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.
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.
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!!!
Please join us in our upcoming events. We have more exciting plans in the works!!
Yesterday 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.
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!).
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!
“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
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.
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.
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
“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 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,
“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.
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!
Each year on October 24 we honor the the day in 1945 when the United Nations Charter came into effect. Each UN Day, throughout the globe, the efforts of the United Nations are recognized and celebrated.
This year, marking the 66th anniversary of the UN, the theme for UN Day is: “UN Day: In Everyone’s Interest.” The United Nations delivers everything from: peace and democracy with over 120,000 troops and personnel deployed to 15 peacekeeping missions; as well as, promoting human rights; to building economic prosperity; and, advancing global health.
Here at UNA-GB we too celebrate this special day each year. This year, beginning on Monday of next week we have several events you can attend to show your support for the important global organization. On October 24, UNA-GB will hold a UN Day Celebration and Model UN Simulation at the Massachusetts State House. The event will begin with UNA-GB raising the UN Flag at Boston City Hall to fly over Boston for the week and will read the City of Boston’s UN Day Proclamation, signed by Mayor Menino. Next, 100 Boston area middle and high school students and additional guests will head over to the Massachusetts State House for a Model UN simulation. The students will step into ambassadors’ shoes from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, China and Russia to debate the pervasive problem of gender inequality globally, and answer the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Carol Fulp, 2011 Massachusetts UN Day Chair; SVP of Brand Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility, John Hancock Financial; and US Representative to the 65th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (appointed by President Obama in Fall 2010) will give opening remarks at the Simulation and Governor Deval Patrick has been invited to read his 2011 UN Day Massachusetts proclamation.
You can also show your support on the 24th by heading into one of the award winning local bakery Sweet Cupcakes and purchase a specially made UN Day cupcake at one of Sweet’s four locations around Boston: Back Bay, 49 Massachusetts Ave; 225 Newbury Street; Harvard Square: Zero Brattle Street; Downtown: 11 School Street. Cupcakes will also be provided to students at the Model UN simulation!
Occurring simultaneously on the 24th, cities and towns throughout Massachusetts from Westwood to Yarmouth will be submitting proclamations supporting the UN. Proclamations range in content but all provide resounding support for the mission and work of the UN globally and the work UNA-GB is doing locally in the community.
Ending the week we will be holding our annual UN Day Luncheon on Friday, October 28 which gathers leaders from the business, policy, 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 year our keynote speaker will be Gillian Sorensen, Senior Adviser at the United Nations Foundation and former Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations. Sorensen has distinguished career at the UN serving two Secretaries-General, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. During her service Sorensen was responsible for 4,000 non-governmental organizations, and is also an ardent advocate to the US/UN relationship. Sorensen’s remarks will focus on “The UN and You: Global Citizenship in the 21st Century”.
This year at the Luncheon we will also be introducing our first-ever Global Corporate Citizenship honor roll recognizing the more than 30 Massachusetts-based companies who have signed on to key business principles through the UN Global Compact. We believe it is important to highlight the leaders in our community making a difference around sustainable development and corporate citizenship. Funds raised through ticket sales and sponsorships at the Luncheon directly support UNA-GB’s community events and class-room based programs, which serves more than 5,000 participants annually in greater Boston. This years sponsors include: Clark University Graduate School of Management; British School of Boston; GGA Software Services, LLC; New England College of Business and Finance; Ocean Spray; and our 2011-2012 Education Program sponsor National Grid.
Our Campus Ambassadors will also be celebrating UN Day at their respective universities throughout the month. At Northeastern University there is a two week celebration with events, starting already this past week including a movie screening of “The Whistleblower,” on Sunday, October 16 followed by a discussion of the importance of speaking up in difficult situations and possible resulting reforms. At the beginning of this week, there will be a screening of “Seeds of Peace,” which will kick off a week of various programs including panel discussions with the film maker. Positive Foundations at Brandeis University will be hosting a panel discussion on the importance of literacy and education in developing countries. Other universities such as Boston College, Tufts University and Suffolk University will also be holding celebratory events.
