Category Archives: Women’s Forum

The Women’s Forum is an active local network of women and men working to improve the lives of women and families across the globe. Learn more here!

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!

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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

UN Day of the Girl Child: “Innovating for Girls’ Education”

On Thursday, October 10th, Katrina Sousounis introduced Girl Rising to about two hundred and sixty attendees at a film screening hosted by UNA-GB. She explained that the most pervasive issues affecting the people of the world today (including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, violence) disproportionately affect young women. Katrina finished the speech with a call for educational reform to give opportunities to women everywhere, and ended with this quote from the film: “Boys need to believe in girls, and girls need to learn to believe in themselves.”

Katrina is 13 years old.

UNAGB Girl Rising Girl Up

Katrina and the Girl Up Club of the R.J. Grey Junior High School

Founder of the first Girl Up club in Massachusetts, Katrina was inspired to try and solve the problems so carefully outlined in her speech. Her club is part of an organization founded to help girls and young women around the world to reach their full potential by ensuring that they are educated, safe, well-fed, and guaranteed basic human rights.

Because of this, Katrina was asked to introduce Girl Rising at UNA-GB’s screening of the film on Thursday, which was a fundraiser for Girl Up. Her presence and hard work demonstrate a distinctive part of Girl Up’s message: to help girls reach their potential around the world, we must empower girls themselves to effect the change that they want to see.UNAGB Girl Rising Film Screening

Girl Rising is the story of nine girls from around the world: Sokha from Cambodia, Wadley from Haiti, Suma from Nepal, Yasmin from Egypt, Azmera from Ethiopia, Ruksana from India, Senna from Peru, Mariama from Sierra Leone, and Amina from Afghanistan. Each girl was paired with a writer from her country to help tell her story. Each story is artistically captured differently, with varying experiences when it comes to cultural restraints, parental support, and environmental circumstances. In essence, Girl Rising is a movement to deliver a “simple, critical truth: educate girls and you will change the world.”

The UNA-GB decided to screen this film to get a dialogue started to help men, women, boys and girls in Boston and elsewhere think about solutions to various forms of discrimination against girls around the world. After the film, a musical group called “Women of the World”, which sings in 21 different languages, performed. They chose a song that resonated with the idea that together, we can create positive change.

UNAGB Girl Rising Women of the World

Women of the World Perform at “Girl Rising” Screening

In 2011, the UN declared October 11th as the first annual tribute to its goal to improve gender equality everywhere. This year, the theme of the day is “Innovating for Girls’ Education.” It sounds simple enough, but the task of ensuring that girls worldwide are educated is complex, both in implementation and consequence.

What exactly is keeping girls from going to school?

A wide breadth of causes keep girls out of school each day. Governmental policies and social issues alike can keep girls and boys out of school. Here are a few major perpetrators:

  • School is not free everywhere, and many poor families cannot afford to send any or all of their children to school. In some countries, boys are sent to school while girls stay home and work.
  • It can be dangerous: in 2012, Save the Children reported that there were more than 3,600 attacks on education around the world.
  • About half of all girls living in the world’s least developed countries are married before the age of 18. Child marriage greatly decreases a girl’s likelihood of finishing school, according to World Vision.
  • Lack of sanitary protection means that girls may miss up to five days of school a month
  • When basic needs aren’t being met and students are not healthy or well-fed, school may be a low priority.
  • There may not be a school within walking distance, especially in rural areas.
  • Governmental policies and societal norms can make it illegal  or abnormal for girls to become educated

So, how exactly does educating girls help the world?

  • According to the UN: “When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.”
  • Educated mothers educate their children; this not only breaks the cycle of poverty, but their sons will be more inclined to educate their daughters.
  • UNICEF connected discrimination against women and girls and hunger. Child malnutrition in South Asia is highly linked to women’s limited access to education and difficulties with finding paid employment.

What can you do?

  •  Education, education, education! Educate yourself by exploring the issue even more- try checking out some of the links below
  • Donate! Visit Girl Up’s website, or one of the other initiatives below, to give to the cause.
  • Become an activist! Join one of the causes below, or create your own!

Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

Sources/More Information:

School Girls Unite!
Girl Rising
 Girl Up

UN Day of the Girl Child
http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/index.shtml
http://dayofthegirl.org/actnow/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/11/international-day-of-girl-child_n_4080681.html?utm_hp_ref=impact

International Women’s Day 2013

Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB celebrated IWD (March 8th) early this year with a reception, film screening, and panel discussion on March 4th! UNA-GB members and other members of the Boston community gathered to view Not My Life, a documentary on human trafficking directed, written and produced by Academy Award nominee Robert Bilheimer. This film gives an in-depth and disturbing glance into the lives of women and children all around the world who are forced and coerced into sexual and manual slavery. The producers of the film worked with individuals in over 20 countries on five continents to describe the truly global reach of this highly profitable industry. While the film depicts horrific practices that are difficult to witness, it also presents stories of resilience, hope, and compassion. Many of the young women who participated in the film are now working with their advocates to prevent others from suffering similar experiences.

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Following the screening, we heard from our panel of experts on specific issues related to human trafficking. Siddharth Kara, a fellow on human trafficking with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, described the powerful driving forces behind this industry. Mr. Kara has traveled to 25 countries to research sex trafficking with his work culminating in a series of books on this topic. Devin Rebello represented Demand Abolition, a Hunt Alternatives Fund program which focuses on the demand which fuels the international sex trade. Ms. Rebello emphasized that a targeted focus on the elimination of demand for sex trafficking is needed in order to successfully combat this issue. She explained that demand-reduction practices can be implemented in the areas of criminal justice, legislative reform, prevention education, and public awareness. Our third panelist and Women’s Forum member, Mireille (Mickey) Aramati, spoke about health issues related to sex trafficking. Ms. Aramati is an Associate Professor of Global Health at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and she noted that a discussion of women’s health issues is lacking in the dialogue surrounding sex trafficking. Human trafficking is often overlooked as a public health issue, resulting in poor access to resources for women and girls who are trafficked.

After the presentation, many of the attendees expressed deep concern about this topic and asked what can be done to combat sex trafficking. Our panelists and the participants depicted in the film are some of the leading activists who are working tirelessly to end these practices worldwide. If you would like to find out more about what you can do and the resources that are available to explore this issue further, take a look at the following links!

National Human Trafficking Hotline:

1.888.373.7888

 Amirah:

“Dedicated to providing whole person  aftercare for survivors of commercial exploitation.”

 www.amirahboston.org, email: info@amirahboston.org, Amirah, Inc., PO Box 760867, Melrose, MA  02176

 Blue Heart Campaign Against Human Trafficking:

http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/index.html

 Demand Abolition:

“Demand Abolition is committed to eradicating the illegal commercial sex industry in the US—and, by extension, the world—by combating the demand for purchased sex.”

617.995.1900

http://www.demandabolition.org/

International Justice Mission:

“International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.”

703.465.5495

http://www.ijm.org/

Massachusetts Inter-agency Human Trafficking Task Force:

http://www.mass.gov/ago/about-the-attorney-generals-office/community-programs/anti-human-trafficking/human-trafficking-task-force/

Not for Sale:

http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

Roxbury Youthworks GIFT Program:

617.427.8095

http://www.roxburyyouthworks.org/pages/giftprogram.html

UNA-GB gives special thanks to all of those who participated in making IWD 2013 a successful awareness-raising event! Thank you to our co-sponsors and to Diva for donating food!

NO to violence against women

1139441099-2Around 15 to 76 percent of women around the world experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. This staggering statistic has called the attention of people, organizations, and governments around the world to take action and put an end to such vehement behavior.

UN Women has been taking serious measures to stop such violence. It created the COMMIT campaign to which 18 countries have pledged to “take initiatives to stop gender-based violence.”

In 2008, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women, a campaign that aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world.  Some of the aims of this campaign include: “adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, increase public awareness and social mobilization, address sexual violence in conflict,” to name a few.

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On February 14, 2013, UN officials met to take a stance against such violence. In his message calling everyone to unite to end violence against women and girls, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged everyone to speak out. “The global pandemic of violence against women and girls thrives in a culture of discrimination and impunity.”

