Thursday, January 29, 2015

Justine--Blog Update #7

Today, Liv and I taped a segment for Carolina Now on UNC-TV (public access television!). It was such an incredible experience, and certainly good preparation for future interviews and speaking engagements. I was definitely nervous, and got asked a question that had a component I wasn’t expecting-but I do feel I made the best of it, and the host put all of us at ease. Plus, as a former UNC-TV Kid’s Club Member, it was great to get to see my favorite childhood characters adorning the studio! 

This week I also turned in my final draft of my research paper—what a ride this whole research process has been. I am currently working on undergraduate research (unrelated) in an independent seminar this semester, and it occurred to me that I’ve been telling friends and family that this is my “first time doing research”—which just isn’t true! All of this work for WomenNC has most definitely been a research experience unlike anything I had done previously, and is making my independent work this semester so much easier and familiar. I am more excited than ever to present at the upcoming Local-to-Global Dinner at Hunt Library on the 19th of February, and travel to New York City. I still need to put finishing touches on my PowerPoint presentation due Monday, but for now, I’m kicking back and celebrating a successful TV appearance! 

Some photos from the event: 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dana- blog

My paper and topic seems to finally have come together, and I am more excited that ever to be presenting what I have learned. At the workshop we talked about how to give effective presentations, answer difficult questions, and participate in television interviews.

The part on effective presentations was particularly helpful for me, especially since we will only have seven minutes to present (eek!). I know that when I get nervous, I tend to speed up while speaking, which can really hurt my presentation. Al Rosen had some great tips on how to make sure we don't talk too fast. I also learned that while the powerpoint presentations we may have can be useful for us to remember where we are in our talk, we really shouldn't be relying on them - they should be pretty sparse on information and should include more visual elements, such as pictures.

Several days ago I had a fascinating conversation with a woman who works for the NC government, and her title is Abstinence Education Counselor. Both Leigh and I thought that she would be very firm on abstinence education as the best method for schools (since that is what NC laws says), but she wasn't at all. I learned that there is discordance in the departments that have to enforce the law and guide schools on how to meet NC standards; even though this woman didn't believe in the way that schools were told to be preaching abstinence, she has to uphold the law. She also lamented that no where in the curriculum does the word "consent" appear, which, in her mind, is critical for students to understand, especially as a means of educating students about what constitutes sexual assault.

Though I know I have several parts of my paper that I need to work on more, I am happy with the progress that I have made thus far, and I am excited to be able to share what I have learned!

Final lap? - Alison Blog #6

Thanks to all for a fantastic workshop last night! I learned a lot from our tv and presentation tips, thanks to Scott, Stephanie and Al. I think yesterday (despite being late to the meeting--sorry everyone!) was the first day the magnitude of all we're accomplishing and how soon we will be done hit me! As I finish my paper this week and think about preparing a talk that will connect with people, I'm struck by the huge network of support WomenNC provides and the amazing learning opportunities available. Without this fellowship, I would have NO media training, little knowledge of networking or creating dynamic presentations, and most importantly I wouldn't be part of the WomenNC community. I definitely want to thank my mentor, Maureen, for being so available and helpful in my paper writing. Also thanks to Lois for always reading and commenting on our blogs :) It is nice to know someone out there is keeping tabs on us :)

I know we still have months of work ahead, but it many ways the coming weeks feel like a final lap for our research time with WomenNC. I'm certainly not yet ready to share my work with the world, but with the tools provided by the fellowship, I'm sure I'll get to that point soon! It has been scary embarking on a self-guided, in-depth research experience, but has also been one of the most rewarding opportunities of my college career. Today, I want to end with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote and link to a speech for us to reflect on:

If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. - MLK 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meeting People Where They're At

The workshop today about presentation and TV skills was really helpful to me. I’m glad we got these presentations before we started working on our own presentations because this has definitely given me a good place to start. Without this guidance, I would have definitely been the person trying to stick every statistic on a PowerPoint and reciting every fact I’ve learned in my research during my presentation. I’ve done presentations before, and for some reason, I never even considered what the overall impact of my presentation style was. I always figured the more factual a presentation was and the more information I throw at people, the more convinced they would be of my argument. After today, I can clearly see why that’s erroneous. If people want all the details, they can read the 20-page paper I took the time to write. A presentation should be more about conveying and clear and easy to digest message for an audience within the time allotted.

