Model UN for me, has been a transformative experience. It has made me a better student, worker, and world citizen.
UNAGB is delighted to announce that our 2013 MSMUN Secretary-General from Northeastern University, Zunaira Malik has been invited to chair the Human Rights Council at Geneva’s International Model UN (GIMUN) conference. Zunaira’s extraordinary involvement with Model UN, past academic achievements, and drive for international relations make her a fantastic choice for this position. What an exciting opportunity!
Throughout her time at Northeastern, Zunaira was an active member on the Board of Directors for the International Relations Committee (IRC), which organizes the annual MSMUN conference with UNAGB. With the help of over twenty volunteers from the IRC, Zunaira organized an extremely successful 2013 MSMUN event for nearly 400 middle school students from around Boston. Her dedication to Model UN and passion for working with students stems from her own personal experiences.
Chairing the MSMUN conference was an incredibly rewarding experience. Seeing delegates tackling real-world problems, collaborating to come up with creative solutions while juggling their own convictions, and that too at such a young age, it’s really very inspiring. I remember going to bed that night feeling like the future will be okay.
She explains that in her first year as a Model UN participant, she was too intimidated to speak on the first day of the conference. After hearing encouragement from her professor and mentors on her team, she gained the confidence to speak about policy issues on the second day. It was this experience that inspired her to help young people participating in Model UN conferences to speak up despite the fears they may have. In fact, as a member of the directors’ board, she sat with her younger peers and helped nurture the sort of confidence she gained in her first year.
Zunaira has also shown incredible achievements prior to moving to Boston for college. Born in Pakistan, she moved to New York with her family in 1997 when she was in the second grade. Her working knowledge of five languages (Urdu, English, Spanish, Punjabi, and Arabic) as well as a number of high school experiences fueled her interest in international policy. In her sophomore year of high school, she was inspired by a town-sponsored leadership event that taught her about public speaking and policy negotiation. In her junior year, Zunaira was selected as one of two Presidential Scholars for New York, which is the highest honor awarded to high school students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement. Through the prestigious program, she studied U.S. politics and took trips to the Democratic National Convention, the State Office, Pentagon, and Department of Defense.
Through Northeastern’s Coop Program, she was able to work at the Department of Defense and Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s office. Last summer she was in Jordan working with Syrian refugees and then went to The Hague and ICC/ICJ to work on reconciling peace and justice in post-conflict societies. She is currently working at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. and hopes to pursue a career in policy. What an impressive young lady!
UNABG is extremely proud of Zunaira’s accomplishments and honored to have been part of her very impressive Model UN (and UN) past.
(Model UN) has provided me with skills that class lectures and coops don’t cover. I have learned a lot about my leadership style, issues that I am passionate about, and most importantly how to collaborate, debate, and negotiate with others. It provided me with a platform to gain confidence in coming up with creative solutions to problems plaguing our society
We are pleased to be supporting Zunaira in her efforts to travel to the chair at this upcoming prestigious Geneva Conference. If you would like to join with us in making a donation, please visit this site. All proceeds will go directly towards her travel.
Model UN is a gateway for opportunities: a cultural platform where a medley of delegations come together and pool their ideals and brainpower to work towards a common goal – a successful resolution addressing various solutions towards the world’s problems. As this world’s inhabitants we owe it to ourselves to address its issues and Model UN provides a plethora of ways to do so. After all, if we won’t do it, then who will?
Braving wind and snow, 10 talented writers took a break from the negotiations at Harvard’s Model UN Conferences to visit UNAGB’s office two weeks ago. While warming up and learning about what our office does, these international students were kind enough to share insights about the skills they have developed through Model UN as well as ideas for teaching the next generation of global citizens. Here’s what they had to say when asked, why should young people do Model UN?
Being a part of MUN encourages us young people to realize how the world interacts, its issues, and to take a bigger role in solving these issues. To participate in MUN helps us understand how powerful we really are.
