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 

Justine--Final Blog Post

Justine—Final Blog Post

To everyone reading this---we made it. I can’t believe the end is today. I’m having a hard time processing that I am writing these words, and that this is the final blog I will post.

At the beginning of this academic year, the WomenNC Fellowship program was a pipe dream. Today, my sophomore year of college is over and I am sitting in my own home reflecting on the Fellowship I not only received, but thrived with. It seems fitting that today would be my final blog post, but the year still passed all too quickly.

It’s a real challenge to try and list all of the ways I have grown and benefitted from this project, partly because the list is almost too long to write. It is also challenging because I truly believe I haven’t even begun to reap the full rewards of this program yet. For the sake of having reflective content on this post, however, I will do my best.

-My voice no longer shakes when I stand to speak. My words do not waver, and confidence rushes forth, not fear

-I have solidified my commitment to women’s rights in multiple capacities, from preventative reproductive healthcare to human trafficking

-I have visited the United Nations. I have walked through the doors, I’ve met with dignitaries, and I’ve kept my cool, and had the chance to hear firsthand about projects I have longed to be a part of for years

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. The good news is that all I have completed doesn’t cease to exist the moment I post the blog. I can only grow more from here, and the connections I have made and researching skills I have honed will stay with me throughout the rest of my academic career.

All that’s left to say now is thank you—and I fear this space here online simply isn’t enough to express adequately how grateful I am to the entire WomenNC community for affording me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Finales- Liv

I cannot believe how fast this year has flown.  I never thought that I would get to this point alive.  Here I am putting the final touches on my graduate research, completing my final fellowship presentations and posting my last fellowship blog.  As everything is coming to an end, I am happy to reflect on my progress as a teacher, student, mother and advocate.  The last year has brought with it many ups and downs.  Many challenges have been overcome to include the purchasing my first house, kidney stones, my daughter’s head injury, two simultaneous research projects, a week-long trip to New York City, teaching high school and all while being a single mother.  There were tears and smiles along the way… all of which brings me to now. 

I am happy that my daughters got to see me present both of my research papers at the graduate conference at Meredith this week and at the UNA annual meeting last week. 
They see me hunched over my computer every weekend for endless hours and hear me shooing them away so that I can do my work.  My girls have made sacrifices that they may not understand until twenty or thirty years from now.  I am honored that my oldest daughter listened to my presentation on Wednesday night and asked me questions about my work.  I hope that I have set the right example for them on how to be a good student, a good mother and an advocate.  It can be hard to tell a seven year old that we cannot go to the park because I have endless papers to read and write.  Sometimes I don’t even understand why I chose papers over the park.  But as this school year comes to a close I am reminded why my little family and I have sacrificed too much.  We are strong and will overcome any obstacle.  I am setting the best example possible for my daughters that they might someday be like me and truly understand the sacrifice of what getting an education and advocacy are.

Thank you Julianna and Esmeralda for always being my motivation and my driving force.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Action - Alison

Hello all!

I am writing this blog post from a hotel lobby in Washington DC. As others have written, this semester has been quite the whirlwind. To be honest, since the end of CSW I have barely had time to process except for my time spent writing my reflection paper. In the past month I have attended the amazing CSW meeting, attended the J-Street conference in DC, and am now visiting DC for a class--while here we will meet with lawmakers and government officials to discuss US relations with the Palestinian people.

I see all of this work as intimately connected. I believe a concern for women's rights is related to a concern with any oppressed people around the world, primarily because human rights are indivisible. All human rights are equally important and we cannot neatly separate any human rights as "more important" than others. Furthermore, women's issues are political issues everywhere in the world, especially in situations where many rights are trampled on an every day basis.

Dina's blog inspired me to think: "what actions am I taking now?" In these various travels I see my attempt to continue to learn as an activist passionate about a variety of issues. I hope that the more I understand I world's complexity, the greater change my actions can promote and I am so thankful for the many opportunities I have had to recently grow. I can't wait to share these with our audience on Thursday and will continue to push for a better world for all.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blog Post_Dina Shehata

I have learned so much throughout this fellowship and I truly appreciate all of the amazing opportunities I was fortunate enough to experience. I am certain that my time spent with WomenNC as a fellow will stay with me throughout my future. I will hold off on all of the things I want to say about this fellowship and WomenNC until my final blog post because there is definitely so much I want to say!

Last week, I submitted the final draft of my research paper, my reflection paper, and my reflection PowerPoint. I am glad I had the opportunity to really soak up all of the information from CSW as I was writing my reflection paper. Running around from event to event in NY and then repeating the process day after day was exhausting to say the least and didn’t leave much time for us to really absorb everything we had seen and heard. I am really happy I was able to absorb all of the information I learned from the diverse events I attended. It doesn’t seem real to me that this school year is ending and the fellowship along with it. Many semesters have seemed to fly by but this semester has gone by especially quickly. This semester has been the most significant and challenging semesters of my life and I feel that I’m not the same person who started her graduate degree in August of last year. I now truly understand how important it is to live as if we will die tomorrow. We can’t put off anything anymore. We can’t live our lives in a way that doesn’t serve those around us. We need to benefit others through our many talents and passions. We need to help all of those in need in any way that we can.  If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of women, in the lives of all who are suffering around the world, and in the lives of our very own communities, we need to ACT. We need to act today not tomorrow. I believe that is why there are so many issues of implementation. We have endless discussions but there aren’t set actions that will take our ideas and make them happen.

