Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Laura's Blog #2

My topic is to reformulate education in hyper-masculine cultures to deter incidents of sexual assault and rape. While I will be focusing my research on the United States Military, I believe that what I create will be applicable to fraternities, Varsity Collegiate sports teams and many other hyper-masculine cultures. 

Currently the military’s education is a mandated checklist made by politicians and those high up in the military system. Certain commanders have more power to apply their own ideas to their troops training than others. I recently met with the Fayetteville Rape Crisis Center. She has a self-proclaimed aggressive “not pretty” presentation on rape, because she said rape isn’t pretty so why should it be taught pretty. 

When asked how she handles these soldiers that sit in her classes and she feels they are ignoring her she says she brings up topics that are in your face, that you can’t ignore. Why are rape educators so scared to talk about these topics? They shouldn’t be.

I plan to use her model as my best practice model within the United States military and plan to finalize this next week. I will be attending her class on Fort Bragg December 7th and December 8th and will be sitting on the stage observing her process and how everyone reacts to it.

After that I plan to interview a group of male military members who never served with women due to their job and their feelings on sexual assault. Many in passing have mentioned to me that it cannot be completely irradiated. 

Once this data is compiled I will begin to draft the policy brief. When I do this I will be proposing the revamping of the military with this more aggressive style. I believe that it will be better received within these hyper-masculine cultures.

Maya Blog #2

Hello all,

The past few weeks have been spent further narrowing down my topic and identifying resources to aid in my research process. For the Fellowship, I have decided to focus on improving pipelines to political leadership for minority women. The gender imbalance present in local politics, specifically when it comes to minority women, really stood out to me during my initial research process and I felt compelled to examine this issue further. 

The numbers speak for themselves: of the roughly 5000 elected positions in the state of North Carolina, only 27% are held by women, and only 2.2% are held by women of color. My goals for the next month are to connect with local elected officials and community organizations that can give me insight into the political climate of NC, and potential expansions for the recommendations I currently have in mind.

For example, this past week I was able to speak to Representatives Grier Martin and Paul Stam regarding my research topic and potential avenues to pursue. I am hoping these initial connections will yield information about nonpartisan, achievable methods for policy implementation regarding this issue. One avenue I am currently exploring is the NCGA internship program, and potentially adapting that to better recruit minority women into it's program. 

Additionally, I am in the process of connecting with local minority women who are either currently serving, in the campaign process, or have previously served in elected office. Through their personal accounts and lived experiences, I am hoping to gain more insight into the reality of the issue and ways to reduce barriers to entry for minority women. I am also working on establishing a connection with the organization Lillian's List to further understand the political process for women in politics. 

I am excited about the direction my research is heading in, and so grateful for the incredible opportunities I've had thus far to connect with individuals in my community. The support I've received helps me feel empowered to begin, and hopefully to continue, a dialogue about this issue. 

Maddie Blog #2

It’s hard to believe that we have already completed our fellowship meetings for the year 2015! It is going to be a busy holiday season however, as I finalize and begin to work with my partner organization, meet up with Anna to work on my policy brief draft, and prepare for the big year ahead!

My narrowed down topic for my policy brief is the creation of “Safe Haven” legislation for areas of North Carolina where high immigration populations reside in order for non citizen women to feel safer contacting law enforcement in the event of a domestic violence incident and/or sexual assault. This will certainly be informed by recent events, considering Governor Pat McCrory’s recent signing of a bill that made immigrants much more vulnerable in NC by outlawing sanctuary cities. This will shift my overall policy brief positioning to go from advocating for more “Safe Haven” or “Sanctuary Cities” in NC to specifically advocating for them for the purposes of preventing domestic violence and sexual assault among non-citizen women. I have a few steps going forward to finalize my policy brief work:

 Finalize and establish volunteering schedule with NCCASA and with the criminal court to observe domestic violence cases. I have reached out to NCCASA and have not yet received a response, but they are aware of our fellowship program and I am confident we will be able to partner together.

 Collect research on areas of NC with highest concentration of noncitizen populations

 Consult with Anna over weekend coffee meetings over the next two months to ensure I am headed in the right direction.

