Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Developments

Things seem to have slowed down a little over the Christmas break--airplanes, mountains, wifi-free zones and food-induced comas have made the world of technology and research a little further away than it is during a typical day in the semester. My mind, however, cleared of all the craziness of assignments and finals is filling up more with questions about my research and what this all will look like in the new semester. What are the answers to these complex problems? What will CSW itself look like? What is the best way to bring my topic to our audience?

The speed at which it all will approach is beginning to feel a little scary, especially as I balance all the unexpected curve balls of research and real world organizations. Being away from NC for the holidays, some of it feels a little less real than it does when I'm in school, but I am anticipating that returning will look like hitting the ground running.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Such a Great Day

This Tuesday, I went to the second organization that I am interested in working with, Durham Connects. I learned a little about this organization this past fall in my public health intro course, and I was excited to learn more. Durham Connects is a nonprofit organization that provides every woman in Durham County, who gives birth, with the chance to have a home visit (from a registered nurse) about three weeks after her delivery. It does not matter whether the woman is single, married, a first time mother, rich, poor, English speaking, etc.; Durham Connects provides the service regardless. It was an amazing organization, and I had such a great experience.

  When I arrived at the organization, the nurses were just about ready to begin their weekly case review. Every Tuesday, the nurses come together and discuss the home visits that they completed the week before. During this time, they are able to bring questions to the table in order to get other nurses' inputs. While I sat in on the case review a heard a huge variety of stories. Some moms were very well off financially, others were poor, some were from other countries, and some had numerous problems related to their pregnancy. I was shocked to hear all the different stories, and how the nurses deal with each story. After about an hour and a half, the nurses were ready to go on their home visit for the day. I went with a nurse named Liz. She was incredibly nice, and while we were driving to the home, I was amazed to hear she is also a SANE nurse, a doula, and getting her masters in Maternal and Child Health at UNC! (She basically lives the life I dream to have).

After about fifteen minutes, we arrived at the home, and I experienced the most adorable hour and a half ever! At first, I was really unsure what to expect, as I have never gone on a nurse home visit before. When we first walked into the house we were greeted by four adults. The mom, dad, and the maternal grandparents. Liz began to talk to the family, just to cover general information, and then.......the baby came into the room. I kid you not, this baby was one of the most precious babies I have ever met! I sat in amazement and happiness as Liz helped answer questions. She showed the mother how to breastfeed in a less painful way, taught the parents about tummy time, taught the family some interesting newborn baby facts that they didn't know, took the baby's weight and height, and gathered the mom's BP. Additionally, Liz talked to the parents to make sure the mom had the emotional and social support that she needed. Throughout the whole visit, I just quietly sat in a chair and observed everything, but it was a great visit.

The parents were so adorable. They had so many questions, and I could tell they just want to do absolutely everything right. The grandma was continuously snapping photos while Liz helped with the baby, and the baby just stared straight ahead trying to take it all in. Durham Connects is a great organization that brings wonderful services to newborns of Durham County, and I am so glad I was able to experience this organization! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Relationships and Expectations in Ending Violence Against Women

If there are two things my time working with community and international organizations has taught me, they are the importance of relationship and the power of expectations. Time and again I have seen accomplished through relationship what has failed to be done by some of the best resourced and well managed systems known today. There is nothing more fundamental to change than the exchanges that we all are a part of within our own communities. Likewise, I have learned never to underestimate the influence of expectations in creating a reality. Whether it's how I engage with at-risk youth--who I anticipate and believe them to be--or my definition of what is expected of me, these perceptions have time and again been powerful forces in my experiences.

It is a fact incredibly dear to my heart that both of these elements--relationships and expectations--lie at the center of a pressing issue in women's rights--violence against women. The statistics surrounding what percentage of violence against women comes from people they have established relationship with is astounding. In so many instances, violence against women is an issue taking place in the context of relationship--a reality that shows how distorted our views, our expectations, of these relationships can sometimes be. 

Through so many avenues of society, be it education, culture, media, or social interaction, young girls are often taught to believe that violence against women in relationships is normal. This is something that spans cultures in both western and developing nations. When violence towards women in relationships is considered normal, then a call to end this violence is simultaneously a call to redefine what healthy relationships should and do look like. Ending violence against women is a complex issue that touches so many facets, be they economic, educational, or otherwise. But at the heart of the issue, it transforms relationships between people and empowers women in the context of those relationships.

