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 :)