While I am intimidated by the amount of work there is left to do, I am overall feeling excited, hopeful, and motivated. My mentor, Anna, has been incredible in regards to taking the time to meet with me and make sure I am supported. This cause is one that I am very passionate about, and while the governor’s recent actions have made the road all the more difficult, I argue that it actually increases the importance of the work I am doing on my policy brief. I am hoping my partnership with NCCASA is able to begin soon so that I may include their best practice model and collect information of a more humanistic nature of the experience of survivors of domestic assault and violence to make my policy brief all the more effective.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Olivia Blog #2

I have been learning so much through my research with WomenNC! Once I decided to do my research on women's mental health, I began to research which groups of women were really in need of more mental healthcare services. I learned that, because of lack of availability, stigma and accessibility, many women in rural areas were increasingly unable to receive help when they need it. Through a lot of research and with the help of others in the program, I was able to concretely decide to focus my policy brief on women's mental health in rural areas.

However, shortly after making this decision, I realized that this topic was still incredibly broad. What type of mental health problems would I focus on? Would I focus on stigma, accessibility or access in rural areas? What actual policy would I recommend? All of these questions have been of great importance in my research as of late.  

According to the World Health Organization, gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness. Women tend to experience common mental health problems, specifically anxiety and depression, at higher rates than men. Women experience generalized anxiety at much higher rates and much research shows that women experience depression at almost double the rate of men. A lot of data and research I have read suggests that not only are anxiety and depression significantly higher in women, but they are also more disabling in women. Because anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders among women and tend to affect women at significantly more than men, I have decided to focus my policy brief on anxiety and depression.

I had a really hard time choosing between focusing on stigma and accessibility as a theme for my policy brief. I have personally experienced a lot of stigma associated with mental illness in rural areas, so it is where a lot of my passions are in this subject. However, stigma is so engrained in much of society, not just rural areas, that addressing this issue would be extremely hard. Before working on the stigma associated with mental heath, I think it is important to offer everyone access to mental healthcare. Through this, I think we can then begin to talk about mental heath and make it less taboo of a subject. 

With my topic narrowed down to accessibility of mental health care services for women with anxiety and depression, I now have decide what my best practice model will be! I have looked at many models including a bus that drives out to rural areas providing services, the training of locals to address mental healthcare, among other models...however I have found one model that really sticks out to me; telepsychiatry/epsychiatry. Much of the research I have done if this suggests that it is just as effective as in person therapy. Some research even suggests that it is more effective!

I have reached out to Dr. Saeed from ECU's telepsychiatry department in order to potentially establish a connection with his program. Dr. Saeed seems to be a leading researcher in telepsychiatry and I am excited to talk to him more about his work! He said he would love to meet this coming week, so I am hopeful that this will work out.

After I talk to him, my next step is research more about telepsychiatry, specifically related to women. I have yet to find studies completely focused on women, but I have found a lot focused on anxiety and depression. I am a little bit worried about making my policy brief completely focused on women without a bunch of data to back it up. I am hoping Dr. Saeed can help me with this!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Leah Blog #2

At the end of our last workshop, I was feeling overwhelmed and slightly flustered, but I was confident that with guidance, I would eventually come to a refined topic.  Fortunately, a day into my research, I came to something: mobility programs.  My approach is simple - It starts with housing vouchers for low-income women. The result, a mobility program that allows these low-income women and their families to move into better neighborhoods.  Modeled after a 10-year research demonstration done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development called Moving to Opportunity, the mobility program I have in mind, will create more sustainable environments for women and their families, improving health and overall well-being.
I knew I wanted to focus my research on the built environment in disadvantaged neighborhoods and the health and wellbeing of the women and children living in such communities; but I found the task of narrowing down my topic challenging.  As easy as it sounds, I didn’t feel right to focus on one factor of the built environment because I’m well aware that it’s more than just one single factor contributing to low-income women’s negative health outcomes and wellbeing in these communities.  More research on the Moving to Opportunity demonstration lead me to believe I wouldn’t have to choose between a number of  factors.  In fact, this study confirmed mobility opportunities and neighborhood characteristics matter for family outcomes.  It was found that housing mobility programs can improve the quality of immediate environment and mental and physical health for women.  
Similar to Moving to Opportunity and other mobility programs implemented in Baltimore, New York, and California, my program will allow eligible families (households with children, who qualify for subsidized government housing) to move into neighborhoods with better resources, neighborhood conditions and social networks.  I want the program to include mobility counseling services to provide guidance for these families moving into new communities.  The goal is better overall wellbeing for women of color and their children who are disproportionately represented in disadvantaged neighborhoods here in urban North Carolina and around the country.
Through collaborations between chosen my nonprofit, Passage Home, my research will focus on correct implementation of mobility programs.  I will continue to do more in depth research about the outcomes of mobility programs and how it will be useful to communities in urban North Carolina.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Maya's Blog #1