A Note on My Topic

I was 13, a freshman in high school and on my very first Ophelia retreat. Ophelia was a community organization dedicated to empowering young women, raising self- awareness, and eliminating gender issues.  My best friend’s older sister in-law ran the program and insisted that we join.  On the night of that retreat, I was introduced for the first time to the notion of gender binaries.  I remember sitting in a large circle, maybe there were fifty of us girls .  We were all chatty high-schoolers and you had to do the “Clap once if you hear my voice” kind of thing for get us to listen.  However, as our facilitators started into the workshop, listen and share was all we could do.  On the large white sheets of butcher paper in front of us, we went around sharing the expectations that our world holds for men and then those it holds for women. 

I’m not the type of person to say that any one moment changed my life, but if I were , this night would fall on the list of those most eligible.  Hardly past my pre-teen years, I began in my own ability to articulate that inequality and personal hardship are sometimes linked to greater systematic injustices.  My mind was opened to a wealth of knowledge and a framework for understanding that lead me to deep concern for issues of human and social rights, especially those of women.

Since 13, I loved being young and engaged.  I sought out more and more community programs that educated me about creating vision for change and to identify issues of importance in our societies.  And this is why I am so excited to be a WomenNC 2014 Fellow.  It is a joy to be cultivated in a program committed to making one of my goals come true: to be part of a generation that will honor women’s human rights.  Furthermore, it came as no surprise that as I browsed the list of possible topics that I would be exploring for the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women, I decided to take on the importance of Youth involvement in social justice.  

Sappy and Excited!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Where are Our Priorities?

 Before my post, I would just like to say RIP Nelson Mandela.

Yesterday I visited NC Healthy Start Foundation (NCHSF) for an initial meeting. The woman who I met with, Robin, was incredibly nice, and she provided me with a ton of information. Unfortunately, not everything she told me was positive. I was shocked to hear how much funding NCHSF has lost over the years.

In 1990, NC had the highest infant mortality rate in the nation. The governor at the time, Governor Martin, decided to start an initiative to address the issue of high infant mortality. As a result, NCHSF was founded in order to spearhead the movement and effectively decrease infant mortality rates. Initially the NC government greatly funded NCHSF, a couple million a year, and NCHSF was incredibly successful. The infant mortality rate has decreased significantly, and NC is no longer number one in infant mortality in the nation. Sadly, in recent years, the General Assembly decided to cut NCHSF's funding to only about $45,000 a year, and there has been an uptick in infant mortality. I cannot believe funding has gone from a couple million a year to only $45,000 a year. This is an incredibly high decrease!

In recent years the General Assembly has made numerous decisions to increase abortion restrictions (especially this past summer). As women's right to choice has become increasingly limited, one would think the General Assembly would increase funding for infant health. However, such is not the case. I just simply do not understand the priorities of our state government. If the NC government is going to do all it can to make abortions nearly impossible, then why is it also going to decrease funding for working to reduce infant mortality?

Anyways, I just figured I would put this information out there. Please let me know your thoughts on the issue.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Confirming Partners

Hey there!

The past few weeks have been going great.

I reached out to my potential community partners, and they were both incredibly excited about the idea of working with me. I am meeting up with people from NC Healthy Start Foundation this week, and I am hopefully meeting with Durham Connects soon. I really cannot wait to learn more about their organizations and prenatal/postnatal care.

Also, I was able to attend a discussion about the post MDGs hosted by the United Nations Association. There are about 11 or so of these discussions being held around the US, because the United Nations really wants the American public's input. It was a really interesting event, and I met a lot of great people. I enjoyed hearing about everyone's backgrounds, and it was nice that we all had interests in various things. There were people that worked for the UN, others that were teachers, a meteorologist, and more! I learned a lot about pressing issues that the post MDGs will need to help to address, and I was happy to hear that maternal and child health are still two big focuses.

Until next time,
Isabella :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Post-2015 Development Agenda: FUN!

Hello everyone! Back again. I couldn't wait to put up another blog after this weekend, and after rushing around all day I've finally been able to sit down to tell ya'll what's up!

Yesterday I (and many other Fellows!) had the opportunity to attend the UNA-USA's event about the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Durham, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. The event focused on looking past the impending cut-off for the MDG's and asked the big question: What next? With 2015 just around the corner, it is important to look at  the next agenda, and its focus on achieving new goals by 2030. So, after taking some time to examine the current goals, participants at the meeting broke into groups to discuss the targets for the next set of MDG's. Possible targets included equality between men and women, action on climate change, phone and internet access, political freedoms, and many more. I was assigned to a good education and access to clean water and sanitation, and while both were interesting, the former really stuck with me, especially considering my topic for WomenNC.