The feedback I got from Stephanie and Al as well as the mentors also really helped me to better organize my own thoughts for this presentation. I know I have all these facts and research in my head, but the challenge is picking what is the ESSENTIAL point I want to get across, not just in my presentation but also in my paper.  In 7 minutes (or 20 pages), people can’t possibly learn everything that’s taken me months to comprehend, but they should at least come away from my presentation knowing why and how my topic is a pressing women’s human rights issue and know some ideas of how to go about solving it.

Something Al pointed out to me was that my topic wasn’t something that most people would obviously see as a women’s human rights issue, in that most people think about people in prison as just criminals, so who cares, right? While a huge part of my research has been examining how popular representations of crime and criminality can obscure the true nature of who is actually in prison, the idea that most people wouldn’t initially get my topic almost completely didn’t cross my mind. I completely intended to just launch in to all the evils of the prison system and mass incarceration without any contextualizing. Now I know that a big part of my presentation will be setting up women’s imprisonment as a relevant issue, humanizing the women I hope to represent in my research, and offering easy to understand solutions, using my best practice non-profit model and other global examples.

Being an advocate, especially in an international and not as academic setting, will require me to make my message more appropriate to different audiences. I want to be able to meet people where they’re at but also lead them to a hopefully radically different understanding of the topic of women in prison.


Workshop #3 Reflection

Today, at our third workshop, we learned a lot about how to improve our public speaking skills. Professional speaking coach Stephanie Scotti gave us killer advice on making our CSW presentations clear, concise, and compelling. Al Rosen’s advice was equally valuable – he showed us how to make our words have an impact, how to present statistics and data in a way that leaves an impression on the people in our audience.

I’m excited to think more about what I want my key take-away points to be, and how best to articulate the central message of my research topic. I’m also nervous: distilling the mounds of information I want to include down to seven short minutes won’t be easy, but I know that we’ll be able to do it by taking into account the lessons we learned today. Thanks to the presenters today for their help (and, of course, the indefatigable WomenNC board for their constant support)! One week until the final drafts are due – we’re almost there!

Until next time,


Dina Shehata_Blog 6


Today is the day of our workshop which I am really looking forward to. The tips and advice we’re going to receive about our presentations and TV interviews will be much needed and I can’t wait to learn what I should and should not be doing. I’ve received a couple of edits of my paper and I will continue to finalize my paper so that I can have it finished and perfect by next weekend.  

On another note, Joe Biden joined forces with Mariska Hargitay, star of Law and Order: SVU, to create a series of PSA announcements that provide help for victims of domestic abuse. I’m really excited to hear about this because Law and Order: SVU is a show I really like to watch. It showcases the realities of sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. The realities that people need to understand. Having the combination of our Vice President and a television star with fans across the world will show the range of people who truly want to help and make a difference because it is a very important issue.  In one of the PSAs, Biden makes sure to say, "domestic violence is never the victim's fault." (Joe Biden's statement from Robbie Couch's article in the Huffington Post) This distinction is not made too often and it is great to hear it in the PSA. Here is the article link if you’d like to read the article:

As far as school goes, I started classes 2 weeks ago and I am really looking forward to my classes this semester! Last semester flew by so quickly and I’m sure this semester will go by so fast as well especially because there are so many amazing events that we have to look forward to which include the Feb 19th event, our trip to NY, and much more!

Until next time,

Dina Shehata

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Justine-Blog Post #6

Blog Post #6 January 15, 2015 

It almost feels like there isn’t much to write about (which of course isn’t true!) simply because THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE PAPER IS IN! I cannot even begin to put into words how excited I was to save my rough draft, email it in, and close my laptop in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
There are plenty of edits to be made and details to be fixed or added in, but for now, I’ve been enjoying a relatively calm first full week of classes. I know once the workshop for Sunday is underway, it’s all going to feel a bit more real, but I am content knowing, at the very least, the bulk of my research is completed (and on time, no less!). The research I have done has truly been invigorating, and I am now more certain than ever that my future lies in advocating for women’s reproductive healthcare access domestically and abroad. The response I have gotten back from my mentors has been great so far, and I can’t wait to workshop my paper in person Sunday.
Liv and I will be representing WomenNC on public access television, taping the 29th, on the show “Carolina Now”. I am definitely a bit nervous, as I don’t know what my professional screen presence is like, but I am confident it will be an incredibly positive experience. Once January wraps up, the main focus on my mind is going to be the physical presentation of the research t the February 19th gala dinner. I haven’t even allowed myself to begin worrying about the actual United Nations yet—I’ll save that panic for a later date!
Until next time, stay warm!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blog #6