Other efforts include those of the One Billion Rising campaign which invites “ONE BILLION women to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence.” These events take place all over every February 14.

Want to help put an end to violence against women? Then ask Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by following this link:http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519249&msource=W1302EAWMN2

Is human trafficking and violence a ‘hot button’ topic for you? Then you should join Women’s Forum @ UNA-GB for International Women’s Day on Monday, March 4. We will be screening “Not My Life” and have a great panel discussion following the film. For more information, check out the registration page.

A Night with Women’s Forum: Micro-financing in Developing Countries

Last night, Women’s Forum, in partnership with UNICEF and Accion, held a special presentation and discussion on how successful micro-finance programs in developing countries help empower women. The two keynote panel speakers were Willow Shire, Executive Consultant at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Erika Eurkus, Senior Director for External Affairs of Accion, a global nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need to improve their lives.

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Micro-finance is an increasingly popular development approach, particularly in developing countries, that provides an appropriate range of high quality finance services, including savings, insurances, and fund transfers, to low-income or poor individuals. Additionally, micro-financing helps promote gender equality, which allows women to have more active roles in both society and their families.

In her presentation, Eurkus from Accion talked about Accion’s micro-financing projects which support low-income people. Accion has 63 institutions in 31 countries helping 13 million people. She showed a video starring two women helped by Accion; one was able to start up her own jewelry making business and another who now runs her own restaurant.

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Shire first showed a tear-inducing promotional video from UNICEF, and then went on to discuss specifically UNICEF’s Communal Banking project in Bolivia. Her project helps train women from rural areas in finance and operations. This approach stressed the importance of business planning, continued education and also provides complementary educational courses on hygiene, sanitation, and environmental awareness.

The question and answer period following the presentation showed the varied interests of the attendees; with questions ranging from education, to financial particulars and of course the social impact of micro-financing on women across the globe.  Accion and UNICEF stressed their differences (success in the city vs rural etc) but also showed how very similar they are and how important their work is.

The event was a great success with over 40 attendees and a lengthy networking reception afterwards. Check out more pictures of the event on our Facebook page!!!

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Please join us in our upcoming events. We have more exciting plans in the works!!

Child Marriage Call & Response: An Afternoon of Action for Africa

ImageYesterday afternoon, May 21, the Women’s Forum@UNA-GB welcomed many guests to celebrate Africa Day with a delicious lunch and inspiring conversation. 50 community members and leaders joined us to raise awareness about the issue of early child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. At noon the room was buzzing with lively conversation as guests enjoyed Kenyan dishes from Taste of Kilimanjaro Catering and delicious fresh fruit juices from Teranga Senegalese Restaurant.

UNA-GB Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships & Development, Kaitlin Hasseler, opened up the forum, framing how one goal of the Luncheon was to celebrate how far Africa has come – she shared hopeful statistics including that between 2000 and 2010 six of the ten fastest growing economies were African, the poverty rate has been on the decline by about 1% every year, educational opportunities have expanded and more girls are in school, and in 2010 Africa achieved a major global milestone when South Africa hosted the World Cup.  She then introduced Wamburu Mitaru, a Berklee student originally from Kenya, to start off the celebration with a powerful song dedicated to the children of Africa.

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Despite the encouraging progress in Africa, there are also significant challenges the region faces, including the 2nd highest rate of child marriage globally, which the panelists were then tasked with expanding upon.  The focus was not only on engaging in a dialogue about child marriage but also shining a light on those whom have already begun making a difference in their communities to combat the practice.  Blessing Rogers of Hope for Children International, Inc., Josephine Kulea of the Sambura Girls Foundation, and Amanda Grant-Rose of Lift Up Africa, offered different perspectives on the issue of child marriage. Ms. Rogers provided more information about the historical and cultural context surrounding the topic, explaining where the practice originated from and what kept communities tied to the practice.  Josephine spoke more about her organization and shared her personal experiences, including detailing a particular marriage intervention that she led in her home community of Samburu, Kenya.   Amanda Grant-Rose followed by highlighting Lift Up Africa’s work supporting the organization HELGA and their bride rescue project – this work is led by Priscilla, a Maasai woman who has earned the trust of her community and spent the past 2 decades rescuing girls and educating them (when Kaitlin visited this program in November 2011, she had rescued 706 girls at that point!).

