Monday, March 21, 2016

Since I have gotten home I have been trying to put into words the feelings of everything that happened over the last week. I had approximately 35 hours of equal rights training. I spoke at the United Nations and I met some amazing people.

I feel very torn with how to move forward with this information. I know I haven’t processed it all. So below I’ll make a list of what I do know.

1.     Women need to be exposed to all types of employment including STEM and Tech at a very young age
2.     Men need paternity leave
3.     Not enough people know that ISIS is paying for their war against us with women who are trafficked and I want to fix that.
4.     The United States isn’t as good as aware of equality as other countries
5.     I want to work abroad
6.     I want to study abroad
7.     I, as well as others, don’t have a single story
8.     The international community recognizes the need for women in the military more than the United States and that message needs to get to those women still serving some how.
9.     Those who are in fear of the fate of our future need to meet the four other women I was on this trip with.
1. I need to learn more.

I can’t wait to further process this and learn more about these issues.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Final post!

It is so hard to comprehend that today was our last day at CSW60. This morning we started off bright and early with our presentation, and nerves were at an all time high! However, I believe the event went very well, and I was so proud of the other fellows and myself as well. It was so evident how deeply we were connected to these issues that we had all researched and committed to for the past six months. Watching each of us present to the room with such an in-depth understand and comfortability, I believe was such a testament to how much time we have dedicated to our projects.

Reflecting upon my own presentation, while I believe that nerves may have gotten to me in a small way, I do feel confident that I successfully demonstrated the crippling barriers present to undocumented women survivors of sexual assault. As I was going through my presentation, not only did I find that presenting this information came naturally to me, I really found that I was able to include my passion for this issue to be recognized. I feel as though my familiarity with the subject allowed me to really convey to my audience the critical nature of alleviating the barriers these women face.

It will certainly take some time to really internalize all of the lessons, perspectives, and concepts that I have gained at CSW60. I feel as thought I struck the right balance between side and parallel events, and attending a variety of session topics that were related to both my own research and topics I was previously unfamiliar with. However, I believe that the most important experience of the CSW conference for me was the inherent solidarity I felt being among such a large community of feminist leaders from around the world. I not only felt safe and supported, I felt inspired, empowered, and more motivated than ever before to incorporate the fight for gender equality in all of my life’s endeavors.

There would be only a few things I would change if I could go back and do it all over again. Advice I would give to other fellows would be the following:

1.) Don’t be shy when approaching speakers and panelists after events! This was something that I really struggled with during my conference. I often became nervous before approaching leaders, but often when I did, I did not regret it. It can be difficult, especially when there is a quick turnaround time between sessions. However, often panelists are willing to step outside and chat with you, especially if you approach them with a question related to their talk!

2.) Take time to bounce ideas/thoughts off of your other fellows. There is so much information to process, and you may have a difficult time forming your own thoughts and opinions regarding the information you take it. Your other fellows are wonderful resources to talk through these things with, particularly because they have such rich and diverse experiences of their own to better inform your understanding.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Journal #5- “If there’s not a bed, there’s a pimp waiting right outside the shelter who will say, 'Come with me'."

Joural #5

“Reach for the stars with one hand, but leave one hand near the ground to uplift your sisters with you because we’re stronger together”