Model UN is an opportunity to understand and engage in fascinating aspects of global diplomatic, international affairs, and political strategy. In a dynamic, globally-connected 21st century world, students need to have complex understanding of policy internationally in order to succeed.
Model UN for me is a way to connect young people globally in order to solve the issues of the world while considering and bringing each and every creative idea together through brainstorming and lobbying.
Young people should do Model UN because it’s an ideal place to meet people who are smart, open-minded and creative. Each time I go to a conference we come together with our individual experiences to tackle problems. And each conference is unique because their creative minds think of a solution I haven’t even thought about.
Young people should participate in Model UN in order to better understand the world around. Model UN fosters communication and partnership between groups in order to better the world around them. The skills developed in Model UN are necessary for cooperating with one another in order to achieve a main goal.
Model UN enables students from diverse backgrounds with a diversity of ideas to finally collaborate in order to develop innovative ideas for development. It allows students to have a broader spectrum of the international community and work towards a common goal – to pass a resolution that benefits everyone. It is a great experience and allows for self-development.
Model UN is not just one opportunity but a gateway to a whole new realm of discovery. It is an experience where you are not only inspired to construct solutions to problems, but execute this in a collaborative and diplomatic way. One certainly leaves the conference as a more cultured, informed and competent global citizen.
Model UN not only teaches about one of the most important institutions in the world, but also allows students to understand the intricacies of the world and form educated opinions about complicated issues. From these opinions, future leaders and participating members of society have the proper basis to start to fix the problems in the world.
Young people know their community, they know their city and they know their people. Model UN opens the global community to the youth. It is about integrating local to the global world. It is about presenting the reality of other places to someone who might never have had the opportunity and involving them in the conflicts and needs of the world.
Merhaba, dear readers!
In preparation for our upcoming Taste of Turkey event, with Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Consulate General at Sofra Bakery, we decided to brush up on our Turkish cuisine knowledge and share our findings with you. Whether you managed to get a ticket (tickets sold out in 24 hours!) or just want to learn more yourself, read on!
Turkish cuisine is a fusion cuisine – taking influence from the surrounding countries, but adding unique twists for a vast array of specialties.
“Similar to other grand Cuisines of the world, it is a result of the combination of three key elements. A nurturing environment is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for an abundance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. And the legacy of an Imperial Kitchen is inescapable. Hundreds of cooks specializing in different types of dishes, all eager to please the royal palate, no doubt had their influence in perfecting the Cuisine as we know it today. The Palace Kitchen, supported by a complex social organization, a vibrant urban life, specialization of labor, trade, and total control of the Spice Road, reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in the capital of a mighty Empire. And the influence of the longevity of social organization should not be taken lightly either. The Turkish State of Anatolia is a millennium old and so, naturally, is the Cuisine. Time is of the essence; as Ibn’i Haldun wrote, “the religion of the King, in time, becomes that of the People”, which also holds for the King’s food. Thus, the reign of the Ottoman Dynasty during 600 years, and a seamless cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey, led to the evolution of a grand Cuisine through differentiation, refinement and perfection of dishes, as well as their sequence and combination of the meals.” (Turkish Cultural Foundation)
You might most easily recognize Turkish desserts, which have become extremely popular in many western cultures, like baklava and Turkish delights, but the savory delights of Turkey are not to be trifled with and bang a pretty hefty flavor punch – just think about kebabs or kofte! Some common ingredients that you’ll find in Turkish food are: ground beef, eggplant, lamb, beef, fish, chicken, and nuts among others. For additional flavor, they use olive oil, onions, tomato paste and cheese. Some common grains include rice, white flour, and bulgur. You can learn more here: Turkish Cuisine by the Turkish Cultural Foundation.
In general, Turkish food is very delicious and nutritious. With a vast variety of ingredients, spices, textures and traditions, Turkish cuisine is absolutely something that we all should be enjoying more. I hope that you will be joining us on the 21st, and if not, be sure to stop by Sofra (or its sister restaurant Oleana) at your own leisure.
