Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tougher laws, what about societal attitudes?

On Saturday, the young woman in India who was gang raped by six men on a public bus, died from her injuries, which included a brain injury and massive internal trauma. Since the attack on December 16, thousands of people across India have come together, demanding the government get tougher on  crimes against women as well as improved women's rights.

In India most sex crimes go unreported; which follows a similar pattern seen in countries throughout the world, including here in the United States, many offenders go unpunished, and the justice system moves slowly. So, yes improved and tougher laws on these crimes are needed, however, these laws will more after an attack has occurred, and less to prevent the crimes from actually occurred.

The young woman's death and brutal rape did not just happen because of weak laws, the attack happened because deeply entrenched attitudes held about women, that makes men believe it is okay to rape and sexually assault women.

This young woman had her whole life ahead of her but had it ripped away by hateful men, who felt they had the right to attack and rape her. The people commit these heinous crimes deserved to be strictly punished, thus the need for tougher laws on these crimes. However, until these attitudes are changed, no amount of laws will prevent these crimes from happening.

Some rays of light are provided by the people who are protesting these attitudes, the organizations who work to change these mindsets, and by the men who stand alongside women, saying that this is wrong.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Patriarchy still running rampant in society

This weekend I came across an article in which the Iowa State Supreme Court found that a male dentist was within his legal rights to terminate a longtime employee he found too "irresistible". This decision was made by seven justices, who unsurprisingly, were all male.

Dr. James Knight terminated Melissa Nelson after 10 and half years of employing her as a dental assistant because he worried for his marriage and feared that he would have an affair with her if he did not fire her.

According to court documents, the two never had a sexual relationship nor had they ever sought one, but the possibility that Knight might pursue one is apparently a valid reason to fire someone.

Here we again see women being blamed for a male's actions or potential actions because of their supposed attractiveness or lack thereof. One rape myth is that a woman "asks for it (rape)" because of the way they are dressed, which turns men on and therefore not responsible for their behavior. Melissa Nelson may not have been raped, but she was blamed for her attractiveness, her looks. She was terminated from a job that she was good at one in which there had never been any issues before, merely because her male boss could not control himself. How is it Melissa Nelson's problem that her boss cannot keep it in his pants? How is it legal to fire someone because you think that you might have an affair with them down the road, even though there has been no previous behavior on either of your parts before to indicate this nor had she ever flirted or made any overtures of the sort?

This court decision tells men everywhere that they are not responsible for their behavior but that they can instead blame it on a woman's dress, attractiveness, or sexuality. It perpetuates rape myths and continues to make it the woman's responsibility to not turn men on and to "control" their sexuality and attractiveness.

Reading this article I was so disappointed and shocked by this decision but it makes me realize how important organizations like WomenNC and conferences like the CSW are, because we see how little progress has been made for the status of women, if something like this can happen in this day and age.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winning the Victory over Myself

Without a doubt, this is my favorite part of the movie The Iron Lady. This scene is always a great wake up call for me when I realize that I am not reaching my full potential. The thought that a collection of simple actions and thoughts build my character and my destiny scares me because it is so easy to fall apart from what you wanted to achieve. So I like to watch this movie when I feel like I need to pull myself up and get back on the right track.

With the amount of freedom I have with the research project, I need to stay away from becoming lazy or distracted by other tasks. What we think, we become. So I need to push myself and win a battle with myself. And this is my (public) promise to myself and others that I will win the victory over myself because I think I can do better.

Brian Min

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grant proposal

I felt like a real professional this week when I submitted my first ever proposal for a grant from the Women's and Gender Studies department to cover the travel expenses for the fellowship. There is just something about asking for money for non-personal reasons that makes you feel like an adult, a true professional.

The amount is small and the grant nothing like what true researchers or academics apply for but it still felt exciting and important to me and whether or not I receive the grant, it is still one more new experience for me.

This fellowship has already given me an array of new experiences and I  know that it will continue to do so. I continue to find research and while I found some great examples, it is unfortunate that I am able, because it means that another young women has suffered not only rape, but also the injustice and indignity of being blamed, not believed, judged, and more. I hope, however, that my research and paper  may have some sort of impact, maybe make people more aware about these issues, make them realize the impact of these types of attitudes, etc, however small an impact this may be.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First post

Hello, my name is Elisabeth and I am one of the 2013 WomenNC CSW Fellows. I am senior at the UNC-Greensboro studying sociology with a concentration in criminology and am currently applying for law school. I love to read, enjoy ice skating, and as a feminist am very interested in working to end violence against women and girls and violence overall.

