in 2011 calling for better representation of women and minorities.

Of the four major branches of the US armed forces, the Marines still have the lowest proportion of women, comprising just 6.8% of active members.

But that may be shifting with Mahlock’s nomination to one of the highest organizational ranks.

Her nomination was met with support online.

“RAH!!! I am SO VERY PROUD!” Anthony D. Turner wrote in a tweet. “Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis credit on this one!”

“Col. Lorna M. Mahlock’s qualifications for the job matter more than her race, but these milestones are worth celebrating and represent a win for women, our country, and any individual who faces tremendous odds but refuses to stay an underdog,” another Twitter user, S. Gillums Jr., wrote.

Reduced Inequalities: Beyoncé Made History at Coachella — And Put on an Incredible Show #sdgs #globalgoals #women #girls #beyonce

Destiny's Child reunite for Beyonce's first ever Coachella show as the fans went wild for them as they salute the 100k plus crowd in Cali

Destiny’s Child reunite for Beyonce’s first ever Coachella show as the fans went wild for them as they salute the 100k plus crowd in Cali. Beyonce showed off her wild hair and fashion and made faces while on stage as well as high in the sky on a cherry picker.Pictured: Destiny’s Child, Beyonce Ref: SPL1682860 150418
Picture by: Aced1500 / Splash News

Splash News and Pictures
Los Angeles:310-821-2666
New York:212-619-2666
London:870-934-2666
photodesk@splashnews.com

‘Beychella’ was about more than just the music.

It was supposed to happen last year. But Beyoncé’s historic headline act was well worth the wait.

This past weekend, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter became the first black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one year after she was forced to cancel what would have been her inaugural appearance to give birth to twins.

“Coachella, thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline,” she said on-stage before launching into her hit single, “Run the World (Girls).”

The brilliance of her performance was not lost on her fans — nor on other musicians including Chance The Rapper, Janelle Monae, Adele, and her sister, Solange.

“My QUEEN for life . Always . And forever . You continuously make me feel so proud to be a Black woman & artist . Last night was EXCEPTIONAL . We must protect you at all costs !” Monae wrote on Twitter.

“I saw it with my own two eyes,” Chance the Rapper wrote. “Beyoncé is the greatest entertainer to ever live and the Queen of Music.”

Her headline act was notable not just for the songs she sang, or the reunions she orchestrated, but also for its powerful stage moments that shone a light on black icons past and present.

Queen Bey sampled a Malcolm X quote and repped a Black Panther Party crest, invited a marching band from a historically black college on stage, and honored the late Nina Simone, to name just a few.

She has worked with worked with Gucci and CHIME FOR CHANGE (where she’s a co-founder) to bring clean water to people living in poverty in Burundi; spoken out about women’s empowerment at the Grammy’s; and started a scholarship program to help send black women to school.

Women & Girls: Arizona Just Signed a Bill to Prevent Child Marriage Under 16 #childmarriage #girlchild #sdgs #globalgoals #2030now

bill

Previously, a child could be married in Arizona at any age with the permission of a parent.

In another step toward ending child marriage in the US, Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill on Wednesday setting the minimum age of marriage at 16, the Associated Press reported.

Previously, a child could be married in Arizona at any age with the permission of a parent.

Similar laws were recently passed in Kentucky and Florida earlier this year, though not a single US state can claim to have banned child marriage yet.

Child marriage is still legal in some form in all 50 states. While many states have set the minimum age of marriage at 16 or 18, legal loopholes allow children much younger to get married. In several states, children can be married before their 18th birthdays with the permission of a judge or parent, or in the case of pregnancy.

According to the nonprofit Unchained At Last, nearly 250,000 children were married in the US between 2000 and 2010. Some were as young as 10 years old, PBS Frontline reported.

Of the nearly quarter of a million children married between 2000 and 2010, more than 4,700 were married in Arizona.

While the passing of the bill represents an important step toward stopping child marriage Arizona, children’s and women’s rights activists have advocated for the minimum age of marriage to be firmly set at 18, without exceptions.

Though such a law has yet to be adopted by any state in the US, activists remain hopeful.

Globally, 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children, according to Girls Not Brides. The highest incidences of child marriage occur in West and Central Africa, though India has the largest number of married children in the world, UNICEF reported.