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Our panelists- Blessing, Josephine, and Amanda

To close, our panelists offered simple action plans encouraging guests to share what they’ve learned and make small steps towards change:

  • Blessing shared that while we can’t all travel to Africa,  we can get engaged in advocacy efforts by voicing our opinions and communicating with state and federal bodies directly.  She  specifically mentioned organizations such as USAID.
  • Josephine asked for support to build a dorm/rescue center for her girls, underscoring the importance of concrete solutions that directly help the community (you can learn how to support these efforts here). She also invited attendees to sponsor a girl. 
  • Amanda encouraged everyone to go home and share what they learned with least 5 people about the broader issue of child marriage and what they can do, again stressing the importance of the impact that education and small actions can make.
  • Kaitlin emphasized the importance of educating the next generation, sharing information about UNA-GB’s partner, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Campaign, geared towards adolescent American girls, as well as UNA-GB’s Model UN program, which educates 6th-12th graders in Boston about critical global issues including child marriage.

Wamburu Mitaru ended the luncheon with another beautiful song that was a call and response with the audience – a fitting end to an event focused on how we as a community can answer the call to action on ending child marriage!

Thank you to everyone who attended and helped to make it a wonderful afternoon!  See more photos here from the Luncheon and stay tuned for upcoming events with our Women’s Forum on our event calendar.

-Jessica Pires

Introducing International Women’s Day 2012

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s when it was originally celebrated as International Working Women’s Day. It is recognized on March 8th every year and honors women’s economic, political, and social achievements.

Gender equality is a huge focus for the UN community, with Millennium Development Goal #3 specifically designed to empower women and girls, and dozens of the agencies and entities focused on gender-based initiatives.  In fact, this year honors the official one year anniversary of the creation of UN Women, a more powerful UN entity designed to help spread gender equality and women’s rights empowerment.

International Women’s Day is near and dear to UNA-GB, as we have celebrated it with an annual film screening and panel for the past few years.  This screening is the biggest event of our Women’s Forum, which was created in 2006 to raise awareness about women’s issues in developing countries and engage men and women in Boston on solutions.  You can learn more about this year’s screening below, and make sure to check out last year’s blog post on our screening event.

We hope you can join us at some (or all!) of the events listed below.  We will continue to update the blog as we learn of more events, so check back!  It’s important that we continue to work together towards eliminating discrimination and improving the lives of women all across the world.

International Women’s Day Film Screening and Panel

War Redefined with Series Producer Abigail E. Disney

When: Monday, March 5; 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Where:
MCLE Auditorium, 10 Winter Pl, Boston

Don’t miss UNA-GB’s annual International Women’s Day Celebration, featuring a film screening of War Redefined, the last of the Women, War & Peace series, produced by series executive producer Abigail E. Disney.  A panel discussion on the role of women in peace building and war will follow the film, featuring Abigail E. Disney, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Dr. Amani El Jack and Sahana Dharmapuri.  This is an incredibly timely topic, with 3 women peace-builders winning the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Obama Administration’s December announcement of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and Secretary Clinton’s recent comments on the lack of women at high-level security talks.

War Redefined reframes our understanding of modern warfare through probing conversations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright; Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee; Bosnian war crimes investigator Fadila Memisevic; Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International; globalization expert Moisés Naím; and Cynthia Enloe of Clark University, among others.

RSVP at http://iwd2012warredefined.eventbrite.com/

Along with hosting our annual International Women’s Day film screening and celebration, UNA-GB is also co-sponsoring some incredible International Women’s Day Events in Boston:

Ending Violence Against Women: Pathways to Power, Resilience and Leadership
International Women’s Day Breakfast

When: Thursday, March 8; 7:30-9:30 AM
Where: 
Simmons College, Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, Boston

Join UNA-GB and dozens of organizations around Boston in celebrating the city’s 15th Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast. Panel will include Purnima Mane, CEO and President of Pathfinder International, Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley, Audrey Porter of My Life My Choice and Ann Fleck Henderson from Simmons College.
RSVP at http://iwd2012.eventbrite.com/

Women for Women International’s Boston “Join Us at the Bridge” Event

When: March 8, 10am-12pm
Where:
Massachusetts Avenue Bridge Boston

Stand up with women around the world, honoring the strength of women working for equality, justice, and peace.