Help us celebrate 66 years of peace, justice and prosperity with the UN and the importance of thinking globally and acting locally!
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!
Fall has officially kicked off here at UNA-GB. Over the past few weeks, UNA-GB was hard at work planning our Annual Member Meeting and Kimball Lecture, held Wednesday, September 28, and boy, was it a success!
Every year, we hold an Annual Meeting to communicate all that we’re doing with our members and friends. In addition this year, UNA-GB’s annual Kimball Lecture was held after the meeting. This year, not only did we showcase all that we have accomplished so far, but we presented our exciting plans for the rest of the year!
The evening started off with our Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors, which was open to the public, during which Officers, Board Members, and Advisory Council Members were elected. Among the newly elected were Nate Tassinari, Hakan Satiroglu and Roger Berry. We look forward to seeing what these new faces can bring to our already fantastic Board of Directors!
With an ambitious agenda, the Annual Meeting of Members began almost immediately following the Board of Directors Meeting. The program began with opening remarks from UNA-GB’s Executive Director, Lena Granberg, who played the role of Sec-Gen throughout the night, complete with a gavel and all. President Richard Golob gave a very inspiring speech laying out the success of UNA-GB during 2010 and the first half of 2011. From the Women’s Forum, to the Young Professionals Network, to our Signature Events including the annual Consuls Ball, Richard presented our enormous impact on the greater Boston community – in the past year alone, more than 5,000 people have been served with UNA-GB’s classroom and community based programming!
The expectations for the upcoming months were only raised higher after the next part of the evening.
A panel of our staff and volunteers took the stage to detail our various groups, our upcoming events, and easy ways for UNA-GB members to get involved. Among speakers were Rebecca Corcoran for our Model UN Program, Natalie Prolman for our Campus Ambassadors, Nate Tassinari for our Young Professionals Group, Elizabeth Grealy for our Women’s Forum, and Kaitlin Hasseler for our Signature Events and Advocacy/Communications. It wasn’t just pure presentation though – audience members had a chance to win big by answering trivia questions like “the world’s population will hit _____ billion in October 2011” and “what do ABC’s “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Seacrest and Supreme Court Justice Breyer have in common?” (Answers?? Seven and Model UN, respectively!)
For those who weren’t at the Meeting, click here to learn more about our upcoming events, and also find out how YOU can get involved with our programs and events here! 2 easy ways to get involved right now? Become a member today! Also, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep updated with our latest news and upcoming events!
Following our panel of speakers, attendees had the chance to hear Ambassador Walter Carrington give the Kimball Lecture keynote address, focused on Africa and the War on Terrorism. Carrington served as US Ambassador to Nigeria and Senegal, and is currently an Associate of Harvard’s DuBois Institute while working on a book on Nigeria and another on Islam in Africa. And during his introduction given by Richard Golob, UNA-GB President, we even learned that Carrington was Martin Luther King Jr.’s big brother in their Fraternity at Harvard University!
The Kimball Lecture is given annually in memory of Professors Chase and Mary Lee Evans Kimball. Chase and Mary Lee were lifelong supporters and promoters of United States participation and responsible leadership in international organizations, starting with fervent advocacy of the United States entry in the League of Nations. Chase, a lawyer and professor of international relations, and Mary Lee, a professor of French, were enthusiastic and loyal supporters and generous donors to UNA-GB and the UN Council of the South Shore.
The evening ended with a Wine and Cheese Around the World Reception. The Robert F. Meagher Wine & Cheese Around the World Reception was started this year as an annual event to recognize the contributions and legacy of long-time UNA-GB Board Member Bob Meagher who passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Our reception included cheese from all over the world including Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, and France, and our wine selection spanned from Chile, to New Zealand, and California to Hungary!
We even had a few famous faces join us at the Meeting this year, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Goodwill Ambassador (and Boston darling) Giselle Bündchen. New to this year’s Annual Member Meeting was a photo-booth with key United Nations individuals, which provided a great form of entertainment during registration.