Around the world, child marriage is often motivated by poverty, particularly in cultures where girls are seen as financial burdens are not valued as equals to males.

Women & Girls: This Woman’s Crafty Invention Is Keeping Menstruating Girls in School #sdgs #globalgoals #menstruation #2030now #education

yes

Periods will always be a drag. But they should never impact a young woman’s ability to succeed in school.

Unfortunately, due to inadequate hygiene education and limited access to personal products, girls in rural areas around the world often rely on found items ranging from scraps of clothing to mud, leaves or animal skins to manage their menstrual flow — often forcing them to stay home from school due to social stigma and embarrassment.

Having experienced this issue first-hand growing up, Nigerian philanthropist and entrepreneur Folasade Bamisaye recently launched a start-up to help prevent young women in her country from missing classes due to lack of proper hygiene products: MYperiodKIT.

“I missed a lot of classes, a lot of lectures, and it interfered with my academic performance,” Bamisaye told Mashable. “Visiting schools as part of my job brought me back into the community and … I met people going through the same situation as me over 20 years ago. I thought: ‘I need to do something.'”

MYperiodKIT provides girls with menstrual hygiene kits, including sanitary pads, tissue wipes, pantyliners, and disposable bags — all at an affordable cost — with the goal of keeping young girls in school. For those living in regions with limited access to running water, MYperiodKIT has even developed a sustainable, disposable sanitary pad made from banana and plantain stem fibre called “GreenPads.”

Profits from sales of the MYperiodKITs and GreenPads are reinvested in the program so that disadvantaged females who cannot afford the materials may also receive them “no matter your economic situation,” Bamisaye explained to Mashable.

“The justification for having MYperiodKIT is that girls and women residing in under-served areas around Nigeria are faced with huge challenge of coping with their menstrual period hygienically,” Bamisaye told She Leads Africa.

“Women and girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by factors including limited access to affordable hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options. This has led many girls and women to manage their periods ineffectively, uncomfortably and unhygienically.”

But by arming young women with these essential tools, she believes all of that can soon change.

Empowering youth is a recurring theme throughout Bamisaye’s career: In addition to launching MYperiodKIT, she is the the founder of Young Women Arise, an organization that educates young girls about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and she is the curator of Ablaze Ladies Camp, which provides participants with the needed skills for them to make informed decision about their SRHR, according to She Leads Africa.

Her latest work creating MYperiodKIT is already receiving praise, and Bamisaye was recently selected as a finalist to represent Nigeria in the $1 million global startup competition Chivas Venture.

But such recognition would only serve her greater goal, she said, telling Mashable, “The startup means to me that we will have girls who will no longer have to drop out of school just because they cannot afford a necessity as basic as menstrual hygiene.”

Reduced Inequalities: China’s Weibo Reverses Ban on Gay Content After Social Media Outcry #lgbt #lgbtq #sdgs #globalgoals

Last week, “Chinese Twitter” announced its plan to remove pornography, violent, and gay content.

lg

In a win for China’s LGBT community, Sina Weibo — the “Chinese Twitter” — said on Monday that it would not censor gay content on its platform.

The social media company had announced its plan to remove any LGBT-themed content posted on its platform last week in order to create a “clear and harmonious” environment, the New York Times reported. The measure appeared to be in response to government censorship policies around pornographic and violent material, but was criticized as a harmful conflation of sexual violence and homosexuality.

“The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn,” Xiao Tie, head of the Beijing LGBT Center, told Reuters.

Sina Weibo has not commented on whether or not the planned move was the company’s own initiative or a direct response to the government’s censorship policies, Reuters reported.

With 400 million active users, Sina Weibo holds great clout in China, where Twitter and Facebook have been banned since 2009.

Over the weekend, thousands of users shared posts and selfies with statements like “I am gay” and “My mouth can be muted, by my love can’t,” in response to the company’s censorship announcement, according to the New York Times. Many also used a hashtag that translate to #IAmGayNotAPervert.

Hua Zile, founder of the popular Weibo page “The Gay Voice,” told CNN on Monday that he was surprised by the outpouring of support for the LGBT community.

“Seven years ago, not that many people were willing to make their voices heard this way,” Hua said. “It’s amazing to see this happen now, with everyone — straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people — using the hashtag and joining in.”

While homosexuality is not criminalized in China, discrimination and social stigma against LGBT people persists in the country, CNN reported.