The conversation on a good education was an exciting one. It's members had varying ages, and though it was predominantly female, the male participant had plenty of input. The backgrounds of the panelists added another dimension to the group--two undergrads, a graduate student in neuroscience, and a handful of educators, including two who had experience abroad. While we were all uncertain of how to begin our discussion, we all agreed on one thing: The face of education, locally and globally, had to change.

From there, the conversation started rolling and everyone made excellent points. The topics ranged from community colleges, to holistic approaches, to issues such as retention rates, and support systems. As I sat listening to the discussion, and the segues building it, I realized how flawed our educational system was, especially in North Carolina. Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that education wasn't only a catalyst for empowerment. It was the launchpad to the future. From there we all confirmed one thing: Education is no longer just an academic institution. It is a social institution. It is built upon social, economic, and political aspects, and requires a hierarchy of support systems. While I do realize how grand of an idea education it is, I'm confident that by transforming the current system, little by little, we can improve our quality of education, locally and globally.

Overall, I enjoyed the chance to meet with people from different backgrounds, and find connections with them over matters I'm passionate about. It was also a fabulous opportunity to bond with the other Fellows, especially during the lunch break we had (thanks, Sheraton!) Later that evening, when I was still thinking over all the discussions of the day, I coincidentally came across a video discussing our educational system, and it touched on many of the same themes we had examined earlier. And though it doesn't focus on women and girls' education per se, it does have an insight into our current educational models. I need to meet this kid!

On a final note, make sure you vote on the global changes you'd like to see represented for the 2030 MDG's. Just vote on MyWorld to let your voice be heard!

As always, I hope everyone has a fantastic week and a VERY  merry turkey day!

Until next time!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking Ahead: Women in the Post-2015 Agenda

The Fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women presents the world with an opportunity; the chance to critically assess our collective successes and failures as they relate to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls. To me, the opportunity goes further. The mandate of the current MDGs expires in 2015 and, for better or for worse, academics, governments, and activists the world over are even now gathering around tables to answer one question: what comes next? 

Both in and outside of the classroom, this topic has great personal significance to me. I began "working with" the MDGs from a development perspective at the age of 16 when I traveled to Tanzania with World Vision Canada. It was the first time my eyes were opened to the immensity of need that exists in the world. I found the symbolic and institutional significance of the MDGs--a global rallying cry to eliminate inequalities and improve outcomes for humans the world over--inspiring. Despite the criticisms levied against the goals, there is no disputing that they represent humanity's greatest effort thus far to improve our lot.

Since my teenage years, I have grown no less optimistic but more critical. I recognize the limitations of the social justice paradigm of the MDGs and understand that, as a human rights advocate, I can accept little less than universality. However, we stand on the cusp of the development of a new global strategy--the Post-2015 Agenda--a new set of unifying principles from which to engage the underlying determinants of poverty, inclusive of those critical goals addressing women and girls. 

As CSW Fellows, we have the opportunity to not merely shout our hopes and desires from the ramparts, but to actually interface with our local communities, communicate their needs, and influence one of the most important human rights and development processes in contemporary history. On my end, I have begun exploring the underlying trends and recent successes in closing the gender gap in North Carolina. Has that manifested itself in practical ways for victims of domestic abuse? How best can we communicate what has worked and hasn't worked to the world at CSW come March? 

Let us raise our hearts, voices, and minds and use this privilege for good. 

Until next time, 

Max Seunik 

Monday, November 18, 2013

58th Annual CSW

Since I discovered I had been accepted as one of this year's Fellows, I've spent the past few weeks pumping myself up for the months ahead. I'm so excited to start research on women's rights--a topic I've always had an interest in but only recently became passionate about. As I've flip-flopped and debated topics I've come to a conclusion: The issue of women's rights is so immense, it's difficult for me to focus on just one aspect. That being said, I can feel my topic of research start to take shape, little by little.

My biggest focus on women's rights has always been access to a strong education. I've always said that education is the basis for empowerment--I've practically developed a rehearsed speech on the subject! But though the concept of education-based empowerment is simple in itself, coming up with the means to improvement is another story entirely. That's why I've decided to focus my topic on transforming models of education to achieve empowerment.

What I hope to find is that these models can be implemented at a large scale, to be used at all levels of educational empowerment, specifically in secondary education, where the least advancement has occurred across the globe. More specifically, I want these models to stem from where women's education most lacks--in science, technology, and engineering. It's no secret that women are very underrepresented in scientific fields, and there are many reasons for this. By partnering with organizations and analyzing their methods for supporting girls in science, I hope to find the model that can be expanded and used outside of just science. Perhaps this ideal model (or models) will be able to encourage empowerment of women and girls in all subjects.

