Friday, December 16, 2011

My first time blogging

After finishing my final exams, i commenced my research on rural women and agriculture. I want to look at fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores and supermarkets. Is it the local farmers that provide the fruits and vegetables? or is it big companies? and how much of it is imported?
With these questions in mind i began searching about the number of women farmers in the United States. According to the USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture, "more than 30 percent of U.S farm operators are women." This census is done every five years. The 2002 Census had women operators at 22%. I am happy that the percentage has increased. I spent a day just wandering through the USDA website. I ended up on International Agricultural Trade among the U.S, Canada and Mexico. I learned that the United States exports and imports a lot in the agriculture sector. The U.S value of agricultural exports are around $93 billion and its imports around $73billion. The agriculture sector is a growing sector as the population of the world increases and as more middle classes are rising in the Emerging markets, such as, China, India, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Russia and more.
I went to the farmers market with my friend Hazel about two weeks ago. I talked to a few women there. Some work on the family farm and others sell the produce for the farmers. The prices for the fruits and vegetables were very good. I bought a lot and was very happy. I pitied the years i purchased fruits and vegetables at Food Lion, Wal-mart and Grand Asia. The fruits and vegetables i got from the farmers market did not go bad after 3 to 4 days. I knew for years that F&V at the grocery stores are sprayed with preservatives when they are taken from the farm, transported through planes, trucks or trains, and displayed nicely in stores. By the time we buy that lettuce, orange or banana, it is 1-2 weeks old, but looks perfect and fresh. Ever since i went to that farmers market i have changed and made a promise to myself to buy locally grown as much as i can. I am in Michigan for the break. My friend and I drove about 1 hour to buy F&V that is locally grown in Michigan. It has been a week and it has not rotten.

As a solution to the problems faced by local farmers, I asked Meg Phipps to give me names of organizations. I ended up choosing the Produce Box. It was founded by a woman named Courtney Tellefsen.

Their mission is "We deliver locally grown farm-fresh produce and products to your door every week during our North Carolina growing season. We are committed to working with North Carolina farmers only (the main reason we started the program) and don't ship in products from other states or countries. Join us and become part of our "community of families" who enjoy delicious fruits and vegetables, eat healthier each week and support our farm neighbors"

I have copy pasted this from their website.

1. Get as much farm-fresh, field grown produce as possible into the local food system.

2. Make it easy, convenient and affordable.

3. Help local farmers reduce waste by having them “pick to order”.

4. Use more than one farm to provide the most variety and best quality fruits and vegetables the area has to offer.

5. Keep operating costs REALLY LOW by using neighborhood coordinators and deliverers and pass those savings on to the members.

I contacted Courtney and asked her permission to use her organization as an example. We will talk on skype in a few weeks and meet in person after i return to North Carolina. So far it is going well. One area i need more info is about farmers and rural women farmers in NC. I have started looking at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Bittersweet Goodbye


This will be my last blog post for the summer, as my time with WomenNC as a summer intern is drawing to a close. By no means is my time with this wonderful organization ending, as I will still be an active member and advocate for WomenNC. I've had a wonderful summer filled with many learning experiences. I have met many wonderful people and have enjoyed great conferences, meetings, and conversations with a wide array of individuals. For those of you who I've met, you've definitely shaped my life and made me a stronger person. I've learned not only a lot about WomenNC this summer, but a lot about myself. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Anita, Beth, Devi, and everyone else on the WomenNC crew, and will absolutely stay in touch with everyone. I hope that WomenNC continues to grow, that CEDAW is ratified in the United States, and that we, as a whole, can empower women and girls throughout the world. Thank you all for this wonderful experience and your kind support throughout the summer. Best of luck to everyone in all future endeavors and I hope to see you in the very near future!

Holly Holbrook

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Earlier today I was working on the twitter site for WomenNC. As I scrolled through the recent posts from those we follow, I found an interesting article from Jezebel, titled "The Time Michele Bachmann Thought She'd Been Kidnapped By Lesbians." My first thought was "Wait...what?", and of course I clicked on the link to read the article. The article discusses Ms. Bachmann's encounter with two women, a lesbian and an ex-nun, in the bathroom. Bachmann states that these two women tried to kidnap her, while these women state that they only wanted to discuss issues further with the then senator. The state declined to press charges.