            Today we were privileged with the opportunity to attend a panel at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to watch a wonderful panel on girl empowerment. One of our fellows, Maddy Katz, was asked to sit on the panel. Not only was she amazing, but the rest of the panelists were as well. The majority of these panelists were no older than 18 years of age. It was incredible to hear these young women discuss feminism, their experiences and their efforts for gender equality. At their age, I couldn’t event fathom having the understanding of feminism that they have. I also couldn’t fathom making so many strives for gender equality at the age of just 16. Meeting some of these women gave me so much hope for our future.
            After this session, I was able to go to an amazing UN side event on human trafficking. Since I have been to several human trafficking events prior to this event, I was excited to listen to diplomats and representatives of countries talk about this issue as opposed to NGOs. Everyone in the session discussed human trafficking and slavery. I learned that 80% of trafficked individuals are women and 50% are minors.
            I really enjoyed the part of the panel with Emmanuel Caparas, secretary of Justice from the Philippines. He broke down the number of trafficking victims in his county (that they were able to rehabilitate) and it was incredibly interesting. Since the initiate began, they uncovered 621 trafficking victims. 581 were female and 40 were male. 302 were girls (under 18) and 31/40 male victims were boys (under 18). Of all their trafficking cases, 95% were sex trafficking cases.
            I also learned a lot from the co-director of the anti-human trafficking initiatives at New York’s Covenant House. She addressed the trafficking in the United States. When they studied the homeless youth populations in their shelter, they discovered that around 15% of these children met the criteria of being trafficked and nearly 15% more met the criteria for survival sex, in which they traded sex for shelter, food or water.
            I learned about something called a “trauma bond” that often keeps victims of abuse tied to their abuser. In the first session I went to on trafficking, the trafficker told stories of “making the young women fall in love with him” and this was just reinforced by many stories that were told in this session. I heard one story in particular that stuck with me. It was a story of a young girl and her “boyfriend”. Her “boyfriend” was the first person to ever buy her birthday cake. Her “boyfriend” was the first person to ever give her a hug. Her first boyfriend was also her pimp who sexually exploited their “connection” for money. I want to end this blog with another quote (as you can tell I like those).

            “If there’s not a bed, there’s a pimp waiting right outside the shelter who will say, 'Come with me'." Hearing all these stories today and throughout CSW60 have furthered the passion inside me for gender equality and equality in general. This experience has made me want to devote my career to women’s rights even more than when I first began my WomenNC journey.
Laura Douglass
Day 5
Gender Equality in the Military helps all

As a United States Marine I have dealt with gender discrimination in many forms for years. Then once I ended my contract I heard more stories about how my female friends were being discriminated against within the armed services. Throughout this process I have been learning how eliminating that violence will help everyone involved and today was no different.

I began the day at the US Mission with my entire group to support our team member. We heard from many girls and young women about their journeys as women in achieving their goals. However Eleanor Smeal also opened the talk. She addressed a question I had regarding women in the military and praised the Obama administration for strides made in equality. She talked about the goals to recruit better Officer and Enlisted service members and that gender should have no placement on that.

Then after this panel the next one that really hit me was named Advancing Gender-Sensitive Understanding in Countering Violent Extremism Policy and Programming, Especially on Women’s Roles in Violent Extremism. There were 12 panelists from around that world talking about how much women were needed to fight this violent extremism. Specifically the two women in the picture below blew my mind. They are Mara Marinaki EEAS principal advisor on Gender and in United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and Sarah Sewall, the Under Secretary of State for civilian Security, democracy and Human Rights at the US Department of State. They discussed a White House Summit that they both attended where they began this dialogue. It was an amazing moment to think that I can continue fighting for equal gender rights and that it will help combat the violent extremism in this world that I’m so determined to eliminate.

I just wish that I could have had some of my beautiful friends, that are still in the military fighting the good fight, in these rooms today and hear how the international community is behind them. People of huge stature saying how peace negotiations are more successful with women involved, and how excluding women to combat roles minimizes the pool of good applicants for the military, which is why the combat roles were expanded. They need to hear it. So if you are reading this and you know a female veteran or service member, tell them that changes are coming, and to continue trail blazing for peace and security.

Sustaining Hope in an Unequal World

I had the privilege of serving on a panel of an incredible group of young feminist leaders at our event, titled "Girls’ Empowerment and Sustainable Development: A Global Dialogue," at the US Mission to the UN. I was honored just to be sitting among them. From young Muslim advocates for peace and tolerance in NYC, to a high schooler who pioneered STEM tutoring for under-resourced girls, it was a powerhouse panel to say the least. I shared my perspectives of being a woman in college in America, and what the Sustainable Development Goals can teach us about the importance of engaging young women in leadership positions.

