Why Model UN Really Rocks!! Part 2

Last Friday marked the completion of our second session Model United Nations (MUN) Summer Institute, with another outstanding group of students learning debate skills, improving their confidence, exploring human rights and analyzing international policies. Click here for more information about our MUN Summer Institute. Last week, we summarized the experience of the MUN Summer Institute in our “Why the Model UN Rocks!! Part 1″ post. This week, we’d like to explore the diversity of our participants, and how it created an stimulating simulation, and illuminating experience for the delegates.

Our MUN Summer Institute invites students grade 8 through 12 to join us in a week of debating and public speaking. This gives us a range of participants from ages 13 to 17. These students came to us from over 25 different schools in the area. Some students came with friends or siblings, and some came without knowing anyone, some even came from another country — but by the end of the week, everyone had made a camp-full of new friends. Some had absolutely no background in MUN , while some had previously joined us in this program last year, or participated in other similar programs. Each participant had a different level of prior experience with MUN, which created a unique environment, where students were able to learn from each other as much as from us.

The diversity of our participants provided us with a really exceptional week of debate in our simulations. Students different backgrounds allowed them to formulate unique arguments, and helped them think outside of the box. The program allows students a choice in who they will be working with for the majority of the week, friendships form quickly on the first day, and groups form with different levels of experience, different ages, and most importantly different ideas. This year’s Model UN Simulation posed the question, “Is the use of drones a human rights violation?”, to participants. The students were assigned to represent different countries around the world, and had to defend and explain their country’s view on this topic to their other delegates.

The diversity in groups allowed each participant to learn something from the others, whether it was about drones, human rights, or parliamentary procedure, each participant had a strength and knowledge to share with others. Even students with seemingly little experience helped other more seasoned delegates think creatively, by asking questions, and providing new insight. Some of our favorite arguments this week were the creative ones that really stood out, and could only come from a group of diverse students.

This weeks top quotes are: “Dandelions are like flowers for lazy people…..” “Soccer represents something close to a mans heart, his courage and manliness….” “Putin has a bumper sticker that says “I don’t brake for Ukrainians”

The United Nations is a diverse organization, and our MUN program allows students from varying backgrounds to come together and learn from each other in a setting similar to the real thing!

Stay tuned, we still have one week of Summer Institute to go – the premier of our crisis-based Advanced Institute! And check out our Facebook Page for more photos from both weeks

Why Model UN Rocks!! Part 1

Our first Model UN (MUN) Institute for this summer concluded last week, and we are very excited to share what the participants gained, and also what they taught us! If you are interested in learning more or signing up for the next session, click here!

MUN Institute is a program that offers a comprehensive introduction to the field of international relations. It gives participants the opportunity to develop their public speaking, negotiation and research skills, while simultaneously getting to learn about human rights and the foundation of the current international system. So basically, not only do you learn a lot about the world, you also get a chance to be a better speaker.

All of us were quite impressed with the participants from the very first day, however we have all heard that, “Practice makes perfect”, and the improvement in the participants’ public speaking and debate skills proved that the idiom couldn’t be truer. Multiple ice breakers paired with Model UN simulations on the first day of the institute allowed participants to interact with their fellow delegates in a fun relaxed environment. After attendees learned what constitutes a country, they participated in a simulation where they represented fictional characters from Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent. Delegates were given the task of getting their world recognized as a country by the United Nations. The debate that followed was truly fascinating. The fact that many participants had no prior MUN experience, and were still giving so involved was very impressive.IMG_1990

The second day of the Institute was mostly spent teaching the participants about parliamentary procedure. It is basically a set of rules in MUN that need to be followed when addressing another delegate or staff members. Although, parliamentary procedure is a crucial part of any MUN conference, what is even more important is being able to think on your feet. To make sure that the participants leave the Institute with this skill, we introduced an extemporaneous speaking exercise. How this worked was that the participants would stand in front of the room and would be given an everyday object to ‘represent’. Their job then is to defend why that specific thing carries great importance.  This was by far our favorite activity to watch and participate in (yes, the interns participated too)! The mix of intellectual arguments and funny anecdotes made the whole exercise even better. For instance, when asked to defend tie dye shirts, a participant said, “Tie dye shirts are the crux of our global economy.” Also, why do you think bumper stickers are important, well one of our participants believed, “Bumper stickers make you feel cool if you’re not cool.”