As I've started looking at programs and organizations, I know it's going to be a journey to narrow down my choices. The NC Museum of Science, EPA at RTP, and IBM all have great choices which encourage young women to expand their knowledge within the sciences. Additionally, programs and movements like The Girl Effect, Scientista Foundation, and the Science Club for Girls have already provided examples of ways by which education can be transformed.

With all this in mind, I plan on organizing my topic by discussing educational empowerment and then moving onto it's improvement through transforming models found in science and technology advancement. Overall, this would follow MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.

I'm so excited to get started! In fact research on the Internet has become my new favorite past time and it's a little concerning. But I'm so eager to get started, and I can't wait to keep everyone updated on my progress!

Until next time!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

CSW Fellowship!

Last spring I attended a WomenNC presentation in the Carmichael Ballroom. The 2013 CSW fellows were presenting on their experiences at the UN and their overall experiences as fellows. All that they had researched, experienced, and learned throughout the process amazed me, and I knew I had to be a 2014 CSW fellow. 
This fall I anxiously waited for the CSW fellowship application to open, and as soon as it did, I began to complete it. I submitted my application soon after and waited day after day to find out if I made it to interviews. Later on in October, Beth informed me that my application was submitted first (let's just say I was a bit embarrassed by my eagerness). I was ecstatic when I was informed that I made it to the interviews, and I was beyond excited (screamed continuously for 5 minutes) when I found out I was chosen as a 2014 CSW fellow.
Now, WomenNC has held its first workshop for us fellows, and we have begun brainstorming our research topics. This year the priority theme for the 2014 CSW is “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)* for women and girls." I came into this fellowship not entirely sure about what I would want to research, so prior to the first WomenNC workshop, I looked through some resources discussing the MDGs. The 8 MDGs are: #1 Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger, #2 Achieve Universal Primary Education, #3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women,  #4 Reduce Child Mortality, #5 Improve Maternal Health, #6 Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases, #7 Ensure Environmental Sustainability, and #8 Global Partnership for Development.  
This year at UNC, I am a co-chair for the organization Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), and reproductive justice has become a women's issue that I am incredibly passionate about— especially after this past summer in NC. So, two of the MDGs that really grabbed my attention were #4: Reduce Child Mortality and #5: Improve Maternal Health. In SURJ, we use the framework for reproductive justice that was created by the nonprofit Sister Song: "the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments." I am often very focused on the "right to not have children" and I have not paid as much attention to "the right to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments." After reading the MDGs, I thought this fellowship would provide me with a great opportunity to focus more on "the right to parent the children..." aspect of reproductive justice.

Currently, my draft topic for my research is to focus on prenatal and postnatal care of mothers. As I was reading about the MDGs, I learned that an increasing number of child mortalities are occur during their first month of life. Although I do not yet know, I have a feeling that there is probably a strong negative relationship between maternal health and child mortality within the first month of birth. The healthier the mother is, the less likely child mortality within the first month of life will occur. Additionally, as I was reading about maternal health, I learned that there are great disparities in maternal health between mothers that live in rural areas and mothers that live in urban areas. I would really like to further research this issue.

As far as potential partnerships go, I recently learned about the organization Durham Connects. This nonprofit offers to provide a home nurse visit to all parents, in Durham County, that have recently given birth. Their visit provides great postnatal care and statistics show that their work has been successful. Another organization that I found is the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation. This organization was founded in 1990 and works to decrease infant mortality and improve women’s health. This organization has been very successful in reducing maternal mortality, and I would really like to learn more about all that they do.

I hope that these organizations are open to working with me, and I cannot wait to get started on this research!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Expanding My Outlook

It’s day 6 in New York for the WomenNC CSW fellows! This week has been full exploration and education on many pertinent issues. It’s also been a great week for reflecting on my career goals and plans.

When I decided to go to law school, I knew that I wanted to work in human rights law. One of the reasons that I decided to go to law school was to use law as vehicle for change. I still want to do that and being at the CSW this week confirmed my desire to achieve this goal. Law school has also fostered an interest in criminal law.  Going into law school, I did not think I end up enjoying criminal law so much. Criminal law touches all of society and sets a guideline for our conduct. Last summer, I had the opportunity to work as a legal intern for the Durham District Attorney’s Office. This semester, I am student practitioner in the UNC Juvenile Justice Clinic. Since this discovery, I knew that I wanted to combine my interest in human rights and criminal law. I wasn’t quite sure how I would or could combine these interests, but being at the CSW has expanded my outlook as I interact with individuals, NGOs, and governments who are combining the two on a daily basis. I also now know where to look and what possible avenues to explore in North Carolina. 

