Author Archives: UNA-GB

Happy Diwali!

नमस्ते (Hello) readers!

We are so excited to bring back our long overdue taste of culture event series with Taste of India on November 5th!  And what serendipitous timing.

This past week was the annual “Festival of Lights” or Diwali celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs.

It is an official public holiday in many parts of India. This religious holiday celebrated in autumn spiritually honors the dualistic nature of life; that is the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. Various schools of Hindu philosophy center around the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite and eternal (Atman). Diwali celebrates the awakening or transcendence into this ideal state, which is ultimate oneness and the Inner Light.

Beautiful “Festival of Lights” at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Since Diwali is celebrated among three religions, the religious significance and practices vary. The festival, for Sikhs, marks the historical, political moment when the much revered Guru Har Gobind (16th Century) freed Hindu Kings from imprisonment under Islamic rule and arrived at the Gold Temple in Amritsar in Northwest India. To this day, Sikhs celebrate their version of the festival of light with fireworks and merriment at the Golden Temple. While, Jains on the other hand celebrate the attaining of Nirvana (liberation from cycle of death and rebirth) by Lord Mahavria, the reformer of Jainism and the last individual to have attained samsara (cycle of death and rebirth). For Hindus, depending on regional myths, legends and beliefs, pay homage to deities such as Lakshmi, Kali, Rama, Krishna and many others. In return, worshipers hope to receive abundant blessings for the year ahead as well as giving thanks.

The eve of Diwali night, people undergo an elaborate, meaningful ritual of cleaning, renovating and decorating their homes; preparing a puja (prayers to certain deities) and dressing in their finest. This is comparable to Christmas in that there is a commercial component. It is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India, as individuals  buy new clothes, gifts ranging from food to practical utensils for themselves and others.

Popular Diwali dish: saag aloo with roasted gobi curry. Keep your eye out for one of these at "Taste of"

Popular Diwali dish: saag aloo with roasted gobi curry. Keep your eye out for a variation of this at “Taste of India”!

The holiday provides an opportunity to start anew, thus marking the start of the new year, especially for businesses in some regions.

Diwali is one of many beautiful traditions, holidays in India. Learn more about other aspects of Indian culture with some awesome YPs Wednesday, November 5th! Reserve your ticket and join us at Diva’s Bistro for a “Taste of India”! and Happy Diwali!!

Have your classroom (and kids!) Trick or Treat for UNICEF

Pic 3Pic 1This Halloween, bring global education and service learning to your classroom and get students involved with one of the largest “kids helping kids” fundraisers! Youth volunteers across the United States will be changing the lives of children all over the world in a fun, educational and half-century old project!

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF began in 1950 as a way to help kids who need more than candy. Since then, children all over America have gone door-to-door on Halloween with UNICEF collection boxes, calling out, “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” and have raised more than $170 million for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Funds have enabled UNICEF to save and improve children’s lives by providing health care, improved nutrition, clean water, education and more. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF does more than just provide a way for children to help their peers. For parents, teachers and group leaders, it’s a time-tested tool that motivates kids to learn the value of helping others.


Pic 2- Traditional Trick-or-Treating

The little orange boxes that represent more than 60 years of kids-helping-kids are ready to order. Order today!

- Virtual Trick or Treating

We are taking Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF into the new century this year, and families, schools and individuals can create online fundraising pages to “knock on doors” around the country and fundraise for the world’s children.

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  • Pic 4Bring UNICEF’s Global Education into your classroom

Our 2014 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF PRE K-2 Teacher’s Guide and grades 3-6 Teacher’s Guide includes interdisciplinary units for grades on global issues facing children, guidance on participating in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and information on the impact of this campaign. Workshops, lesson plans and stories are already complete! Students can learn AND Take Action. Download these FREE downloadable resources and videos.

  • Schedule a U.S. Fund for UNICEF speaker or workshop

Please consider any classroom time or school assemblies for our Global Citizens Fellow to visit, share resources, and kick-Pic 6off this year’s Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign with your students! The Global Citizens Fellow empowers American youth to challenge global injustice and take action locally. These engaging and informative presentations aim to introduce TOT, its impact, and ignite enthusiasm. Presentations and workshops are delivered to all age groups on issues related to children in developing countries and what we in the United States can do to take action. The Boston Fellow can be reached at the following information:

Brian Kelleher-Calnan
Boston Office | UNICEF USA
Community Engagement Fellow
18 Tremont St., Suite 820
Boston, MA 02135

Thank for your time and consideration and we look forward to hearing from you! 

Fostering Girl’s Leadership through Education – so what? Why is it so important?