IMG_1991Casual debate is important; however, most of the debate in MUN is carried out in a very professional setting. On Friday, participants were dressed in western business attire and represented delegates from different countries; a true Model UN simulation. The topic they were debating was “The Use of Drones as a Human Rights Violation”.

Now, I have seen politicians, influential figures and activists talk about drones, but never have I ever been so fascinated by a conversation about the subject until I met these kids. Whether their country’s position was to defend the use of drones or not, their solid arguments and amazing metaphors set the debate in motion for a good five hours. Words like McCarthyism and phrases like, “What if I hire someone to kill the rats in my house and they killed everyone in the house” were stated in an attempt to highlight the many drawbacks of uses military drones. Many others also brought to the table the various pros and humanitarian uses of drones to monitor border patrol and provide security.

We can go on and on about the participants, but I think one last thing that I would like to mention is that they all came from various different backgrounds, but when it came to discussing a controversial subject, they kept their differences aside, listened and worked together. Today, many problems we face in this world are due to intolerance and the sheer lack of inability to listen to our peers. What we can learn from these kids is that it is okay to think different as long as you listen and try to work together!

IMG_2048Happy Fourth Everyone!

We will keep you updated as soon as our second Institute for this summer finishes next week.

 

 

 

Score!! The UN and World Cup

So you think that the World Cup is only for sports fans?? Think again!

Sports brings the world closer together

For many people around the world, sport and play are immediately and inextricably tied to the notion of childhood. We all know that sport and play are valuable tools to promote health, but have you thought about how it encourages discipline, enforces inclusion, and builds self-esteem?  (Discipline, Inclusion and Self Esteem? It sounds a lot like the results of a UNA-GB Model UN Program!) In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “sport has a unique ability to unite us, and to show us what we have in common.” The World Cup, and sports in general, foster morals that the UN works hard for: teamwork, fair play, mutual respect, and global embrace of differences.

Imagine, if you will, that “the entire world was like this [game]; a global community in which anyone could play the game; social inclusion would not be determined by size, color, race, language, faith or anything else…The love of the game would unify all individuals, all teammates. Nothing else would matter”, said Nassir Adbulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

Even the UN looks forward to watching the games!

World Cup 2014 II

A Columbia fan at 2014 World Cup (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The tradition of sports bringing the world together harkens back to the original Olympic Truces in the 9th century BC; recognizing sport as a powerful tool to promote peace and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Many UN agencies use sports to reach goals as a trust building activity, post-conflict relief work, and with the kick off of the World Cup, many UN agencies have put campaigns into play related to one of the greatest sporting events on the planet.

UN Fund for UNICEF has a campaign against trafficking and exploitation of children; UN Women, a campaign against violence against women, UNAIDS and UN Population Fund celebrate the launch of a joint awareness-raising campaign, the UN Environmental Programme awarding environmental-friendly hotels in Brazil with ‘Green Passport’ seals and the UN Development Programme assisting in compensating the carbon footprint of the World Cup.

Brazil being chosen to host the World Cup in 2014 has been a controversial decision.

According to UNICEF, “football reaches more youth than any other recreational activity in the world. It plays a manor part in shaping culture in countries around the world. Harnessing the power of football – a universal language that children understand – can translate into real change for children’s lives”

The amount of money spent on these projects, an estimated $11.5 billion, makes this the most expensive World Cup to date, making Brazil home to 10 of the world’s top 20 most valuable soccer arenas.