 Yesterday, I met a judge from Tanzania who is working to educate the public about sextortion, or a form of sexual exploitation that employs normally non-physical forms of coercion to gain sexual favors from victims and survivors. She works with a group of judges in her country to educate the public about sextortion and to ensure that the accused individuals are prosecuted. Judges in North Carolina, like Judge Worley, are doing very similar things through their involvement in local advocacy groups or campaigns and their role on the NC bench. Listening to the judge from Tanzaina helped me remember this is one way to combine my interests in criminal law and human rights law.

This week has also provided multiple opportunities to meet and interact with attorneys who work with survivors of human trafficking. While the attorneys may not prosecute or defend cases in a criminal law court room, many of the lawyers work to influence criminal laws or educate clients about their rights and the state of criminal law in their state. This is another way I combine my interests. I can also work directly in the criminal law system, prosecuting cases related to human rights and human trafficking. On Monday, I met attorneys from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who work directly in the criminal law system to prosecute those accused of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other crimes. They also advocate and support the survivors of these crimes. There are many district attorneys and defense attorneys in North Carolina who work in these fields. Many of the NC District Attorneys are focusing on human trafficking and working to ensure that are laws are sufficient and that perpetrators are charged. Many defense attorneys are working with those survivors accused of other crimes to ensure that they are not held or convicted of crimes they did not commit or offenses that they were forced to commit. 

While I knew some of these options existed before coming to the CSW, meeting individuals and organizations that are combing my interests daily, helped expand my outlook on career options. I know that I can and will combine my interests in criminal and human rights law.


Local to Global (Marzy's blog)

My fellowship’s local to global part has been unbelievably awesome. I cannot believe that we have one more day remaining, but I believe that I have used and enjoyed every second of it. When I look at the events’ schedule, I want to go to every single event, but unfortunately I am not able to go to more than four events every day.

My local to global program gave me the opportunity to get valuable information from women who have experienced violence and have been working for years to end violence against women. Sitting next to women who have been working for women’s rights for years makes me feel very special. Listening to their stories motivates me to be more active for women’s human rights.  

I grew up in Afghanistan where women face many types of violence. At CSW events I’ve heard about unbelievable facts and statistics from other regions of the worlds, for example, female genital mutilation, fistula, and marital immigrants in Taiwan, as well as situations of women in Philippine who do not have the right to divorce. This conference has taught me that every single person in society is responsible to stop violence against women. I learned that without women’s engagement in society, politics and economy we cannot have a safe and developed world. I learned that cultures and traditions are two of the major causes of violence against women.      

Another great opportunity and experience that I had this week was making connections with women all over the world. Their smiling faces, enthusiasm, patience and tireless efforts give me hope and courage for a better future. I feel like I am connected to this global movement for injustice against women.
Participating in different events as a speaker and discussion contributor have given me the opportunity not only to share my WomenNC fellowship research, but to talk about my home country Afghanistan.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snowing in the Big Apple

Hello from the Big Apple! It is day four at the CSW and I cannot express how thankful I am for the incredible experiences I have had so far. There have been so many opportunities to learn about what people are doing around the world to eliminate and prevent violence against women and to share what North Carolina is doing. As you may already know, we arrived in New York on Saturday and had Consultation Day with other NGO’s on Sunday. Because a few of the other fellows have written about Consultation Day, I will jump into the beginning of the week!

        On Monday morning I attended a panel on achieving domestic violence law in Mozambique. It was incredible to hear about the long process to obtaining a law against domestic violence, especially since there are several countries who still do not have laws against intimate partner violence. After this session, I went to Partnership Models to End Violence, a presentation hosted by WomenNC and the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. It was exciting to learn about San Francisco because last year, there were ZERO domestic violence homicides in the city of San Francisco - incredible. There was also a lot of interest from the audience in WomenNC’s student fellowship program (Beth, Jeff, and Becca did a wonderful job!) Next, it was time for our presentations- we were all anxious and excited. I was very pleased with our panel and I think everyone did a fantastic job. The audience seemed interested too because they asked lots of questions and wanted to talk with us afterwards. The final two sessions I attended on Monday discussed sports as an innovate strategy to address gender-based violence and early childhood education strategies to prevent violence against girls. Finally, we all went out to dinner to celebrate being done with out presentations. It was a great day!

