Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Women Are Key to Peace Building

Hey Hey!

Friday was a whirlwind. NGO CSW 63 finally came to an end for us, but it went out with a bang! I attempted to go to an event on women and unpaid care hosted by Mexico, but due to overcrowding, I could not stay. However, I was able to attend a side event hosted by Sri Lanka and Kenya titled Women Investing in Peace. Both countries had representatives present that were able to speak about women leaders that have dedicated their lives to building successful foundations for sustainable communities. This event was very informative and inspirational since we never get to hear or see the women leaders of the world fighting (peacefully) for the rights for their people. I think people only think of Winnie Mandela when they think of women global leaders.

 Later Dr. Rieman and I attend a documentary screening title Women, Peace, and Power hosted by Ireland and Peace is Loud. This documentary follows the stories of women activists, politicians, and citizens in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Liberia as they try to influence peace in their respective countries. This film emphasized how men use violence, power, and coercion to fuel war and their personal propaganda. While countries are worn-torn, children dying, and women and being raped, male leaders are inflating their egos and pockets from back-door deals. Women in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Liberia (and all around the world) are taking a stand against their government tearing their families and countries apart. In 2006, Liberia selected their first woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Talk about moving mountains!!!

To end the night we had a night out of pizza (my favorite) with Bennett alum Abaynesh Asrat of the Class of 1974. She is truly a gem and was very excited to see her fellow Bennett sisters again. During dinner, Africa, Dr. Riemann, students from NYU (I can’t remember their names), Zybrea, and myself had a rich and informative conversation on a plethora of topics. The one that sticks out most to me is the conversation of feminism and why many young women, especially women of color do not label themselves as feminists. Let’s just say that we all came to an understanding (except for Beth) that it is not about the intent of feminism or feminist organizations, it’s about the impact. Overall, I am eternally grateful for this experience with WomenNC and NGO CSW 63. Although challenging at some points, the trip to the UN was totally worth it! Oh, how I am going to miss NYC pizza!!!

                                                         Until next time.


Aravia P

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Purpose of Freedom Is To Give It To Others

Hey Hey!

Thursday, Zybrea and I went to the panel Teaching Consent and Ending Sexual Assault at Schools and Universities, which was hosted by Feminist Majority. I felt this was a very relevant and important topic to discuss at NGO CSW 63, and I went to support Amelia. She was fantastic by the way! Amelia talked about the Netflix documentary The Hunting Ground, which talks about sexual assault on college and university campuses. One in five women in college are sexually assaulted, yet only a fraction of these crimes are reported, and even fewer result in punishment for the perpetrators. This statistic is too high!!! As a student that attends a single-gendered institution, I wonder what the stats are. I’m afraid to even ask anyone. It will be a hard people to swallow that a woman can sexually assault another woman (Hard Eye Roll).

From the panelists that were high school students in California, it is evident that students need adequate and comprehensive sex education in schools. They actually want it!!! I have a theory that if we start teaching consent early (kindergarten), then I am sure we would see a reduction in sexual assault in colleges and universities. Sexual assault is not about what a woman was/is wearing or how promiscuous a woman is, it’s about people having no respect for women’s bodies and wanting to exert power over others. Ugh, we have so much that needs to be done around this issue. More need to get involved and talk to their menfolk about this issue. Women can’t continue to fix everything!!!

I also went to the San Francisco group event on what they are working on. I love San Francisco!!! Another city after my heart (besides NYC) with their progressiveness. I specifically paid attention to the information on women, social protection, and poverty (I was kicked out an event on this due to overcrowding). According to the San Francisco group, three-quarters of the world’s population need social protection. 330 million women and girls live on less than $1.90 a day (a meal at McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A costs more than that). Around the world, 500 million youth live in poverty (we have to change this). I would love to see Trump admiration’s active strategies for global and national social protection. We cannot continue to allow women and girls to carry the burden of unpaid care, poverty, and bad politics. We DESERVE social protection, freedom, and a living wage.


Aravia P

Friday, March 15, 2019

Day 6: End of 63 CSW

Asa Regner, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, started our final day stating the "[she] is a fem-acrat, if that's okay." The joke, combining the roles of feminist and bureaucrat, was supposed to be light-hearted. However, the joke pushed a bigger question for me - can someone be both an activist and bureaucrat? I plan to run for local office, but I also plan to continue my work as an activist. I imagine one day that these two roles will conflict, and I am interested in the decisions that I will make when they do. Additionally, Helene Molinier, Senior Policy Advisor for Director for Innovation & Technology Facility at UNWomen, emphasized that the digital divide was caused by the infrastructure in the past, but the digital divide is created by the cost now.
The next presentation by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality outlined five roots for meaningful youth participation: decision-making power, responsibility, voice, information, and freedom of choice. I feel that youth are often "invited" into conversations, but they are never truly heard. We need to more explicitly ask for the things that we want, because, only through direct confrontation and slight discomfort, will we be truly given a place at the table.

One of my last session was hosted by Smooth Technology in thinking through how we can use both digital and non-digital games to address community-based problems. I am invested in utilizing innovative solutions, like creating games, to address thorny problems. The session, hosted by Dave and Sadie, was inspiring, because I have spent the week hearing about traditional methods to addressing difficult issues so it was quite refreshing to hear their perspectives.

The end of CSW 63 for me has been painful - I am pained at all the difficult gender-related problems and also pained at leaving the fresh cookies at my hotel. However, the pain of difficult problems is inspiring for me. I am inspired by the activists working alongside me, the governments equally committed to change, and my WomenNC community who has been instrumental in providing me opportunities to make change on the local level.

