Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hopes and Goals for CSW Fellowship Experience 2016-2017

When I first found out about the opportunity that WomenNC offers to be a CSW Fellow, I cannot explain the emotion I felt knowing I could potentially have a chance to make a difference in not only my community, but possibly the state.  As a first generation college student, I cannot explain how difficult it has been for me to navigate through the process of finding the right college, figuring out how to pay for it, and also the application process. 
            It was somewhat difficult for me to narrow down my options of what topic to research, but I have found that there is nothing better than to work on something I am very passionate about and also something I have experienced firsthand.  There is still much to work through on my topic, but to give you a broad overview of what I will research is the educational opportunities/resources available to the children of immigrant women, specifically how to increase the rate of students who go on to pursue higher education.  I am hoping that through this research I can a make long lasting impact on the community of Durham.  I hope the Durham City Council will find not just my research, but the research of my fellow participants significant and pursue through necessary legislation to make the necessary changes in Durham. 
            One of my goals is to put into practice what I have learned up to this point in the classroom.  I am trying to treat this as my first real life assignment.  As a public policy major, this research is something where many of my classes come together and I hope I can make not only my institution proud, but also my professors. 
            My overall goal is to take this experience and turn it into something I can continue to work on even after all of my work is done with this Fellowship.  I have found that everything I have done thus far, leads to the path of advocacy.  I am very proud of myself for being a part of this, and I cannot wait to learn as much as I can from this experience.  I am very excited to see where this will lead me!

Local then Global

I am beyond excited to have been chosen as a 2016-2017 WomenNC Fellow! This fellowship graciously grants me the opportunity to present research on an important gender equity topic relevant in Durham to Durham’s City Council and at the 61st Annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) event at the United Nations in New York. I will work with a mentor to create a gender equity status report relevant to an issue within Durham County and I have the privilege of going through this fellowship experience with three other college students.
There is so much to be grateful for because of this fellowship. I am grateful I had the opportunity to practice writing applications and going through an interview process since I will most likely have to do many more applications and interviews throughout my life. I am grateful to have already met incredible women who volunteer their time for WomenNC and incredible young people who also want to make a difference in advancing women’s human rights. This experience will give me a chance to build relationships with the other fellows, my research mentor, at least one local organization in Durham, and the general WomenNC community. These relationships have already inspired me and I look forward to the rest of the year getting to spend time around these radiating forms of inspiration and support. I am thankful for the resources that will help me grow as a person and as an advocate. I am particularly excited for the training I will receive on presentation and public speaking skills; I know that I have a lot to learn. Of course, I cannot even believe that I now have the chance to attend the Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations in New York. I will forever be indebted to WomenNC for making this a possibility for me.
When I first heard about the fellowship, I mostly thought about the CSW event in March. I have been daydreaming about successfully presenting my research, meeting amazing activists from all over the country and world, and finding ways to connect long-term with people and organizations that do wonderful work in eliminating forms of oppression. I am also excited to focus on issues most relevant to Durham County, the neighbor of Wake County where I was born and raised. I think learning the conditions and current status of women in the local area is essential for working to improve those conditions and elevate that status. Then, the lessons learned in my own state can later be applied to the global work and international conversation about women’s human rights. I feel confident about working to make a difference somewhere close to where I’m from rather than trying to overstep boundaries and create change somewhere I do not understand as well. If I can be an effective advocate for change locally then I will be better equipped to contribute to the global efforts for women’s human rights.

There are over a million things a person could study related to gender and choosing a research topic has been challenging. Possible topics included the conditions of girls in the juvenile justice system, the wage gap, women in political leadership, transgender healthcare at Duke Hospital, postpartum depression, and sexual assault prevention education in middle schools. I have narrowed down my list to those last two items and am trying to decide whether to pursue my interests of the intersection of gender and mental health or early education for sexual assault prevention. I am leaning towards sexual assault prevention education because of my previous work at NC State’s Women’s Center as a peer educator on topics related to interpersonal violence. I would study education efforts in middle schools and the distribution of safe spaces on campus. This work would ideally allow me to make recommendations on how to widen the safe spaces on campus and help schools improve their education efforts to reduce incidents of violence in the future. I will work with my mentor Brooke Jones this week to finalize my topic and begin my research. I cannot wait for all that is to come!