Interested in brushing up on your Turkish knowledge outside of food? The Guardian and CIA World Factbook are full of facts and interesting stories. Also, want to read about something really cool? Sunken vessels were found under Istanbul by Dr. Ufuk Kocabas…he will be joining us in Boston in April, so get properly prepared for the event by reading about his findings!
A message from our friends at US Fund for UNICEF:
As you plan your 2015 curricula, please consider opportunities to bring TeachUNICEF to your classroom. TeachUNICEF’s educational resources are easy-to-use tools that foster understanding of the world’s most prevalent issues affecting children. UNICEF works in over 190 countries to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. We hope that in providing engaging and academically rich materials that offer multiple voices, we can encourage the exploration of critical global issues while presenting opportunities to take action.
What is TeachUNICEF?
TeachUNICEF is a portfolio of free global education programs and resources used by teachers across the United States. UNICEF converts UNICEF’s international data and impact into these pre-K-12 lesson plans, literature, videos, case studies, and multimedia sources. All resources are downloaded at the rate of 4,000 – 8,000 times per month nationally.
Our mission is to support and create well-informed global citizens who understand interconnectedness, respect and value diversity, have the ability to challenge injustice and inequities, and take action in personally meaningful ways. Some topics covered by TeachUNICEF are (for example): Child Trafficking, Gender Equality, MDGs, Water and Environment.
- Global Citizenship Briefs – student magazines!
TeachUNICEF Global Citizenship Briefs are sets of instructional resources on topics of global concern. Centered around a student magazine that explores current issues through informational texts, questions that promote critical thinking, photography from the field, and data analysis exercises involving maps, charts, and graphs, each brief highlights a significant present-day emergency or humanitarian need.
Global Citizenship Briefs are accompanied by a lesson plan and several instructional activities that can be implemented in as little as fifteen minutes, including a take action piece that provides students with ways to demonstrate global citizenship by taking humanitarian action for children around the world. All materials are aligned to National Content and Common Core State Standards for maximum integration into your core curriculum.
For example, our Special Edition: Stop Ebola is a three-page student magazine and brief teacher’s guide that provides students with insight into the causes of Ebola and how the international community is addressing the problem.
- Local Opportunities
As the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Boston Community Engagement Fellow, my primary focus is to raise awareness and train constituents on how to take action through UNICEF campaigns. With this said, the Fellow is able to work as creatively as possible to complement your current school projects. Fellows work with schools in the following ways:
- Conduct global education workshops for teachers on TeachUNICEF
- Present to students in classes and assemblies on international topics
- Support classrooms and schools interested in taking action through programs such as UNICEF High School Clubs (there are 14 UNICEF Clubs in Massachusetts)
- Represent UNICEF at internationally-focused events
How can students “Take Action”?
UNICEF’s “Take Action” provides educators, parents, and youth a variety of opportunities to help address critical global issues. Action opportunities range from organizing a UNICEF High School Club to participating in our UNICEF Tap Project. Additionally, a service-learning information sheet provides educators with background information and resources. For further ideas on how to take action, you can download our “4 Fun Ways to Help UNICEF“, targeting toward an elementary audience, or “10 Ways to Support UNICEF“, targeting a teen audience.
Please contact me with any questions or inquiries and I look forward to supporting your goals!
The semester long internship- a staple of the college experience. Yet, even the lucky candidates have to cross their fingers and pray that the position does not meet the Hollywood image of the experience – shredding files or fetching coffee. Luckily, our experience at UNAGB was far from it. Yes, there were a few sporadic post office, supply store and bank runs but the bulk of the duties focused on communication outreach and event planning. The work ranged from writing our very first WordPress blog and Tweets (I know shocking!) to kickstarting a Young Professional’s favorite Taste of event, to helping out at Cocktails with Consuls and the Women’s Forum. We were beyond fortunate to work with wonderful individuals and meet interesting local entrepreneurs and international dignitaries all sharing the same passion for global awareness and development. Here are a few personal takeaways from my time at UNAGB:
1. The rewarding experience of running a nonprofit
Who ever said running a business, a nonprofit for that matter, was a walk in the park? Working at UNAGB provided exposure to the ins and outs of the running a successful organization focused on creating a global and local impact. From writing out invites and thank you’s to the organizations gracious members to budgeting out events, running a nonprofit requires diligence. But it is immensely rewarding when you can see the immediate success from all the hard work you’ve put into. The work is without a doubt fulfilling and passion driven.