Although most people who read this article are probably thinking a lot of the same thoughts I was, I think I also took a different approach to the article. Not only to I believe that this is ridiculous and that the state made the right choice in not pressing charges, but I also believe that it is absurd that Bachmann went to these lengths and claimings. We should be about Women's EMPOWERMENT, not putting one another down. We should be about supporting one another and providing a better life for current and future generations. We should discuss issues intelligently, just as these two women tried to do with Michele Bachmann. And so be it if the women talking to her were lesiban, heterosexual, bisexual, ex-nun, Christian, Muslim, agnostic, purple, black, doesn't matter. And it shouldn't matter. They weren't trying to kidnap anyone. They were trying to have a conversation about issues concerning them. And what's so wrong with that?

It's instances like this that set us, women, back. If we all worked together to create a great life for one another, so many great things could be achieved. Fortunately, we're making progress in many ways. But to think that we could all unite and do great things would be amazing. We could ratify CEDAW in the United States, we could help women internationally, we could help our neighbors...the possibilities are endless. Let's stand together and make these dreams a reality.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My bookbag for school is covered in pins, ribbons, and little trinkets that I've collected during my college career. Many of these pins are for organizations on campus that I support or am involved in, or are special because a friend or family member gave them to me. At this point, my bookbag is covered. I probably have twenty plus pins, and people are constantly commenting on my pins or asking me about them. I'm actually really excited about being back on campus so that everyone sees my bookbag again along with all of my new pins!

This past week, Devi, Beth, and I attended the WILPF conference in Chapel Hill. During our lunch break, Devi and I took the time to walk through the many tables set up by various organizations. At this time, I found some really great pins to add to my collection. I put these new pins on my bookbag, many of which discuss peace and women. One of my favorite pins from the day states "The rising of the women is the rising of us all," which was a pin made for International Women's Day.

When I first received this pin, I put it on my shirt and didn't really pay much attention. However, later that day when I returned home, I took that pin off of my shirt and stopped to really read it. After a great day of learning at WILPF, it was really nice to sit back and think about the rise of women. We, as women, can truly make a difference. We, as WomenNC, can truly make a difference. We, as Americans, can truly make a difference. By ratifying CEDAW, Women are able to rise above our current standing and empower one another.

Although many college students have pins on their bookbags and are passionate about a variety of subjects, I feel that many students don't take a lot of time to consider what their pins are really saying. Many just place the pin on their bag and move along. But the small quotes and pictures on these pins really do speak volumes.

Something as small and simple as a pin on a bookbag can really get the word out. Pay attention to the little things.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I see it everyday...

A few years ago a family friend gave me a very sweet gift. This gift, a small ceramic tile that reads "She believed she could so she did," sits next to my bed. I see it every morning when I first wake up, and again each night before I go to sleep. Although this tile was given to me in high school, it still rings true every day. No matter what we put our minds to, it can be achieved.

This tile definitely stands true with WomenNC. Since coming on board with this organization, this little saying has stuck with me. No matter what we, as an organization, put our mind to, it can happen. Every member of WomenNC is working hard to raise awareness, gain support, and support the CSW. We also work extremely hard to ratify CEDAW in the United States. These are achievable goals. With all of us believing in ourselves, in each other, in WomenNC, CSW, and CEDAW, we can make a huge impact. We can make a difference. "We believed we could so we did." We have to believe that these changes will happen and that each person involved with WomenNC will make a difference. If we believe, it will happen.

On another small note, I am going to follow Devi and tell you a little about myself. I am a rising Junior at UNC and am double majoring in Peace, War, and Defense and Women's Studies. I'm also on the pre-law track. I just came back to North Carolina after a semester in Washington, DC and am extremely interested in Women's Rights, domestic policy, and international policy. I am a huge supporter of WomenNC and am very excited to be interning with this wonderful group of people for the summer! I look forward to all of the great things to happen in the upcoming months!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Beginning