Blog 1: Hopes and Goals for CSW Fellowship

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) proposes for states to take a series of measures in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The incorporation of equality for men and women is a key principle under the CEDAW. Ensuring women’s equal access to education, health, and employment is fundamentally supported by the CEDAW. As a CSW fellow, I take great interest in advocating to local government officials for the implementation of the principles under the CEDAW.  

After interning at the North Carolina General Assembly for three legislative sessions, nothing interests me more than the implementation of social changes.  I enjoy researching and evaluating issues that impact many groups of North Carolina. I am incredibly excited to take on a new role as a CSW fellow because my work will be focused on local advocacy for women’s human rights under the CEDAW. I hope that my advocacy efforts will initiate Durham’s City Council to propose legislation in support of women’s equal access to healthcare services.

My goal as a CSW fellow is to research the disparities regarding access to reproductive health services in varying parts of Durham. I plan on working with Lynne Walter from the ACLU to evaluate the disparities in access to reproductive health services and the implications of the disparities.  An examination of reproductive health disparities in Durham would provide a greater knowledge of the issues that local women have due to lack of access. My goal is to summarize the findings and propose a preliminary solution to the Durham City Council. I hope that the council will consider adopting legislation in order to ensure women’s equal access to reproductive health services as proposed under the CEDAW.

-Cristy Villalobos

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Goal: Local Impact with Global Implications

Last summer I interned for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions under Senator Patty Murray. Working for the Labor Policy Director, I researched policy initiatives aimed at helping working families, specifically working mothers. At one reception hosted by the Democrats on the HELP Committee, women shared their stories about facing the prospect of going to work ill, missing paychecks, or losing their job because they lacked paid sick days that would allow them to care for themselves or their loved ones. In the United States, families struggle to get by without paid sick days, adequate maternity leave, equal pay, and reliable work schedules. As the primary family caregivers, women bear most of the burden of this injustice. This partly explains why the gender wage gap widens during the years that most families raise children. Despite the desperate needs of American breadwinners, Congress has been slow to pass bills to rectify these problems.
Luckily, there are local and state governments that are taking matters into their own hands to fight for justice in the workplace. Seattle recently passed a fair scheduling ordinance that requires chain retailers and restaurants to give advanced notice of scheduling changes and end the practice of assigning split shifts, allowing mothers and caregivers can make childcare arrangements ahead of time. San Francisco, meanwhile, has passed a law which requires employers to provide paid sick days to employees, allowing them to stay home to care for a family member or recover from their own illness without fear of losing a paycheck or their job. These local ordinances will make a huge difference in the lives of working families and serve as a model for the whole country. These cases illustrate that local governments and communities can have a huge impact on the battle for gender equality.
As a CSW Fellow, I hope that my research on gender inequality in Durham will similarly inspire action in the Durham community and encourage other local governments to do more to address inequality. I would like my findings and my policy recommendations to make a difference in local policy and the lives of the people of Durham. Right now, given its distinguished and committed leaders, I believe the Durham City Council has a unique opportunity to become a leader for North Carolina and the nation in gender equality. There are two areas I’m interested in focusing on during my fellowship: the gender wage gap and women’s leadership. While North Carolina has a gender wage gap that is slightly lower than the national average, racial inequality in Durham is particularly pronounced, which may have serious implications for the gender pay gap. Secondly, while there is a lot of research on the proportion of women in elected office and strategies to get women elected, I am interested in asking how frequently they run for and win reelection compared to their male peers. I look forward to the lessons I am going to learn and the people I will meet on this journey. Most importantly, however, I’d like my work to make a positive impact in the lives of all the women in Durham.