2. Model UN is awesome
Model UN is only for political science geeks, or so I thought. I was proven wrong. MUN is for everyone, from student in middle school all the way up to the collegiate level and beyond. It provides a great opportunity to meet and work with individuals that you would never meet elsewhere. In addition you get to dress up professionally and discuss critical issues affecting the world today. Who doesn’t love a good debate and dressing up a little? But don’t take my word for it, read about testimonies by other fellow interns and middle school students who have participated in the UNAGB’s Model UN conferences on “Model UN and Our Impact”.
3. Sharing is caring
You know the saying, “Sharing is caring”? Well it’s true, and it’s what makes working at UNAGB so great. For a small office environment with few hands and many tasks, everyone is eager to lend a hand, a foot, a voice. Interns and even the Director would assist the Programs team in preparing for UNAGB’s successful events like the UN Day Luncheon. In return, different departments would help the Education team with operating the numerous hectic, fun conferences and simulations.
There is something about international people that just makes me so excited and full of energy. When I attended MUN this past summer, I was excited to meet all the international faces that were present. One of my favorite experiences was meeting some students and their director who were planning to take a trip to my home country Malawi. I am a hugger and did not hesitate for a second to hug them upon hearing their interest in Malawi. The whole environment was just welcoming and made me feel at home upon seeing all the countries that were represented. Not only did I get to learn about different countries and personalities, but I also felt that feeling of comfort where you just feel like everyone in the room share the same passion as you. It is one of my favorite feelings.
Ever read about other people in the news that you go like “wow, I wish I could meet that person, or knew them personally?” UNA-GB is a place that makes the “wow” dreams come true! I have had some opportunities of meeting some great people in different careers such as doctors, professors and many others. The conversations I have had with them have been eye opening and just enriching. Just last week, I got a tremendous opportunity of meeting Ireland’s Ambassador to United Nations and consuls of many countries such as Chile and Greece. Do you think I could have just met those people in a coffee shop and strikes up a conversation about how they inspire me? Unless if they would carry name tags with them that says who they are, right?! Speaking with Ireland’s Ambassador who happened to have been to my home country in Malawi not only made me happy but I also felt at home.
UNA-GB is a great learning environment
I have learnt so much from UNA-GB about other African countries through research projects that I have done. One of my favorite tasks has been researching and following the Nigerian girls who were abducted from their school in Nigeria. Bring Back Our Girls has been one of the areas that has brought so much interest in all my learning experience.
~Christina and Tabia Programs Interns, Fall 2014
It is Fall, the temperatures are dropping, and the leaves are changing colors. Do you know what that means? Drumroll! UNA-GB is pleased to announce its 2014 United Nations Day Luncheon! This years’ event will take place on Monday, December 8th at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Register now before it is too late!
Since 1948, United Nations has been celebrating the Anniversary of its founding in 1945 through UN Day. According to the UN, it should be an occasion for “governments and peoples to reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter”. Since 2000, UNA-GB has celebrated the international holiday with our annual luncheon, gathering leaders from the business and academic communities in the Greater Boston area for an engaging dialogue on world affairs and an opportunity to network with other globally conscious individuals and organizations.
This years’ Luncheon will focus on Ireland, the world leader in quality of life. USA and Ireland have relations that go way back, from values that our ancestors shared, to emigration. Two of the most important areas that the two governments share are education and medical research. Ireland’s membership in the European Union has helped its relations with United States, especially in areas such as trade and economic policy. Besides trade and economics, United States and Ireland hold a unique bond: millions of American citizens have some ancestral connection with Ireland. Boston is known to have the highest population of Irish people in the whole United States! And this is one of the many reasons why you should attend this amazing event! Still wondering why you really need to honor us with your attendance?