CSW 63: Day Six - Goodbye, New York!

As I write, we are all sitting in LaGuardia Airport, waiting for our (slightly delayed) flight. It is hard to believe that our trip to New York has officially come to the end; the days felt quite long, but the week flew by. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful experience that I have had with WomenNC over the last several months. I have learned so much - about activism, my research topic, myself, and effective advocacy in international settings. Beth and Dr. Riemann have been consistently committed to our work, and I am so thankful for the hours and hours they invested in bettering us, the research we conducted, and our presentations.

On our last day, the majority of us attended “Youth Mobilization Spaces.” This event combined international representatives, UN Women leaders, NGO members, and youth from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. The highlight of my day was our small-group breakout session about the role of youth in the Global Forum that will be launched in recognition of Beijing +25, as well as a myriad of other anniversaries occurring next year. UN Women are in the beginning stages of planning for the event, and we got to play a role in deciding the most effective way to include a representative group of youth activists from around the world. The primary conclusion that we reached was that these activists need to be selected on a regional basis, and each region’s representatives should be broken down to the issues that are most relevant in that area of the world.

Caroline, a deaf woman from South Sudan who was a part of our focus group, continually pushed us to be more inclusive in our advocacy. Throughout the entire day, she jumped into conversations to point out how certain solutions did not accommodate for various disabilities, and proposed alternative methods of reaching girls around the world. Caroline’s advocacy was an important reminder that it is critical to include people who have experienced forms of oppression that are not often included in social justice dialogue.

I also really enjoyed meeting Hadeer, a young Muslim woman from New Zealand who works for Global Citizen. We discussed the recent tragedy in her country and the Islamophobia that seems to be expanding across the world. I also asked her about the international perspective of the United States and learned more about her life in Auckland.

I feel so much gratitude to this program for the training, mentorship, and friendships. I hope that we will all be able to stay in touch for many years to come; for now, I plan on following up with activists I met throughout the last several days and working toward making the governmental representatives of North Carolina and the United States more active proponents of gender equity.

The United Nations with WomenNC: Day 6

The first session I attended on Thursday was a convening of member nations for a general discussion on the agreed conclusions of CSW. The agreed conclusions is a document that is produced at the end of the two-week period of CSW that address members states’ commitment to the annual theme of CSW and what steps they will take to address it. Though this meeting was much less interactive than the others, it was really cool to see how work at the UN actually gets done, and the different perspectives that representatives had regarding the status of women in their countries and globally. I was pleased to see that almost all of the representatives present were women, an occurrence that is often rare in global politics.   

One of the most unique events I attended this week was “Journalism and the Empowerment of Women: New Challenges in the Digital World,” which was a panel of female journalists speaking about their experience. As a former student journalist, I am really interested in the intersection of gender, policy, and free press. Hearing from career journalists regarding their experiences opened my eyes to the extent of sexism and discrimination in the industry.

I also attended a session hosted by Egypt, my country of origin, titled “Responding to Women Refugees from Syria.” The session went over social programs designed to empower women in Egypt, particularly refugees. Syrian refugees make up the largest number of migrants to Egypt, with over half of registered refugees coming from Syria. Despite my criticisms of the Egyptian government and their approach to supporting Syrian refugees, it was amazing to be able to see what programs have been recently established. I was also able to meet the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN and speak to him about my work as a student of political science and Arabic.

                                                  With Ambassador Mohamed Edrees

Though it was bittersweet to have our last day at the United Nations, I cannot wait to participate in UN Women’s “Youth Mobilization Spaces” event tomorrow!

Bennett Belle Takes NYC: Day 5

Good evening everyone!
First off I want to say that I am a little saddened that my time here in the "Big Apple" is coming to an end. However, I am blessed and will forever be thankful for the wonderful opportunity that WomenNC has provided with here at CSW 63. I am still amazed at the education and networking opportunities that I was exposed to this week. For that I say thank you Beth and Dr. Riemann!

Now back to business! Today, I attended a side event for Zimbabwe. This was entitled, "Community Based Initiatives for Building Resilience". The president of the Zimbabwe Senate was one of the panelists and she was extremely pleasant. I went up to thank her for sharing so much information with us and as soon as I introduced myself she embraced with a warm hug.

At a later rate, I attended the parallel event: The Thriving Family: Providing the Best Social Protection and Empowerment for Women and Girls. I can honestly say that this event was by far the best session that I attended all week! The presenters were well educated and I found the content to be very engaging. According to Lynn Walsh, MSW (one of the panelists) marriage decreases the chances of poverty and risk on instability in a girl's life. She also went on to explain that marital stability improves children's mental health, single moms are more at risk for domestic violence, and boys exposed to violence in the household are 3 to 4 times more likely to be violent towards their wife and children. Lynn Walsh also went on to say that relationship education makes a huge difference not only in the households, but in the lives of women and girls.

"Thriving relationships are what people care about the most" -Lynn Walsh

The second panelist was Dr. Tim Rarick. His presentation was entitled, "Involved Fathers Strong Daughters". Dr, Rarick defined empower as:
1. Giving the girl authority or power to do something (externally).
2.Making the girl stronger and more confident, especially in controlling her life (internally).

Dr. Rarick also explained that girls with fathers do not have:

  • Issues with being emotionally dependent on men
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral Problems

His advice was that men need to show their daughters that they love their mothers in front of them because it sets the tone for the girls. When asked what can we do to increase the number of  involved fathers his answer to a participant in the audience was that "there needs to be a cultural shift to encourage accountability for fathers."

