Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

As I sit and look at my calendar, I cannot believe that January is almost over. For me, this month has been particularly special and important. So far this month has included many milestone events such as: watching the presidential inauguration with my family, ordering my cap and gown, developing my final independent study topic, and attending some amazing UNC basketball games.  While January has been very eventful, the most important aspect of this month for me and advocates everywhere is human trafficking awareness. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

In North Carolina, Governor Perdue has issued a proclamation declaring January, “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” Nationally, President Obama has declared the month, “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.” While January is almost over, it is not too late to learn more about human trafficking or educate others. From dorm room conversations to coffee shop meetings, there are many opportunities to spread the word. Moreover, as we learn more about human trafficking every day, education and awareness can occur yearlong.  

According to the Global Freedom Center, the current estimates of human trafficking globally range from 20.9 to 27 million.  What can you do to spread word about modern day slavery? You can educate your friends, informing them about the current statistics and numbers of people involved in modern day slavery. Non-governmental organizations such as the Global Freedom Center, Polaris Project, International Justice Mission, Not for Sale Campaign, and Free the Slaves have outreach materials and resources that include great information and tools for students, churches, groups, and individuals. You can also invite your friends to measure their slavery footprint. The team at Slavery Footprint provides an innovative and useful tool developed by the director of Call + Response, a documentary about human trafficking, and the U.S. State Department. The tool shows how many slaves impact your life, considering things like the technology you use and the clothes you wear. How many slaves are working for you?

January is almost over, but it is not too late to raise awareness about human trafficking. Let’s continue to spread the word.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Things Happen...

This morning, there was a leadership development meeting that I did not want to late for. I was in such a hurry that I even took a shower in less than 10 minutes (this is not very easy to do with the water pressure of we have in my residence hall). In this chaotic moment, I found my sweater (that I picked earlier in the morning) laying on my bed. I reached for it and the next thing I know... BOOM. My laptop fell off from the top of the drawer.

I must have stepped on one of the cords connected to the laptop, which ended up pulling the laptop towards the floor. At the moment my laptop shattered in parts, I was so shocked I could not even move. I couldn't think of anything but my research paper and the interview notes I gathered. That was arguably the scariest moment I have ever had in the research process. 

Sometimes, things happen. out of nowhere. without a notice. To some people, it might sound like an excuse, but there is nothing much you can do about it because it already happened. You just got to go on. But when you think about it, it could have been worse. Somehow, my laptop started working after stuffing in everything that fell off. Part of the research paper disappeared but all my book notes and interview notes were not damaged. It could have been worse.

Things happen. small or big. unexpected or expected. The real question is, however, how prepared are you for those incidents?

- Brian :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Excited to Spread the Word

Hi! I am Yolanda Fair. I am very excited to be a WomenNC CSW Fellow and wanted to take a little space to introduce myself and the motivation for my paper topic. 

To start, I am from Durham, grew up partiality in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and also have some roots in Virginia. As a North Carolinian, I am very excited to present and discuss some of the amazing work of initiatives and organizations here in this state. I am also a proud a unicorn and graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics before heading to Boston for college. For college, I went to Tufts University where I studied International Relations.  Currently, I am a third year law student at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

It was at Tufts that I had my first encounter with information related to human trafficking. During my sophomore year of college, I took course entitled After Violence: Children and Youth in War Zones. It was a course that surveyed the use of children in global and domestic conflicts. It was my first exposure to use of children as soldiers. Moreover, it was the first time that I really understood that individuals were being forced to work in this modern age. For the course, I wrote a paper about women and girls in the Nepalese Civil War. My research uncovered various ways women and girls were affected by forced work or modern day slavery. What I found both opened my eyes to human trafficking and created my desire to educate others about these horrendous practices. I learned about domestic servitude, sex trafficking, forced labor, and various ways individuals are impacted by modern day slavery.