            One of the most incredible experiences of today was listening to the perspectives of Representative Cathy Russell and my personal feminist hero, Eleanor Smeal, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation (and a fellow Duke grad!). Representative Russell implored us to keep the struggles of women in the most vulnerable situations in the world at the forefront of our feminist activism. She described some of her incredible diplomatic work, including her time working alongside Secretary of State John Kerry to bring the International Violence Against Women Act to congress, even though they have experienced many barriers in getting it to succeed. One the most powerful moments of her opening speech was describing her recent trip to Afghanistan, and visiting a girls boarding school. She described how the girls were as vibrant as any young woman who is empowered in receiving in her education should be, despite the dangers and risk they take in attending school everyday.

Eleanor Smeal also called the audience to action, advocating for those whose voices are silenced by patriarchal violence. She described the courage she sees in women on the front lines fighting for gender equality. She described how women fighting for freedom from deadly gender oppression in Afghanistan enter into these activist roles with the knowledge that they are putting their lives on the line. Imagine fighting for gender equality in a world where you predecessors, your mentors, family, and friends, have been assassinated for fighting for their fundamental rights they know they deserve as women, as human beings.  

            Having the knowledge that so many women are making vibrant, sustained, and confident strides into the realm of alleviating gender inequity is a powerful feeling. There is so much left to us to accomplish for our generation of leaders, to ensure that women and girls in all sectors and corners of the world are lifted up, and not left behind. But despite the depth and immediacy of these issues, standing alongside these unchangeably devoted women today was enough of a glimpse of hope for me to believe in a changed future.

Journal 5: Passion and Advocacy

Journal Five - CSW

We started off day five at a panel at the U.S. Mission on girl’s role in sustainable development.  I felt like a proud mom as I approached the room and saw my fellow fellow Maddy sitting on the panel.  I immediately rushed up to get a photo (just like an embarrassing mother would do), so I could tweet it out to the world.  The panel featured young women from around the world, from ages 16-25. I was honestly amazed by the sheer passion that radiated from each young woman on that panel.  To see girls, as young as 16, advocating for women’s right and preaching about justice for women at all ages gave me so much hope in my generation.  This is the generation I’m apart of!! These women and I are the future, and that puts a huge smile on my face.  

I then attended a panel on human trafficking, which revealed to me the realities of this massive issue.  Everyday we consume and use products produced by slaves.  Every single day. This is a reality I was completely unaware of, and I know I’m not the only one.  This is part of the issue.  Over 20 million people are slaves, and child trafficking is the 2nd largest enterprise in the world.  The panel emphasized that while trafficking is not a gendered issue, 80% of people trafficked are women -- 50% are minors.  The sad truth is vulnerable children are more likely to be victims of trafficking.  To think that I was completely oblivious to an issue that is affecting so many women and children around the world, almost makes me feel guilty, but now I know I can be an agent of change.  I’m aware now, and that’s all that matters.

Being at CSW has been so eye-opening.  I know I keep saying this, but to hear from such different and diverse perspectives makes me so happy! I live off of this! I’m a huge supporter and advocate for all women, and I know I’m not alone.

Day 5: March 17th, 2016

Today was probably my favorite day at CSW60. I started the day at a US Mission to the UN panel event where one of our own WomenNC Fellows, Maddy, was a panelist! The panel was comprised of young women speaking about feminism, gender equality, youth empowerment, and Sustainable Development Goals. It warmed my heart to see so many young women speaking so eloquently and confidently about gender equality. Especially in the case of the teenage panelists, it was inspiring to see the level of conceptual understanding they had about feminism and structures of oppression....concepts I didn't have a grasp of till much later in my college career. To me, it signified that these concepts are gaining traction with younger and younger audiences, which will hopefully create a new generation of individuals who are well educated and aware of how gender dimensions impact the world.