It's only been one month since I received news of my acceptance into the WomenNC CSW Fellowship program, but so much has already happened. We have engaged in two different workshops, both of which have only served to excite me even more about this opportunity. Being surrounded by this amazing community of people all passionate about women's human rights and gender equality is incredibly motivating. 

My application essay for the fellowship addressed my interest in gender inequality within leadership roles, and this is the subject I hope to continue researching over the course of the fellowship. Currently, I am trying to determine whether I should take this topic down the route of leadership in business or politics. I am very thankful for the guidance of the mentors and their willingness to connect us with people across the Triangle who are knowledgeable about our research interests. I think this topic is fascinating for so many reasons. First of all, the pipeline: how do women receive support and encouragement early on to reach for these leadership aspirations? How can we change the socialization process to convince young girls that they, too, have the skills and the abilities to fill these roles? At the end of the pipeline the questions are fascinating, too: what obstacles do women continue to face once they occupy these leadership positions? How does a greater gender balance in representation affect the policies and decisions being made? While women make up a very small percentage of the total in both politics and corporate America, this percentage becomes even smaller when other identities such as race and ethnicity come into play. Creating access for minority women to fill these roles is a second layer to this problem that I hope to address in some capacity.

I think growing up in a world where the evidence of gender inequality exists all around me is motivation enough to examine these issues and chip away at the glass ceiling bit by bit. I'm so excited to have an opportunity to examine these issues at a local level and meet the women change-makers and power houses who are reshaping the narratives about leadership in our community. 

-Maya Krishnan

Laura's Blog #1

I am a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I served honorably for four years. The Marine Corps, unlike other branches, only has 7% of its population that are female. So I lived everyday in a male dominated society. While serving, I was raped and this isn’t uncommon. I know more women that were raped, than I do that were meritoriously promoted.

Years ago, at the birth of our country, a commander was given the power to determine the final punishment of a troop member that committed a crime. This practice goes back over 200 years. According to Headquarters Marine Corps, “Under the direction of the President, military commanders are responsible for maintaining law and order in the communities over which they have authority, and for maintaining the discipline of the fighting force,” they go on to say, “ The commander also possesses nonjudicial punishment authority under the procedures of Article 15, UCMJ. The commander may also determine that criminal charges are appropriate. The ‘preferral’ of charges, similar to "swearing out a complaint" in civilian jurisdictions, initiates the court-martial process.”

Here are some of the problems with the commander making the final decision. At the time this practice was enacted, a commander couldn’t throw a criminal on a plane home if on the battlefield and have them face a military court martial. Now they have this capability. If a commander is the rapist what does the service member do? Commanders should be more focused on preparing war fighters for the battle field than prosecuting.

I plan on proposing to remove this power from the commander in cases of sexual assault within the National Guard of North Carolina. California already follows this process with their National Guard.

-Laura Licata

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Olivia's Blog #1

There are so many topics critically important issues one could focus on involving women's human rights. As I am very passionate about so many, I found it very difficult to just choose one. First I narrowed my focus down to three areas: STEM education for young women in elementary schools, mental health of impoverished women, and sexual assault on college campuses. From here, with guiding help from mentors in the program and the previous fellows, I was able to narrow my focus down even more and arrive at my focus of mental health of impoverished women! Focusing my topic down to a particular issue in women's mental health has proved to be a bit harder because the data suggests that almost every mental health issue affects women more than men. My next step in my research is to obtain more data regarding which mental health issue is most effecting impoverished women in North Carolina. I am waiting for this data from a researcher who is part of Wellness at Penny Lane, my potential best practice model non-profit!