Learning I had been selected to be a fellow was an amazing moment and I could not contain my excitement at the amazing opportunities that would arise from this fellowship. As the excitement settled, nervousness sunk in, realizing how big of an undertaking this was, but ultimately I knew that while the fellowship will be a lot of work, the work would be on a issues very important to me and that all of the experiences and skills I would gain from this work would make it completely worth it.

There are a lot of topics related to the issue of violence against women and girls that interest me, however from a sociology point of view, I am interested in how society can help to perpetuate and create certain things, which is why I chose to research rape culture in society and the media, to examine the ways in which the society and the media create a culture of rape that blames the victim, justifies the actions of the perpetrator, creates myths, etc. In my sociology courses we have looked at socialization and how the varying ways in which people are socialized can result in them having different outlooks or perceptions of certain things. I already had an idea of what I wanted to look at for my topic; how the socialization of men and women can affect the ways in which they view sexuality, rape, etc, how society creates myths about rape, how the media perpetuates these myths, etc. Once I started my research and reading articles I found the abundance of research into these areas and more and I look forward to learning a lot and sharing it through my paper and presentation.

I am new to this whole blogging thing so I am running out ideas of what to write, but I am looking forward to this amazing journey that is the fellowship and to sharing it through this blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunday, Day 0 (Part One)

NGO (Non-governmental organization) CSW (Comission on the Status of Women) Consultation Day
The first day of NGO activity started in a blur as we raced downstairs into our cabs and to the Salvation Army.  When we arrived, we received our packets and stepped into what must have once been a grand theater in NYC. We immediately reserved seats with our jackets and then dispersed to hand out fliers for our event on Thursday. It is important that we advertise as much as we can so that we can get a good turnout for our event.
Before long we are out of fliers and we nestle down into our seats and face the stage as people continue to flock into the main level (where we are) and in the balcony above and behind us. We have to defend our seats at this point because there are many people who want our (very good) seats so that they won’t have to sit upstairs (too bad for them – the early bird gets the worm! – or in this case the seats :D).
Soon enough the Chair of the 2012 NGO CSW, Soon-Young Yoon, greets everyone and expresses her gratitude for all of us being here. Her introduction to the event is very appealing and uplifting even though I can’t even image how much pressure she is under right now. (Also – a cool fact she shared with us is that her name means “Peace Everlasting” – I wish my name was that cool!)
She also reminded us that March 8th is International Women’s Day and to celebrate and raise awareness there will be a march through the community! (a march in March … hahaha… oh, come on, it is a little funny…)
Then she introduced our first speaker of the morning, former President Michelle Bachelet. I love this women and I have never even met her. I joke quite a lot about wanting to be the President of the US one day… and to a certain extent I am only jesting because I can only imagine the stress and price that running a country has on oneself, body and soul. And the fact that even after that she is now the ED of UN Women… WOW. That is all I can really think and say. I hope that I can be that great of a woman or a person in general.
I’m going to go on a slight tangent here before I go into Ms. Bachelet’s speech. I extremely dislike the use of “Madam” as they introduced her as “Madam Bachelet.” First, why doesn’t “Ms.” Carry the same weight as “Mr.” – instead we feel like we have to use “Madam” when the history of the French use of the word means “lady or mistress of the house?” (and alternatively is used for the title of a woman who owns a brothel?!?!?!?) For those of you who know me you will understand why I’m going on this tangent. I feel like language is so important and this is a prime example of oppression through language. “Ms.” should carry the same weight as “Mr.” and when I am President I will be called “Ms. President.”
Alright back to Ms. Bachelet…
In her address she talked about four main themes or main areas that still need an incredible amount of work for the advancement of women. The first area that she spoke on is “Political Participation.” This is a super important area for growth. Women are severely underrepresented in governments all over the world (and in the US and NC – see Anuja’s presentation for more information!). Ms. Bachelet also used this speech to highlight the work of UN Women in the past year. (For those of you who may not know – UN Women is only a year old – it was created out of combining 3 other UN committees for women with the hope of creating a more effective advocacy and intervention body for women’s issues). 25 countries have received aid from UN Women in the past year for advancing the political participation of women through the Gender Equality Fund.
The next area Ms. Bachelet discussed was “Economic Empowerment.” Mar talks some about this in her presentation but this is really an issue that crosses into all other women’s issues. We need to continue to improve laws and policies so that women are required to receive the same treatment, opportunities and pay as men in any workplace environment.
The third area that was highlighted was the need to end all forms of violence against women. Ms. Bachelet suggested this was first through more standardized direct services available to any women who needs them. Then also to the pursuit of justice against the perpetrators and the importance of having more women in legal systems all over the world.
  Women in Peace and Security was the fourth area that was discussed. Women are key to the peacebuilding and peacemaking processes and when they fail to be involved in an equitable way peace processes crumble and fail. Right now only 5% of a UN peacekeeping budget in dedicated to involving women. This is detrimental to the peace process itself.
Ms. Bachelet suggested the future of UN Women included a global working group, called the Civil Society Working Group, that would create the ability for NGO’s to work more easily with UN Women. We need to always be looking forward and creating solutions that are relevant and applicable on the ground to women in various areas.