The amount spent by the government has caused social protests throughout the country, in the form of demonstrations, riots, and strikes. The Brazilian people argue that the money being spent on the building of stadiums as well as other tourism infrastructure, should be allocated towards the Brazilian citizens and improving public services. Brazil, however, stands by their claim that the event will boost the economy, and eventually lead to a better Brazil. They anticipate billions of dollars to be brought into the country as a result of the incoming tourism, and are optimistic that the countless new jobs created in the country will lead to economic growth.

Ban Ki-moon is similarly hopeful for the outcome of the World Cup and “in particular, looks forward to the unique way Brazil plays and celebrates the beautiful game and hopes that this joy will spread across the globe.”

Enjoy the next two weeks, cheer for your favorite team, embrace the beautiful game, and don’t forget to root for international cooperation, sportsmanship and understanding!

Sexual Harassment Epidemic in Egypt

June 2014 marks the first time in Egyptian history that sexual harassment is considered a criminal act. The decree was approved by the outgoing interim president Adly Mansour, after a recent increase in the number of sexual assaults in the country have lead to public outcry.

In the new decree sexual harassment is defined as “any sexual or pornographic suggestion or hints through words, signs or acts”. This is the first time that the term “sexual harassment” has been defined in an Egyptian law, and the first time it has been considered a criminal act, now punishable by prison time or monetary fines.

The law has increased penalties for offenders holding a position of power over their victim, offenders wearing a uniform, or if they are armed. A minimum of a two year jail sentence is in place. There are also increased penalties for repeat offenders.

Sexual assaults have been on the rise in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that lead to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. There has been an especially high number of mob attacks on women during political protests and gatherings. A number of attacks have also been reported by women attending University in Egypt. Many women have been targets of sexual harassment due to what has been deemed “inappropriate attire”, and some have been blamed for provoking men to behave this way with their clothing choices.

A 2013 study completed by the United Nations entitled “Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women” reported that 99.3% of Egyptian women experience some form of sexual harassment in their lives. Part of the problem also lies with women who feel ashamed or afraid and do not report their attackers, majority of sexual assaults go unreported. Women are urged to report the crimes that are committed in order to work towards changing the culture, however it is frustrating for them due to the fact that many attackers are not found, or not charged.

Along with the new law that has just been passed, several other initiatives have been put in place in order to help women and decrease sexual harassment, including volunteer groups to escort women, self defense classes, and a number of campaigns to shed light on the issue, and document the incidents.

Sexual harassment is prevalent in most Muslim majority countries. Studies have shown the countries that are considered the most dangerous for women as well as have the largest gender gap, have a majority Muslim population.

This info graphic created by Thomson Reuters Foundation after a study in 2011 shows that 3 out of the 5 most dangerous countries in the world for women are predominantly Muslim.

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The 2009 Global Gender Gap report created by the World Economic Forum lists the bottom ten countries, nine of which are predominately Muslim.

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Stoking the embers of #BringBackOurGirls

On April 14, a group of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and kidnapped approximately 276 female students. How could such a barbaric act be successful and how is it possible that today we know little more than we did a month ago?

Since then, the world has taken up the rally call of “Bring Back Our Girls” – urging, asking, begging, demanding the return of these girls. So far Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, called by the world Boko Haram, have not been found and have continued their acts of terror on Nigeria.

On May 20, concerned members of the Boston community gathered to learn about and discuss the issues surrounding this horrific issue with Ambassador Walter and Dr. Arese Carrington. After their discussion the floor was open to an emotional and passionate question/answer session.

Fast Facts from Dr. Carrington: Nigeria is 118th/134 in the gender equality index, however count for 1/4 of all women in Sub Saharan Africa. Only 15% of women have a bank account. In the worst state of Nigeria, 94% of women are illiterate. Nigerian’s count ofr 2% of the female world population, but 10% of the maternal mortality rate.