Overall, 2011 Annual Member Meeting was a HUGE success! From the interactive photo-booth, to our panel of speakers, and our Kimball Lecture to the Wine and Cheese Around the World Reception, our guests felt engaged, informed, and excited about the upcoming months!
My name is Christina and I’m a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. I am from New York and currently attend Boston College as an undergraduate student studying International Studies and Hispanic Studies.
On July 1st, I attended the Women’s Forum Panel on Political Participation and was very impressed by the panelists’ experiences as well as their knowledge of women in politics in their home countries. Ella Lamakh from Ukraine especially stood out to me and I would love to share a few of the issues she spoke about.
Director of Family Affairs and Gender Policy Department, Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport, Ella is originally from Ukraine and focused on women in Ukrainian politics today and what is being to done to increase that participation.
She started off explaining that legislation on gender equality does exist in Ukraine. However, even though the legislation is written it is not regularly enforced in the country. The predominately male parliament and the surviving Soviet mentality continue to prevent Ukrainian progress in gender equality. The Soviet stereotype of women belonging in the home persists in Ukraine and is further reinforced by the media. Even the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, has recently made remarks stating that women are inept at holding positions in high political offices and ought to stay in the kitchen. (Guardian.co.uk)
Although this stereotype is prevalent, 60% of Ukraine’s local councils, which are unpaid positions, are composed of women. However, there are only 7% of women in the paid national Ukrainian council. These statistics show the difficulties in increasing women’s political participation in high political offices.
In an effort to change the mentality towards women in office, Ella explained that she is involved with a campaign to stop violence against women, which encompasses an emergency hotline and anti-violence training programs.
Thank you, Ella, for enlightening us on the social attitudes that make it difficult for women to be elected. We hope that this will change in the near future due to people like you.
Just as a little introduction, my name is Hannah, and I’m a Programs and Membership intern for the summer at the UNA-GB. I’m originally from a small town in Pennsylvania and am currently studying International Studies and Middle Eastern studies at Boston College.
The UNA-GB recently co-sponsored a Women’s Forum on Political Participation with World Boston. For those of you who may not know, the Women’s Forum was launched in June 2006 and has become a vibrant community where women and men can participate in discussion on improving women’s issues around the globe. It often hosts events highlighting local and international organizations, such as this particular panel on political participation.
At this most recent event, there was a panel of four women from four different countries: The Palestinian Territories, the Ukraine, Lesotho, and Nigeria. In this post, I will specifically speak about the commentary of Ms. Thandiwe Solwandle, a freelance journalist from the country of Lesotho in Africa.
According to Ms. Solwandle, women in the Kingdom of Lesotho have had the legal right to vote since the 1960s. However, they have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. Although they have the choice to vote for a woman, they still continue to vote for men. Ms. Solwandle spoke of a cultural belief among men and women alike in Lesotho that women do not have the physical or mental capabilities to be leaders. As a result, men continue to dominate the political spectrum.
Further, Ms. Solwandle argued that some women who decide to participate are not prepared for the positions that they would hold in Parliament. There is a failure to address issues related to women and children. Instead, women make decisions based on what their male colleagues place emphasis on.
One of the problems that hinder women from gaining the confidence and ability to win these positions in Parliament is their general lack of training. Women grow up performing ‘traditional’ female duties such as housework and cooking. They are unlikely to have the opportunity to receive public speaking training or education on resource mobilization to keep a campaign running. Most of the time women are only elected based on their party affiliation.
Lesotho has made small steps in trying to support women in political participation, such as creating a quota system at the local level that reserves one-third of the electoral divisions for women candidates. These measures have proven successful, as by 2005, approximately 53% of the victorious candidates elected were women.
The election of the National Assembly, however, does not involve legal quotas for women. Women still struggle to gain a foothold in this arena to represent their most basic rights.
Ms. Solwandle concluded her comments by saying that she appreciates the strides that have been made since women were allowed to vote, but that she does not believe the ingrained attitudes towards women’s role in politics will change anytime soon. Before men realize the importance of women in politics, women must believe in themselves and express that confidence.