I also attended an amazing UN panel about Trade & Global Value Chains, and their intersection with gender. This event synthesized my Business and International Studies academic background with my passion for gender equality, and I learned so much from the panelists. One thing discussed was how trade policies have to be careful and cognizant (through comprehensive gender analysis or impact assessments) prior to their implementation that they are not having unintended and disproportionately negative impacts on women. The panelists discussed how, often times, within the global value chain, gender segmentation at different nodes of the chain are based on gender stereotypes and essentialized ideas of what men and women can do, and these stereotypes can restrict women to less value added segments. It was an insightful discussion that showed me how supply chains and international trade, which could be potentially empowering tools for women, can sometimes unintentionally impede women's access and participation and exacerbate other human rights violations. Another realization I had was that I hadn't learned about the human rights impacts of international trade and business through any of my business courses...and this is a *huge* issue. Future business leaders should be taught about the human rights dimensions of trade and business, especially in an increasingly global world. It's a conversation I want to bring up with my business school upon returning to North Carolina.

The last highlight of my day was getting to meet UN Women's Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka! After seeing her at panels and events all week, it was so amazing to get to speak with her and thank her for her incredible work and leadership with UN Women.

 With the UN Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

That's all for now! I'm going to sleep early tonight so that I can be bright and ready for the big presentation day tomorrow! I'm so excited to share with the other CSW participants our research and the great work WomenNC is doing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Day 4: March 16th, 2016

So ends another fantastic day at the United Nations!

My goal for today was to expose myself to some new topics and country perspectives. My first event was focused on funding gender legislation from the perspective of the Philippines and Indonesia (the Philippines allocates 5% of their total budget to gender-based programs!), and my second event was a panel about economic empowerment of women and girls from the perspective of different African nations.

But my favorite event from today was an NGO panel about Women in Leadership & Decision Making. The panelists included  Irene Natividad (President of the Global Summit of Women), Theresa Der-Lan Yeh (ICW), and Rae Duff (National Council of Women of New Zealand). It was a lively panel hosted by the South Korean government, and provided a comparative analysis of the status of women in decision making roles within these countries.

Going to events like this really reinforces my research with WomenNC, and reminds me why I even began to study it in the first place. I have now been to several panel events on this topic, representing a variety of different countries, and this has proven to me that the barriers that women face in political leadership clearly transcend geographic borders. This work is so crucial. Here at CSW60, I have heard over and over again about the struggles we face in implementing gender comprehensive policies, and one of the best ways to achieve that is to increase the diversity of voices in leadership roles, especially the voices of women.

But now it's time to rest my brain and process all the information I collected today. I'm looking forward to a brand new day at CSW60 tomorrow!

Day 4: More realizations

Journal 4: - CSW

I started off my day at a session on recharging our activism through art and I was in for a treat to say the least.  The session began with Lois Herman from WUNRN showing slide after slide of images featuring abused and oppressed around the world, from female genital mutilation in Nigeria to child marriages in India.  I was genuinely unsure what these images had to do with art and activism, but I remained silent.  We were then addressed by a woman named Patty Melnice who “rescued” women in South Africa who had been victims of rape.  Patty went on to claim she was “the voice of those who lost theirs”.  She explained that she revealed to these women their value through her work.  It was extremely disheartening to once again be at a panel in which the “white savior complex” was fully embraced.  

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who realized the presentation was truly messed up.  The older white woman sitting next to me named Irene, turned to me immediately, when the first racialized images of oppressed “third world women” flashed by our screens and said, “This doesn’t seem right”.  Later during the panel, Irene spoke up about her discomfort, which led me to express mine as well.  As nerve racking as it was to condemn a panel in front of a full room of people, I was relieved to have spoken up; to have had a voice.  So many times, injustices go unspoken and often times the voices of women of color go unheard.  I thanked Irene for using her privilege to spark a much needed dialogue at the panel.

If there’s anything that has been stressed to me at the sessions I’ve attended since being at CSW, it’s the importance of local solutions and the power of local communities.  The session I attended after on rural women and their role in sustainable development was the complete opposite of the previous and it restored hope in my heart.  I was relieved to be greeted by a fully diverse panel, featuring rural women from all over the world who discussed they their ideas for sustainable development.  Rural women don’t lack the strategies for addressing issues in their communities, they need connections.  They need forums in which their voices can be heard, and CSW is the perfect place for that.  