      Tuesday was another full day. We met at 8:15 for a group picture and then headed to the Church Center.  The first session I attended covered Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS. There were many important leaders from different regions of Africa, including the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, involved in this governmental session. The second panel of the day specifically addressed Faith’s Response to Domestic Violence; the panelists shared stories about roadblocks the faith-based community is guilty of , but also shared encouraging stories of success. Next, Marzy and I went to a panel hosted by ActionAid International that shared experiences from seven different communities and what these communities were doing to combat a specific issue of violence against women and girls. Lastly, I tried to go to a session about the economics of domestic violence but they were full! On Tuesday night, we attended a reception (complete with delicious food!) with hundreds of other leaders from governmental and nongovernmental organizations around the world. Overall, another great day!

        Stay tuned for stories from Wednesday about a session inside the US Mission to the United Nations that featured James Cole, the Deputy Attorney General of the DOJ, and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women! So happy to be here and looking forward for the days to come!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Few days in

It has been three whirlwind days here at the 57th CSW conference, filled with tons of information, meeting new people, and experiences. Though I end every day tired, it is a good tired, one where you are filled with a sense of having done and learned a lot that day.

All of the panelists I have heard so far are such awe-inspiring women, who have done so much in the fight to end violence against women and girls and I hope to one day to have even half the impact these women have had.

As I have explored the various panels that are available to attend, I have discovered so many various organizations that I would love to become involved in, expanding my already long list of possible career avenues.

I look forward to the next few days and the panels I have chosen to attend, which was not an easy choice since there are so many amazing panels to choose from.

I am so excited for the next few days and the amazing experiences to come.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning, exploring, and making connections

It’s day 3 in New York for the WomenNC CSW Fellows. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity that has been about learning, exploring, and making connections. I have learned something new each day, gaining valuable insight into my research area.

Yesterday was Consultation day; the day where NGOs come together to discuss some of the most critical issues related to the CSW’s theme. There were panels and discussions on many issues, but one prominent issue was human trafficking. At the beginning of the session, there was an incredible performance by Girl Be Heard, a New York based non-profit theater collective and educational program that uses theater to empower young women. Focusing on sex trafficking, the girls gave moving, inspirational, and amazing performances depicting the struggle and reality of sex trafficking. Right away, I was moved by the performance and remembered why I am so passionate about this issue. It was also so encouraging to see young women using theater and art as way to communicate and advocate for survivors of human trafficking.

Consultation day also included a panel on human trafficking which was comprised of politicians, judges, advocates, and representatives of UN Women. This panel was extremely enlightening and useful. I learned about the connection between femicide and human trafficking, human rights and human trafficking, and the relationship between the judiciary and human trafficking. One of the most beneficial elements of this panel was connecting with these incredible global human trafficking advocates. I really enjoyed connecting with Judge Lillian Hofmeister from Austria who said it is important to achieve a world where “women like men are the standard of the legal system.” All of the panelists brought their passion and concern. I also really enjoyed Dr. Helga Konrad’s comments. She noted that we are currently just managing human trafficking and not combatting it. Her comments were motivating because she pushed to think past the status quo to more effective legislation, services, and solutions. One important she empathized was making sure we utilize or laws and legislation. While trafficking looks different in every country, it was beneficial to know how other individuals work to combat the practice.

My connections with the global anti-trafficking community did not end there. This morning, I had the opportunity to attend a panel sponsored by the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, and the East Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN). At the panel, I met representatives from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who are working to combat trafficking in the city. It was interesting to see how large communities and cities are tackling the problem. Currently, the Manhattan DA’s office includes human trafficking in their Special Victims Unit. They have a team of investigators who work with survivors to ensure that perpetrators are caught. They also work with individuals with prostitution charges to see if there was any trafficking involved in those situations.

Today was also our panel! The panel was a great experience. I was able to communicate my interest in human trafficking to a group of amazing individuals and groups.

So far, the CSW has been amazing experience. Each day, I learn something new about my research area and ending violence against women in general. Seeing how different groups, governments, and individuals tackle these large issues has been educational and inspiring. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity and can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Consultation Day

Day 2 was simply full of inspirations and passionate speeches. Here is a very brief (I tried my best) summary of my experience and thoughts of today.

