Sunday, January 29, 2017

Prevention is essential

We are less than two months away from the United Nations Women Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York! Since starting the fellowship in October, I have collected data and completed my research report on studied dating and sexual violence youth prevention education in Durham schools. I collected data through interviews with staff members of nonprofits around North Carolina, teachers, government officials, and public health workers. I also examined health reports and research articles to find quantitative data on rates of dating and sexual violence and the associated economic impacts. The Durham Crisis Response Center is an amazing nonprofit organization and I am grateful for their staff’s insights on the status of dating and sexual violence prevention services in Durham County. The message that I want to convey to everyone during all of my upcoming presentations is that prevention education is essential to ending interpersonal violence.
            Durham currently has limited youth prevention education that is evidence-based and comprehensive. Their neighboring county, Orange County, has been able to provide age-appropriate comprehensive dating and sexual violence youth prevention education curricula to all of their students in K-9th grades. This model is extraordinary and can serve as an example for counties all over the country. Durham County nonprofits, teachers, and government officials have already expressed interest in expanding dating and sexual violence youth education services to all of their students but require further support from local government, the school system, and the public health department. Durham as a city is in a unique opportunity to be one of the first cities in the United States to adopt the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. On a similar note, Durham county and city governments could work together to make the county of Durham one of the first counties to fully embrace dating and sexual violence youth prevention education.

            I will be conveying my research results to the Durham city government on the afternoon of February 23. That same day in the evening I will present my research results at the Durham Local to Global Women’s Forum: Cities for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. This dinner is open to the public and will give the fellows a chance to present their research findings to the local community. We head to New York on March 11 to present our research at the CSW conference. In April, we will present our research to the Durham County government. In order to prepare for all of these presentations, we are currently developing our public speaking skills and practicing our presentations with our mentors. I have found that my greatest struggle during this research project is staying focused on something specific. Dating and sexual violence prevention is a huge topic and it was difficult to fit everything I wanted to say within my 10-page research limit. I cannot wait for all of this hard work to pay off when I see how Durham government officials apply the findings from my research report into change for their community and when I share my research with local and global audiences.

Research Experience

During my experience as a I fellow, I have learned a lot about the women of my community. I have had the privilege of discussing the reproductive rights of girls and women with staff members from jails, local non-profit organizations, and local scholars. Without their engagement in my research, I would not have been able to gain much knowledge over the reproductive services available to girls and women in Durham's jail facilities. Their support helped me come a long way from my research question. Though I have taken the time to collect information about this subject, I learned that there is still more information to be collected from facilities.

During my research, I found myself lacking enough details about the reproductive services for girls and women at Durham's detention facilities. I wanted to know more about the frequency of services provided to the girls and women. My hope is that Durham City Council will be inspired to adopt another method of data collection for the reproductive services of girls and women at its Durham County detention facilities. It would be reassuring to know that women who are incarcerated are being served their reproductive services just as equally as women outside of jail. As a researcher, I was amazed at the continuing efforts that non-profits have made towards the reproductive rights of women. I commend them on helping incarcerated individuals with their issues. I look forward to presenting my research to the supporters of WomenNC and CSW at the UN. I want to thank everyone that has assisted me with this experience, especially our mentors. I appreciate all the things you all have done to make every step of this process easier.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Peaks and Valleys: The Road Ahead

The last few months have been a trying one for women all over the world who are striving to eradicate sexism and misogyny. Last week, we witnessed the inauguration of a president who trivialized sexual assault, used thinly veiled sex stereotypes to attack his opponent, and embraced a staunchly anti-choice voting bloc. While Ivanka Trump has spoken up in support of paid maternity leave and other laws aimed to make the workplace more family-friendly, the Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to pass any such legislation. On the other hand, Mr. Trump has demonstrated his commitment to the anti-choice cause by signing an executive order blocking federal funding to international NGOs that supply or promote abortion. These developments at the national level, combined with the failure of the incoming North Carolina leadership to negotiate the repeal of HB2 makes local action to promote gender equality all the more urgent.
Unfortunately, taking action at the local level is easier said than done, as I am discovering first hand with my work as a CSW fellow. First of all, most of the policy remedies that would most effectively combat the wage gap—fair scheduling ordinances, living wage laws, paid family leave and sick days—are all prohibited at the local level in North Carolina. North Carolina has what’s known as “Dillon’s Rule,” which states that local governments only have the powers specifically enumerated by state statute. This precludes any law a city or county might pass that would require private employers to guarantee their employees certain rights. However, the City of Durham can implement all of those policies for their own employees, and have already begun to do so. Durham County will soon provide paid maternity leave for their employees. Public employers can have a great influence on the overall labor market when they raise standards for their own workplaces.
On a more personal level, the quest to support the Cities for CEDAW movement with original research proved a much more overwhelming task than I expected. It was difficult for me to keep my research focused and pertinent to the task at hand. I was also frustrated by the simplistic level of analysis I was limited to because of the time constraints and limitations of my data. Most of my statistical analysis feels somewhat trivial and incomplete. However, I could not go more in depth without going beyond the scope of the project and many more pages past the 11-page limit. There will always be critics who are going to criticize the depth and methods of any report. Many of these people will be unsatisfied or unconvinced no matter how many more statistics you cite.
I must remind myself that the real purpose of this report is not to produce indisputable proof of the exact dynamics of the wage gap in Durham. The goal is to provide a model for the kind of formal analysis that the city and its partners should do in order to correct pernicious gender inequities in our communities. I need only to highlight the existence of the problem of the gender wage gap and to educate a general audience about it in such a way that inspires action. This will be the toughest challenge yet, but with the training of the WomenNC mentors, I think I will be able to create an effective presentation that will move people from complacency to action.