There is still a lot of work before this semester comes to an end including finals and reflection presentations. I know all of the fellows will be working hard this time of year and I wish them all luck! I also want to thank all of the board members, Stephanie Scotti, Al Rosen, and all who have helped us succeed throughout this fellowship. We couldn’t have done it without you. I will see many of you at our first reflection presentation on Thursday, April 9th and I hope everyone had happy holiday weekend with their loved ones!

Until next time,

Dina Shehata

CSW Reflection: Paintings and Traditions- Liv


            While sitting in a local restaurant this week I noticed a mural on the wall above the bar.  I had seen this mural every time that I had frequented this restaurant, however this time the images in the painting struck me differently.  There were smiling men in suits sitting at the bar in the restaurant.  One of them had a bottle in his hand, another had a newspaper that read “Prohibition ends!” and on the far left side of the painting sat a young boy wearing sailor dress blues.  The only women pictured in this painting were two waitresses behind the bar serving the men and the third, wearing a lovely polka dotted dress which spoke of her affluence, was to the far right of the mural and accompanied by yet another man.  Her face could not be seen.  Now what struck me about this painting was the lack of women in it.  The three who “made the cut” reflected a completely different perspective on the otherwise lively atmosphere of the picture. 

            I sat there for quite some time before asking my server about the painting.  He informed me that it was of the founder of the restaurant and that over the years the restaurant has become a place for politicians to come and dine and conduct business.  After receiving this bit of information I continued over to ponder over the image.  The newspaper held by the man indicated that they would be in there celebrating the end of prohibition, however the attire of everyone in the painting was that of twenty years later (to include the little boy’s dress blues).  As I looked at the image and reflected on what the server had told me, it struck me that this image is of the “good ol’ boys club.”  A club that celebrates the success and conquests of affluent men and limits access to its resources to others who do not fall within their social or gendered sphere of influence. 

I leaned over and asked the women next to me if she noticed anything about the painting being top-heavy with men.  “It’s about tradition.  I don’t care if there are more women patrons to the bar now and that the painting doesn’t represent women.” She responded.  “It’s about tradition.   That man founded this place. And that’s all that matters.”  Her answer struck me just as offsetting as the painting did.  How could she not see it?  How could she not care?  Why was she happy to accept her position as a women as seen through the eyes of the “good ol’ boys club?”  She actually seemed angry that I would ask such a question.  She was probably thinking: “How could I question my place or the place of other women in society?” 

After the feeling of discomfort faded I began to self-reflect on why I would have such a reaction to a painting that is clearly reflecting the good times over a span of history.  I kept coming back to the same: there are not women having a good time in this painting.  Why?  If it is a painting encapsulating various decades, then were are the women?  We clearly are more than servers and arm candy.  The answer lies within the women’s reaction to my question.  “It’s tradition.”  Regardless of how we have progressed as women, there is still the stigma of the dominance of the “good ol’ boys club” in society.  Men and women accept this as normal and what we should not question its influence or marks in history.  This is the problem.  At CSW 59 there was a heavy focus on youth involvement in the future of women’s rights and advocacy.  In order to rewrite and repaint tradition, we need more youth involved and educated as to what we as women are capable of and deserve.  To answer my own question of why this painting bothered me so much, it is because I am now educated.  I am empowered. I will question, challenge and defend the rights that I was born with.  Had it not been for CSW my awareness would not have been heightened and passions would not have been ignited.  We as women need to stand up, educate ourselves and our youth to question the traditions that leave us out of the painting.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Blog Post-Justine!

I wanted to go ahead and write this second-to-last blog post now, as I anticipate a lot of family time this weekend with Passover, Easter, and my sister’s birthday happening all at once (happy 14th birthday, Olivia Grace!). 

            This week, I turned in my final drafts of my research paper, the presentation PowerPoint used at the United Nations (to be posted on the website), my reflection paper, and the reflection PowerPoint I’ll be using April 9th at UNC at our planned Fellows Reflection (Global-to-Local event). It was partially a relief, but partially saddening—it’s hard to believe I’ve been a part of this Fellowship since October, and that the bulk of my “work” is completed. Truthfully, this hardly felt like work at all!

            This week I got a chance to plan my independent presentation event I’ll be doing on my own NC State campus, and it’s been a lot of fun—I’m really enjoying getting to transcribe some of my favorite quotes from CSW, re-read the materials I brought home, and write my informal speech. It’s giving me a chance to reflect in a way that helps me organize all the information I gleaned—and knowing I’ll get to present to my peers as an “expert” is thrilling!

I am certain my final blog post after all of my reflection presentations will be a bit longer—for now, I have matzo ball soup to make and a house to clean! חג פסח שמח (Happy Passover)!