The nigh ended with dinner at Romas Pizza with the WomenNC team and a Bennett alumna :)

CSW 63: Day Five - FMF Panel Presentation

A few weeks ago, through the help of Beth Dehghan, I was fortunate enough to be connected to a woman who worked at Feminist Majority Foundation and was planning an event for the NGO Forum at CSW. The event, "Teaching Consent and Ending Sexual Assault at Schools and Universities," seemed very well suited to my interests and experience, and she offered me a spot on their panel of high school and college students. That panel occurred today and I was blown away by the turnout and dialogue that ensued.

The room was quite literally filled to the brim, with a couple dozen people standing because there were no seats left. There were nine of us on the panel, and I was one of only two college students. The other panelists were largely from the United States - primarily California - with two also hailing from Nepal. It gave me an immense amount of pride and hope for the future to hear so many high schoolers speaking passionately and intellectually about the important of discussing these issues throughout an individual's time prior to college. I feel so much gratitude knowing that the communities of which they are a part have advocates working to increase information and transparency for their peers. They were very informed about sex education policies and Title IX, and spoke about programs they were bringing to their schools to emphasize consent and healthy relationships.

For my portion of the panel, I spoke primarily about work that I did as a senior in high school through an independent study titled "Implications of Gender Inequality." As I shared with the panel, the year I conducted the independent study was also the year of allegations against Roger Ailes, the access Hollywood tape, Trump's election, and the Women's March. Spending a quarter dedicated to rape culture was virtually inevitable, and I focused on campus rape culture. Shortly before The Hunting Ground, had been released and I had the privilege of interviewing Andrea Pino for my class. Pino was one of the two students from UNC who filed the first-ever Title IX complaint against a university for its handling of sexual assault cases. For my quarter project, I created a curriculum for the freshmen health classes at my high school that highlighted statistics, vocabulary, resources, legislation, and court cases relating to consent and rape culture. Additionally, it discussed case examples such as student-athletes and politicians. I shared with the panel that, while interviewing Andrea Pino, she told me that, by the time she graduated from UNC, every single school she had applied to as valedictorian of her high school was under federal investigation by the Department of Education for Title IX violations.

I also discussed Duke specifically, citing a recent survey where 48% of female-identifying undergraduate respondents reported being sexually assaulted during their time at Duke. As our Vice President of Student Affairs said, that number is likely far, far higher when you include incident such as groping, which nearly every college-age woman has experienced.

A major highlight of the event was getting to meet Eleanor Smeal, Founder and President of Feminist Majority Foundation and huge feminist icon, as is probably evident from the looks on my face in the pictures below. Eleanor is also a graduate of Duke, and it was wonderful to bond with her for a few minutes! She seemed exciting about starting a Feminist Campus group at Duke, and I look forward to hopefully working with her in the future to make that happen!

During the rest of the day, I also attended the Official Meeting at 10am and the WIN panel that discussed San Francisco's gender commission and ongoing work in Iran and West Africa. We ended the day with a pizza dinner hosted by Abaynesh Asrat, a friend of Beth's from Ethiopia. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is our last full day at CSW. It has been an immensely rewarding and informative experience, and I will be sad to see it end, but grateful for the lessons and connections that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Almost Done with CSW

Today was jam-packed with sessions and learning moments. It was also my last full day at the United Nations Headquarters. This morning I attended my first official meeting at the Commission. It was interesting to hear the each country's delegates report on their status, priorities, strengths and suggestions. As the meeting is three hours long, I only stayed for about 1/3 of it. I was able to hear from representatives of Lithuania, Germany, Ecuador, Ukraine, Malaysia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the Philippines.

The next session I attended was Social Inclusion for Women Being Independent. It was preceded over by H.E. Mr. Yashisa Kawamura Ambassador of Japan. The main thing I learned from this session was that a Japanese woman must have her own money and home to have a room of her own. The Japanese have devised guiding questions to apply to the problem of gender inequity as it relates to managing assets. I appreciated the effort to have an outline to go off of to measure change. One of the most relevant questions I thought they asked was:
Do men and women have equal ownership rights to immovable property=lands, buildings and houses?

My third session was my most personally relevant of the day! Journalism and Empowerment of Women: New Challenges in the Digital World. According to the International Media Foundation, 2/3 female journalists have been digitally attacked online. 1/10 have been physically attacked, 7/10 have experienced a digital attack in the last year and 9/10 said they were more concerned about being digitally attacked over physically attacked. 1/3 young female journalists have considered leaving the profession over the attacks.

The panel featured the creator of the French #MeToo movement, as featured on TIME magazine, the host and co-producer of The Young Turks (the largest digital news show in the world), the head of All digitocracy ( a political digital media outlet for minorities) and a well-known freelance journalist. The women each told harrowing accounts of abuse due to their professions. Everything from "deep fake" pornography, vandalism, physical assault, harassment of their families to murder and rape threats.

They emphasized the need to remain online for their work and reasons of accountability and resilience. They choose to not rely on the government but rather privatize their personal lives, ensure their voices and being heard and work for protections beyond blocking.

I also later attended a session on Women's Leadership, Empowerment, Assess and Protection in Crisis Response that was sponsored by the National Council for Women in Egypt.

Quote of the Day: Why is it when the dissenting opinion is from a man, they are a worthy opponent or at worst-a hated equal? But when the dissenting opinion is from a woman, they are a simply a feminist bitch?