Mental health and the stigma associated with it has always been a huge focus within my volunteer work and career goals. Similar to this, I have always been passionate about improving the lives of individuals who need professional mental healthcare help. While doing research, I was surprised to find that solely focusing on the mental healthcare of one gender was not all too common of a practice within the field. I found this interesting because women are impacted by psychopathology in many different ways and face many different problems than men because they are women and are commonly discriminated against. Because women are an "other" class, I wonder if much of the mental health care practices are developed with men in mind, particularly wealthy, white men, and fail to take into account the needs of women, particularly impoverished women of color? Because of this I feel that it is important to focus treatment, and this fellowship, on women's mental heath. I feel that this important because it will provide a more narrow focus to a field that has otherwise focused on a non-gendered approach. These questions above are currently leading my research and I look forward to post in the future with what I find!

- Olivia Horton

Madelaine's Blog #1

For my WomenNC policy brief topic, I am thinking of addressing the fact that many women who are immigrants to the United States do not feel secure in contacting the police in the incident of a domestic violence incident due to threat of deportation. However, several areas in North Carolina, including Chatham county and Chapel Hill, have instituted “Safe Haven” legislation, that allow a police investigation to occur without inquiry into the victim’s citizenship status. This particular area of work, surrounding women and immigration along, with health and domestic violence, particularly interested me because of the inherent and gendered power imbalances at play. In my previous work with health and gender, I observed how the delicate and crucial balance of agency, health, and power is manipulated in a situation where one’s status of a women automatically places you in a high-risk situation.

For the past two summers, I have worked with and NGO called WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research), a social empowerment program for underprivileged girls in rural Kenya. The structural violence that these young women experience, surrounding abusive schooling systems and predatory adults, is an immense burden to face. The WISER program and the work I did there taught me about the power of opportunity, and deeply instilled in me the critical relationship between gender-safe education, enhanced social autonomy, and improved health outcomes for girls. Every day I found a different reason to be astounded by the dedication and resourcefulness with which young women pursued their education. My work with WISER centered around supporting health initiatives that tap into the inherent strength of communities, and allowing narratives of what girls can accomplish to be changed by the actions and dreams of the women themselves. This experience solidified my determination to pursue a career understanding and reducing gender inequalities in health and education with a lens of equity and valued community participation. I see this opportunity to construct a policy brief that calls for the installation of more widespread and nuanced “Safe Haven” legislation in North Carolina as an opportunity to place the agency and social autonomy that is removed in the circumstance of domestic violence while being labeled as an illegal citizen. There is an opportunity here for North Carolina to stand up for women who face injustices in their lives, and to provide them the basic human right of safety and protection from harm.

- Madelaine Katz

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Leah's Blog #1

A potential focus of my policy brief is on creating safer/better neighborhoods and communities for those with lower socioeconomic status – with a specific focus on it’s effect on women of color and their children.  I began doing my research by examining how the environment in North Carolina affects women’s health.  I realized that a woman’s environment consists of more than just the earth we live on and the air we breath.  It was revealed to me that people living in poorer neighborhoods are at higher risk for poor health and chronic diseases.  
Once I start digging even deeper, I found that women of color in lower socioeconomic status are more likely to live in these poorer neighborhoods. These neighborhoods lack the same resources, like availability to healthy food, less crowded living areas, and more outdoor space for exercising, that neighborhoods of higher socioeconomic status have.  Specifically, in North Carolina, it was found that the quality of certain neighborhoods in Durham had a direct effect on the babies being delivered by women in these areas.  Another study in Wake County determined that women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods were at higher risk of having preterm births.
    There’s no way the North Carolinian government can prevent people from being living in lower socioeconomic environments.  What they do have control over, however, is the construction and maintenance of these lower income neighborhoods and communities.  North Carolina has a duty to provide better resources for people living in these areas, especially when the health of women and their children are at risk.

