Sunday, October 16, 2016

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!

1 comment:

  1. Lauren - delighted to have you as a Fellow! Really excited to learn about your topic and if you choose sexual assault prevention in middle schools I would love to learn whether mobile phone technology is being used in any way at schools and/or public school bus stops to help keep our girls safe. Have recently read several news articles of young teens being abducted while waiting at their bus stops and sexually assaulted. Also, since the UNCSW theme this year is Women's Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, hoping you might be able to touch on the impact of sexual violence on a girl's or woman's economic power. Great topics you are considering, and can't wait to learn from your research!