Day 5: A Room of My Own

At my first Official Meeting, I realized that my passion lies in work on the local, state, and, even, federal level. It is difficult for the international community to have conversations, because, to no fault of their own, each country comes from a different perspective and circumstance. The only shared guidance are the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations. However, the SDG's remain broad and rely on individual countries to interpret and implement the goals.
I attended my next event, Social Inclusion for Women Being Independent, because I liked the title of the event as I think of myself as a highly independent woman (almost to a fault sometimes). Led by Japan, I heard facts similar to other sessions - women are burdened by unpaid care time, gender equality is important to the economy, women have lower labor force participation, and technology can play an important role in engaging women's labor force participation. However, Dr. Yasue Nanoshilou mentioned that, like Virginia Wolf emphasized, women must have money and a room of their own. I began thinking that obtaining money is much easier than obtaining a room of our own, because whether we get a room of our own is often not up to us. One person shared about her experiences of constantly being sexually assaulted at her workplace in Japan, even in the midst of Japan's high economic development as the third largest GDP in the world.

In my next event, The Use of New Technologies for Promotion of Work-Life Balance & Advancement of Family Policies for Social Inclusion of Women and Men, I, once again, realized the power of technology to ensure that each individual can live the multiple roles they have in society. This especially important for women as they have more roles than men as mothers, daughters, workers, and wives. It is unfortunate that men do not have more roles than worker, and I believe that the multiple roles women have hinder their participation and level of participation within the formal economy. Like many panelists emphasized, women's multiple roles in society make work flexibility especially important for their work lives. In Britain, companies with 250+ employees have mandated that they must publish their gender wage gap. I believe that it is also important to require greater transparency about flexibility in the workplace. The session ended with Auxilia Ponga, Secretary Ministerof Gender of Zambia, questioning us on what we are doing within the home to enforce gender norms? She emphasized that such gender norms often determine the lifetime outcomes of women which make them important to question and criticize.

The Shoulders We Stand On

This morning Patience and I had the privilege to accompany Beth and Dr. Riemann to the US Mission for a coffee discussion on the United States’ Priorities for CSW 63. This was an opportunity to listen to government officials to speak about the government’s approach to global women’s economic empowerment. I was and still, am skeptical of this current administration’s commitment to any kind of development for any marginalized group. I am also intrigued as to how this administration is making a commitment to the economic development of women internationally, but nationally we have women suffering from the racial and gender wage gap, limited access to adequate reproductive care, and we’re still dealing with the “pink tax.” Yeah, I’m giving this W-GDP major side eye.

The day finally arrived for the most anticipated event this week, “Take the Hot Seat”: A High-Level Intergenerational Dialogue. This session consisted of a panel of women leaders at the UN or in their respective countries and a dynamic Moderator Olaoluwa Abagun. They invited young women from the audience to ask questions about youth, policy, and the future. Ms. Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, stated that she will make sure young people are in attendance at Beijing+25 to have their voices heard. Beijing+25 will give youth the opportunity to speak for themselves and the future they want. Thank you for believing in young people!!! Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, spoke about the inclusivity of women in China and Youth 2030, which will integrate young people in the agenda of youth empowerment. She ended her speech with this statement: “if there is no space at the table, then we have to make our table bigger.” This has now become my motto for the rest of my life! This was by far the most engaging and impactful event of this week, I feel inspired and motivated to work harder for gender equity.

The next session I attended was, Family Care: What Are the Costs to Women and What is the Role of the State? Hosted by the Czech Republic and France. I hadn’t planned to attend this session, it just happened to be close to the previous one, looked interesting, and my feet were hurting so I was able to grab a quick seat. However, this session was a pleasant surprise. To my way of thinking, I thought most if not all European countries had better health care systems and better systems in place for the welfare of women and children. I was wrong big time. The Czech Republic has one of the highest gender wage gaps, and women have to choose between having a family and a career (this seems to be universal). In New Zealand, women are penalized for having children under the “motherhood penalty,” which means the longer they stay out for maternity leave, then the harder it is to find employment. If a woman that recently gave birth returns to work, then she will experience a 4% decrease in earnings. As women, we need all of our coins!!! While sitting in this session, I was shocked that women are being penalized for having children, but wouldn’t the world literally stop if we didn’t have children. We have more work to do people!!!

The final session I attended was Women and Girls of African Descent, hosted by The Honorable Jackie Weatherspoon. First, I must say that this was the first session I saw at NGO CSW 63 that was specifically for Black women and girls (clutches my imaginary pearls). Although the UN has created a space for other people’s voices, Black women and girls still have to fight to be seen and heard. We have to create our own spaces, speak for ourselves and our sisters, and always stand on the shoulders of those who have come and fought before us.

The Fight Continues!!!

Aravia P. 

The United Nations with WomenNC: Day 5

The biggest event we attended today was “Take The Hot Seat,” a youth dialogue event that aimed to bring female leaders and young delegates together to address the common minimum standards that are to be produced by the end of CSW. Moderated by two youth delegates, the panel included leaders like Ambassador Geraldine Nason, Chair of CSW, Phumzile Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and Adriana Salvatierra, President of the Bolivian Senate. Each of the seven panelists was asked questions by the crowd of young delegates during their time in the “hot seat.” Certain points that were raised that really interested me included one regarding financing youth involvement, which was introduced by Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Wickramanayake said the following: “Let it be expensive, it is an investment. It is my belief that if there isn’t enough space at the table, we have to make our tables bigger.”

Another discussion arose regarding women in elected office, where several leaders suggested ideas such as placing financial penalties on political parties for not having enough female nominees or eliminating age restrictions on running for office. Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of Colombia, noted that the number of female politicians in her country grew following the shift of the minimum election age from 30 to 18.

