Monday, April 18, 2016

Final blog: What an incredible and life-changing experience!

As my time with WomenNC draws to a close, I feel very bittersweet. I have enjoyed my time with WomenNC immensely. Reflecting back on the program I see all the amazing work that has been done by everyone involved and I feel honored to have been a part of it.

WomenNC gave me the opportunity to research rural women's experience with anxiety and depression, something i've been very interested in since I came to college. My experience with WomenNC has been so much different than my experience in mental health research labs; through WomenNC I was able to receive so much first hand experience that not many undergraduates can say they have and for that I am truly grateful and honored. WomenNC has not only impacted my future by providing me with invaluable experience, but it has also given me a deeper insight and deeper passion for women's human rights. I know that from here out, wherever I go, I will take my new gendered perspective and I know I will always be a strong advocate for women's human rights.

Similarly, WomenNC has given me an amazing network of strong and inspiring women to look up to and reach out to. From the people I met at the UN, to our board to the other fellows, I will never forget the incredible people I've met.

This year has been full of ups and downs, incredible experiences, sad experiences, eye opening experiences and various other experiences I can't even put words to. I will never forget speaking at the UN, developing my policy brief or creating bonds with all of the other fellows.

This year almost feels like I am graduating twice: once from the WomenNC Fellowship program and, here in a few weeks, from UNC Chapel Hill. I don't know where my future will lead me quite yet, but I do know WomenNC and this fellowship has influenced the trajectory.

All in all, my experience at WomenNC has been incredible. I have learned so much through my research, my partner organization, the other amazing fellows and the incredible board. I am so grateful for all WomenNC has done for me and so grateful for the amazing experiences I have had!

Catch y'all later. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Finale.
Laura Douglass

It is the season of goodbyes. My head has spinning as I finish my senior year at Meredith, and one of the many things I am letting go of is this fellowship.

I have been exposed to so many things and my has it been incredible. I have learned more about so many people that I knew nothing about and have walked different lives than I do. Simply asking people if they agree with me or about things I myself don't understand is more than many people do.

Words cannot describe the emotional journey telling my story has had. Thank god for the deadlines that forced me to put words on paper. It is empowering to know that I spread awareness on an issue that doesn't get very much attention. I hope that everyone I encountered over the process of this fellowship takes the little I told them about sexual assault in the military and does their best to be supportive to victims, and plead for reform.

Thank you WomenNC for this opportunity. There simply isn't anything else like it. Now it's time for me to go forward and save the world.

Thank you,

P.S. Look for me on CSPAN one day. :-)

Friday, April 15, 2016

To my dear WomenNC supporters:

Today marks my last official day as a WomenNC CSW Fellow. This has been a tumultuous learning experience, and I am so thankful to all those who have helped me grow through this process. This Fellowship program has reshaped my understanding of advocacy and my role within it by helping me identify my strengths, and showing me that I can lean on, and learn from, a network when I don't have all the answers. In such a short time period, I feel like I have grown immensely as a researcher, as a communicator, and as an advocate. Our April 7th Reflection event solidified so many things that have been brewing in my mind since the start of this Fellowship, but most importantly showed me how much progress I've made. This personal recognition of growth made it all the more meaningful to be the recipient of the Carolyn King Scholarship Award. I am so appreciative of the acknowledgement, and thankful for the opportunities I've had through this program that have helped me get to this point!

WomenNC opened the doors to my partnership with a fantastic organization, Lillian's List, where I was able to meet incredible female politicians from all over the state and witness firsthand all of the work that goes into running for elected office. The current national political climate can be disheartening at times, so it was really meaningful for me to meet strong women in politics doing everything in their power to be a voice for change at the local level.

WomenNC gave me the opportunity to attend (and present at!!) the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It was a condensed version of what I hope the near future brings for me: opportunities to work with and learn alongside gender advocates from all over the world.

Most importantly, WomenNC gave me the chance to meet an amazing group of women. A huge part of this experience has been learning from the people in this organization and expanding my worldview through their eyes.

I mentioned at the April 7th event how I've been evolving this whole year...and I want to reiterate that as my closing notes for this blog post. My future holds a lot of uncertainty, but my evolution over these past few months has made it abundantly clear that that uncertainty does not extend to my role as a gender advocate. You cannot analyze or understand the world without applying a gender and human rights perspective. I hope to carry forward the mission of WomenNC, and make the organization proud for their investment and belief in me! So many thanks to WomenNC for a fantastic learning experience, and a special thanks to my mentor, Maureen, who dedicated so much time and energy to helping me reach my full potential.