Blog #6-

Last Thursday Jan 8th, I attended a fantastic event sponsored by Women Speaking. 
Women Speaking is a volunteer organization that sponsors events and workshops designed to educate and empower women.  The theme of Thursday’s event was how to negotiate careers through asking.  
There were three speakers, Colleen Slaughter, Judge Fanny Memory Mitchell and Hannah Hasl-Kelchner, Esq.  They had resumes that read like poetry in that they are all strong women who broke through many gender boundaries.  Their talks all reflected the themes of negotiation and affect that asking can have on a woman’s success in education and in business.
            The first speaker and also the CEO of Authentic Leadership International, Colleen Slaughter poignantly laid out steps that have led to her success in life and her ability to take chances.  She highlighted the importance of leadership and the asking of “the self.”  Having goals and not being afraid of failure were among her top points to eliminate self-doubt and achieve.
Her first step for eliminating self-doubt was getting your spunk back.  It is important to have a certain energy level in place to tackle one’s goals and aspirations.  Her steps for accomplishing this are as follows:
1- Get rid of what drains us- chunking tasks,
2 Sloooow down- KISS, simplify, get in touch with the gentleness of oneself
3- Do your passion-do your passion regularly (yoga, skiing, beach...) "bucket filling activities"
Her second step for personal and professional success was “Saying no to nay Sayers.”  She gave an inspirational description of how one can say no, while saying yes to oneself and confidence:
1- Understand how deserving you are- recognize your self-worth
2- Listen to your voice inside- mentally acclimating oneself to new settings/challenges- st a precedent for yourself that no one can take away from you
3- Say it! - Actions speak louder than words.... say words to yourself that makes a promise to stay on the course.  Prove to yourself that you deserve what you are striving for.  Have and maintain faith and trust in yourself that you will accomplish your goals.
4- Step into action- This is where the "rubber meets the road" and separates the girls from ladies:
a) Clear on goal- help determine next steps
b) Identify tools/resources- training/websites/seminars/
c) be decisive in actions-do what it takes to make a lasting transformation

Her third step is her company’s creed: BOLDER
B-Believe in yourself
O- Organize your goals
L-Learn what’s stopping you
D- Develop practices to achieve your vision
E-Evolve into the new you
R- Reap the benefits of your hard work
Colleen’s messages were quite clear and motivational.   They emphasis a step by step approach to help guide and evaluate ones growth process.  She concluded that asking at every step is key to proper self-evaluation and career growth.
"The bigger the ask the bigger the success….don’t think that you are not good enough.”
The second speaker, Hannah Hasl-Kelchner, Esq who is also the author of Business Guide To Legal Literacy, a book on merging business and law for CEOs, spoke on overcoming ones fear to speak up and ask.  She opened with "Can you hear me now?"  Indicating that you should not lean in for others to hear you better.  If someone wants to hear, they will ask, or you need to stand straight and have the confidence to speak loud and proud.  Her speech focused on “overcoming elephant in room and the fears of asking” which many woman in our culture seem to have.  She furthered this thought by stating that as women we need to overcome out culture of not asking and needing to be liked.  To do this she highlighted a few steps:
 1- Become comfortable with negotiating
-Due to the fact that we are acclimated by the cultures of "why and why not"- we need to question the "norms" of society and culture
2- Overcome the fear of asking an authoritarian who has something you want-
-Do not let fear of "no" prevent you from asking-STICK your neck out
-Plan and do research for making proposal to ASK-
-Negotiation of options- have a plan B prepared
-Identify what’s in it for you and what’s important- What are your ultimate goals and evaluate risks
Her overarching message was “seek fulfilment- do not sit in a comfort zone.”
The third and final speaker was Judge Fanny Memory Mitchell.  This remarkable women was the first female judge on the inferior courts in NC in Cabarrus County.  She also attended and taught at Meredith College in her years before becoming a judge.  Her unique story tells of her ground breaking accomplishments and how she overcame gender discrimination.  Her best pieces of advice were:
1-Use time to the best of your ability
2- Have self-discipline
3- Do not let others bring you down-always work forward and break boundaries

