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!