“Taking The Hot Seat” was a great example of the new efforts within CSW and the United Nations to integrate the voices of youth in decision making. On Friday, myself and a few other scholars will get the chance to participate in a youth dialogue roundtable, contributing to common minimum standards that are to be signed by member states. The high value of young voices here at the UN is very empowering, and is a model that we should carry over into other institutions to achieve well-rounded, diverse perspectives.

At "Take the Hot Seat"

Day 4: Women and Girls of African Decent


The meaning of 'Ashay' is Swahili for "Be with us".

Today I have been saturated by the love of Women and Girls of African decent. My Bennett Sisters and I were invited by the Honorable Jackie Weatherspoon to be apart of a discussion that directly focused on us. It was a safe place, and the only event I could relate to on a level of connecting spiritually with all that were in the room. This was also the first event I had been to that was only for women and girls of color and/African decent since my arrival to the UN on Saturday. This event was held in the United Nations Church Building Chapel and the Chaplin of this space is  the First African-American Woman Chaplin. 

During the event we shared encouraging words that we instill in ourselves daily or that we will never forget. The quote I shared was "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going". This means that when life throws all of it's fast balls we hit them all. When I as a African American woman find myself in a discouraging situation, my posture is still to stand tall. Regardless of the external circumstances, I will stand remain consistently the same. I had the pleasure of sharing my story with all who were in the room alongside my Bennett Sister, Patience. We were asked to speak about what it means to be a woman of African decent at our age. I am 19 years old, and the first thing that came to mind was my education. As a current sophomore in college attending an all women's institution that has been a consistent battle to keep its door open, I challenge the policies on Social Protection systems as it pertains to education in raising awareness on what education means for not just women and girls of African decent but all women and girls! 

"When you educate a man, you educate a individual, but when you educate a girl, you educate a nation" 

Lastly, I had the chance to meet with Jachelle Walker, Special Assistant to the Senator in Harlem, New York. She is also the granddaughter of Civil Rights activist, Wyatt T. Walker! We exchanged business cards and I look forward to networking more with her in the future. 

Best, Zybrea M. Knight

P.S - My shirt says 'Michelle Obama Taught Me' 

Bennett Belle Takes NYC: Day 4

Hi everyone! Today, the WomenNC team attended “Take the Hot Seat” A High Level Intergenerational Dialogue. This session involved many women leaders such as the Vice President of the Republic of Colombia, Lucia Ramirez, the head of the National Institute of Women (Colombia), Nadine Gasman, the president of the senate of Bolivia, Adriana Salvatierra, the CSW Chair Phumzile Miambo-Ngcuka and others. In attendace was also the United Nations Secretary General, Jayathma Wickramanayake who stated, “If there is not enough room at the table then we should make our tables bigger.” I found this quote to be extremely powerful and I am certain that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. 

At the “Hot Seat” Event I also met a new friend named Lloyd. Lloyd is a member of the Youth Coalition organization and has an amazing story! He was born and raised in the Philippines, but chose to attend graduate school in the UK. This is because Lloyd has an interest in social change, but in the Philippines people who speak out against injustices are frowned upon and viewed as “trouble makers”. Lloyd is studying Global Policy in the UK and holds and undergraduate degree in nursing. He is passionate about women’s health and made the commitment to fight for this issue despite it being considered trivial in the Philippines. Lloyd’s courage to travel to a country outside of his hometown to become educated on women’s health proves that he is a natural born advocate! It was a pleasure meeting him today! 
 (L to R: Patience, Africa, Lloyd)

We are the Youth and We are the Future

Today was a relatively busy day. I enjoyed a morning in. However, my first session was entitled: Women, Peace, and Security National Action Plans(NAPs) in the Arab Region: Lebanon and Jordan. It was moderated by the first woman Minister of the Arts in the world. I really appreciated learning the logistics behind developing National Action Committees. Both countries have spoken on forming 1325 steering committees of the highest degree to alleviate possible governmental dissent. The committees comprised to complete the following steps in order to achieve their goal:

1. Adoption of national priorities
2. Development of activities (through sectorial meetings)
3.Budgeting the cost of the NAP
4. Endorsement of the NAP (through governmental funds and international donors)

Jordan serves as an excellent example of regional support prevailing with the help of national and international stakeholders. Lebanon is working to follow in their footsteps. Both nations' ultimate goal is to create a culture that understanding gender specific needs.

My afternoon session was one that I have been looking forward to for a while. It involved advanced notice, tickets and individual RSVPs. I was proud to watch my fellow WomenNC scholars volunteer to help with the session registration!

Take the Hot Seat:An Inter-generational Dialogue was a panel discussion with world leaders and the young advocates attending CSW. I thoroughly enjoyed it; my only complaint was that it wasn't longer. The panel included: the Executive of U.N. Women, the Chair of CSW, the Vice President of Colombia, the President of the National Institute of Women in Mexico, and the youngest person to serve as the Senate President in Bolivia, and the Youth Envoy to the U.N. Some of the top things I gleaned from this session were: That we as women are not part of the future, but rather part of the present because we're here now in the present. I took from that that we can make our impact now. We don't want to pull men back, we simply want to be able to go forward on equal footing.

I also thought it was extremely interesting that one of the panelist emphasize the importance of leisure time for  women as we often carry the burdens of society. I was struck by how inclusive the session was with several translators and sign interpreters. We discussed a youth strategy meant to be targeted before 2030 and ways to engage doubly marginalized groups, such as disabled women.