The event included promotions for the event sponsors between each of the speakers and a before and after social hour dedicated to networking and meeting other women who strive for gender equality.  All of the speakers were entertaining and insightful.  There was laughing and lots of note taking.  It is held one Thursday per month near the Research Triangle area.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other women (and a couple of men) who share similar interests and goals as I do and who wish to empower women.  The evening concluded with a question and answer session with the three speakers.
Their upcoming meetings are in
Theme: asking, giving and serving
Theme: asking with pizazz and style

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The goal of economic empowerment? Alison blog post 5

I emerge from break a couple days behind on this blog post (sorry all!) but working frantically to finish job applications and my research paper draft and to generally figure things out after a much-needed mental vacation. Over the past month, I read the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which I would recommend to all readers of this blog. The author, John Perkins, details his work with international organizations to promote infrastructure development in developing countries for the benefit of American corporations. Perkins especially criticizes the role of the US government in expanding corporate control around the globe. His controversial claims critique presidents and span countries from Panama to Saudi Arabia to Indonesia.

This focus on negative ulterior motives for economic development made me start to question my research topic of women in economy. I believe expanded opportunities for jobs and economic participation are crucial to everyone in our society, and bring many positives to lives of all. But, do those with greater power often benefit more and can even increased economic development lead to exploitation? Yes.

Additionally, many studies and speakers emphasize the importance of women working on the economy more broadly (see this Wall Street Journal report and Hillary Clinton at Georgetown). I also think this is important, but I aim to focus more on the human rights of individual women. I worry that by studying women in the economy I overlook the negative aspects of larger exploitative economic systems that Perkins discusses. However, I don't think it is even within the scope of my research (or page limit) to address this. Hopefully, I can highlight the positive human rights can bring for improving the lives of women, while keeping these much larger issues in perspective.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dana Blog 5

Hello everyone!

Going home went just about as well as expected. Of course I loved seeing my family and friends, but we had the same arguments (about women's rights) as usual. Fortunately my mom is starting to come more over to my side. Some brief highlights: My grandfather refused to walk through a door I was holding open for him because this "women's lib is nonsense." My grandmother asked why women "are letting themselves get raped so much" and argued that it's because "they're stupid or something." I won't even recount the family trip to the Chinese restaurant... let's just say we had a female waitress who happened to be both quiet and Asian. So that was fun. The family wanted to know what I was planning on doing for spring break, so I shared my Women NC plans. I talked about the paper, and explained my topic in as brief detail as possible so as to not start a war with my 80 year-old grandparents. Though they were polite, they think sex education is in fact not all that important because people "don't have sex until they're married." I decided to keep the fact that 95% of people do have premarital sex to myself.

As usual, going home is a reminder of why this research is important and why sex education is so valuable. My grandparents, despite their flaws, are wonderful, kind, and loving people. But they never learned about sex in a positive light; they were taught shame. The results of generations of these teachings exist in every facet of our daily lives. Though I already knew this, I think it is so important to be reminded that this is going to be an uphill battle to convince others, no matter how good the research is. And the people who are fighting comprehensive sex ed aren't necessarily malicious misogynists - they are average, everyday people who weren't taught anything else.

Though I fear my grandparents may be a lost cause when it comes to the feminism front, working on this paper and looking through the lens of other organizations working on the ground has given me hope that we can help change the next generation and get to a place where sex education is considered as valuable as math, science, and history. We've definitely got a long way to go.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dina Shehata_Blog 5