Yesterday afternoon was my first opportunity to really dive in with WomenNC. I'm an intern here for the summer, but didn't really know what to expect. I'd met with Anita and knew my assigned tasks, but was a bit anxious to begin. However, when first walking into the meeting, I was greeted with a huge hug from Beth, several questions from members of WomeNC, and a LOT of enthusiasm. As we sat down to the meeting, I could sense that these individuals, coming from all different backgrounds, all have one common passion: to truly make a difference in the ratification of CEDAW and to leave a lasting impact on CSW. I had read articles discussing these two topics and knew that WomenNC was founded on these values, but these women and men feel it in their bones. The passion, enthusiasm, and excitement these folks have make me want to work hard this summer in order to leave my mark on WomenNC and to benefit this organization in as many ways as possible. Our meeting was filled with new ideas, great discussion, and a lot of support. To this organization, it's not just about putting these ideas out there; it's about putting them into practice. I look forward to working with this amazing team and cannot wait to see what all we produce. In many internships, it seems that the interns are doing work that is never really noted. With WomenNC, I know that the work I'm completing is beneficial to the organization and that what I'm doing matters. That's what is great about WomenNC: they believe in the younger generation, and believe that the young, elderly, women, men, and anyone from any background can unite and truly make a difference.

I look forward to my time here at WomenNC and the many experiences that are ahead of me this summer. I cannot wait to get started!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feminist fortune cookies

At my recent Women's Studies graduation ceremony, our professors gave all of us feminist fortune cookies. I'm always hopeful, but generally disappointed when I open fortune cookies because they always seem to contain ridiculously obvious statements rather than exciting fortunes. The feminist fortune cookies did not disappoint, however. They said things like "You will see many women as presidents and leaders" and "You will never be inhibited by the size or shape of your body." I wanted to do that same sort of encouraging exercise for WomenNC as a final reflection from my fellowship experience. Below you can see some of my fortunes for the organization and for women's and gender issues overall.

WomenNC will educate people of various backgrounds and ages in North Carolina and beyond about gender, women's rights, and international human rights.

WomenNC will play a major role in the ratification of CEDAW in the United States.

WomenNC's Fellowship Program will serve as a model so that younger people can attend and participate at CSW each year.

WomenNC will develop chapters at local universities that conduct educational outreach to elementary, middle, and high school students.

Women's and gender studies will become integrated into primary educational programs and will be paired with creative, applied opportunities for students to be involved in their communities.

Thank you all for following our blog and to WomenNC for providing me with this amazing opportunity! Happy summers to all of you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bringing CSW to North Carolinians and intersectional analyses to all

Throughout April, the 2011 WomenNC CSW Fellows and I gave presentations to North Carolinians about what we had seen and heard at the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. We each discussed sessions we attended in relation to our topics, as well as interactions we had with others present at the meetings. We did our best to bring the content and sentiments from individual sessions to our North Carolina audience so that they could better understand the relevance of CEDAW and national and international women's rights advocacy. As I sat in both of the presentations we gave in Raleigh, I realized how much more comfortable we had become speaking about our specific topics and fielding the tough questions that arise about sex trafficking and sex education policies. I thought again about how important the applied experience of attending and presenting at CSW 55 was and how it was so much more meaningful because we were totally immersed in it as attendees and presenters.

I also realized the importance of informing North Carolinians about CEDAW and women's and gender issues in North Carolina, the U.S., and internationally more frequently throughout the year and to more audiences. It is unacceptable that the issues we're talking about today have been going on for hundreds of years and that people seem surprised about rates of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and adolescent pregnancy. Because history is taught from the vantage point of men and positive discussions about sexuality and women are generally silenced, the topics that we discussed in our presentations were likely surprising and alarming. Yet, because these are historical issues, some people may have not found our musings that shocking. The point is that we need to begin educating people about multiple forms of identity and inequality on the basis of gender, race, socioeconomic status, nationality, ability, and age beginning at younger ages. My engagement in Women's Studies and involvement with various organizations that focus on minority rights have made me extremely aware of intersectional identities and inequalities, but this only occurs within a small portion of people's educational experiences. We must work to create more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to increase their knowledge of and/or experience with the aforementioned issues and utilize organizations like WomenNC to make this a reality.

If you'd like to learn more about our experiences at CSW and subsequent reflections, please see the following:

Look at our reflection papers and PowerPoints here:

See clips from our presentations here:

And view pictures from our presentations here:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh, How Far We've Come!