I also saw an abridged screening of WOMAN tonight in the EcoSoc chamber at the U.N. General Assembly Building. I don't have enough words to describe how moving, powerful, clever, grounded and inspiring it was. From the film, which I can't wait to go see in its entirety, I have taken that violence thrives in silence; the resistance of the patriarchy is the greatest threat to the fight to stop violence against women; and that a man's reputation should never be viewed above a woman's dignity.

Quote of the Day: I often hear inclusion is expensive. Accommodating those that are different is expensive. Let it be expensive because it is an investment in our future.If there's not room at the table for everyone, we need to build a larger table. -Jayathma Wickramanyake, Youth Envoy to the U.N.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Day 4: More Technology Sessions & #YouthCSW

My interest in both technology and finance, and especially the intersection of the two, was well satiated by my first session: Fin-Tech as a Driver of Gender Inclusion. Dr. Dabesaki from the Ford Foundation began by detailing that finance and technology are restricted spaces, and investments have mostly gone to male startups. There must be lower barriers of entry into the financial services sector, and, ironically, technology could be a solution to that. In many communities across Nigeria, Mines.io is allowing individuals to get small loans through technology. Asian Sowho, founder of Mines.io, pushed us to think through the idea that if we continue having the conversations, although important, about data privacy in emerging markets as the ones we have been having in mature markets, then we will lose out on a large opportunity for good. Unlike developed markets, emerging markets do not have a safety net to fall back on without technologically-driven solutions. Also during the panel, creator of Angela, Christina Sass shared about how we don't need more studies about the value of diversity in the workforce, we need actual solutions. In her work, Christina has seen that women technologists compete and outcompete their male counterparts. Overall, I felt that this panel well-aligned with my very specific interests at the intersection between technology and finance and making those spaces more equitable for women and people of color.

Next, in the Hot Seat: an Intergenerational Dialogue, I realized that the presidents, vice-presidents, and prime ministers of countries all talked about technology in some way whether it was about digital education, economic opportunities for women, and the internet gender gap. I believe that the future of technology requires talking about the future of women and vice versa. Overall, I felt incredibly privileged to be in the room with such influential, bold women in power - their personal stories and character inspire me to think more intentionally about being a future leader that works to lift and mentor other women professionals. However, I wish there was more discourse about the Minimal Standards. Specifically, I would have been interested in hearing amendments to the Minimal Standards regarding "equipping young people with skills to use modern technology," for I believe that it is not only the lack of skills but also the lack of internal belief and external validation that hold women back from utilizing technology in their lives.

Finally, the Private Sector Wisdom for Gender Equality made me realize that the U.S. private and public sectors must be doing more to support women professionally. Inbal Long, WebPals Group COO, shared about how 2/3 of her management team is made up of women. Even more incredibly, to incentivize women to return to the labor force after pregnancy, she shared how it was not uncommon for women to be promoted during pregnancy. When she stated this, the whole room applauded this work, because this is truly transformational. I have read little research on promotions during pregnancy, but I am interested to continue watching other companies in the private sector take this lead. Additionally, one representative from the OCED mentioned that modern equality is perhaps feeling equally empowered by our ignorance by both men and women. Reflecting, men often just walk into rooms, interviews, presentations with little consideration of how little they know or how uncertain they are. I feel that I have spent years trying to adopt this mindset, but I can still do better, because the uncertainty is what I must thrive on rather than be afraid of. 

Best Event So Far

The most enjoyable event of CSW for me thus far was "People on the Move," which was hosted by the Christian World Service. As a non-christian, I was a little skeptical about the perspective of the event, but I had some familiarity with the work Christian World Service does as a resettlement organization in Raleigh NC, and was excited by the listed speakers which included representatives from UNICEF- USA, The Hunger Project, a Feminist Filmmaker, in addition to CSW project managers. So after a long day I dragged myself to the basement of the Armenian Center to participate in this event, and it was so worth it.

The event grabbed my attention immediately by showing a film trailer from Isabella Alexander, called "The Burning," which conveyed the dangerous undocumented crossing process from Northern Africa into Europe. Having worked refugee boat landings on a different border of the European Union, the Greek island of Lesvos, I connected a lot with the imagery in the film of overcrowded haphazard dinghies.

Once the panel began, we discussed what these major organizations do to place humanity back in not only the border crossing process but in the places where most migrants inevitably become trapped for year.At one point we discussed the decision organizations makes to pull out of countries. It was interesting to hear the Hunger Project representative discus meeting sustainability goals with partner organizations prior to "leaving" a country. As someone who was in Greece when Save the Children pulled out of Greece and witnessed the chaos and uncertainty in that wake, I asked about the decision to leave in and of itself and all the panelists came into discuss the decision weighing process of humanitarian aid and crisis response. I felt really included in the conversation on this topic in being both critical and engaged, and I learned a lot from that experience.

After the event, I approached Isabel, told her my experience, exchanged business cards with her, and proposed the idea of bringing "The Burning" film to UNC for a screening and discussion sometime early next school year. It feels great to make a connection at a CSW event that has a tangible step moving forward.

CSW 63: Day Four - Youth Dialogue & Women Around the World

We started off today by volunteering with UN Women to help distribute tickets to those invited to “Take the Hot Seat.” Before that even began, I spent time in “Women, Peace and Security: National Action Plans in the Arab Region - Lebanon and Jordan.” I decided to attend this event because I don’t have any extensive prior experience studying the Middle East and I wanted to learn more about the role of women’s advocacy in the region. As is true for all of the events I’ve attended thus far, it was amazing to listen to a panel full of incredible women - especially women of color - discuss their work to increase the opportunities of women and girls in a region that is generally immediately discredited by the West.