    As a black woman, I’m constantly reminded of my intersectional place in society.  I’m constantly aware of the differences in my experiences compared to others, solely based on my identity.  My interests in human rights include the interests of women of color.  Recognizing and understanding intersectional identities and the experiences of the women who face multiple oppressions is key in eradicating injustices against all women.  That’s why I’m constantly taking an intersectional approach to my research.  My intersectional identity has been key in developing my research focus.

-Leah Ford

Monday, April 27, 2015

Final thoughts - Alison

I have sat here with an open tab, trying to think of what to write to sum up the past nine months of work with WomenNC. Finally, I realized I will never be able to adequately described the great amount of learning, growing and challenges I've gained thanks to this fellowship. With that said, this is my small attempt at tying everything together.

From that group interview with other WomenNC finalists in Beth's living, I felt surrounded by an incredible number of inspired and passionate activists. I distinctly remember sitting in the library around 11 pm the following week when I received the WomenNC acceptance letter--I was so nervous to open the email and then overjoyed I had actually gotten the fellowship (something I had been thinking about for the previous two years).

Then, throughout the progression of the workshops I gained confidence in my own work, continuing to feel amazed by the idea of attending and presenting at the CSW. While no fellow was perfect, I know we all devoted many hours to writing our papers and polishing our presentations. The give and take of the various fellow-mentee relationships and balancing personalities taught me so much about the working of organizations, especially all volunteer organizations. The fact that WomenNC has consistently brought groups of fellows to the UN is staggering, and I am in awe of all the board members' hard work and dedication that made this happen!

Finally, we had our life-changing UN trip and subsequent global-to-local presentations. Bringing the CSW experience (blogged about previously here) back to North Carolina was so rewarding. First, presenting at the Global Center was a great honor--where I've worked since freshman year on UNC's campus--and getting the Carolyn King scholarship was truly surprising. I then enjoyed sharing our lessons with Wake County's UN Association, the group was very engaged and asked excellent questions. Lastly, I attended North Carolina Women United's Women's Advocacy Day. This was my first time visiting state legislators and the power of so many groups in Raleigh was certainly felt--I especially enjoyed hearing the group press conference.

Beth and I at the Women's Advocacy Day press conference.

In sum, I know I will stay connected to WomenNC and will eternally be grateful for this whirlwind experience. I can't wait to share with readers of this blog and all WomenNC supporters my future adventures and I eagerly anticipate hearing about WomenNC's coming successes. Goodbye for now!

final blog post (!!!)

It’s hard to believe that our time as WomenNC fellows is drawing to a close.

I want to start this post by thanking the WomenNC board for their tireless support and all the hard work they've put into making this experience so wonderful for us. 

I am so grateful for this program and all that I’ve learned from being a part of it. I feel so much more confident in my public speaking skills, especially (thanks, Stephanie and Al!), and also more certain in my conviction that I want a career in mental health/LGBTQ advocacy. 

Today I’m presenting my final WomenNC talk to the staff of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (i.e., the lovely people who work on the same floor as I do at Duke). NCCTS is currently ramping up its programming for queer youth, so I’ll be talking about the trauma faced by trans* kids and how mental health professionals can better support them. It’ll be a nice sort of capstone to this experience for me – to combine my extracurricular pursuits and passions with the work I do full-time.

I hope to continue to be involved with WomenNC and to stay in touch with the other fellows – I’ve so enjoyed getting to know everyone these last few months, and I want to thank you all for everything.

Final blog

It is hard to believe that this is my final blog post and that I completed my WomenNC fellowship. I gave my last presentation at my sorority chapter last week, during which I truly realized how much I have learned during this year. There was a problem with the projector so I wasn't able to show them my presentation, forcing me just to talk without any materials. Despite that setback, I was still able to cover everything I wanted to, and several girls came up to me afterwards and asked how they could get involved with WomenNC or do the fellowship themselves!

This last week has forced me to think about the time I spent at CSW a lot. I have been stressing about exams and worrying about getting everything done, almost to a point where I'm getting physically sick. I am forcing myself, however, to take a step back. It is a privilege to feel stress about school, when so many girls aren't able to go to school. I'm so fortunate to be at Duke and have the opportunities that I do, and I need to remember that.