Monday evening was the WomenNC Fellow's presentation at the UNA-Wake meeting at Meredith College. As I drove to the event with my presentation manuscript printed and seated safely in my bag, I felt at ease. My tranquility was a striking contrast to the feeling I had three months ago, right before our rehearsal presentation event at the Woman's Club of Raleigh.

Instead of feeling nervous about how my research on sex trafficking would be received by my audience, as I felt in February, I felt excited to meet the guests of UNA-Wake and share with them my findings. The atmosphere in the reception room at Meredith was warm and welcoming. The room was abuzz as everyone sat down at long tables to chat while we ate a dinner provided for guests before the presentations.

Kristen kicked off the presentation with a great overview of the United Nations framework for addressing human rights issues related to the status of women. While listening to Kristen share her impressions of CSW and the UN, I began to reflect on my own experience at the conference.

At CSW, I was able to learn so much more about my research topic: sex trafficking. I was extremely lucky to meet the women leading the crusade against the various forms of exploitation that cause sex trafficking. I surveyed the different approaches NGOs take to combating sex trafficking, which, upon my return, has given me a great comprehension of the current dialogue on the best anti-sex trafficking policy.

I feel equipped to share my ideas with others, from curious citizens, to organizations interested in combatting sex trafficking. Thanks to CSW, I have gone from an informed researcher, to an innovative activist. I am excited to continue to share my thoughts on sex trafficking and its various policies as I continue working within the nonprofit sector.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Maintaining the link between local and global

It's hard to believe that nearly two months have passed since the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. I have thought about CSW frequently as I have prepared for upcoming presentations to the North Carolina community, which will focus on the insights I gained from convening with worldwide activists at the global level and through my attendance at multiple sessions regarding sexual and reproductive health. I am looking forward to sharing these findings with North Carolinians and emphasizing how important it is that student fellowship programs exist to support young women and men's attendance at such gatherings.

As I have mentioned before, when you're at CSW, the energy and motivation of the thousands of people gathered is palpable not only in daily sessions, but all over the city in the restaurants, shops, and sidewalks where attendees frequent. While I still feel that excitement and passion at an individual level through my community and academic work that is based in feminist thought and practice, I find it challenging to link my daily activities to happenings at the U.N. two months later. Maintaining the connection between local and global struggles is essential, but difficult in daily life, especially when most people are unaware of international meetings and documents like CSW and CEDAW. On the local level, there are few spaces in which local and global feminist and anti-racist activism may be discussed, analyzed, linked, and critiqued, which is why I believe it is challenging to consistently link local and global struggles.

This brings me to the question: What significance do bodies like the U.N. play in the daily lives of NGOs and activists who are providing the supervision and resources to address people's marginalization? I believe that organizations like WomenNC exist to make the linkage between local organizations and global human rights bodies constantly discernible and present, but it is still tough to remember the importance of international human rights bodies when you are working to address people's concerns on a daily basis. Because CSW only lasts for two weeks, how can those who attend in person or virtually maintain the excitement, enthusiasm, and connections once they return to their daily work and demands? What role does the U.N. play in the lives of grassroots activists and NGOs prior to and following international conferences and meetings? I don't have the answers to these questions, but have been pondering them more recently and will continue to think about them as I finish up my semester and study human rights in a different context abroad this summer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CSW's effects on a (n almost) graduate

My undergraduate career is quickly coming to a close in the next couple months, and I am personally viewing my graduation as a rain cloud over the date May 14 on my calendar. It’s not that I am not ready to graduate and finish my undergraduate studies; it’s simply that I am feeling the same senior anxiety that I am sure most experience before we go through a huge change. The last 16 years of my life have been lived in education. Because I have decided to not go immediately to graduate school, I will be stepping away from any formal education, and into a different reality.

I would probably feel a little more assured if I had a job lined up for after graduation, but that search is continuing until I find success. My main problem is that everything I am interested in being involved with is likely ran by a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization. If anyone DOESN’T have money expand their staff in today’s economy, you better believe that it’s nonprofits and NGOs.