Ambassador Carrington, former envoy to Nigeria, lead with some history and culture of Boko Haram, religion in Nigeria, terrorism, and ideas for a peaceful conclusion. Speaking as a diplomat he believes that negotiation is the only way forward – there is too much danger of collateral damage to the people ‘we’ are trying to save if a military operation is used.

Dr. Carrington then spoke about some alarming figures about girls in Nigeria and how the inherent divides in the culture (gender, north/south, urban/rural) are involved in the reason that Boko Haram has been so successful. She stressed that women are being denied even the most basic Human Rights, however the benefits of education are enormous and educated girls can truly be weapons of mass development. It is immensely detrimental to the whole society that girls are now afraid to do go to school and their very dreams are interrupted if not destroyed. “An uneducated population is a population in bondage.”

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign, with popular culture icons, like First Lady Michelle Obama, supermodels, movie stars, and musicians, has skyrocketed the exposure of the issue, putting pressure on the Nigerian government

A common thread through the conversation was the role that social media has played in this case. Amb. Carrington believes that there would be little hope for the girls if ‘major’ players (like the U.S., U.K. and France) had not joined in the search – although it is up to Nigeria to bring them back and set the terms for rehabilitation as well as penalty – and it is because of social media that the world now uses #BringBackOurGirls. Social Media has taken a hold of the topic and refused to let go, speaking where the press had not; creating outside pressure on Nigeria which has demanded action. As Amb. Carrington said, #BringBackOurGirls is lighting a fire that we must keep stoking. The “embers are not allowed to die until the last of the girls havs been returned home”

So what were the recommendations moving forward? Well here are a few thoughts from the Carringtons.

      • We must think long-term. Nigeria needs to demand security now, not in 2015 with the upcoming elections, but right now.
      • We need to get and expose the facts. It is all well and good to express opinions, but the most important and powerful message is the one that has facts backing it up.
      • Nigerians living outside of Nigeria are the ones that can really make a difference – be ambassadors and get in touch with your local representatives and insist on action
      • As is true with most countries, there need to be more women in power positions to push the women issues, such as equal pay, right to education, right to health, basic human rights.
      • We all need to keep the fire burning – we should all be activists!

THANK YOU to everyone who came out and had their voices heard on the 20th!

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Read more about this issue! Some suggestions: Council of Foreign Relations on Boko Haram, BBC: Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists, BBC: Timeline of Events, BBC 5 Questions AnsweredBring Back Our Girls Tumblr,

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Attend Consuls Ball 2014!

Spring has (almost) sprung in Boston, and that means its time for UNA-GB’s premier annual gala, Consuls Ball 2014!

Every year, the United Nations Association of Greater Boston honors the Consular Corps of Boston with an evening of elegance, entertainment, and dancing. This high-spirited evening gathers 350-400 local leaders in business, academic, cultural and nonprofit communities to enjoy an evening of networking and socializing. The Consuls Ball is Boston’s premier international gala of the year, celebrating the uniquely global community of Boston while raising funds for UNA-GB’s global education programs for local youth.

Not convinced yet? Here are some reasons why we think you should join us for this exciting event!

1. This year’s focus country is Turkey!

Turkey’s capital city, Istanbul

Turkey’s rich history and cultural diversity have long provoked interest in the country’s politics, history, and culture. The country is also increasingly recognized as a regional power due to its economy and diplomatic initiatives. The Consuls Ball will include cultural elements, food, decoration, and entertainment inspired by the Turkey. Better yet, one of our raffle prizes this year is a trip to Istanbul, courtesy of Turkish Airlines and Hilton Hotels and Resorts! In a recent survey conducted by TripAdvisor, Istanbul came out on top as the world’s best tourist hotspot –  even trumping Paris and Rome! Would you like to visit this top-ranked city? Now is your chance!

2. Hob nob with globally-minded professionals, consuls, and other individuals who are dedicated to promoting the founding principles of the United Nations!