Saturday, Traveling Day

 4 A.M. comes way too early… I’m thankful I have such a wonderful partner

The Plane Ride
… was fairly uneventful.

Checking In…
Our rooms got upgraded (Beth’s doing of course!). We staying at the Beekman Tower Hotel. The building we are in was actually an old hotel for sorority women back in the day.   
By the end of this trip, I will surely have a list of “Things to remember.” One of these things is that Beth knows EVERYONE. And if she does not know someone she will make sure she does before they leave her sight. She has amazing networking skills that I hope I can somehow tap into.
 First visit to the UN building/Getting our Badges
There was quite a bit of craziness going into the UN building. It’s interesting to hear people speak so many different languages at once. It isn’t terribly well organized but it’s hard to organize such a vast amount of people in such a very small space. I’m glad for the slow pace because I’m getting to make notes and take things in. I got to talking to a woman beside me from Britain while standing in line waiting to have my picture taken for my badge. She said that the first year she came to CSW New York she got so mad because of all the disorganization only to find out that all of the people running the event from the coordinators to the people taking our pictures, are volunteers. How amazing is that!
From that point on, I do my best to ease the tension and stress in the room with kind “thank you so much’s” and a couple of smiles and jokes with the volunteers around me.  

Settling in…
Our rooms are wonderful. I’m so tired at this point in the day I really just want a nap. I sneak a couple of z’s until it’s time for us to meet with the mentors downstairs to go over what to expect tomorrow – our first full day of NGO – prepping us for the full week of CSW ahead. I have to say I’m pretty intimidated by all the information I know is sure to come my way in the next week. I don’t think there is any way I can fully prepare myself for what lies ahead. I feel so fortunate that we have Beth and Anita to tell us what to expect and Violet and Sue Ellen to bounce ideas off of!
During our meeting, Beth gives us a layout of what the week will look like:

Sunday – CSW NGO Consultation Day (Depart from the hotel at 8 AM sharp – don’t be late!)
-          In the morning we’ll get to hear from the director of UN Women and former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet (whoa!!)
-          At the conference day we’ll get to hear from Leymah Gbowee (ga-bo-wee) – one of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners!
-          Tomorrow evening we’re going to eat with a delegation of United States Association of the United Nations from San Francisco and talk about CEDAW!

-          First day of Official CSW and NGO parallel sessions begin.
-          Coordinating Meeting #2

-          CSW and NGO events
-          NGO Reception at the Turkish Center that evening

-          United States Mission at Noon
-          Dance for the celebration of International Women’s Day (Rutgers)

-          We present at 6:15!!

-          United States Mission at 9 AM for a panel on youth involvement
Such a full week! I’m ready to get started!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Two Words: Instance II

Instance 2: How I stepped up

Part of WomenNC's mission is promoting the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW. When a group of us Fellows were invited to attend a panel discussion at the US Mission for the United Nations, we were presented with the opportunity to engage with Melanne Verveer, who is US Ambassador at large for Global Women's issues, among others.

I typically do not ask questions at sessions, unless I have one that is particularly pressing. Even in a classroom setting, I tend to address my questions after the fact because generally, any questions I have are answered by the end of the discussion or lecture. I realized, since Verveer has a personal connection to CEDAW, I decided to step up: I represented WomenNC, and I wanted to bring up the question of why the US hadn't ratified CEDAW, and I wanted to get my answer from the source.

After the discussion, the audience members were invited to ask the panelists our questions. I raised my hand, and and a microphone was passed my way. I'll admit: while I do a fair amount of public speaking, this felt out of my comfort zone. Still, I was here to step up - so I asked the question I'd rehearsed in my head.

I was called on, and I stood.

"I'm Anuja Acharya, and I'm a senior in political science at North Carolina State University. I have been working on and will present research relating to the political participation of women, and as part of my study, I have looked at CEDAW and its provisions relating to the political participation of women. My question is, why hasn't the US ratified CEDAW yet?"

And the room erupted with applause - so much so that I doubt anyone heard anything after "ratified."