Here are a few more reasons we can think of:
1. Ambassador David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations will be there.
2. He will be our keynote speaker. Read all about him here.
3. Our attendees will include individuals and companies who are actively engaged in global affairs, as well as who have a commitment to global education in the Boston community and a desire to foster dialogue among a diverse set of companies, peoples and nations.
4. There will be opportunities to network with professionals, consuls, and other individuals who are dedicated to promoting the founding principles of the United Nations.
5. Members of the UNA-GB, professionals of all ages, Consuls from a variety of Consulates in Boston, and most importantly, YOU will have the opportunity to discuss anything from national issues/achievements to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with like-minded people who support the work of the United Nations.
6. It’s a good excuse to get out of the office (or school or the house) and enjoy some delicious food at one of Boston’s finest landmarks!
7. You will be supporting UNA-GB’s programs, which aim to educate today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders!
Convinced? Then hurry up and sign up to attend 2014 UN Day Luncheon here!!
It has been about eight months since the start of the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa and it still very much remains an issue to this day.
However, this is not the first outbreak in history. In fact according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first recognized incident occurred in 1976 in Zaire, what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Flash forward to November 17th 2014, the United Nations praised the end of the outbreak in the DRC among other victim states like Nigeria.
What has the United Nations and the world done to tackle this West African crisis and essentially global issue?
In September of this year, the Security Council and the General Assembly unanimously recognized the establishment of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). This branch of the UN developed as a response to the Security Council’s concern that Ebola was a “threat to international peace and security.” Different sectors of the UN that focus on humanitarian aid collaborated and carried out innovative measures to tackle the disease in the face of adversity. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded high air support from the UN team to stricken regions through enabling the distribution and delivery of medical, nutritional, and critical aid supplies as well as the travel of health and sanitation experts and aid workers. In addition, UNMEER has been working closely with governments and national structures in the affected countries, regional and international actors, such as the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and with Member States, the private sector and civil society.
Resource shortage is not only the critical problem to face but also social stigmas. Recently, the UN Secretary- General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, delivered a passionate message calling for a global social media campaign to “express solidarity” and to promote anti-discrimination. His call for individual action to reduce stigmatization does not restrict only to UN actors but to each and every individual everywhere like you and me. Social media is an effective neutral platform in that it can exponentially reach a wide audience.
The UN and the World Bank have sought the inspiration of powerful cultural figures such as the world’s top football players to spread important health messages and promote anti- discrimination to their most easily influenced audience, children. Even Google and Facebook are joining in on the effort through advertising their philanthropic missions on the sites. Google pledged to donate $2 in addition to matching the donation by their users. The company has already reached its limit of $7.5 million. Google is sending their technology experts to collaborate with Doctors without Borders and distributing donations to powerful NGOs like Partners in Health as well as Doctors without Borders.
Dr. Nabarro stated it best, “when everyone is fully involved, there is a slowing of the outbreak. That is a real source of inspiration”, and my I add, a solution.
So what are we at United Nations Association of Greater Boston doing? In accordance with our mission to build understanding on global matters within the local community, UNAGB hosted a lively discussion panel on “Ebola: West Africa and the World”, on November 21. Cheryl Bartlett, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Chris Garabedian, President and CEO of Sarepta Therapeutics, Dr. Rick Sacra, MD and Ebola survivor spoke about what their appropriate organizations are doing as well as lending personal thoughts and experiences with Ebola.
To read more about the speakers, click here. You can also visit the UN Global Ebola Response page to follow the UN’s progress in the mission and learn how you can help. Pictures of the event forthcoming.
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.
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.
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!!
This 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.
HOW TO GET INVOLED
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.
FREE EDUCATION MATERIAL & OPPORTUNITIES
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-off 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:
Thank for your time and consideration and we look forward to hearing from you!
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.
Dr. 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.
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.
Other 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.