I left the Lebanon and Jordan event a bit early to ensure we got excellent seats for “Take the Hot Seat.” It was a wonderfully pleasant surprise to find out that the young woman from Nigeria whom we met at dinner last night was one of the youth moderators. Olaoluwa Abagun was an excellent moderator, keeping the energy lighthearted and personable, while also pressing the panelists (all female leaders at the UN or in their respective countries) to detail their plans to advocate for youth interests on the larger scale. I particularly enjoyed Marta Ramirez, the Vice President of Colombia, noting that “You’re not part of the future. You’re in the present. It’s in the present that we build the future.” I also agreed with Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, noting that some resist these movements because of their financial burden, to which she responds “Let it be expensive. That is an investment we have to make. If there’s no space at the table, we have to make our tables bigger.” It was inspiring to hear not only from the panelists, but also the young moderators and multiple young women who asked difficult and insightful questions to ensure their interests were being addressed.

My third event was “Gender Budgeting: Re-shaping resources in support of equality goals” with Ireland and Uganda. Unfortunately, I have not often seen countries in Western Europe and East Africa collaborate so enthusiastically, and it was really interesting to hear the countries’ respective leaders discuss their efforts to prioritize gender and equity issues in budgeting. Uganda has been emphasizing this for much longer than many other countries, and its leaders spoke about the emphasis on equity more broadly so as to encompass other identities, such as ability, class, education, etc. Despite progress, both countries cited the complications of gender-segregated labor markets, with women and men virtually split into professions aligning with traditional gender roles.

My final event for the day was “Mainstreaming Gender into Social Protection: The Ghana Story.” There were several impressive speakers on the panel, but the most interesting part of the panel occurred toward the end, when several Ghanian women in the audience began to challenge one of the men on the panel. He serves as the Chair in their Parliament of the Women and Children’s Commission and made comments about affirmative action that several women vehemently disagreed with. The dynamic was interesting to watch; he did not seem particularly receptive to their perspective, but I appreciated their outspokenness and willingness to challenge authority figures who were supposed to be representing their values. I was also really interested in the Q & A segment of the conversation toward the end where one audience member brought up the country’s policy on abortion and the need for the national healthcare insurance to provide increased coverage of family planning services.

It’s hard to believe that we’re over halfway through our time at CSW; I have learned so much and am continually inspired by so many women from all over the world. I only hope that U.S. leadership will soon be willing to replicate the commitment and progress demonstrated by so many of our global partners and colleagues.

The United Nations with WomenNC: Day 4

Today was a full day of sessions in the United Nations headquarters. Known as “side events,” events that take place in the UN building are hosted by member states and their efforts to promote social protections for women and girls, among other things. Hosted by Spain, the first session I attended today was titled: “Unpaid Work: An Obstacle to Real Equality.” This was the first event that I attended this week that was not in English, so I had to use the translating devices provided. As a student studying language, I was very impressed by the speed and accuracy of the translator!
Putting the earpieces to use!

To start off the session, the moderator, Silvia Vallejo, said the following: “Care cannot fall exclusively on the shoulders of half the population - women.” The keynote speaker, María Ángeles Durán, really stood out to me among the group of speakers. A pioneer for research on the unpaid labor of women, Durán made several compelling points. She pointed out that there was a misconception that unpaid work doesn’t generate wealth, when in fact it provides more for those profiting from the labor. She also noted that the term “care” needed concise definition within the context of women’s rights discussion, as care can be passive or take other forms that are unexpected or disqualified by typical definitions.

The next event that stood out to me was the Women in Power event that took place in the General Assembly chamber. The GA is an iconic representation of the United Nations; it’s seen in countless news articles and publications, and is the site of debate for every resolution the General Assembly passes. As someone that’s aspired to work with the UN since early high school, getting to be in the chamber today and witness powerful women share their thoughts and experiences was an emotional experience for me. We heard from numerous heads of state, including the presidents of Nepal, Lithuania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Croatia, as well as the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Vice President of Colombia.

In the GA chamber!

The last event that impacted me the most today was actually not a registered CSW event, but a social for young delegates hosted by Professor Shruti Rana from Indiana University. There, my fellow scholars and I had the chance to meet with other student activists from Indiana, Russia, and Nepal, to name a few. It was amazing to be able to learn from my peers and share ideas and similarities with people I never would have met otherwise. I’m so excited to hear the Secretary General speak tomorrow at the United Nations!

First Full Day of CSW Sessions

Today marked the first full day of sessions at CSW. I started my day at a session entitled Unpaid Work: an obstacle to real equality. It dealt with designing and implementing new policies to offer services, social protection and basic infrastructure to achieve real and effective equality. It was easily my favorite session of the day!

Care can not fall exclusively on the shoulders of only half the population. The keynote speaker talked about the difference between ideas and beliefs and the enormous bias in measuring economic worth. She also outlined the four modes of production: capitalist, state/public administration (as it relates to distributive wealth), voluntary sector and household. Every mode of production has it's own ethos. She introduced the notion of economics as a normative science instead of a descriptive science. We need to acknowledge economics as a social science and work to make it as a semi-foolproof predictive science. I was floored to come to the realization in this session that any change to one country has repercussions for another.

