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