Verveer explained the political difficulties of ratification - it's a complicated process, and it's not taking priority in the Senate. Several more questions were asked and addressed.

Afterwards, several audience members approached me and thanked me for bring up CEDAW. Really, though, my lesson here wasn't why CEDAW has been ignored or what Verveer could do about it - I had brought it to attention. That was my contribution. It might not be much, but I stepped up.

Two Words: Instance I

I can sum up the most important lesson I learned at CSW in two words: step up.

Instance 1:
On Wednesday, I was missing my mom, so I decided to attend a session about mothers empowering daughters. This session was to be held by an Italian NGO. I was there early and the NGO people seemed to be running late, so I took a seat near a woman named Julia, and we started sharing our stories. Julia was at CSW representing a new NGO that sought to end female genital cutting. I was telling her about WomenNC when she glanced at the time. "You know, this session should have started 10 minutes ago," she said. "I wonder if I should just start a casual discussion for the audience here, while we wait?"

I didn't answer, thinking this was just a rhetorical question. She thought about it for a minute.

"I think I will."

She walked to the podium and almost instantly, the room fell quiet. Softly but confidently, she introduced herself.

"I'm Julia, and it seems that the people who are to run this session are running a bit late. So I was hoping, in the meantime, we might discuss an issue that is close to my heart: FGC. I know there are several of you here with that focus to your NGO's, so I thought we might have a little discussion."

The audience members nodded, and several raised their hands to volunteer to speak after her.

Julia continued, "I certainly don't want to drive this vehicle, but perhaps I could start us off and the rest of you could join in where you'd like." Positive murmurs sounded.

I found it surprising that the whole room was enthusiastic - here was a woman in the audience, just like anyone else, who was calmly and democratically taking charge of the group.

Julia then gave a brief overview of herself, her NGO, and what FGC was. Moreover, she clarified a question I had about FGC . I learned how calling it female genital mutilation has judgmental connotations and disregards a culture's traditional practices, while calling it female genital cutting allows activists to speak with people of cultures who perform cuttings frankly and matter-of-factly. Calling it cutting opens up a dialogue.

I had to leave early so I do not know if the original NGO session on mothers and daughters was ever held - but I did learn that Julia had the right idea. When no one was commanding the attention of the audience she did - and I walked away having learned something about FGC.

Some Lessons You Learn the Hard Way (Or, Sometimes it's the wrong Salvation Armies)

I used to think I don't make the same mistakes twice. It turns out, it's possible.

March 1st, 2012 will always be a day I hold dear. We WomenNC fellows presented our research, and the way our audience received us was overwhelmingly supportive. Still, there's nothing like waking up on the day you know you'll remember forever. Some people have butterflies in their stomachs. I had jackhammers.

I thought I could restore my zen by taking a trip to the Salvation Army to take in some NGO sessions that were being held there that morning. They were related to some pretty unusual topics - I hadn't been to any quite like their descriptions entailed.

I tried to hail a cab to take me to the Salvation Army. It was then, when I was standing on the side of the road with my hand in the air a la Serena Van der Woodsen, that I realized: I have no idea how to hail a cab. I have no idea which side of the road I need to be on (though, presumably, it's the right side). I have no idea if cabs are occupied with other passengers or not. I didn't even know how much to tip the driver. For goodness sake. What on earth was I doing, anyway?

I managed to awkwardly hail a cab in front of our hotel. The driver took my address and zoomed over to the Salvation Army building, where all the NGOs had met for our consultation day.

Except that it was deserted. The golden gates were boarded up and every office was locked. When an employee did arrive to unlock the door, her expression made it clear: she had no idea what a CSW NGO session was.

At this point, I'm having a flashback to downtown Raleigh, when I showed up at the Historic Oak district looking for Lillian's List when I really should have been somewhere in North Raleigh. Google got it wrong. Now Anuja did too.

It was clear that, wherever the sessions were being held, I was missing them. I felt guilty, like I had skipped class or something. Add this fact to the reminder that I would be presenting my research later that day and just like that, the jackhammers in my stomach were back.

I learned to calm myself down that day. I found a charming cafe not far from the Salvation Army, and bought a latte and a cookie and forced myself to calm down. I even called my friend Erica in Raleigh and we chatted a while, which helped with the jackhammers more than anything.

When I was ready, I awkwardly hailed another cab back to the hotel. No harm, no worry.

Just a bit of thought

This CSW experience has inspired me in many ways. Yesterday i went to a session about age. The women there came from different parts of the world. They raised the issue of old women which is often forgotten and left aside. They talked about how women after the age of 49 lose their productivity and are just forgotten. That really touched me. They informed us they are trying to get a resolution passed or added to the CEDAW and that UN Women will put it as one of its priorities. I was so lucky to be in that room to hear the women speak.