RSVP at http://joinmeonthebridge.org/events/massachusetts-ave-bridge

 Feeding Boston, Changing the World:  International Women’s Day 2012

When:  Saturday, March 10, 2012, 6-9pm
Where: 
Ballroom, Curry Student Center, Northeastern University
What
:  Panel discussion followed by a dinner celebration
Free and open to the public.  Spaces limited.  RSVP here.  

This International Women’s Day, Boston’s Oxfam Action Corps invites you to honor women who work the land, feed their families, and plow the way forward to more sustainable agricultural economies here and abroad.

 

Additional International Women’s Day Events around Boston:

End Impunity for Sexual Violence against Women and Girls

When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 5:00PM-7:30PM

Where: Old South Meeting House

In recognition of Int’l Women’s Day, this conference will take a critical look at international impunity for sexual violence and issue a resounding call to end it.

Latina Women’s Conference
Extraordinary Women fighting for Migration Justice

Where: MA State House
When:
Friday, March 9th, 2012 9:30- am- 3:00pm

Hosted by: Women in Solidarity Committee, whose network of Women in Solidarity is growing. 300 Latina women participated in 2011. Latina women advocated last year to opposed secure community program and create a community forum to reflect on violence and immigration issues.  Their goal is to create space for Latinas por el Cambio and expanded their reach to other places.  They founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers.
http://reddemujeres12.eventbrite.com/

Celebrate International Women’s Day Event at Gallery Kayafas

When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 7pm – 8:30pm

Where: Gallery Kayafas, 37 Thayer St. @450 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02118

Learn about AI’s work defending women’s rights featuring Zainab Abdullah, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan who has recently returned from researching honor killings in Pakistan. She will be joined by Beena Sarwar, a leading Pakistani journalist and democracy, human rights, and peace advocate. Hosted by the Back Bay Amnesty Group. RSVP to Alexandra Prim by 3/5/12. Space is limited. Learn more.

Celebrate International Women’s Day at the Eritrean Community Center

Where: 590 Shawmut Ave, Boston
When:
Saturday, March 10th, 8-10pm

The Eritrean Community Center of Greater Boston works to promote social and cultural interactions among Eritrean-Americans as well as area residents and friends for mutual understanding and awareness, integration, economic self-sufficiency, Eritrean heritage, and youth leadership.

Click here

2012 International Women’s Day:

Rally & March

When: March 10, 12 PM

Where: Meet at the Boston Common at the Gazebo

Meet to kick of the rally and then we’ll take it to the streets with guest speakers at Court Street, State Street MBTA, and State House. All individuals and groups are encouraged to bring a banner or signs, instruments, and other creative forms of expression and march together in struggle for living wage jobs, universal healthcare and childcare for all.

Benefit Show

Where: Midway Café 3496 Washington St, Jamaica Plain 02130

When: March 10, 7 PM

Benefiting The Prison Birth Project & Girls Rock Campaign Boston  $5 at the door, 21+ event

To register email InternationalWomensDayBoston@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/events/245509598867806/

Harvard Kennedy School’s International Women’s Day Celebration 

When: March 8, 2012

Where: HKS campus, various locations

8:30 – 10:00am, Breakfast for faculty, students and staff

Allison Dining Room, Taubman building, 5th floor

The Women and Public Policy Program is hosting a breakfast with HKS Academic Dean, Iris Bohnet, women faculty from across Harvard, students, staff and other members of our community. All are welcome!

11:40am – 1:00pm, WAPPP Seminar: Women’s Health and Health System Reform: The Route to Transformational Development?