Since my time at Tufts, I’ve been involved in various anti-trafficking efforts including UNC campus groups, summer internships, and my own academic study.  My ultimate goal is to talk to anyone who is willing to listen. I really and truly believe that human trafficking, modern day slavery, can be eradicated in this day and age. As a law student, I often gravitate to the law as a vehicle for change. I look to our legislation and policies to deter traffickers and to help victims. Furthermore, I realize that effective legislation serves as a strong tool for our legal system. My desire to educate others about human trafficking combined with my belief that policy can be used to help eradicate slavery motivated my paper topic. I’m very excited to present, explore, and research human trafficking policy and legislation in North Carolina, nationally, and globally. Moreover, I am very excited to present some of the great things organizations in this state are doing to strengthen our legislation.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Close to Home

Hello! I have not had the opportunity to introduce myself yet, but my name is Molly Williams and I am one of WomenNC’s Commission on the Status of Women Fellows this year. I’m a sophomore at UNC studying Public Policy and Sociology- go Tarheels! For the fellowship I have chosen the topic of domestic violence. I am well into my research and learning all about domestic violence, most commonly men’s violence against women, on the international, national, and local levels.  I have enjoyed the research, though it is not an easy topic to learn about. I also have the pleasure of working with and learning about the MOVE: Mothers Overcoming Violence through Empowerment and Education Program.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure why I chose domestic violence as my topic. I guess I think it is a problem that goes largely overlooked, especially in the United States, and I wanted to use the fellowship to highlight this grave problem. While researching a topic, it is easy to feel removed or distant from what I am studying. At times, domestic violence becomes words on the computer screen or in a textbook.

Over the past week, I have been reminded of the realities of domestic violence and why I selected this topic. Our campus was deeply saddened to learn about a fellow Tarheel who would not return from winter break because she was being hospitalized after a shooting in her home in Greensboro.  It is times likes this I am reminded that domestic violence is not just a topic, but something that is quite literally too close to home for so many. You can read more about this here:

I look forward to blogging more as this fellowship and my research progresses.
Until next time!
Love, Molly

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ratify CEDAW!

New year. New plans. New Congress! The first day of the 113th US Congress was last Thursday, January 3rd. I would have not known about it if Beth didn't send me an e-mail about going to DC. She said it will be a historic day to talk with the senators and others about ratifying CEDAW. Basically, I didn't think too much about this because I knew this is one opportunity I don't want to miss.

CEDAW stands for Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is an international treaty that is established in 1970s by UN and ratified in many countries seeking for better status of Women and their rights. The United States is, unfortunately, one of six countries that have not ratified CEDAW. CEDAW was introduced by President Jimmy Carter and stayed in the Senate for over 30 years! To me, it was shocking to hear this because I have high expectations for the Untied States. If CEDAW is not ratified in the United States, they lose a sense of credibility internationally when they work for human rights. It is contradictory to even discuss women's rights in other countries when women in the United States are in need of CEDAW. So this is why human rights activists all over the country decided to gather in DC on the opening day of Congress and urge the senators for their support on the ratification of CEDAW. This year is more positive than ever since we have the largest number of congresswomen in the house (98 women!).
(More info at

(Marzieh and I with Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu)

The trip started around 5pm on Tuesday afternoon. Beth picked me up from Chapel Hill and we drove to DC. We stayed at her daughter's place for a night, and started a busy day 8am in the morning. DC was, for sure, COLD. The city did not have any mercy on a North Carolinian-ish South Korean! At the morning orientation, Marzieh joined us and other human rights activists. There were about 40 of us at the orientation and I was just too excited that all of us were there for one goal; ratify CEDAW.

(Beth, Marzieh, and I at the orientation)

What I took away from this DC trip was lobbying experience. There were thousands of lobbyists in the office buildings and it must be because the opening day of the Congress is the best day to lobby; borrowing the words of Senator Hagan's staff member, "it is time of the year they set their priorities." There were loud passionate conversations going on every corner of the buildings and I was sure they knew each other for a long time until I saw what Beth was doing.

( I was eating a hamburger so I could not show my teeth!)

Beth was simply fearless. That is the best way to describe the way she led our team. She just kept sparking conversations with senators and chiefs of staff about CEDAW and handing out the packages of petitions and the information of CEDAW. Even in crowded receptions, she made her way through, grabbed the senators, and urged them for their support for CEDAW. Although I ended up getting a flu at the end of the trip, watching her power through for hours gave me a huge lesson on how to lobby.

(Marzieh and I with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin)

When we finally came outside later that afternoon, we realized how fruitful we were that day. We talked with Senator Hagan's Office, Senator Burr's Office, Senator Baldwin, Senator Landrieu, Representative Ryan, Senator Casey's Chief of Staff, and other offices that we submitted the petitions and information for CEDAW. Not everyone was supportive of or heard of CEDAW; however, I believe what it matters is we sparked conversations about CEDAW. It will only gain more national and international attention throughout the year and hopefully our hard work pays off soon!

- Brian :)