We also had the opportunity to go to the US Permanent Mission to the UN building. There was a panel about women rights and including younger generations to this movement. There were many students from Girls International. It was wonderful to hear them speak and how their passion aligns with all our passions for women rights here in the United States and in the world.

Enhancing CSW

I am so appreciative of WomenNC for giving me the opportunity to attend CSW. Meeting the other conference participants has certainly been a highlight of the past week.

While my experience here has been overwhelmingly positive, there are several thoughts I have in terms of restructuring elements of CSW to be even more effective. As the men and women who comprise CSW compile recommendations for the United Nations, I have a few recommendations for CSW.

1. Include more men. I won't discuss this too much, as this has been the subject of my past posts, but CSW needs to embrace more men into the framework of discussion. While men may sometimes be part of the challenges women face, they also have the enormous potential to be integrated into the solution.

2. Better integrate youth into CSW. Only several organizations, WomenNC being one, bring youth to CSW. Within CSW, youth need to play a larger role. Add a youth member to the CSW planning board. Incorporate youth into plenary speeches. Have youth representatives speak on specialized topics, not just in generic "rah-rah we are the future" terms. Do not dismiss the presence of youth. Support us with more than just lip-service. Reach out to us. Offer your advice and mentorship. We want to listen.

3. Focus on presenting implementable solutions, not just general recommendations. If CSW sessions emphasizes solution-based approaches, focusing on best practice models of existing businesses and organizations, CSW attendees will leave with more tangible ways to move forward. We need to move past the regurgitated, albeit important, statistics about the status of women. Best practice models help us to gain a deeper understanding.

CSW has been unbelievably powerful, but I believe that by making such adjustments CSW will better shape the changes it seeks to create.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hopeful for Health (Panels)

Good afternoon! I’m back in the UN again (the wifi is AWESOME here). Today, I went to three panels on “Sextortion”, Migration of Rural Women, and Girls as a Tool for Change. As you might guess, all three had different focuses and approaches lead by women and men from around the world. Through the last four days, I’ve seen panels on disaster relief in the Asia Pacific, micro-financing in Sub-Saharan Africa, technology as a tool for change, and reproductive rights in Russia. I’m enjoying attending such a diverse range of panels because I’m realizing the interconnected nature of all of these issues, especially when seen through the lens of health. Coming to CSW 56 I expected to find panels labeled “health issues of rural women”, but I’ve only seen general panels that address health of distinctly female health issues, i.e. sexual and reproductive health and maternal health. These are GREAT health topics to focus on, don’t get me wrong! But where are the panels on obesity, cancer, and diabetes (more “gender neutral” health issues) influencing rural women?

I was so determined to find this elusive health panel the first few days that I got pretty bummed at its absence. However, I’m now realizing that learning about education and land rights of rural women is JUST as important to learn because they are social determinants of health. The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as the “conditions in which people grow, live, work and age”, i.e. the environment of their lives. For instance, access to a health clinic relies on transportation (can a woman miss work, and who watches the children?), literacy to fill out forms (can the woman read?), and treatment (does she have funding from family or microfinancing to pay for medical bills for herself and/or her family?). CSW is providing me an opportunity to understand the factors that effect the environment of rural women's lives. Seeing the incredible amount of opinions laid out at panels reminds me collaboration will provide these essential perspectives to understand social determinants of health, and only then can I focus on the public health issues that emerge as a result.

I can’t wait to present with the rest of the WomenNC fellows in just three hours! So excited!

Love, Abby Bouchon

Stronger Partnerships

This post was written the first day of CSW, but due to internet troubles is only being posted now. So sit back in your seat and I'll take you back to day one of CSW...


As I begin to process my first day of sessions at CSW, I am struck by not only the diversity of conference attendees, but by the diversity of passions and the diversity of values represented. Sometimes these intense passions manifest themselves in heated debates – many of which I had the chance to stand witness to today.

Today one of the most interesting sessions I attended was one that I had not expected to hear. I wandered into a panel on the plight of widows in Nigeria with not a clue of what to expect nor any previously established interest in the subject. Cultural tradition has not been kind to the widows of Nigeria. Women often cannot inherit their deceased husband’s property, and many times are pressured to remarry within the family of her in-laws. One woman spoke of a PhD in public health who was required to drink the water used to wash her dead husband’s body, despite protesting the mental and physical health consequences which she knew were to come.