WAPPP Cason Seminar Room, Taubman Building, 102

Health system reform in the United States and globally holds the promise of improving the health and well-being of women and a major opportunity for development, particularlyin the developing world. Dr. Johnson will explore the intersection of health system reform and the opportunities for transformational development through improvements in women’s health status, workforce development, and advancing women’s rights.

6:00 – 8:00pm, Film Screening: Iron Jawed Angels

WAPPP Cason Seminar Room, Taubman Building, 102

“Iron Jawed Angels” tells the remarkable and little-known story of a group of passionate and dynamic young women who put their lives on the line to fight for American women’s right to vote.

http://hvrd.me/AuzJ1b

To learn more about even more events happening in your area, check out the International Women’s Day websiteLet us know if you find any other events in the Boston area to celebrate International Women’s Day, so that we can update this blog to help people stay connected and aware of how to get involved locally!

-Alyson R.

Rebuilding Rwanda, One Woman at a Time

“To me, Akilah means family. It’s a place where you can find yourself, discover your potential, a place where you can know your responsibilities and discover how to be responsible in your future.” -Irene Ingabire, Akilah Student

Akilah presentation by Elizabeth and students, Allen and Noella

This personal account is one of many shared by the young women whose lives have forever changed as a result of the Akilah Institute located in Kigali, Rwanda. The Akilah Institute for Women was founded in 2009 with the vision to help young women in East Africa transform their lives by giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become leaders and entrepreneurs.

In an event held at the Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday, November 2nd hosted by the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the Women’s Forum@the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, guests had the opportunity to hear from Elizabeth Dearborn Davis, Akilah’s Co-founder and CEO, and also current students Noella Abijuru and Allen Kazarwa who are touring the United States on a Metropolitan Safari for the first time to meet supporters and share their life-changing experiences at Akilah.

Dearborn Davis, inspired by the resilience of the Rwandan people after the devastating 1994 genocide, decided after finishing her education in the United States that she wanted to move to Rwanda and be a part of the reconciliation. On this journey, she found herself working to build a new model of education for young women. During Wednesday’s event she spoke about her passion to help women find meaningful career paths to lift themselves and their families from poverty. Her testimony was a powerful reminder that a moment of inspiration and selfless dedication can lead to life-changing results.

The Akilah Institute offers women a unique learning environment that fosters innovation and confidence. Currently Akilah offers a 2-year diploma in Hospitality Management and hopes to begin offering a Business Management and Entrepreneurship (BME) in 2012. At Akilah students develop their English language proficiency and gain the confidence to speak in front of others. Students learn how to become leaders in Rwanda’s booming hospitality industry while also developing their own individual strengths. Students express that Akilah is especially rare because it is not just a school, it is a family.

Noella spoke to guests about her experience with Akilah and her hope for Rwanda

The Akilah students grew up as survivors, many without the guidance of elders or mentors. Today, in addition to attending school, many are also the providers for their households. These women have forged their own paths and overcome tremendous obstacles. Guests witnessed firsthand the influence Akilah has had when current students Noella and Allen captivated the room with their confidence and optimism for the future. They each briefly spoke of the struggles they have experienced but quickly changed the focus to the future and their responsibility to reclaim their country. They emphasized that Akilah has transformed their lives by empowering them with the ability to find meaningful employment, serve as leaders in their communities, and instill a powerful sense of pride.

The work that Akilah is doing directly addresses UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) #2 which aim to provide universal education opportunities, regardless of gender, and and #3, which focuses on gender equality and empowerment. Although the UN has stated in a new report that Africa’s overall progress toward achieving the internationally agreed targets to eradicate extreme poverty and accelerate social development has been slow and insufficient to meet the 2015 deadline. According to the report, the continent’s efforts to achieve the MDGs have been mixed and characterized by substantial variations in access to basic social services across sub-regions and countries. Yet, while overall progress is slow, programs like Akilah show us that results are possible and are what give us hope for scalable, sustainable change.

Akilah with the team from the Hauser Center, the UNA-GB Women's Forum and guests

As Dearborn Davis spoke, she became especially excited as she shared her goals for the future of Akilah which include moving to a new campus, largely increasing the incoming classes of women, growing their social enterprise and earned income initiatives, closing the gender gap of entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and also plans to replicate the model of Akilah to reach more of Rwanda and other African countries.