What’s amazing to me right now is that the jobs I am researching and applying for are all rooted in my experience at CSW. Because I met so many powerful and amazing activists at the United Nations last month, I am inspired to follow their example in creating social change. I feel committed to advancing the status of women so much so that I want to spend the next year or two before graduate school working in the field of nonprofits and NGOs. At CSW, I met so many brave individuals committing their time and energy to humanist causes. They do what they do, not because there is a salary involved, but because they are conscious and impassioned individuals who wouldn’t know how to turn their heads away from the trials women face around the globe. I seek to follow their lead and join the movement towards gender equity.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Representations of women

At CSW, women represent not only themselves, but their countries and other women within them. As a woman who has read about women's and feminist movements in various contexts, it was extremely exciting and tangible to hear from and meet with the women who I had read and heard so much about for the past four years. It's so different to hear directly from women about the issues they and other women in their countries face rather than through the filtered lens of a scholarly journal article or book. I am so grateful that those exist, and going to CSW is only possible with a certain level of privilege due to the money it takes to get and stay there, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of women speaking from their own contexts and experiences in a very direct, personal way.

This is what I have been relaying to my family members and friends who have been asking me about my experiences at CSW 55. This is one of the most important aspects of the fellowship; hearing from and connecting with women who are often represented as ahistorical, or outside of history, in popular narratives. I am reminded of the Fiji feminist I met who was finishing up her graduate degree in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University during a session I attended called "Pacific Women Claiming Space in the International Arena." Sadly, I knew little about the specific challenges Pacific Island women face, as they had not been a major part of my Women's Studies courses and I had not had a reason to follow their activity due to my privilege as a U.S. citizen and white person. The woman spoke genuinely and passionately about women's activism in the midst of Fiji's volatile political climate and commented on the West's imagining of the Pacific Islands as solely the Philippines. She said that it was important to recognize the rich history of women's organizing and movements in Fiji and that the Pacific Islands face very specific issues that cannot be collapsed into the larger Asian grouping in which these countries reside within the United Nations continental areas.

I was honored to be in this woman's presence. Feminism and women's studies are all about building from your own personal experiences and this is exactly what this woman had been a part of and relayed to all of us in the room. Her remarks would not have been nearly as meaningful or real had they come from a scholar who had studied these movements, but had never been a part of them, or from a non-Fijian. They were significant because they came straight from a woman who was a native of Fiji, understood the history and politics of the country, and had worked on the ground in the feminist movement for four years.

It is crucial that we create more opportunities for women to hear from women who have worked or are working on the ground because they have a unique lens into the various factors that shape the success of women's movements. If women cannot hear from those who are natives of and working directly with the contextual issues within their country of origin, then they will not be able to link the human rights frameworks through which they operate to the practical programs and initiatives that are derived from community needs. This is why I believe it is crucial to consider convening these conferences in different places each year or every few years to ensure that women who do not have access to CSW can represent themselves and so that those few women who are there from Fiji or Mozambique are not expected to speak for their entire race or nationality.

Will sexual and reproductive rights always be contentious?

I don't know why I was so surprised at the controversial energy I encountered in many of the sessions I attended related to sexual and reproductive health and rights at CSW. I have known for a long time how contentious women's sexual and reproductive rights are and that these are often narrowed down to solely the issue of abortion, but it's different to be in the midst of people with extremely different views, listening to their perspectives and feeling the tension between and within all of them.

I noted this tension in a session during which the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) spoke about the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education programs in conjunction with international NGOs in many Latin American countries. The purpose of this session was to discuss why considering gender and rights in the context of sexual and reproductive health information and services is crucial for fostering gender equality. I wasn't expecting the flood of questions that poured out from angry audience members. A woman from Mexico City asked why IPPF was implementing comprehensive sexuality education programs in Mexico when we didn't even have these in the majority of the U.S. Another woman challenged the panel to speak to PlannedParenthood's historical involvement in the eugenics movement and why the majority of PlannedParenthood centers are concentrated in minority communities (*I would like to note that IPPF and PlannedParenthood are two different entities with separate funding streams and purposes.) The hot, crowded room of over 100 people sat in awkward silence as the panel fielded these questions that brought up the larger issues of privilege and oppression, which fueled the disagreements that were happening during the session.