The debate that followed the retelling of such personal horrors was nearly as surprising as the stories themselves. One of the panelists was a male pastor (one of the few males represented at CSW). His thesis suggested that women, not men, are responsible for the perpetuation of such treatment of other women. Women, he posited, control the cultural practices of communities, as women are more reticent to abandon long standing cultural norms. The room erupted in sounds of many languages and many tones – some applauding and many outraged. Many felt uncomfortable placing any fault on those who fall victim to such transgressions of human rights, feeling that men deserved the brunt of the blame. This heated debate addresses a critical element of CSW – how should we understand responsibility for inequality and in what ways can both men and women generate the capacity for change?

We must break the notion that men are the root of the problem and that women are the frustrated victims. Women have agency, which may be used for good and bad. In the case of Nigerian widows, women often conduct the practices that others decry, while others simply do not act out against it. Doing nothing in the face of gender inequality is its own form of agency. It is an active choice to ignore a critical challenge. Painting women as entirely innocent is a flawed perspective, as is removing all the blame from men. Men and women are both responsible for creating systems of oppression. Women must take action, but not alone. Coalition building serves to unite both men and women for the same cause. So few men have been in attendance at CSW; and we have all seemed pleasantly shocked that any are here at all. We must stop being surprised when men want to support women. We need to demand and expect it – just as we should expect women to use their advocacy to shape change rather than to reinforce the status quo.

CSW is clearly a powerful forum for the spread of ideas and passions, but imagine how much more effective it would be if men did not feel demonized by its messages. Only when women and men create united coalitions and partnerships can the change that we seek be achieved.

the big day is here

The CSW has been going wonderfully. I can truly say i am inspired by the works of so many women. They all came from different walks of life. There were women from the US, Central and South America, Canada, Middle East, Asia and Australia. I have yet to meet women from Antarctica. Basically, you get the point. It was well attended and for good reason.
Two days ago i went to a governmental meeting. This is where governments sent delegations to speak on their behalf. What i found amazing is how they were mostly saying the same thing in different sentences. They all started with how their country is doing a wonderful job about empowering women and having a gender equality policies. Only few delegations were actually putting these policies in practice. It was just empty words and empty promises. I am glad to experience this side of events. From then on i went to NGO events.
Today is the day we present our research. I am looking forward to it and at the same time a bit nervous i will forget to mention something. All in all, wish us luck.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Seeds and Surprises

What a day! I think one of the first things I’ve learned on this sunny, windy day was to celebrate being surprised. We are given a hefty pamphlet of NGO parallel events & governmental events that each has a short title and a sponsoring organization per event. I had carefully chosen out my events and panels with care, dissecting every word in the miniscule title that would lend evidence to whom I would hear and what I would learn. However, I was wonderfully surprised on all three NGO parallel events I attended today! The first was called “Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call for Healing and Hope” hosted by the Episcopal Church. The panel focused on a formal apology from the Episcopal Church to American Indians killed, mistreated, and displaced during Manifest Destiny. The Doctrine of Discovery was a “dogma that Christian Sovereignty could impose on Indigenous Peoples” that was revoked by the Episcopal Church in order to apologize for the genocide against American Indians. I was shocked by the five speakers who told about their history of abuse, and moved by their stories of healing through the church. We each received three grains of corn from the women as a symbolic gesture towards the essential life each seeds holds, and each seed represented the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” of Christianity. It was a poignant and beautiful way to intertwine faith traditions.

I then went to a panel hosted by PCI-Media Impact that utilized “educational-entertainment” soap operas in Bolivia, and closed with a final NGO parallel event on rural female empowerment in Gambia. Then came one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my life: entering the UN and sitting in on a high-level roundtable discussion! I heard government representatives speak about what their nations were doing to empower rural women from the following nations: Brazil, Norway, Canada, Denmark, Mongolia, Germany, Portugal, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, Cuba, China, Mozambique, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the European Union. WOW! Seeing the flags and then hearing the voices behind them was humbling and something I’ll never forget. I’ve been surprised by the incredible array of ages, nationalities, personalities and laughter, and I’m trying to take it all in. I am so joyful and grateful to be in the midst of CSW 56 right now.



Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I am here (Part 1)...

Hey all! Sorry my blogs aren't going to be as long or grammatically correct as I would like for the first couple days of the. Onference but the Internet at the hotel leaves something to be desired so all of my blogs, Tweets, emails and Facebook status' thus far have come through my iPhone (thank you Wendy and Darrell!!) I want to begin by telling you all why I am here and how I became involved in WomenNC (skip to next blog if you are more interested in the days events). When I was little I always felt that was some something wrong with why all the Disney movies I watched portrayed girls as princesses that always had to be rescued while the boys always got to fight the bad guy and save the day (Hannah's presentation does a great job of explaining this further). Perhaps this is why during some periods of my life I rebelled from these stereotypes and engaged in warrior fights with my brother (sorry mom). This underlying feeling of that I didn't measure up as a girl to my boy counter parts led me to be very confused, insecure and defeated and I thank God and my parents (and my Grandfather and friend Courtney) for bringing horses into my life at age 10 otherwise I think those inssercurities could have manifested in more dangerous ways than wanting to be a cowgirl and handle all the "men's work" on a farm. I was also so fortunate to have so many positive and inspiring female role models from my mom to my horseback riding instructors to my teachers at school to 4-H leaders. I had and still have so many great women friends to lean on and learn from. By the time I went to college I had not forgotten about gender norms but I no longer actively investigated how these issues affected my life because in a small conservative town gender roles were not topics challenged or issues that were approved as appropriate conversation. Things still happened and were said that I wasnt comfortable with - but I had learned that me standing up and saying that I didn't like men calling women "sluts" or objectivifying the women and girls at my school only got me teased and shunned. I mostly found refuge in my church where, even though topics of gender rarely occurred, everyone was loved and respected. When I arrived at NCSU I was passionate only about horses but looking back now I can see my activist longings starting to show and be nurtured through the Universty Scholars Program and learning about cultural diversity around the world but also the discrimination and violence that unfortunately occumpanies diversity too often. At the same time I was becoming more and more stoic and hardened to the way college men especially treated and talked about women as if we were pieces of meat- commodities to be used and then thrown away. I am disgusted to say I tolerated that language happening around me - but the truth is I felt powerless to stop it. (Later I will discuss how these attitudes contribute to a culture that tolerates violence against women and girls). What I did not know at the time is that one in four college women will be raped or attempted raped before she graduates- this isn't information colleges and universities like to share with parents at orientation. I wonder what the reaction would be... Before the end if my sophmore year multiple women I knew had been raped or sexually assaulted. Most by men who they knew - not strangers but "friends" they had made during their time at State - in some cases boyfriends who they had been dating for years. I didnt know what to do with that information. How could this happen? How could this happen to women I knew when society had always told me that if women are careful and took self defense classes that this wouldnt happen to them? How could this happen when we have also been told to beware of the stranger lurking under your car or inthe bushes? How do you protect yourself from these perpetrators when they could be anyone? And how would I ever be able to trust a man again when these women had trusted the men who assaulted them? How could I ever know again who was trustworthy? And most importantly of all why were these women now being blamed for the violence that another person had perpetrated against them (well what was she wearing, was she drinking)? At the same time I began working with CORRAL - a start up nonprofit the identified preteen girls in Wake County and used/s (I work for this organization today) mentoring, tutoring and horses to bring healing and growth to hear hurting girls. Many of these girls had/have been abused already in their short lives. Hearing the stories of these girls enraged me even further and made me determined to find answers to my questions In the process of finding help and answers for these women and girls (and with the help and support of friends) I found some answers through the class and student organization called The Movement at NCSU. To be continued...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Off to the Races!

Hey everyone! We have safely landed in New York City. Checked into our hotel. And are now waiting at the UN building for our passes for the rest of the conference. It is a pretty day and we have already had a wonderful time getting to know everyone better. We've discovered who are morning people and who are night owls and have split up into hotel rooms accordingly. All of the leadership scholars and our wonderful chaperones have such amazing stories and experiences to share. I am going to ask that each of the students write up a short blog tonight about who they are and how they got here because I know that you will enjoy their stories as much as I have! 10:30 AM We're now inside the UN building waiting in line to get our photo IDs. Things are a little crazy and there are tons of(mainly) women who are bustling about and chatting with each other. Just through listening I am learning do much about the women here and where they are from. It sounds like many of them have been here before. This will be interesting getting to know and understand this world. "It is a privilege to live this day and tomorrow.


As we prepare to head off to New York tomorrow, I cannot help but think how grateful I am for all of the experiences that we have already had. I have had the opportunity to learn more about several powerful initiatives that exist within North Carolina. I have explored the global relevance of local challenges. And I have had the opportunity to meet and work with four incredible fellows as well as our supportive mentors who have guided us through the research process.

Last month Anuja and I had the opportunity to interview North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall as part of Anuja’s research on the political participation of women. We wanted to share with you a bit of our experience through this very brief video clip.

Click here to see the video

As I page through the schedule for the week ahead at the Commission on the Status of Women, I am overwhelmed by the opportunities that are to come. I look forward to sharing the experiences of the upcoming week in future posts!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Final Countdown...

