Daily Archives: March 5, 2014

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.


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

All about Poland and Pierogi


Hey readers,

We’re sure you’re just as super excited for the Young Professionals ‘Taste of Poland’ event next week as we are here at the UNA-GB! In life, you may not be able to have your cake and eat it too, but here at the UNA-GB, you can make your all the pierogi you want and eat them until you’re completely satisfied! This blog post will be introduce you to the wonderful food form and throw in a few fun facts about Poland along the way.

What, exactly are pierogi you may ask? They are an age-old Eastern/Central European delicacy that serves brilliantly both as an appetizer as well as the main course of a meal. Pierogi are basically dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then baked or fried with butter and onions. The best part is – perogies are super diverse and can be stuffed with anything, from potato filling and cheese to ground meat and sour cream, or even your choice of fruit. You can have all sorts of fun with cooking them too! Pierogi can be semicircular, triangular, rectangular or any shape you want if you’re feeling creative!

Fried Perogies – Yum!

Traditionally considered ‘peasant food’, the exquisite taste of pierogi quickly spread across Poland throughout all social classes including nobles. Outside Poland, they are very popular in other European countries such as Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. Many cookbooks from the 17th Century describe pierogi as a staple of the Polish diet, and each traditional holiday had its own special kind of pierogi. Different kinds of fillings and shapes are observed for occasions such as Christmas and Easter, and important events (such as weddings) have their own special kind of perogies – ‘kirniki’ – filled with delicious chicken meat. There are also ones made especially for mourning/wakes, and even some for caroling season in January!

Surely, a country that gave birth to this wonderful cuisine must be pretty amazing itself. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about the Republic of Poland to ‘chew’ over before Taste of Poland:

  • Poland is the 69th largest country in the world, 9th largest in Europe.

    Marie Curie – A Polish physicist, chemist and two-time Nobel Prize winner.

  • Poland boasts 17 Nobel Prize winners, including four Peace Prizes and five in Literature
  • Polish born astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to propose that the Earth was not the center of the universe
  • Saint John’s Kupala is a popular holiday in which people jump over fires, a tradition that predates Christianity
  • In Wroclaw there is an annual citywide medieval festival, including jousts, horse archery, medieval dances and other activities
  • Pizza in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. The waiters bring sauce to the table in a pitcher, and you pour it on top. Sometimes, the sauce is just ketchup.
  • There is a ‘Pope Channel’ on TV. Anytime one wishes to see the pope, they can tune him in
  • In popular Polish culture, bananas are peeled from the blossom end, not the stem end
  • The most popular name for a dog in Poland is Burek which translates directly to ‘brownish-grey color’
  • In Poland, the name day is considered more important than the birthday
  • Around 90% of Poles have completed at least secondary education

We hope all this information has you excited for YP ‘Taste of Poland’. Tickets are $15.00 only, and June 13th is quickly approaching. Be sure to mark your calendars, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn how to make pierogi from local Polish experts, enjoy eating your delicious creations, and meet with other globally minded Bostonians. Get tickets in advance please so we can buy the right amount of ingredients, details can be found here! We hope to see you all there!

Finding Optimism After Rio+20

Although more than 50,000 participants have left Rio de Janeiro, the buzz surrounding Rio+20 remains. The conference, which marked the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, concluded on June 22, with responses already hitting the internet before the jets left the tarmac.

20 years ago in Rio delegates adopted Agenda 21 and this year hopes were that through a combination of high-level proceedings and hundreds of smaller side events inspiration would be ignited and commitment to action would follow. Unfortunately, some are disappointed with the outcome of Rio+20, particularly from formal meetings. However, many are finding perspective in writing about the conference and are encouraging bloggers and reporters not to jump to conclusions. In fact, one particularly poignant point of reflection is how Rio’s predecessor in 1992 was initially met with criticism but is now lauded for its achievements in bringing the world together to have an important conversation.

Bob Skinner of the UN Foundation’s New York office urges that we should continue to see this as a step forward, saying that nations did indeed come together to create a document and that in itself is a starting point which can begin to give direction to move forward. Fiona Macleod of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian wrote, “The Rio+20 conference may not have produced an Earth-saving global deal but it succeeded in keeping global development at the top of the agenda of the world’s leaders.”

Furthermore,  Macleod opines that Rio+20 was not expected to generate the same landmark decisions we saw in 1992 but rather that the focus this year was on bringing together participants from every corner of the globe and from various sectors to engage in dialogue about the environment’s most pressing issues. This was certainly achieved: decision-makers from every sector (as well as global citizens who were more active than ever on social media platforms!) all came together in an impressive, unprecedented way.

A breakdown of Rio’s “The Future We Want” document.

In addition to high-level meetings and roundtables, 500+ side events at Rio+20 offered a promise of real progress. Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in an opinion piece for CNN that a “lack of political leadership was countered by the incredible vitality, determination, and commitment of civil society.” Outside of the scope of governing bodies, corporations, NGOs, and non-profits, identified action-steps to take in order to address environmental crises. Microsoft, for example, proposed an internal carbon fee on its operations in more than 100 countries; they hope to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2013.

Seeing actors from all sectors, public, private, not-for-profit, and civil society, work together and represent the next generation of environmental leaders is a positive note of the conference. It shows that key players acknowledge the importance of the multilateral, multinational cooperation that needs to take place in order to catalyze real change. Mary Robinson writes, “the legacy of Rio+20 will not just be the text of the Declaration.  Hopefully it will be the mobilization of people to build the future they desire.”

This brings us back to our original question and the theme of Rio+20, “The Future We Want”. In light of dissatisfaction from many concerning the Earth Summit, now is the time to voice our opinions and act locally to show our commitment as global citizens! We have been asked about the future we want and it is our duty to answer.

So, what can you do?!

Take social media by storm, express your opinions online or in your local newspaper, write to editors or government officials! Spread the good word – check out The Guardian’s article on 5 Reasons to Be Cheery About Rio+20 and pass it on!  And make some easy changes to your lifestyle that can benefit our environment. These are just a few suggestions that can make a big impact.

-Jessica P

Rio+20 images were used from The Interdependent’s photo diary.

Spring Internships at UNA-GB!

As the Fall semester winds down, we are kicking up our recruiting efforts for interns for this upcoming Spring semester. Our interns are interested in world affairs and the work of the United Nations, and able to commute to our Downtown Boston office location. The application deadline is Sunday, November 21.

Interns assist in all aspects of the programming that takes place throughout the year and can specialize in either Graphic/Web Design, Education, Membership Development, Advocacy/Communications, or Events. 

Sounds like something you’re interested in? Apply today! Check out http://www.unagb.org/about/abt_interns.cfm for more information and how to apply!