Despite an unfortunate panel at the beginning of my day, I was so grateful to learn so many things today and hear from such passionate women.  There’s always something we can learn from someone else.  There’s a certain power in different perspectives.  Until next time!

"If it is not sustainable for women, it is not sustainable."

When addressing gender oppression worldwide, it is critical that women’s voices are at the center of change making.  If we do not design our interventions to include the perspective of women as the guiding force of our action, our change will not be sustainable. While delivering solutions, women need to have the agency to be at the forefront of their own revolutions, not simply vessels by which we impose ungrounded aid.

An overarching theme that I noticed during my sessions today was the importance of continued community input throughout the process of eliminating gender discrimination. This is a theme that I have come to learn from my studies, but to see that so many interventions to combat gender based violence and discrimination really put the voice of women first was incredibly uplifting.

I was incredibly impacted to today by a session called “The Importance of Mental Health and Sustainable Development.” This session really solidified the connection between mental illness amongst women and the various forms of depression that they face in their day-to-day lives. The first panelist, Nancy Wallace from the World Federation on Mental Health, emphasized that social, political, and economic structures, as well as environmental factors, all greatly effect women’s mental health outcomes. It was clear that Mrs. Wallace is a strong champion for women’s mental health, having founded the World Mental Health day program, and having advocated for mental health to be included in the SGDs for 2030. However, Nancy emphasized that in order for mental health outcomes to improve, especially in under resourced communities, we need to build local capacities for mental health care and coverage. I was extremely moved by Nancy’s talk, and have new perspective on how mental health care has a myriad of effects on other health outcomes, and how dangerous it is that mental illnesses like depression affect women more severely. I aim to include monitoring mental health outcomes in my future global health endeavors, making sure that the emotional and social wellbeing of women is at the forefront of health interventions.

The forms that gender based violence and discrimination take are varied. Therefore, our solutions need to be as well. This can be accomplished not only by addressing problems in a holistic manner, but by first and foremost placing the voices of women in girls at the center of the conversation. Sustainable change for women is only possible if we champion the women in question.  

"If it is not sustainable for women, it is not sustainable." -Joanne Wetzel, World Federation on Mental Health

Source: Center for Disease Control.

Mental health, Rurality and Research

Journal #4

Mental health, rurality and research
            Today the events I went to were absolutely AMAZING. Prior to today, I hadn’t gone to any events that were related to my research topic. Today, I went to a session on rural women and on mental health. Both of these sessions reaffirmed my interests in mental health and rurality. It was very reassuring to hear so many well-qualified women discussing issues that are so important to me.
            I learned that the MDGs did not include any trace of women’s mental health and this floored me! I also learned that within the UN, mental health is very stigmatized. Luckily, mental health has been addressed throughout the STGs even with the stigma attached to it. This is so important as mental health disorders, particularly depression are very comorbid with various other non-communicable diseases and other mental health disorders.
            One interesting part of the mental health session was on the mental health of imprisoned women. Right before this CSW60, I went to a conference at UNC's Law School on mental health and incarceration. In this session we talked about how peoples with mental illness are often incarcerated at higher rates. Kelly Clarke spoke to this at CSW. Incarceration rates are on the rise across the globe. While incarceration rates of men have went up 18%, incarceration rates of women have went up by nearly 50%. Most women are placed in jail for results of poverty or inability to pay fines. Similarly, physical and sexual abuse in childhood are large predictors of female incarceration. Nearly 80% of incarcerated women have at least 1 mental health disorder, whereas 70% have 2 or more.
            Not only do women who are incarcerated typically have higher rates of mental health disorders, they also tend to develop mental health problems once they are in jail. Jails and prisons are environments that often are incredibly hard for women to live in. Whether that be because of being away from family and children, lack of exercise or other factors, often prisons environments severely hurt women’s mental health.
            Overall, I had a great day today at CSW60 and I look forward to hearing Maddy speak at the U.S. Mission and going to more CSW events!