Consuls Ball brings together members of the Consular Corps of Boston, members of UNA-GB and other Boston organizations, and professionals of all ages for an evening of delicious food, stimulating conversation, dancing, and terrific prizes – all in the name of supporting UNA-GB’s education programs! Discuss anything from the UN Millennium Development Goals to Boston’s wacky weather with friends new and old! This is an excellent opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who support the work of the United Nations.

3. Exciting prizes are at your fingertips!

Feeling lucky? The Jetway Raffle for a trip to Istanbul isn’t the only prize up for grabs! Consuls Ball attendees have the chance to go home with a wide array of winnings – from dinner reservations at some of Boston’s finest restaurants, to a trip to the Azores, to Red Sox tickets! All profits go towards supporting UNA-GB’s programs for local Boston youth, and you may just get a special treat! What could be better?

4. It’s the perfect excuse to get fancy!

What better place to show off your classy side than the Fairmont Copley Plaza – Boston’s luxury landmark hotel? The international ambiance of Consuls Ball is enhanced by guests in black tie/traditional dress, dancing to music with a global touch! Feel free to join us in your classy attire, or in traditional dress that expresses your country/nationality’s culture! And don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes! 

5. Your attendance supports UNA-GB’s programs, which aim to educate today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders!

As always, Consuls Ball raises funds for UNA-GB’s community programs and global education programs for local youth. Funds raised from raffle ticket purchases, donations, auction items, and cost of attendance directly support UNA-GB’s community events and Model-UN program, which serve more than 5,000 participants annually in greater Boston. We rely on the support of donors like you to keep these programs running, and to help broaden the globally-focused educational opportunities for Boston’s youth – thank you for your generous contributions!

Convinced? We thought so. Get your tickets today! We look forward to seeing you there! Friday, April 25 beginning at 6:30 pm at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston. 

2015 Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of objectives that provide a framework commonly agreed upon by United Nations member states towards the betterment of the international community. In the year 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals, in which the 193 United Nation member states and 23 international organizations signed off of on working to achieve specific goals, targeting issues to further the development of the social and economic well-being of people across the world. There are eight goals in total and each focuses on an important global issue and their effects that can be felt across the globe.

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The first Millennium Development Goal is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. The combined efforts of member states within the United Nations have led to a significant decrease in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank more than half of the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day in 1981. This figure has sharply decreased as of 2010, when the statistic decreased to 21%. However, in 2010 alone there were still 1.2 billion people living in poverty.  Therefore, the international community still has many strides to take towards fulfilling the first millennium goal.

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The second Millennium Development Goal focuses on achieving universal primary education. This particular goal entails the insurance that all boys and girls will complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015. Another aspect of this goal is the promotion of the concept that educating girls will advance development for all. There has been great success in the quest to reach this particular MDG as the percentage of enrollment in primary education in developing regions has increased from 82% in 1999 to 90% by 2010. However, there is still work to be done as currently 123 million youth, ages 15 -24, lack basic reading and writing skills around the globe.

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The third Millennium Development Goal seeks to promote gender equality and empower women. Since 1990 there has been great improvement in gender equality. According to the United Nations, on a global scale women are moving out of the agricultural sector and into the non-agricultural sector as they hold 40 out of every 100 wage earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector. This increase is significant, yet there is still much to do in order to eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education and empower women across the globe, as only 2 out of 130 countries have the goal at all levels of education.

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The fourth Millennium Development Goal focuses on the reduction of child morality and seeks to reduce the under-five morality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 13 children under the age of five die each minute of everyday mainly from preventable causes. However, there has been hope for this MDG as the under-five morality rate has declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. Also the utilization of measles vaccines since 2000 has prevented 10 million deaths.

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The fifth Millennium Development Goal aims to improve maternal health by reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health. The efforts of UN member states have decreased the maternal mortality ratio by 47% since 1990.  States cannot rest on this success as nearly 50 million babies are delivered worldwide without skilled care and the maternal morality ratio in developing regions is 15 times higher than that of developed regions.