On September 18, the Women’s From @ UNA-GB continued its #BringBackOurGirls series with an inspirational panel consisting of Dr. Iyano Obasanjo, Fatoumata Fall, Amy Brakeman, and Angha Sirpurkar-Childress. All four leaders from various walks of life addressed the fundamental issue of education as an imperative and valuable tool in fostering girls leadership.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.32.30 AMDr. Obasanjo, a Distinguished Fellow at the African Presidential Center at Boston University who has served on the Nigerian Senate and Nigeria’s Commission for Health, opened discussion the paradigms of what is needed to globally progress women’s and girl’s status in underdeveloped nations. It is clear that there is an issue of female leadership. She states that “having women in leadership is imperative,” but the basic building block of progress are dealing with women as regards to child bearing, child rearing, and education; common themes for the rest of the panel.

Dr. Obasanjo introduced the engrossed listeners, members of UNA-GB and visitors, to Fatoumata Fall, a fourth year student at Harvard University from Senegal, and Amy Brakeman, an active advocate for advancing educational and entrepreneurship programs through institutions abroad (African Leadership Academy) and in the Boston community. Fall and Brakeman shared a slideshow presentation discussing the need for reform in the quality of education in developing countries, like West African states. Fall provided statistics showing a correlation between an increased number of highly educated women and increase in unemployment. This seemed counterintuitive as one would think an increase in highly educated women would result in positive development. However, Fall and Brakeman argued that the problem lies in the quality and direction of the education provided to the girls and boys in Africa. Highly educated girls lack skills that are transferrable to the working world. This is clear something that must change – and fast.

Fatoumata expresses “Most African governments are quick to say that ‘Let’s build more school’s’ but they never talk about making the schools better, that is, redesigning the education system.” It is a matter of quantity versus quality. Along the same thread, Bakeman emphasized that the solution is initiating programs that teach women transferrable skills such as entrepreneurship and critical thinking to enforce and improve livelihood, which has been manifested in initiatives like the African Leadership Academy.

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Fatoumata used a grid like this to strengthen a school in Africa; teaching not only the children but the teachers as well

Similarly, panelist Angha Sirpurkar-Childress discussed the mission and success stories of her initiative, Barakat, which supports coeducational, literacy programs to all ages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many of whom are Afghan refugees (read more about Barakat’s 10 Facts about Girls’ Education). Childress explains the cultural and social challenges in accessing education to children and specifically to women. Families are reluctant to send girls to schools with males teachers and students distances away. Sadly, schools can and are dangerous environments for girls where they are prone to rape and other forms of abuse. One of the solutions is to create a demand and incentive for female professionals and teachers in that field who can provide a more safe and effective learning environment for young women.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.32.12 AMOther solutions may not be obvious at first. Building bathrooms so that girls can have privacy during their menstrual cycles – which is a major concern for parents and girls hitting puberty while still at school. Better education and laws against child marriage, which takes girls out of school to care for a husband and her own children. The panel and guests even discussed the potential game-changer of technology that allows girls to ‘bring school home’ so they don’t have to worry about getting to and from school, but can learn from the safety of home. These and many other advances could make a significant impact on the ability for girls to get a better, longer, fuller education.

The subsequent open floor discussion resurrected other issues that hindered education and progress; many of which stem from socioeconomic and cultural pressures. Education is not an independent, stand-alone issue but it encompasses and brings to surface other crisis that equally need solutions. Primary education is one of the Millennium Development goals set by the United Nations, which although has reached high levels of progress and accomplishment, is still very much a work in progress.

The Girls Count Act of 2013

Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation campaign that works to support girls in the developing world in a holistic way. Girls deserve the opportunity of getting an education, but a solution isn’t as simple as just building a school. Girls need to be safe walking to and from school; healthy so they are not missing school due to illness; and they need to have legislation in place that works to secure their protection. Girl Up looks at all of these issues and their goal is to make sure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of future leaders. Girl Up works as a grassroots movement. In schools, college campuses, and community centers; clubs work to raise funds and awareness for Girl Up’s mission.

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Girl Up supporters pose for a picture in Washington, D.C. after a long day of lobbying.

This year, one of Girl Up’s main campaigns is to ensure that girls in the developing world get birth certificates. A birth certificate is legal documentation that proves a person’s citizenship, where and when they were born, and their nationality. It also serves as an official form of identification. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Without a birth certificate, girls do not exist in the eyes of the law, hence preventing them from benefitting from society in both economic and social aspects. If they are victims of abuse or human trafficking, it is difficult to bring them justice because they are invisible to society.  Without a birth certificate, girls face a higher risk of forced labor and child marriage. In addition to that, they cannot vote, start their own businesses, get a drivers license, become employed, or own property when they are older. A birth certificate is the first step in guaranteeing the rights girls have as citizens.

The Girls Count Act of 2013 was introduced in Congress by the House of Representatives to authorize the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support programs that will benefit in improving civil registration and vital statistics system while concentrating on birth registration and promotion of programs that prevent discrimination against girls, and promote women’s inheritance rights in developing countries (US Congress). Furthermore, the bill also makes sure that women and girls are in contact with foreign assistance policies and programs that focuses on their needs. It should be in the best interest of these women to have the power to speak up about problems that affect their lives and have their needs addressed in the formation of the development assistance programs.