I’ll start with some quotes from an article I read titled “15 Quotes Every Woman Should Live By in 2015.” In this article, 15 quotes are taken from 15 famous women from various walks of life. The first quote was said by Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai said, “I think life is always dangerous. Some people don’t go forward. But some people, if they want to achieve their goal, they have to go. They have to move.” The second quote was said by Amy Schumer. Schumer said, “I am a woman with thoughts and questions and s*** to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story – I will.” The final quote was said by Maya Angelou. Angelou brilliantly stated, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Personally, I think this article should have been titled “15 Quotes Every PERSON Should Live By in 2015” because these quotes speak to everyone no matter their gender. These quotes reinforce the strength of these women and many women out there who aren’t in the spotlight. We’ve started a new year which means we have the opportunity for a fresh start. A new beginning to keep working towards a world where men and women are equal in all aspects. Even though we have been continuously working towards that goal, a new year brings along renewed fuel to continue making a difference.  We have come such a long way but we still have a long journey ahead.
It’s 2015. Why is it that we still have major problems with violence and sexual assault against women in 2015? Why is there a girl in a university reduced to taking her mattress everywhere she goes around campus to convince the heads of the university to expel the boy who raped her? Why are there still prominent universities facing charges against them for letting individuals involved with sexual assault get away without any consequences? It’s crazy that we are still having issues giving out proper consequences and shutting down any aspect of college life that promotes these kinds of acts. We have a long year ahead of us, hopefully a year filled with change and accountability. I have high hopes for this year considering all the huge steps we saw in 2014 for women’s rights including consent laws being passed in California, hashtags including #YesAllWomen #WhyIStayed and #DudesGreetingDudes shedding light and providing personal experiences of very important women’s issues, and much more!
As far as my research goes, I am learning a lot from the organizations I chose to use as best-fit models. The organizations I chose to work with are the following: Girls Rock NC, Girl Talk Foundation, and Girls on the Run. I absolutely love everything these organizations stand for and I am so glad I was able to work with them. I am working on narrowing down all of my research which is unfortunately the hardest part. There is so much out there concerning female leaders and I need to somehow include all the necessary information without having too much information that doesn’t quite fit in together. I’ll continue working to have the paper draft ready by January 11th and I will see many of you at the workshop on the 18th! I hope you all had an amazing break with your families and friends and I look forward to hearing about all your adventures!

Dina Shehata

Blog 5

This holiday, I’ve done a lot of research on my topic of women involved in the criminal justice system and the mechanisms for their re-entry. I’ve put in a lot of work so far, but I still feel like I have so much more work left to do. The more I learn, the more I feel that I need to know in order to write a comprehensive research paper. Studying the intricacies and complexities of the U.S. prison system and particularly women within in it always bring me to the edge of knowledge about one aspect of it, then makes a hard left turn into a whole new question about the prison system that needs further researching.

It’s good that I’m truly interested in what I’m researching, but the challenge now is to narrow my topic so that I could do that topic justice (ha! Justice!) in just 20 pages. What I need to decide is what very specific angle I want to approach this issue from and how to incorporate the more academic aspects of my research with the advocacy part without losing the depth of the analysis I’m trying to construct. I also need to collect more sources on the issue globally.

As I try to pull together this first draft that is due soon, I have more work to do, but I’m still excited about engaging with this topic. In the following weeks, I should aim to seek more support from my mentor and other support from WomenNC and from my partner organization, InStepp.


Update: New Topic! (Josh)

After several in-depth conversations with WomenNC  board members, I decided a few weeks ago to shift the focus of my research topic. 

Instead of focusing on the experiences of sex workers, I'll be researching the phenomenon of sexual assaults on college campuses. Specifically, I'm focusing on how colleges/universities handle sexual assault cases. 

Along with providing an overview of the existing literature, I'm also conducting interviews with survivors of assault, college administrators, and campus police to glean a more nuanced understanding of the effects of assault and how colleges can better support survivors. 

Feel free to send along any resources you know of on this topic, as I'll be working tirelessly over the next week to narrow the focus of my paper, conduct a few preliminary interviews (these sections will have to be fleshed out more fully later on), and write up what I've found. 

Best of luck to everyone else! See you in a week. :) 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Post-Holiday Update--Justine

Hello, WomenNC blog readers!

These past few weeks have been equal parts pure joy, hectic movement, and plenty of work! The holiday season has been wonderful to spend with my family, and between Chanukah, Christmas, and New Years, it has certainly been a whirlwind.
However, in between seasonal baking and seeing friends, I have steadily and surely been writing pages of my research paper, due January 11th. 
I have, unfortunately, had some ups and downs researching. Most notably, I have had a lot of trouble getting responses from my best-fit organizations. While things were moving smoothly in terms of contact before Thanksgiving and just after, the moment December 1st rolled around and finals got underway, the bumpy road began. Part of this can certainly be attributed to me having to go virtually underground to study, but communication is a two-way street, and the holidays created some trouble.
Fortunately, Leigh Sanders, my mentor Anuja, and Isabella have all been instrumental in helping me find new contacts while pursuing previously established ones. I have yet to get true responses back for my interview questions, but I have set some hard deadlines and I am confident that I will have the necessary information to plug into the rest of the paper I have already written.
I hope everyone has had a peaceful, relaxing break, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 is going to bring. Now, the CSW conference and trip to the United Nations feels extremely real. I am definitely nervous, but happy to share what I have researched and learned and gain more experience in public speaking and networking.

Until next time,