 

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The sixth Millennium Development Goal seeks to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other disease by halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, achieving universal access to HIV treatment by 2010 for those who need it, and halting and beginning to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015. According to the UN, new HIV infections continue to decline in most regions. However, the goal of universal access to treatment was missed by 2011. A positive aspect of this particular MDG is that the fight against malaria has seen great success as the global estimated instance of malaria has decreased by 17% and malaria specific morality rates have decreased by 25% as reported by the UN.

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The Millennium Development Goal is centered towards ensuring environmental stability. There have been many successes towards reaching this MDG such as the reduction of over 98% in the consumption of ozone depleting substances since the adoption of the Montreal protocol. But countries are still struggling with combining their efforts to create a comprehensive treaty that focuses on a key factor affecting the environment, global climate change, as can be seen from the increase in emissions of carbon dioxide by over 46 percent since 1990, as reported by the UN.

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The eight and final Millennium Development Goal is geared towards the creation of a global partnership for development. This particular goal focuses on the following points:

  • Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
  • Address the special needs of least developed countries
  • Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
  • Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries
  • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
  • In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

The eighth Millennium Development Goal has proven to be an intricate and difficult process with states taking small steps towards fulfilling the requirements of the goal due to issues that conflict with their own interest.

With 2015 approaching, Secretary General Bank Ki Moon, and the United Nations continue to push to achieve some of the mandated targets that still call for action. This year, 2014, is the call to action to focus on the Issues that still need attention, focusing on world hunger, with one in eight people still suffering from world hunger.  A demand for more medical attention is needed for women and children, as maternal mortality and child mortality still remaining high. This is certainly something that deserves more focus, as the advancements in science and technology have made the medicine available to potentially save these lives. Furthermore, sustainable development and sanitation infrastructure also need more attention, as our finite resource base continues to decline, while 2.5 billion people still lack proper sanitation resources, also posing a major hazard to both public health and the ecosystem.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon speaks at a press conference to launch the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report. (Photo by People’s Daily Online)

Furthermore, while it may not be indubitable that all eight target goals will be met in 2015, it will certainly provide for an opportunity to refocus the priorities of the Millennium Summit, and ensure the post-2015 Goals are not only built off the base of the first set of Millennium Development Goals, but accomplished with higher efficiency, to provide for a more balanced rate of progress across all Global Issues. With Post-2015 bringing in a new set of goals, the issues placed at the forefront of the agenda will focus on sustainable development and will heavily involve the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in its implementation process.

The Millennium Development Goals have given States the opportunity to work together in order to create a brighter future for all of mankind. Although some objectives within the mandates may not be achieved by 2015, the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals have lead to a breakthrough in moving in the right direction towards solving  the global issues through a more unified approach, bringing issues such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty, world hunger, and environmental pollution to the attention of people all around the world.

Inspiring Change through Education: Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrates International Women’s Day early with a screening of Graceland Girls!

This past Monday, March 3, UNA-GB members and friends learned about the power of education through a film screening of Graceland Girls and panel discussion with global education activists and experts! Following a lively reception and the screening, the Women’s Forum hosted panelists Jordan Salvatoriello, director of Graceland Girls; Monte Allen, Senior Director of CARE; and Richard Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Open Learning Exchange (OLE). Some of the questions posed by Women’s Forum members and the audience centered around Ms. Salvatoriello’s experience in Kenya while filming the documentary, ways in which organizations like CARE and OLE are partnering with local communities in the developing world to provide education, and how members of the greater-Boston community can become global education advocates.

Graceland Girls tells the story of high school students at the Graceland Girls School in central Kenya, an educational environment available to girls who were “fortunate and bright enough to receive sponsorship.” Many of the girls come from remote areas in Kenya, where their parents struggle to provide for themselves and their families. At various points in the film, the girls express the responsibility and pressure they feel to succeed in school and their future lives so that they can support their families. “Seen as their last chance for a better fate than that of their parents,” the girls’ stories reflect an awareness about the importance of their hard work. When asked what they want to pursue after going to university, many of the girls confidently list occupations such as “lawyer” and “neurosurgeon.” Faced with difficult circumstances and seemingly unsurpassable obstacles, the Graceland girls exhibit undying determination and hope, knowing that they “could create a ripple effect so powerful, it could end the cycle of poverty there.” (Learn more about the film here).