From the session  I was able to draw the conclusion that, the first component of the pay for care giving should be the minimum wage in addition to taxes, social protection and profit to compensate businesses for their risk. We must keep in mind the Iron Law of Care: people most in need are the ones that often can't pay for the services they require. Just consider the amount of care people with degenerative diseases require.

In addition to that session, I attended a few others including one concerning sexual harassment within government bodies and an official meeting in the General Assembly, that featured: the Presidents of  Trinidad and Tobago, Lithuania, Nepal, Croatia and Estonia. And they were all women!!!

Day 3: Women are not Alone!

I spent my entire day in the United Nations Headquarters building. I would not have ever imagined doing that. Today I attended four different side events but for the purpose of this blog post I will focus on one in particular; "Sharing of Best Practices on Social Protection Systems in the Southern African Development Community with a focus on HIV/AIDS and women and girls".  In this side event the topic of discussion was the how's women and girls are getting infected with these diseases and what can be done about it. By weekly in the South Africa regions 7, 000 women get infected with HIV.  In 2016 South Africa started a positive reaction in ways of prevention for HIV. To this extent, they found various of ways young women and men are being infected; one way being younger girls who are not able to attend school would date older men to maintain a lifestyle of being getting taken care of, Treatment also has not been available to lower class citizens within the south African regions. Women of the age of 20-24 are highly infected but then there is a age gap of 15-19 that do not know they may be infected. One of the major challenges in this is the exposure of people knowing their status could come with torture. There were statics given that 3.7 million people are attending therapy or counseling for coping or living with HIV. 

What was most mind-blowing about this session was Reverend Balloou's outlook on HIV from a male perspective. I quote "Women are the face of HIV but it is Men who are the face of dying from HIV". This stuck with me, as I sat with eyes, ears and heart ready to hear what he had to say next I could not have agreed more with that statement and it made me say WOMEN ARE NOT ALONE; not only how women and young girls are getting HIV/AIDS but so are men and boys. Women will verbalize or share and talk about their status, men will not. Men gain knowledge of their status from women. The problem with this is that the narrative of a man has yet to be changed. Women that are getting infected are from Men in Power. There has been a normalization of the notion regarding male violence, and men are not held accountable. They also refuse due to culture to go tot he doctors and or show any signs of being "human", by this I mean showing emotion and feelings. The intersection between gender based violence and HIV has to come into play. 

In addition when it comes to policy making and resolution on how HIV/AIDS can be prevented and the statics can be lowered has to include those who are getting affected by it. The Policy environment has to change. There are massive gaps in promoting policy in states Statutory laws and other laws. There is a Disconnect between laws of legislation. Age of consent from a parent and then free to all. It is Bias. In South Africa and countries all around the world there has to be a capacity given for young women and men where there voices in how they can be helped in treatment for HIV/AIDS rather than just having them voice a opinion and the policy makers chose if they want to listen  and have them back in a cycle of control. There cannot be anything for them, without them. 

In my opinion, after attending this session, the first step to prevention and decreasing the amount of women and men and girls and boys starts with a conversation followed by action. I also think that men should be exposed more to events and conferences that are about women so that they can learn how to be a man, it could be the step to changing this normalization of what a man is suppose to be. In every women's conference or event I've been to, there is maybe two men in the room. This should change. Women issues are everyone issues. 

- Zybrea M. Knight

My Body Is Not a Democracy

Hey Hey!

My day started at 1:00 pm today (hallelujah for some extra sleep!) with multiple session about youth, sex, sexuality, body autonomy, and healthy relationships. This afternoon, the first session I attended was Sharing of Best Practices on Social Protection Systems in Southern African Development Community and With a Focus on HIV/AIDS and Women and Girls. Representatives from four Southern African countries were present to report their countries current status on HIV/AIDS and women and girls since CSW 60. According to one representative, every year nearly 7,000 women and girls are infected with HIV in Southern Africa. Many of the people becoming infected are in the 15-24 age range. Cultural and gender norms continue to undermine women’s quest for equality and sexual and reproductive rights. There seems to be a parallel here between the U.S. and Southern Africa. Why must women and girls suffer everywhere!!! The representative for Zimbabwe stated that “the face of HIV is women, but the face of death is men.” He reported that in Zimbabwe, they are working to change the narrative of what it means to be a man (brave, strong, and violent). Moving from the misunderstanding that toxic masculinity and patriarchy should be accepted and tolerated by women and girls to the belief that women and girls deserve equity and more. Say bye bye to mansplaining!!!

The second session I went to was Happy, Healthy, and Safe: Healthy Relationships for Young People I know I said that yesterday’s presentation was my favorite, but this one takes the cake. I never thought that I would come all the way to NGO CSW 63 and hear professionals from the UK and Denmark talk about adolescents being body positive, exploring their sexuality, and having healthy relationships. This session is what every burgeoning teenager and young adult needs to hear. Sex and sexual behavior are seen as taboo, but we all seem to forget that the start of humanity happened because two people did, in fact, have sex (GASP). The panelists spoke about the liberation youth experience receiving adequate and comprehensive sexual education in school and living in a society that is more accepting of sexual liberation and exploration. America needs to take notes from Denmark and the UK! It was also emphasized that women’s bodies can be used as a tool to uphold traditional values that do not favor women’s sexual and reproductive liberation. Overall, this session emphasized that youth have the right to have autonomy over their bodies and relationships. In a world that is evolving faster than we can keep up with, it is important to give capacity, voice, and space to our youth. Investing in their voices is vital to the hope, change, and equity we want for our future.

Today I felt repurposed and inspired that there is hope for women, girls, and our youth!

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s presentations!!!


Aravia P