As many of you have probably heard or seen, women's sexual and reproductive is currently facing a serious attack in the U.S. with many bills being proposed that would cut public funding for the crucial sexual and reproductive health services that organizations like PlannedParenthood provide to women of various races, classes, and nationalities. One in three women in the U.S. has had an abortion and over half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. With rates of domestic violence as high as one in four women, I believe that there is certainly a link between gender-based violence and the high rate of unintended pregnancies, as well as evidence that our sexuality education policies and programs are not providing adolescents with the comprehensive information that they need to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

In my opinion, the socially constructed category of gender and the gender inequalities that women face are at the root of all of these issues. The dissent between pro-life and pro-choice groups, abstinence-only and comprehensive sexuality education advocates isn’t about the services being provided or performed. It’s about the fear that women will break out of their expected “roles” and be in power, autonomous to make their own decisions independently and freely. Until the socially constructed category of gender and gender inequality is truly addressed through educational initiatives and policy changes, sexual and reproductive rights will remain an extremely polarizing and controversial topic. This right, along with women’s rights to fair employment, pay, and safety, cannot truly be addressed without addressing women’s historical and current subordinate status and the intersecting racial, class, and national identities that also shape women’s inferior status.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A letter to future WomenNC fellowship recepients

Dear future fellowship recipients,

I’m sitting on the plane on the way back from NYC. The airline attendant is passing around pretzels, asking what I want to drink (they still do this for free, on Delta). "Coffee, please." I feel like I'm in an alternate reality from the space in which I lived the past 6 days. Words are spilling out of me; I can’t type quickly enough and my mind won’t stop. Maybe I should have ordered wine. It is underprocessed and overwhelmed that I write to you, now. I’m sure you’ll have a similar experience when it’s your turn and you’re on the way home, gazing out the window, watching U.S. city lights dance from high above. You’ll be realizing how small you are, but also how much you can and will do. It’s incredible, truly. Spending a week with some of the most inspirational women on the planet is indescribable. Sure you’ll teach, but you’ll learn so much more. You'll love it, I promise. I’m taking a break from some of my personal processing/free-writing to write you this letter. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all emotional or in-depth about the complete awesomeness of this week, well, not yet anyway—that’s for a personal conversation or another post. Instead, I’m going to share with you some advice.

The following is a list of two things 1) What I wish I knew one week ago and 2) What I knew and was very glad I knew. This post is going to be a list of very concrete (I usually don't do concrete) logistical (or logistical blog posts) suggestions to you, as future UN presenters, fellowship recipients, and world changers. All of this is Annie’s life advice, so take it for what you will. Most of this is conference advice, some of this is UN advice, and little of it is UNCSW specific. Again, take what you want and leave the rest, disagree or agree. I will neither mind nor know. These are merely my “best practices,” my experiences, and I’m sharing them with you. I’m sure we’ll go deeper as we get to know one another, but for now, while lessons are fresh on my mind, here's my “to do list” for young women:

· Before you go to a session, if you have a list of dignitaries, CEOs, etc. attending, do a quick Google search, and look at pictures. This is for 2 reasons: If someone introduces himself or herself to you and you have a deer-in-the-really-important-headlights look; it’s not good. It’s embarrassing and you’ve also put yourself in a harder place to make a connection. Do your homework. Secondly, if you see a President or CEO on the street or in a hallway with whom you would like to speak, you will know who that person is and thus will have an advantage over the clueless passersby. This is not to say to run up to “famous” people just because you feel like it; that’s sort of pointless and this is not Hollywood. ..but, if there is a question you have or a connection you want to make, do it. Just go for it.

· When you do greet a President , MP,Director, CEO, etc., have a little speech prepared: I’m ____, from _____. I care about ____. What do you think about _____? Thank you for _____. I wonder why____. Can we follow up with _____ ? get the idea. You know yourself, so there’s no excuse to be star-struck or unintelligible. People are people.

· With that said, network with everyone, not just the all-stars. The old woman grassroots organizer in Ethiopia might be a better contact, and might teach you a lot more than someone with a fancy entourage. She’ll also have more time.

· Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and be *somewhat* judicious in passing them out, more so if you have only a limited supply.

· Set goals for yourself before you leave…then make them happen.

· Don’t try to go into the UN building with coffee, water or other liquids; it’s like the airport and they will confiscate stuff from you. Also, at certain times, the security line is really long. You’ll have a security pass, so you won’t wait with tourists, but it’s still going to take time, so plan for that. That being said, if you can find someone “important” and hook up with them, you can usually bypass lines and security all together.

· The food places in the UN do not take credit cards, cash only; bring cash.

· Big title does not equal good speaker, or sometimes even knowledgeable person. If you’re at a session, not learning, and don’t have a desire to connect with anyone in the room and something else is going on, leave. Go to something else. Time is priceless (always, not just here).

· Be aware of anti-choice groups masquerading as pro-choice. There are plenty of really right wing, fundamentalist, religious, crazy conservatives. This happens…I think Kimmie will blog more in depth about this, so I will direct you to her post. I just caution you that on NGO day, that some groups try to do this; they are good and sneaky, so watch out.

· There are seriously 500 things going on all the time. The UN is crazy busy. So 1) Take care of you. If you’re tired or feeling sick, go take care of you. Rest. Eat. You will not be effective, make a good presentation, or even make good impressions if you’re feeling lousy. With that said, after you are OK to work, realize that 2) this is an experience of a lifetime. Do NOT waste any time. Go to as many sessions as you can, talk to as many people as you can, learn as much as you can. Don’t chill out in the hotel room, take long lunch breaks, wander around Times Square for hours, or do homework all the time (I promise, it can wait; school is a major part of life, yet “life” will and should supersede formalized worksheets from econ class or English papers. Trust me.). Work hard, have fun.

· Challenge/push yourself. This week can make you better if you want it to.

· Bring a big bag, not a small purse. You will end up with more material than you think; it will be heavier than you think, and harder to carry than you think.

· Hook up your fellowship sisters who are with you…if you get an awesome opportunity to bring others, do it! Talk to those with you on the trip; share your experiences. Also, coordinate your sessions with each other in order to maximize the learning/connections. Unless you all really want to go to a particular meeting, there is no reason for four of you to be in the same session. Go to different ones and trade info.

· The second floor of the United Nations Church Center has a ton of resources, extra handbooks, etc. On Thursday or Friday, there will be an international market; go check it out.

· The postcard stamps you purchase in the UN building can only be used in the UN building.

· Age is just a number. Many people will think it’s awesome that such young people are there at the UN, and some will pass over you because of your age. Don’t let age stop you from doing your thing. You’re smart, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Be confident.

· Don’t underestimate lunch, and things like lunch (refer to my previous posting to fully understand this comment, I’m not going to type it all out here again).

· Take notes. Lots of notes. Bring paper. And a pen. And another pen for when that one dies.

· Arrive early to sessions if possible. 10 minutes or so should be fine. Seats are valuable; even our presentation was standing room only…and then it was hard for people to find spaces to stand. Some sessions are more crowded than others, so if there is one you really want to go to, RSVP early and go early. Also, sometimes you can talk your way in places/getting passes/etc. Just work it.

· If you’re in a session and you have a legit question, ASK IT! I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not be afraid, ASK. This gives you a chance to 1) get your question answered, 2) bring up an issue you care about, and 3) introduce yourself/your passion/your organization to everyone in the room.

· With that said, know when to listen and when to talk.

· When you receive a business card, within the next hour, write on the back of the card how/where you met this person, the general interest, if you’re meant to send/expect an email, etc. You don’t want to get back to NC and three weeks later, have a stack of 100s of cards, and not know any of them.

· Beth will love you if you bring up CEDAW.

· Have a schedule and a rough plan, but be flexible. Plans will change, often serendipitously.

· If you’re not sure if you’re meant to be in a room, briefing, etc. and no one says otherwise, stay and act like you are supposed to be there and you know what’s going on if you indeed want to stay.

· Follow-up the connections you want to keep and build upon with an email, text, etc. This is as much about networking as it is about learning hard facts in sessions. Connections are so vitally importante.

· Don’t try to speak at the Asian Caucus if you’re not Asian.

· Finally, go exploring around the UN building, just saying….

I’m sure I have many more suggestions which I have left out, but I’m also sure I will have conversations with each of you, dear future recipients. Much love, I know you will rock it out next year.

All my best, to each and every one of you,

Annie C.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I have the pleasure of turning 22 at CSW 55. I've only spent my birthday away from friends and family once before. I spent my 20th birthday in Tangier, Morocco, while studying in the country. Having a birthday at CSW turned out to feel a lot like it did when my birth was marked in north Africa two years ago. In Morocco, I was in a Muslim-majority country. This morning at CSW, I attended a panel discussion on the violence against and marginalization of Muslim women. While this panel featured women experts from Iraq, their arguments and discussion greatly reflected the sentiments expressed by my Muslim friends and colleagues in Morocco, regarding gender in a Muslim society.

The idea of religion and women seems to have the potential to create many setbacks regarding women's status. Using religion to justify patriarchal ideas, and embedding those ideals through religious upbringings, isn't something that resonates solely in Islam. Men dominating leadership roles is celebrated in Christianity as well. Why do we do ths? Men may be viewed to have more wisdom than women and therefore more able to lead religious communities. I disagree with this notion, which is often a subconscious characteristic of religion.

A woman from Uganda in today's panel's audience brought up the idea of female imams, or religious leaders in Muslim mosques. The idea is progressive in Muslim societies, as it is is in most Christian sects as well. The energy from her comments filled the room as she boomed,
"The men are against women imams because they say her body in front of them will distract them from prayer.
"Her bottom, her curves, it will tempt them.
"Can not a woman be thinking the same about the male imams when he is leading prayer in front of women?"
The audience applauded.
Her question dove to the core of a common double standard women are often subject to. The idea that we must mask our bodies so as not to attract 'unwanted' attention, or to make sure we are viewed as 'respectable' women in society.

I left the panel thinking about how societal judgment of women in public is not equal. Regardless of religion, we as women are held to practice norms in public and the workplace if we wish to be respected, and I think it's safe to say that men are not expected to fulfill similar norms. It is important to reflect on these differences. While living in Morocco two years ago, I reflected daily on women's appearance in public. I had to cover my body up more while living there, so as not to attract unwanted attention on the streets. Today, on my birthday, I may be able to cover my skin up less in the streets of New York (if it weren't 38 degrees out...), but a wardrobe viewed as 'scandalous' would still warrant at least one cat call per block. Maybe I can make a birthday wish that erases these gender inequalities. I suppose of that were possible, women would have wished away our worries ages ago, and conferences like CSW would not be needed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reflections for the Day

Today has been a long and tumultuous day. I have finally seen the fruit of WomenNC's labor really come to fruition. These young students are amazing. What really gets me is how fascinated they are. How dedicated they are. How interested they are. How willing they are. How passionate they are. They are all around wonderful. I'm just awestruck at how well they are received and how they are conducting themselves. They are truly professional.

The presentation yesterday was extremely well attended. This picture above proves it. The capacity of this particular room was about 70 people. There were no chairs left at the peak of the presentation. This was a view at the start before the presentations started. Many more sauntered in. Truly a great turn out. Prof. Hershfield orchestrated the position of emcee extremely well. She did a wonderful job and we are so thankful to have her as a Student Fellowship Chair.

Each student did their presentation beautifully. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tape the whole presentation, but a video clip of the presentations will hopefully be made in the near future with the parts I did get to tape. But, this wasn't what I was worried about at all. I knew they would all do a great job. I had no doubt in my mind. To me, Questions and Answer sessions and making sure to network with these people at the end of the session was what seemed to be the part we had missed explaining. But, again, I was astounded. It was handled with such poise and finesse. We even had June Zeitlin step in and answer a few questions on CEDAW. She is the director of the CEDAW Education Project. We took a picture with her as well as seen above. Below, you can see how involved the students were with people after the presentation as well!

These presentations were so well received that in one day, people are recognizing us as the North Carolina group once again. Women and men have approached these girls asking about their studies and how they got involved and they are quick to mention WomenNC and how it has helped them. I'm so proud of them.

Directly after this amazing session, we held another for Prof. Hershfield's screening of Men are Human, Women are Buffalo. It was EXTREMELY well attended as well. The film was amazing. There were no technical difficulties. Much of the credit goes to Prof. Hershfield and Kristen Brugh on that front for being so quick about getting everything set up. I could not imagine a better session than that. The film and the discussion that followed was truly inspirational.

As I have worked with these students and gotten to know them better over the past few days, I feel we have become a small knit family. I feel like a sister to them in many ways. They are all talented, professional, hard working, passionate, inspirational, cultured and real women. I'm very humbled to meet each and be a part of this program with them. Annie, Kimmie, Katie, and Kristen have been a joy to be with on this trip and I cannot wait to watch them bring the global perspective they have gained here back to their local audience.