But what about girls (and boys) who are not lucky enough to go to the Graceland school? Monte Allen from CARE and Richard Rowe from OLE are involved in the struggle to address this need.

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Mr. Allen shared in the panel discussion that one of CARE’s main goals is to empower communities to help themselves, a strategy that hopes to enable long-term and sustainable solutions. By providing resources and training to communities that want their guidance, CARE strives not only to reach young generations of under-served girls and boys, but also their elders – who become their teachers, mentors, and partners in education. You can read more about CARE’s work in girls’ education in Afghanistan, where they support over 300 schools!

OLE Logo

Richard Rowe’s comments added to the theme of sustainability by presenting OLE’s philosophy on the necessity of activity-based learning and educational content that is available through Open Education Resources (OERs). This aspect of OLE’s work puts it at the forefront of initiatives that seek to provide affordable and sustainable education solutions to the developing world. You can read more about OLE’s work here.

Jordan Salvatoriello further elaborated on her experience in Kenya while making the film, noting that she wanted the girls to feel comfortable sharing their stories in full, and that she didn’t want her own experience or bias to take over their narratives. She also shared that the project was an incredible learning experience: she learned as much from the students as they learned from her. Parts of the film portray small workshops and field trips centered on photography and filming skills that Jordan led the girls in. These activities involved the girls reflections on their work, illuminating how they see the world, relate to one another and perceive themselves. Ms. Salvatoriello emphasized that there are many ways her film can be used to create change, encouraging a young audience member to share and discuss it with her local school group. If you, too, are inspired by Jordan’s work, find out how you can become involved! Also, watch the entire panel discussion here!!

Finally, we rounded off our evening with an incredible a capella performance by Women of the World!

Now that you know how we celebrated International Women’s Day this year (even if it was 5 days early!), we invite you to share your stories! What IWD events are you going to? How will you celebrate the achievements of the world’s women and girls?

A special thank-you to our co-sponsors for this special event: African Community Health Initiatives, Boston Glow, Boston Network for International Development, Care, Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University, Girl Up, Tufts University School of Medicine: Public Health Programs and Center for Global Public Health, Open Learning Exchange, Our Bodies Ourselves, Women and Health Initiative at Harvard University, and Women of the World

The Global Community Brought Together: What the Olympics is supposed to be about

The start of the 2014 Sochi Olympics have been plagued by bad press; from discriminatory restrictions, poor conditions, and huge spending. Unfortunately politics seem to be all people can talk about when discussing the games. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the world, however, during a visit to the Olympic village, of what the Olympics is really supposed to be about: that the “athletes send a unified message that people and nations can put aside their differences…the power of sport (is) to promote human rights and unite people regardless of their age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

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On Friday, 3.5 billion people worldwide tuned in to see how Russia would leave its mark on Olympic history through an ambitious performance at Opening Ceremonies in the recently developed Fisht Olympic stadium. The Fish Olympic stadium stands at a height of 85m, roughly 25 stories, and has the capacity to hold 40,000 attendees. The ceremony lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes and featured three thousand performers, two thousand volunteers, and six thousand costumes. Viewers ‘traveled’ through Russia’s history, with ballet, breath-taking sets, and with 22.5 tons of fireworks set off, it is no wonder that the evening was a spectacular show!

imagesAnother festive feature of the Sochi Olympic winter games comes in the form of five adorable mascots. Three of the Mascots take the form of woodland creatures: the hare, the leopard, and the polar bear. The polar bear, although he loves speed-skating, skiing and curling, is the biggest fan of the bobsledding sporting events. The hare loves to sing and dance and she represents a universal love for the Olympic games. The leopard loves to snowboard, but is a rescuer at heart, representing the idea of a global commitment to help others. 

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The final two mascots come in the form of a pair and rarely separate themselves from one another. They are The Ray of Light and The Snowflake. According to the official Sochi 2014 Olympic games description, both the ray of light and the snowflake faced discrimination when they appeared on earth because they were different than human beings. However, quickly people came to see how genuine and kind both the ray of light and snowflake were and as a result grew to love them. Both mascots connected with human beings through skiing related events and represent the true personification of harmony as well as the need for an absence of discrimination around the globe.

As the games kick off there is a sense of pride all throughout Massachusetts as the state sending the 10th most athletes to the games (a total of 230 USA athletes will be competing). Athletes from MA can be seen throughout various sporting events such as bobsledding and figure skating. Six out of the ten athletes representing Massachusetts are a part of The US Hockey team competing in the games! Wow!

ImageNow that you know more about the Sochi Winter Olympic games, we here at UNA-GB hope that you are just as excited as we are to experience the coming together of cultures from all over the world for two weeks! We look forward to celebrating another successful winter Olympics filled with friendly competition and an underlying theme of teamwork on a global scale to combat issues that effect us all. As Ban Ki-moon said in this address “The Olympics (and Paralympics) have served to break down negative stereotypes and build positive attitudes;” let’s all celebrate what the Olympics is supposed to be: the global community brought together by the games and revel in the power of sport to unify people.

Keep up with Sochi news, medals, etc here.

Westwood Women Unite Against FGM – WF 2014 Kick-off Event

On Tuesday, January 28th, the Women’s Forum held the first of many exciting events of 2014! Attendees gathered at the home of a Women’s Forum Steering Committee member to learn more about Women’s Forum, hear from current members, network, win prizes, and enjoy mouth-watering international cuisine!  The night also included a screening of the maternal mortality segment of the film “Half the Sky” followed by a lively and inspirational discussion of this vital women’s issue.

“Half the Sky” is  a documentary by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WyDunn based on the best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The film and book focus on central issues that women and girls face in communities around the world.

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One area that the maternal health segment focuses on is female genital mutilation in Somaliland and the health implications of such practices. The film addresses the cultural practice as well as the economic necessity for women cutters whose livelihood and survival depends on the tradition. Attendees of the event questioned what it would take to end the practice, as it was mentioned that Westerners telling a community such as the one in Somalia that it needs to end a long-standing tradition is ineffective. Many attendees agreed that education, as was mentioned in the film, plays an important role in establishing lasting and sustainable change.

The film presented one example of education and sustainable change through Edna Adan Ismail. Edna’s passion for the women of Somaliland led her to establish a maternal hospital whose mission is to not only to care for women giving birth and train midwives and health professionals, but to train peers to educate the current and next generation of mothers and fathers on female genital mutilation.

The Women’s Forum chose this segment of the film to screen, as maternal mortality is a pervasive issue that is not getting the attention and resources it deserves. As a UN Millennium Development Goal, nations have only achieved a 47% (2010) decrease in maternal mortality rates since 1990, far from the original goal of 75% by 2015. The screening was intended to start a dialogue on what we can do as individuals and as a collective whole to continue to raise awareness and create solutions to maternal mortality and other preventable health issues women face around the world.

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Some facts about maternal mortality:

  • “Maternal mortality has declined by about two-thirds in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia.”
  • “Complications during pregnancy or childbirth are one of the leading causes of death for adolescent girls.”
  • “Most maternal deaths in developing countries are preventable through adequate nutrition, proper health care, including access to family planning, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery and emergency obstetric care”

With International Women’s Day around the corner stay tuned for the UNAGB Women’s Forum next event! We hope to see you there!

- Kendall, WF Steering Committee Member

Sources:

http://www.halftheskymovement.org/

http://www.ednahospital.org

http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/maternal.shtml

http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Goal_5_fs.pdf

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