Fond farewell (for now),

Final words, final thoughts, final sentiments

The April 7th event felt eerily similar to graduation, except I wasn’t walking across the stage to receive a diploma.  I wasn’t dressed in a cap and gown, but nevertheless I got that same overwhelming sense of sadness that comes with graduating.  Graduation means moving on to the next chapter.  Last week’s event was the last page in my WomenNC book...for now.  This adventure began in September, and I’m happy to say that not only did I survive, but I’m even more dedicated and passionate about women’s issues than ever before.  

The WomenNC fellow experience wasn’t always smooth sailing.  I remember how challenging it was for me to even narrow down my research topic.  It seemed like everyone else did with ease.  When addressing environmental issues, it was extremely important to me to address the intersections of women’s issues, environmental justice, and poverty.  Such issues seem so broad, yet so specific.  I was so lost and suddenly feeling the weight of my own pressure.  I’m a perfectionist, and at first research was everything but that.  Once I finally figured out my way, I had to find a partner organization. That was an experience that brought a new set of hurdles to overcome, but it’s safe to say, it was close to smooth sailing after that.

No experience is perfect, and I know that.  People are met with challenges to grow and this whole experience was a learning experience.  It revealed to me new perspectives and forced me to be honest with myself, while pushing me out of my comfort zone.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  As women, oppression is our reality, but it’s not our only reality.  I’m choosing to fight for justice for women because change is no longer imaginary.  It’s tangible! Real! Possible! I’m hopeful, and have become so even more since being apart of this fellowship program.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Beth and the committee for not only choosing me to be apart of this journey, but for allowing me room to grow and experience.  Thank you for your wisdom, guidance and unwavering support.  Thank you for your passion and all that you all do.  I’ve never felt so powerful, but it’s safe this is the first step to a lifelong career of women’s advocacy.  The thought of that makes me giddy.

Until we meet again!

Reflecting and Reaffirming Gender-Safe perspectives: Final Post

It is hard to believe that today is our last official day of our WomenNC fellowship. It has been just over a month since we left for CSW in NYC, and many of the lessons I have gained from this fellowship are continuing to inform my decision-making processes as I navigate the job and career search. 

There have been so many avenues by which to gain experience from in this process. Firstly, just the community I have found in both the other fellows as well as the mentors and staff within WomenNC has been incredible. Not only has their insight and passion for various facets of women's human rights inspired me, their dedication to organizing has also moved me in so many ways. During my time in college, while I have pursued various projects and opportunities to allow me to better understand the injustices of the world, it is easy to get trapped in the bubble of campus and become disconnected from the "real" world. The powerful women leaders involved in this fellowship have shown me that when we have collective willpower and time devoted to causes close to our hearts, amazing outcomes are bound to happen. I am so honored to have built community with these women, and to have benefitted from their wisdom. It has certainly inspired me to pursue community organizing and activism on a local level once I graduate. 

Secondly, the experience of getting to know the subject matter of my policy brief topic has been so valuable. Not only did I become familiar with a new platform of writing, I can now say that I have a working knowledge of a very critical women's human rights issue right here in NC, and was able to develop ideas for how to combat it. The experience of being an undocumented women in NC is one that I will never be able to truly understand, the strife and obstacles to well-being are numerous and difficult. However, I will now serve as a life-long advocate for this population, and hopefully my body of knowledge will only grow. 

Lastly, the tumultuous and incredible experience of the actual CSW60 conference in New York is one that has left a lasting impression. Yes, I gained practical skills in networking and public speaking, but more importantly I developed a stronger sense of hope. It can be so tempting to dissolve into despair when one really attempts to understand the massive human rights violations occurring against women all over the world. However, the collective energy, passion, and determination that I observed at CSW60 was immensely powerful, and truly cemented for me that it is possible to mobilize to affect change in women's rights. I heard perspectives from local, on the ground leaders, to high level officials, and it was evident that each individual had locked on a path for sustainable change.

What this fellowship has really provided for me is the opportunity to realize that I will include a gendered perspective in all work and activism that I do in my life. Gender oppression exists at almost all levels of social interaction in some form, in every country in the world. I will continue to incorporate gender safe interventions in all forms of global health interventions I pursue in my lifetime. 

I cannot express my gratitude enough for the opportunity to be apart of this fellowship experience. I have been supported in such valuable ways, I have grown as an activist, and I have garnered new hope for ways we can improve the well-being of women across the globe.