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Meeting with the Regional Director from Senator Warren’s office

The Girls Count Act of 2013 would “encourage countries to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” There are many human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are not protected when a child does not have a birth certificate. Among the rights that are listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some of the rights include: the right to property, right to education, right to freedom where no one should be held in slavery or servitude, and the right to enter marriage with free will and consent (United Nations). When girls don’t have birth certificates, it is easier for their human rights to be violated. Ensuring birth certificates for girls helps in protecting their human rights.

Members of the Quincy High School Girl Up club met with the in-district directors from Representative Lynch's office to discuss the Girls Count Act. Representative Lynch (MA-8) later became a co-sponsor of Girls Count! Woohoo!

Members of the Quincy High School Girl Up club met with the in-district directors from Representative Lynch’s office to discuss the Girls Count Act. Representative Lynch (MA-8) later became a co-sponsor of Girls Count.

Members of Girl Up have been working to support the Girls Count Act in many ways. They have been writing letters, sending emails, calling offices, and scheduling meetings. Last June, Girl Up supporters from all around the country gathered together in Washington, D.C. for a Girl Up Leadership Summit, where they gained valuable leadership experience, and learned more about Girl Up. They marched up to the Capitol Hill where they had a Lobby Day, and meetings with Representatives, Senators, and staff. Girl Up supporters have also scheduled many meetings in their own states to encourage their Congressmen and women to become co-sponsors of the Girls Count Act.

Last Monday, members of the Girl Up Greater Boston Coalition – made up of Girl Up clubs in the Greater Boston area –  met with the Regional Director from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office to discuss why they support the Girls Count Act. At the meeting, they were able to explain the benefits of the Girls Count Act of 2013 and why Senator Warren should become a co-sponsor. They have a meeting scheduled next Monday with a staff member from Senator Edward Markey’s office. The purpose of the meeting is to ask Senator Markey to become a supporter and co-sponsor of the Girls Count Act. If you support the Girls Count Act, you can send an email to your Representatives and Senators in Congress, call their office, or even schedule a meeting yourself!

Girl Up is working to ensure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Through advocating for the Girls Count Act of 2013, Girl Up supporters are making progress towards protecting the rights of girls and women in the developing world. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Numbers count. So should girls.

Members of the Greater Boston Coalition with the Regional Director from Senator Warren's office

Members of the Greater Boston Coalition, including UNA-GB intern Lyndsay, with the Regional Director from Senator Warren’s office.

Why Women in Politics Makes a Difference

When we ran an event earlier this year on #BringBackOurGirls – the Nigerian kidnapping of about 200 girls, we were inspired to continue momentum on ths issues raised that evening. When Dr. Arese Carrington mentioned that one way to improve the lives of girls is to have better representation in politics, the idea stuck.

Women in power positions and politics as a way to improve the lives of girls; this makes sense.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.58.59 PMFocusing on Nigeria, Women’s Forum hosted an event on September 22nd hosted an event to discuss this idea. The event began with a screening of the short award winning film “Dreams of Nigeria” (which you should watch on youtube here). “Dreams for Nigeria” is a documentary that highlights challenges and achievements of women politicians in Nigeria. In the documentary, seven women politicians explain about the challenges they face day to day being politicians. They also share the roles that they play in social, economic, and political development in their constituents, with education and better health care being their outmost concern. These women “hope to be models to Nigeria’s youth and present a diverse and unified Nigeria where everyday dreams are attainable.”

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“Dreams of Nigeria” follows 7 women out to change the political face of Nigeria and help their constituents – male and female- live better lives.

Following the movie, we were treated to a discussion with Professor Valentine Moghadam, Director of International Programs and Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University. Her areas of research are globalization, transnational feminist networks, civil society and citizenship, and gender and development in the Middle East and North Africa – clearly an expert on the subject. She had even met in person some of the women politicians in the documentary!

The main focus of the conversation was why it is important for women to have access to politics. Here are some things we came up with

  • Women tend to have a better understanding about certain aspects of the world – reproduction, child rearing, other such women’s issues (commonly referred to as ‘Standpoint Theory’)
  • Women tend to be more consultative and better take into account guidance from their constituents
  • Women are more likely to reach across the aisle to come to a consensus
  • Women prioritize social issues!
  • Even if for no other reason, women are 50%+ of the population so should have 50% of representation in politics!

Conversation at the event was passionate and varied – why stop at discussing women in politics? How would it change local and global policies if women were in charge of, say, oil companies?

Why do you think it has been so hard for women to break through the glass ceiling of politics worldwide?

Check out this website for some more interesting facts about women in politics!

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.


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


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,


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