I am so grateful to WomenNC for giving this amazing opportunity to learn and equip me with the knowledge to keep learning and effect change. Thank you for helping me learn to research, do interviews, speak publicly, and become an advocate. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for me.

Last Blog Post_Dina Shehata

I can't believe this is my final blog of the fellowship! Time really has gone by so incredibly quickly. 

I want to start off by thanking all of the members of WomenNC including the board members, supporters, and fellow fellows. You all made this experience so unforgettable for me! I can now say I've presented at the United Nations! If you had told me as a high school student or even as a first year in college that I would one day be presenting about women's rights at the UN, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Why? Because at that point, I had my heart set on going to medical school to become a pediatrician. I am so glad that I realized my passion for international studies early on before graduating from Carolina and discovering new passions during my first year of graduate school which led me to this fellowship! 

I've learned that it's never too late to immerse yourself in new passions because ultimately, it's what will bring your life meaning and fulfillment that matters!

I've learned so much throughout the fellowship and have met so many incredible people who I know I will stay in touch with in the long run. I've become a much stronger presenter. I've become more confident with networking. I received valuable research experience. I participated in CSW! Best of all, I found a family within the women's rights community! 

As I work to prepare for my final reflections presentation and finish up my last two (very long) papers of my first year of graduate school, I keep thinking back to all of the wonderful experiences I have had and how appreciative I truly am. 

I look forward to finishing up my last year of graduate school during the 2015/2016 school year and working hard to make my goal of working at the United Nations a reality. No matter where I end up, I will continue working towards equality for women. I will continue standing up against the injustices committed against women every day. I will work towards achieving a better life for all women no matter what they look like or where they come from. 

In honor of my upcoming trip to Egypt which I'm very excited about, I leave you with a picture taken on one of my previous trips! 

Thank you WomenNC. Thank you all.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last Blog

Ever since coming back from the 2015 United Nations Commission on the Status on Women in New York, I have been reflecting a lot on how I want to continue the work I’ve started during my research project. In addition to finishing up an independent study where I continued to study the US prison system and the alternatives to our prison system, I am also about to start an even bigger research project, starting this summer with my advisor, that will culminate in my senior thesis that I hope will incorporate what I’ve learned during my fellowship, independent study, future independent studies, and other interests I have in the field of not only gender studies, human rights, and activism, but also in how these things intersect with race, nationalism, globalization, economic and political systems, and concepts surrounding citizenship and subjectivity.

While I am really excited about how my academic work can intersect with my activist interests, I am still trying to understand how I can be more plugged into social change work in the community. There are many local organizations that work on these issues, including the organization I worked with, InStepp, and others like Benevolence Farm, a community farm for recently released women and their children, and Growing Change, an organization that flips closed prisons, turning them into farms and community centers particularly for returned veterans and troubled youth. Hopefully, since I will be Durham for a good portion of the summer, I can reach out to these different orgs and find more ways to get involved.

On Thursday, I attended a meeting held by the WomenNC Advocacy Board to map out the first steps of the Cities for CEDAW campaign they’re planning to launch in Wake Countyand Wake County cities. In attendance were members from other nonprofit women’s advocacy organizations, two university professors, and two councilwomen, one representing Wake County and another representing the town of Cary. For over two hours, we discusseed the course of action we would have to take in order for Cities for CEDAW to be successful in this area. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of the politicians in the room and how they had to navigate their spheres of influence in order to support this campaign; however, strategizing together and knowing they were on our side made the project seem not as impossible, especially when I learned that the precedent for much of our effort has already been set in place by a few different factors, including an already existing and funded women’s commission board in Wake County. By the end of the meeting, everyone had assigned roles for moving the campaign forward and a next meeting was set.

It was cool for me to see that type of organizing start to take place. I could see that organizing requires engaging each stakeholder in the room and in the larger conversation and addressing the different contributions each of us can make, from the NGO’s, who can garner public support and attention to an issue, to the council-people, who must navigate politics and establish the viability of a campaign. I definitely learned a lot in just one meeting, and I am excited to see the process of this project carried out.

- Mina