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!