It is safe to say that this event was inspiring to all who were able to attend and hear the testimonies of these courageous women. UNA-GB’s Women’s Forum would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the team at the Hauser Center for their partnership and especially to the women of Akilah who took the time to share their stories with us.

If you would like to donate to the Akilah Institute or learn about other ways you can support thier mission please do so! Remember each one of us has the ability to make a big change!  I also encourage you to learn more about the Women’s Forum at UNA-GB and ways to get involved here.

-Katie Miles, UNA-GB Women’s Forum

6,994,726,950 and counting: Jane Roberts on “Women, Population, and the MDGs.”

Since the human race began, women have delivered for society.  It is time now for the world to deliver for women.” -The Lancet

With the world’s population set to hit 7 billion by the end of this month (6,994,726,950   was the most recent population count at the time of this posting – check out the current world’s population counter here) our Women’s Forum event “Women, Population, and the MDGs” , was a conversation that is more timely than ever!  The luncheon roundtable event featuring Jane Roberts was held on October 6th to a packed room of 60 attendees during a weekday noon.

Jane Roberts captivating the audience.

Jane Roberts is a grassroots advocate who exemplifies the power of taking a single action and making a huge difference. She is the co-founder, with Lois Abraham, of the 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project. Her contributions in the fields of population, development, the environment, and the human rights of women and girls have led to her recognition in 2003 by Ms. Magazine as one of their Women of the Year. In 2004, Women’s eNews selected her as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Along with Lois Abraham, Ms. Roberts was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the 1000 Peace Women Project under the patronage of UNESCO in 2005. In the same year, she published her first book 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World.

Ms. Roberts has traveled widely, and given public talks around the country in addition to extensive TV and radio interviews. In 2008, Ms. Roberts was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures. She received the Global Citizenship Award from the United Nations Association of Southern California in 2009. In the same year, Jane Roberts and her 34 Million Friends of the UNFPA project were featured in the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Jane finished her speech with her radical grassroots proposal,

Jane Roberts (center) with UNA-GB, JSI, and Pathfinder International staff.

When the world takes care of women, women take care of the world,”

leaving just enough time for our engaged audience to ask a few questions, focused on how to change the culture on the ground, how to engage men in the conversation, and what we can do to get engaged.

One direct way to get involved is to become one of Jane Robert’s 34 Million Friends of the women of the world. Visit her site, and do your part today!

The call to action also included ways you can support UNA-GB’s work, including our current 66 for 66 campaign that is geared towards educating the next generation of global leaders to tackle the pervasive problem of gender inequality.  Find out more here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1
On October 24, 100 Boston area middle and high school youth will convene at the State House, stepping into the shoes of ambassadors from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, South Korea and Mali to debate solutions to the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Help us provide this opportunity FREE OF COST to all the youth and donate now here: http://www.crowdrise.com/unday2011/fundraiser/unitednationsassocia1

Many Thanks as well to our two fabulous co-sponsors, JSI and Pathfinder International!

John Snow, Inc., and its nonprofit affiliate JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., are public health research and consulting firms dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities throughout the world. JSI builds local capacity to address critical health problems, collaborating with local partners to assist countries, governments, communities, families, and individuals to develop their skills and identify solutions that meet their public health needs. JSI has implemented projects in 104 countries, and currently operates from eight U.S. and 81 international offices, with more than 500 U.S.-based staff, and 1,500 host country national field-based staff.  Learn more here!  

Pathfinder International’s mission is to ensure that people everywhere have the right and opportunity to live a healthy sexual and reproductive life. In more than 25 countries, Pathfinder provides women, men, and adolescents with a range of quality health services—from contraception and maternal care to HIV prevention and AIDS care and treatment. Pathfinder strives to strengthen access to family planning, ensure availability of safe abortion services, advocate for sound reproductive health policies, and, through all of our work, improve the rights and lives of the people we serve.  Learn more here!