8am – Armenian Convention Center
We decided to walk to the center and it only took us about 15 minutes. It very much reminded me of my young days in Seoul. I used to walk everywhere, day and night, in a cold weather just like in NYC. Good times.
When we got to the center, first thing we realize is a long line of women outside of the building. It was surprising (or shocking) to see that Jeff and I were the only men in line until I talked to few Japanese men later on that morning. Then, we started distributing our fliers. It was competitive as everyone tried to pitch in their own events. But it was actually a great way to network I have to say. I am definitely going to these Japanese women’s event about women in Okinawa, Japan on Tuesday!

Waiting outside

Just watch this. It was a phenomenal opening act.

9:30am - Welcome by Soon-Young Yoon and Michelle Bachelet
           One thing that really disappointed me today is lack of presence of Koreans. I only met 3 Korean women while there were a lot of Japanese men and women. Then, Soon-Young Yoon (who is Korean) gave a welcome speech as the chair of NGO CSW. At first, I found it funny. Both the Secretary-General of the UN and the chair of NGO CSW are titled by Koreans; yet, Koreans were almost invisible at the CSW consultation day. I feel very strongly about this and hopefully, somehow, I will get to fix this in the future.

 About 700 people at the consultation. About 6,000 people registered for CSW conferences.

Soon-Young Yoon, Chair, NGO CSW/ NY

11:00am – Panel on Trafficking of Women and Girls
           I am sure Yolanda will cover this more in detail but Dr. Helga Konrad, Former Austrian Minister for Women, was definitely my favorite speaker of the session. She said that we learned to manage human trafficking but not a very combatic way. She questioned political wills to end human trafficking and encouraged NGOs to push the governments. But some governments are less acceptable to NGOs push than others. How do we approach this in such circumstances?

Dr. Helga Konrad, Fomer Austrian Minister for Women

1:30pm –Panel on the Role of Men
            I KNEW I had to have a quick lunch and come back to the center because of this session. Ah, this was such a great session. Bafana Khumalo, Senior Program Specialist of Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa, raised many great points. He expressed his concerns over alcohol consumption, possession of guns, parenting (need for men to be involved in children’s lives; women get maternity leaves but what do men get for bonding with the children?), and investment for the research in the role of men.
           Malika Dutt, CEO and founder of Breakthrough (Ring the Bell), was just a phenomenal speaker. Instead of writing about her speech on Ring the Bell campaign, I leave you with two short clips of Ring the Bell global movement. But later on, at the last panel of the day, she emphasized the importance of 1) asking for help 2) making commitments to one another.

Thanks to Beth (who shouted “we have a man here with a question!) I got to ask a question to the panels at the end. My question was, “I find framing violence against women as a women’s issue because it is essentially everyone’s issue. How can we shift away from this societal attitude, not in a way putting men in a shame, but rather, encourage men to be part of the movement?” Although they didn’t have time to directly answer my question, it is something that we all should be mindful of, I thought.

Mallika Dutt, CEO and Founder of Breakthrough

3:45pm – Training in Communications and Social Media
           PCI Media Impact put on very intriguing presentations. Communications and Social Media is something that we all should not overlook, nowadays, because literally anything can happen in one night with the power of social media. They mentioned the effective communication and social media strategies are composed of 70% entertainment and 30% education. They also said that the Five Key communication principles are 1) Knowing your audience 2) Use your trusted sources 3) Heads, Hearts, & Hands (make your audience feel what you mean) 4) Use love, not loss and 5) Share across the platforms. Later on, they defined social as dialogues, learning, sharing, and collaborating. These presentations involved many impressive examples such as Takun J, the hip co artist in Liberia, and his song “Song for Hawa,” Circle of 6, and once again, Breakthrough ads.

NANCY SCHWARTZMAN, The Founder of The Line Movement and Circle of 6

5:15pm – “The” Conversation
           At the end of their presentations, PCI people wanted us to do interactive activities with our neighbors, I turned around and tried to talk with this lady behind me. She immediately said, “They didn't target the audience like they told us to, although they are doing their best.” During the conversation, she mainly critiqued how this social media presentation was created for selected audience, rather than the global audience. She even mentioned how the session was too intellectual for developing communities, and not practical enough. She even questioned circle of 6, which I disagreed with her. But then, she challenged me “Who’s going to use it? Not all women can afford iPhones.”
           This, to me, was a wake-up call. What happened to my critical thinking that I learned in Women’s Studies courses? She said she was sorry for being negative. But, in fact, she did not have to apologize because her concerns were rather constructive criticisms. In this field, especially, self-critique is important because our ultimate goal is to reach out to women (and men) as many as possible to end violence against women. I still think circle of 6 IS a useful app that many people can benefit from. Some of my friends use this app frequently. However, it is something that we need to deeply think about that the global audience might not have an access to technologies like we do in America. I LOVED the fact that these women and men are so passionate about their works; they challenge themselves to be even better through self-critique. The lady disappeared shortly after telling us she is going to talk with the presenters about her concerns. It was such a great way to end my 2nd day at CSW and I can’t wait for tomorrow’s presentations (mine and others!!!)