I just wanted to make the internal countdown that has been filling my mind public: T-minus 7 hours to take off for New York!

Ego Management

This week has been full of awkward talks. These conversations start with "Professor, do you remember how I said I'd be out of town for the midterm? Well, that's next week. So I'll see you after spring break. I'll be a whole new person then, but I'll be sure to re-introduce myself, in case you forgot who I was. I'll bring you some autographs of Lady Gaga or the cast of How I Met Your Mother. Or a foam Statue of Liberty or a T-shirt or something. Also, if you insist, I'll make up that midterm I'm missing. You know, if you have any extras lying around and if I don't have anything better to do. Okay, thanks!"

And as formal and serious as these conversations are, there's just no way to say "I'm going to present my research to the United Nations" in a way that sounds humble. In fact, I've been saying it in front of the mirror just to practice. On a scale of one to Donald Trump, I'd have to say it's still pretty self-congratulatory. "Professor, I am presenting to the UNITED NATIONS the research I've conducted. It's a huge deal, but no need to mention it in front of our 200 person class. Truly. It's going to be fantastic, and I'm a rock star, but let's not get carried away."

New York cliches aside, I am deeply humbled by this opportunity. As Abby would say, it's truly a blessing. Getting to do the research was one thing, getting to go to the UN was another - but the most powerful thing this fellowship has given me is an eye to the future. WomenNC accepted us for what we could contribute, during this time and after our fellowships commence. Moreover, this has been such a dynamic group of women. We're a powerful sisterhood, ladies, and what we do this week is just the start.

The final day is approaching

Being with WomenNC has been a wonderful journey. I learned a lot from my research topic, Agriculture and local farmers. It is such a fascinating topic that i am using it as a base for my thesis in Economics. The Feb 16th event was amazing. A lot of people were able to attend and truly enjoyed our presentation. All of us did a wonderful job. Now we are preparing for the journey ahead which is the United Nations. I am almost done with packing for this trip. However, i have a lot of school work that i am trying to make up for the one week i will be missing. Just wanted to say it is going to be worth it.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

48 Hours to go!

It's pretty surreal that we're only 48 hours out from NYC. I can't believe that we're starting (well, Anuja is already done!) to pack our business slacks, scarves and travel-sized toiletries. Despite an exam, quiz, and lab due tomorrow, I'm dreaming about where I'll be in two days with some incredible WomenNC Fellows. The NGO list was released a few days ago ( and we're currently scheduling our days full of panels, forums and conversation circles. I get so excited reading over this list, knowing that I am SO unaware of how much CSW 56 will change my life. Stay tuned to this blog over the next few days as Anuja, Becca, Hannah, Mar and I visit the United Nations and attend the Commission on the Status of Women! We only have an inkling of how lives are about to get rocked, but I can assure you that you all will be the first to know!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

MTV Supports Ending Humant Trafficking

MTV has a campaign called MTV EXIT (End Exploitation And Trafficking) in which they are trying to raise awareness and funds to end human trafficking around the world.

To learn more about this campaign and listen to songs and music videos that were developed to raise awareness for this cause go to:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Some Lessons You Learn the Hard Way (Or, Sometimes Google Gets it Wrong)

This is Anuja Acharya, and for my research with WomenNC, I am partnering with Lillian's List. Lillian's List is an NC organization that supports Democratic, pro-choice women running for public office in NC. It's basically an NC version of EMILY's List.

A few weeks ago, I set up an interview with Carol Teal, the director of Lillian's List, to discuss the past, present and future work of the organization. Just before leaving my house, I Googled "Lillian's List" and found directions to the office: 304 East Jones Street. Great. I grabbed my laptop and hit the road.

I pulled onto East Jones Street exactly 7 minutes before I was due to meet Ms. Teal. Congratulating myself on my impeccable timing, I knocked on the door of the building labeled "304".

Only to informed by an exasperated looking clerk that a) that I was in the wrong office because b) Lillian's List had moved to a new office over a YEAR ago.

And like that, self-congratulation became self-contained crisis.

I had (thank goodness) had the sense to program Ms. Teal's number into my phone, so I explained to her my situation and got the actual address for the office. Then, I got in my car and drove like a madwoman.

I was only about 15 minutes late to meet Ms. Teal. I was lucky that she was a tremendously understanding woman, and I made sure to finish my interview with her within the time frame I had promised. Lillian's List is a fantastic organization that does great work, and I couldn't have been more pleased that I had selected to partner with them.

But here's a word to the wise: sometimes, Google gets it wrong. Who could imagine?