-Jen J

Beyond the Arab Spring: Struggle for Women Rights Continues

On October 24 the world will celebrate the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.  As we near this anniversary it is important to revisit the key missions of the United Nations, which centers around finding solutions to critical global challenges.

In 2010 the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) concluded with the adoption of a global action plan, which laid out Eight Millennium Development Goals, ranging from extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids. Another one of the goals that has many ties to the rest is MDG 3, which focuses on Gender Equality.  Achieving equal rights for women and girls is a big focus on the global stage currently, and recent headline news reflects this.

Islamic states, Saudi Arabia and Iran have all recently been criticized for their records with women’s rights. In the recent UN Watch Testimony to UN Human Rights, Iran and Saudi Arabia were listed as countries where women are deprived of their human rights.

The legal system of The Islamic Republic of Iran discriminates against women. Similarly, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women cannot drive and women are denied the right to vote and be elected to high political positions. Women, who don’t have the right to drive, however may gain the right to vote.

Recently, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced women will have the right to vote in local elections in 2015 and become members of the advisory Shura council. Two days after this announcement a court sentenced a woman to 10 whiplashes for violating the kingdom’s religious rules prohibiting women from driving.  Usually police stop female drivers, and after they have them sign a pledge not to drive anymore, let them go. This is the first time when legal punishment has been ordered for the violation of driving ban in Saudi Arabia. The court acted after a women’s campaign launched on Facebook and Twitter emboldened by the Arab Spring that inspired women to get behind the wheel and drive. These contradictions are the results of an endless fight between the country’s conservatives and those who want to improve women’s situation.

The issue recalls a long time fight that still continues in Afghanistan. In 1928 King Amanulah and his wife introduced new reforms, which included: the abolition of burqa, mixed schools for boys and girls, and the country’s mullahs.  Later, the country’s conservatives and mujahideen began attacking the government.  Presently, the country’s conservatives continue rising up against reforms – which would give basic human rights to women in Afghanistan.

The presence of women in Afghan parliament is a show of democracy. In fact, women holding high-ranking political positions do not have the authorities provided by their positions. Women struggle to play a significant political role and they are continually excluded from peace and security processes as well as solving important issues. The most members of the parliament are warlords, the ethnic militias who fought against each other from 1992 to 1996, killing thousands of civilians. Human Rights Watch published a report called “Blood stained Hand” which referred to warlords as “the world’s most serious human rights offenders.”

Now the Afghan government is willing to sacrifice women’s rights in order to compromise with Taliban. According to Oxfam –  women’s rights are at risk in Afghanistan.  When the international troops withdraw, the government will continue its peace negotiations with Taliban, which will deprive women from some of their basic human rights, which they have regained in the past 10 years with the opening of schools for girls. The spread of insurgency, violence and a corrupted government have left, and will continue to lead, people with no hope of peace.

In Saudi Arabia, the voting rights itself can be a show.  The country’s political system is not different from totalitarian regimes that have been overthrown by the Arab Spring revolution. Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 by King Abd-al-Aziz who united the country under his family’s rule.  After his death in 1953 the political power has been in the hands of the royal family and thousands of its princes.  For centuries the country has been isolated from the rest of the world and censored by the ruling monarchy. Now, through modern technologies, especially social media, people started have begun to realize that Islam has been used to impose the dynasty’s rules  and to exploit the nation’s people.

The conversation about women’s rights in the Middle East, and throughout the entire globe, is an important one that we need to continue having.  Our Women’s Forum focuses on many of these issues and will likely have some events coming up in the spring around women in the Middle East in particular so stay tuned!

In the near time, you can come celebrate the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations with UNA-GB and help us keep the conversation going.  One direct way to do this is to help support the next generation of global leaders learn about these important issues, with the UN Day Model UN mini-simulation at the Massachusetts State House on October 24 -where middle and high school students will debate Gender Inequality focusing on women’s education and employment opportunities worldwide.   You can also hear a powerful UN advocate and female leader, Gillian Sorensen speak at our annual UN Day Luncheon on October 28.  Tickets are on sale now!

Also, if you are more interested in focusing specifically on women’s equality join our Women’s Forum and come to our many interesting events held throughout the year!

-Muzhgan Rasul