- Brian :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finally in NYC!

Just wanted to share that the WomenNC team (Beth, Jeff, Becca, Molly, Marzi, Yolanda, Elizabeth, and Brian) made it to NYC successfully! All of us are about to fall asleep but I still have to go through my presentation tonight for Monday's presentation. Here's what happened so far in NYC:

1. The hotel is very conveniently located a block away from the UN headquarters. It only took us 5 minutes this afternoon to get there for registrations. I cannot complain at all in this cold weather.

2. Big cities fascinate me very much. They are just completely different from NC so it takes a lot to walk around NYC acting like I know what I am doing. If it was not Molly, Elizabeth and Yolanda, I probably would have gotten lost!

The city life....

 Look who I found at the headquarters!

A copy of the fliers that we will be handing out to hundreds of people tomorrow.

3. In the evening,  we went over the schedules for the next few days just so that we are on the same page. Like a song "You can't always get what you want," I had to be selective with the time that I am given and the sessions I want to attend. There are just too many intriguing sessions but, the fact is, I can't attend all of them. 

4. Before I log out, I do want to share how awesome the headquarters were! Particularly, I am very impressed with how simple yet thought provoking their exhibitions on "Journey to School" were. The exhibitions featured individual's or group's rather difficult living experience of going to school in many different parts of the world such as France, Nigeria, Japan, and even in the United States. As I finished the exhibitions of Alaskan kids, educational issues are all around us, just like women's issues are; these problems are global but local and local but global. I could make the connections with the exhibitions and the reason why we are here in NYC this week.

Today was a hectic day... but it is about to be busier! I look forward for our adventure starting bright and early in the morning tomorrow at 7am. But, as much as I am excited, It might be a good idea to get some rest before hand.

- Brian :)

PS. Did I mention that I met a lady from Korea who worked in eliminating sex-trafficking for over 20 years? THAT was cool!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


The day is finally here. In about 12 hours, I will be presenting my research that I have worked for the past few months in front of ... a lot of people. I don't exactly know how many but I know it is going to be a lot enough to make me nervous.

A lot of people told me to get some rest. I, personally, had a rough week being very sick. But sometimes, I realize that I am a college student... and that I have stacks of school work piling on my desk. I happened to realize that today and so... I pulled an all-nighter. (I hope Beth does not read this until I finish the presentation)

But that is not exactly why I am scared. I am scared because I can vividly feel the chips on my shoulder. This research - that is supposedly last about 10 minutes - will make some kind of impact in my life, others' lives, and the community's history. It is extremely exciting yet scary. simply because you want to make a good impact. not a bad impact. 

A great lesson I learned from Finding Nemo is... we just need to keep swimming until we reach where we want to be. Other fellows and I made it this far so there is no turning back. just moving forward!

 I wish this post made sense despite of my lack of sleep.

- Brian :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Valentine's Reflections

“Americans watched the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there, but domestic violence and sex trafficking remain a vast problem across the United States” Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

The previous quote was pulled from an op-ed piece written by Nicholas Kristof featured in the New York Times. Kristof’s words remind Americans that violence against women is not something that just happens in other countries. It’s not just a problem overseas. Violence against women is something that happens in our own country, in our own state, in our own communities, to our own friends and family. 
Just this past weekend I was reminded of this as I read the numerous headlines talking about sex trafficking and the super bowl (  Thousands of Americans gather to throw parties and celebrations to watch the game, the half-time show, and the commercials (most of which objectify women). The unfathomable truth is that this highly celebrated event is also the single largest human trafficking incident in the U.S. However, there is hope, as awareness about human trafficking at the super bowl has greatly increased over the last few years.
Finally, as Valentine’s Day approaches, it is difficult to think about all of the people who do not feel safe and loved in their relationships. While statistically domestic violence calls decrease on Valentine’s Day, there is not a noticeable drop over a period of time. Domestic violence persists in homes and in relationships. The sudden drop during Valentine’s Day does leave me with one hopeful, idealistic question: what would one day without domestic violence look like?

You can read the full article here: