Monday, March 27, 2017

Young Women's Leadership and Voices at the UN

How Are Young Women Using Their Voices? 

by Meriam Sabih 

The briefing on "Young Women's Leadership and Voices at the UN" started off with one of the panelists Aasha Shaik, a 17 year old from Rutgers University singing, "Tick Tock" an anthem she wrote for the "International Day of the Girl." She then went on to ask, "Why girl's rights?" Do girl's rights fall under women's rights or children rights? When girl's rights are lumped into women's rights then often issues such as child marriage can be sidelined. 

When girls rights are lumped together with children's rights they often resources can go to boys she said. It is simply a stereotype that girls are not interested in leadership and the problems of the world around them. But we need to provide more pathways for girl's to become involved and bring girl's to the table. There are various ways of marginalization that girls face that are already twofold; gender and age but also includes race, religion, and more...these stereotypes are only compounded in girls of color from marginalized communities. Girls need to be aware that they deserve opportunities. And good leaders are those who have people around them do great thing, the focus is the impact they have on others. "It's important to acknowledge our own privilege," Shaik said. Once that privilege is acknowledged she encouraged young women to confront it and reach out to help someone who does not have such privilege. She spoke of the girl advocate program to represent girls at the United Nations through The Working Group on Girls (WWG) and were instrumental at assuring the Sustainable Development Goals are not discriminatory for girls.

Lehigh University student Renu Zhu was the moderator for the briefing. She spoke of various programs that teach a nuanced view of global affairs and fostering feminist engagement. The briefing was also intended tostress the importance of intergenerational conversation. The target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to achieve women’s rights, but cannot do that without ending inequalities, social justice and creating more democratic spaces.

Alina Saba, from the National Indigenous Women Forum (NWIF) a group that works for the political and economic empowerment indigenous women, said we must question deep structural biases. This even includes why some countries are richer than others and have more access to resources than others. Aishwarya Narasimhadevara, NGO Youth Representative for the Medical Women's International Association said that collaboration is important and it also starts with us being true to ourselves. "We can all come together and use our gifts to create a better society," stated Narasinhadavera.

Another powerful speaker Noluthando Nzimande, started her activism at the age of 12. “If you don’t open the space it will not be used," she exclaimed. She said it was the NGO in her country of South Africa that really cared about allowing the young person to speak for themselves. She said it was important not focus on telling them what’s wrong, but letting them analyze issues for themselves and come to their own conclusions.“Today I'm 23 and I don’t have a work has prepared me to have my own voice and my own rights. I think at this age is more important than being a mother. My work at the UN has been amazing experience. I can stand in front of a minister even from my country and tell them what I think," she said. She advised that impact of leadership should not only be "on the black and white report" but the impact and results should be visible in the people you are working with. "Each of us has a duty to turn our male counterparts as Womanists. We need to take the responsibility to educate others. To the UN we appreciate you but you need to open more space to marginalized groups. We are just accommodated in someone else’s space," Nzimande said. She reminded us that there is a way in which 1+4=6. It is when Goal #1 Eradicating Poverty plus Goal # 2 Education equals Goal #6 which is Peace. And surely a lot more needs to be done to not only treat girls as equals but even at places like the UN, more should be done to empower young female leadership and make more spaces for marginalized groups to feel welcome and heard.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fighting Xenophobia: Migrants Offer Much More Than They Take

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest the positive impact that migrants have on the economies of the countries in which they arrive. A common myth that perpetuates prejudice and discrimination against migrant women, children and men is the idea that they take more away from the host country than they provide. Given the extent to which migrants contribute to the host economy through taxes and supplementing the labor market, they largely overcompensate for what they take away in terms of the host country’s services. Yet with all of the evidence arguing in favor of migrants, xenophobia still seems to be a growing issue among the public.

The OECD Report (2014) states, “In the U.S., evidence shows that skilled immigrants contribute to boosting research and innovation, as well as technological progress, which leads to more jobs.”

With the fears generated from the government and media, countries are unable to see the value that migrants, in particular migrant women, have to contribute to the given host country. A good portion of migrants entering into the U.S., for example, are argued to be a ‘brain waste,' where they are forced into manual labor positions that do not match their capabilities and professional experiences. For example, migrants with PhD’s from their home countries may not be given the recognition they deserve by the given host country and are made to drive taxis for a living. That is not to say that migrants who do manual labor are not contributing in a positive way to these economies as they are filling in for positions that are undesired by the larger public. It is, however, a shame that migrant individuals, who could have a much larger impact on the host country, are not given the recognition and capacity to do so because of their status. 

The Together campaign specifically focuses on generating a global movement of tolerance, solidarity, empathy and protection for all migrants. They look to put real faces and stories at the forefront of the movement so as to humanize the experiences that migrant women, children and men face. Unfortunately, the world’s shifting political climate is contributing to growing instances of xenophobia and discrimination towards migrants. As the climate continues, it is not only up to the larger organizations such as the NGO Committee on Migration but also on individuals to combat this prejudice and discrimination.

Sustaining Our World: The Need to Empower Indigenous Women Farmers

By Andrea Moran

The March 21st panel at the Salvation Army in NYC.


These are the four keys to empowering indigenous women in farming, according to Tee Thompson, a presenter at the "Transforming Indigenous Women Through Agribusiness" event on March 21st, as part of the UN's 61st CWS.

But why farming?

The world's surging population is one reason. By 2030, the UN projects that the world's population will surpass 8.6 billion. (It reached 7 billion in 2011, so we're in for some incredible exponential growth).

Despite the dramatic increase in the world's population, the growth farming sector, as it is, will not be able to keep pace, according to Thompson. To make matters more serious, by 2030, over half the world's populations will live in urban areas. This shift from rural to city life will no doubt impact agriculture, a sector which is already showing a decline in the percentage of world population working in the field, according to the World Bank. 

"Women represent a whole lot of untapped potential," said Esther Ibanga, Founder of the Women Without Walls Initiative, (WWWI). Unfortunately, women in many countries, such as Nigeria, face extreme difficulties in accessing land, equipment, loans, and training to take leadership roles within agriculture. Empowerment and enablement to hold power in this sector is crucial not only for the development of the nation, but to ensure these women can sustain their families and communities with food.

Ibanga applied for a loan in Nigeria, and 4 years later, she said her loan application has not advanced. She said patriarchal and traditional views of women's roles hinder their advancement and involvement in the agriculture sector. Overcoming these attitudes, and allowing women  legal rights to land, training, and loans, is crucial if the nation is to develop and include women within agribusiness.

While humanitarian aid sends food to Africa, Africa already has all the resources and arable land it needs to sustain itself, said Barrister Udy Ubom, a lawyer and panelist. The key is enabling Africa's women to become empowered leaders of their agricultural lands and small farms.

"They don't need food shipped from America. They have land, they have rivers," he said, re-affirming that instead of sending aid money to supply food to Africa, donors should send aid to support women in the above mentioned areas.

Additional Resources:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Article: Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa (World Bank)

Thursday, March 23, 2017


The panelists consisted of Dr. Belinda Archibong, assistant professor of economics at Columbia University, Dr. Ugochi Ohajuruka, founder of Health Aid for All Initiative (HAFAI), and Kayode Ajayi-Smith, Director of African Citizens Development Foundation.

Though the gap enrollment is almost closed, the gap in completion rates still remains quite high.
Ohajurka explains, "a woman must be healthy before she can be empowered"; and so, the basic need of health must first be met in order for girls to stay in school. HAFAI focuses on the importance of sanitation and hygiene for girls. Many young girls drop out of school once their periods begin. They don't have access to feminine products, so they choose to stay home when they do have their periods. Missing a week of school each month leads to falling behind in classes and eventually dropping out. More so, health facilities are far from communities, they are not free - and when health is unaffordable, people turn to spiritual help, which brings attention to problems of ignorance - and there are many issues with the quality and quantity of technology - there isn't enough money for proper machines. 

The economy plays an important role in ensuring a full education for young girls. Archibong explains, "on the demand side, parents tend to keep boys in school and make the decision to marry off their daughters". The solution is a more structured policy with more social protection. So there needs to be something on the supply side that lowers the cost of girls attending school. Archibong explains, in economic terms, "to lower the cost where there is an economic shock".

Ultimately, it's the parents' attitude towards educating their daughters that plays the most significant role in economic gains through education. A solution to shifting attitudes is mentoring. Have parents who have invested in their girl child speak to other parents who face the decision of what to do with their daughter's path to education. The hope is to create a safe space for girls to learn technical skills, soft skills, and life skills, all in a space that encourages girls to be vocal about gender based violence and to also increase the participation of women in leadership positions. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Paula Kweskin, human rights attorney / filmmaker moderated and kicked off this discussion. Kweskin highlighted her film, Honor Diaries. The film brings attention to male-dominated cultures that place a woman's honor and worth on her body, treating her like property. These women are not allowed to decide when and who to marry and have children with, they must dress a certain way, and who she is associated with is decided by her family. If a woman does not follow the rules of her society, then she is subject to abuse by her family.

Honor Diaries grew increasingly popular through film festivals, but Kweskin hit a road-block when colleges tried to control the viewing of her film and refused to show it on campuses. She realized, "we're not there yet". Meaning, people are uncomfortable still tackling women's issues.

Kweskin used her platform as a filmmaker to amplify women's voices regarding issues of culture and abuse. She encouraged other filmmakers to do the same, many of whom risked their lives for freedom and change. These filmmakers recognize the power of film to push for social change.

After Kweskin's introduction, she went on to show us two of her videos - "Faith Keepers" and "Honor Diaries", and three mini films - "His Cucumber", "Screaming Silence", and "Butterflies".

The women featured in Honor Diaries shared their stories of honor violence and the actions they've since taken as activists to raise awareness and end this abuse.

One of the featured women explained that her parents had told her, "you either come home and marry who we say, otherwise from this point forward you are dead in our eyes". The only power women of these cultures have is the power to dishonor. Many women who choose to pursue work or education are threatened by waves of killings. In solidarity though, there is strength.

Honor Diaries addresses that the treatment of women worldwide is a huge concern, especially with islamic and muslim societies. The film tackles issues of female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honor violence. The stories are about both pain and power. Through power, these women can fight against the censorship of films, as well as, the censorship of women's voices as a whole. Honor violence is still abuse and the fact that we are in the 21st century and it's still happening today is alarming.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Identifying and Eliminating Barriers to Women’s Professional Advancement in Sport

This parallel event was sponsored by the International Women’s Group on Women and Sport, the Women’s Sport Foundation, and WomenSport International. Held in the Boss Room in the Church Center of the UN, it was designed to engage participants in discussion about the status of women in sport. The session began with brief introductions of the each of the discussion facilitators, who represented a wide variety of experiences in sport. The discussion leaders then broke the participants into 5 discussion groups.

One of the discussion groups, led by Katherine Starr, founder of Safe4Athletes, discussed sexual abuse in sport and what can be done to reduce and prevent it. All sports are vulnerable to sexual abuse, but sports that engage young athletes (like gymnastics) may be more vulnerable (or more visible) than those which engage older athletes (like cycling). Katherine explained the uniqueness of the coach-athlete relationship, and how detrimental it can be when the person responding to reports of abuse doesn't understand that relationship. She also emphasized how important it is that the person responding to issues of abuse be outside of the team dynamic, and not responsible for the team’s winning record or finances.

A second discussion group talked about about research, development, and education. Participants in this group shared their personal stories of empowerment through sport. One attendee shared how participating in tennis later in life served as a catalyst for her, and she emphasized the importance of promoting sports to women at all stages of life. Another athlete from Pakistan shared her experiences as a successful young athlete who went largely unrecognized by her country’s media. She spoke about the importance of using media, especially social media, to draw attention to the value of sport in women’s empowerment and women’s rights.

Advocating at Intersection of Women’s Rights and the Environment

Held at 10:30am in the Church Center of the UN, this panel session was sponsored by the Women’s Environment and and Development Organization (WEDO). WEDO is an international advocacy organization that works to ensure that women’s voices are heard in decisions made about sustainable development. The panel was conducted by 4 WEDO staff, including the organizations co-directors.

The panel began by providing an overview of the intersection of environmental advocacy and women’s advocacy. For some this is a newer idea, and advocates are trying to define what it means to work at the intersection of these two issues. For WEDO, this is not a new issue, and it has been working at the intersection of women’s and environmental issues since the early 1990s. In 1991, the Women’s Congress for a Healthy Planet set the stage for international dialogue about the role of women in environmental decisions. This was followed by the Women’s Action Agenda 21, which has served as the basis of WEDO's advocacy work.

WEDO staff then presented the 3 primary activities they are engaged in to support advocacy for women in environmental and development decisions. Recognizing that women’s voices can’t be heard if they are not present at the table, WEDO’s Women’s Delegate Fund serves as a funding source and travel agency for women representing their national governments at international negotiations. 40% of the women the Women’s Delegate Fund has funded have been the only female representatives sent by their nations. WEDO conducts trainings for women engaged in negotiations and advocacy work, and they also prepare reports and research on the status of women and the environment. WEDO's Gender Climate Tracker app ( provides information on 3 topics: the participation rates of women on national delegations, gender mandates across international policy decisions, and NDC (nationally-determined contributions) analysis. They will soon be launching a website that will provide additional information, and as an open-source site, the public and civil society will be able to enter information about national and local conditions that may not be visible to those working at the international level.

WEDO supports the perspective that “silos are sexist”, saying that working in silos unnecessarily divides us and prevents us from seeing the big picture. Working on gender and climate issues separately makes it more likely that the work done on one issue harms the other. For example, work to improve the economic empowerment of women can harm the environment, if the action taken promotes environmentally extractive practices. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to work at the intersection of these issues.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Book on Peaceful Solutions for Women's Advancement Across Cultures

On Friday, March 17 in the Salvation Army Auditorium, African Views promoted 100 Peaceful Solutions for Women's Advancement Across Cultures, a new book and global call to action which has been in the works for over eighteen months. Curator Wade Idris Aijbade was present, along with other authors and families of authors who contributed to the book. The soft launch and panel was moderated by Padmini Murthy, MD, and Regina Askia Williams, RN. 

The event began with keynote speaker Madame Innocence Ntap Ndiaye, President of the High Council on Social Dialogue by Decree and international lecturer from Senegal; her French presentation was translated by an interpreter. She discussed Senegal's Constitution of 2001 which includes a set of principles to promote women's rights and access. Her country has also ratified international policies on the subject, including CEDAW, and a national strategy for social justice and gender equality SNEEG. Women are concentrated in the informal economy, meaning unpaid work that remains invisible in statistics and discussions. Highlighting the context of vulnerability generated by inequality, she stressed the importance of education and social dialogue as "a means of producing social justice through consensus of main actors and democratic means of involvement." 

The first panelist, Ora Welch, M. Ed., President and CEO of Hopes CAP, Inc. (HOPES), focused on respect and early education. She stated that all people need to learn how to respect themselves and each other from a young age, so that we stop mistaking abuse for love. Abuse is tied to education, and poverty will not go away until we fix education. Young people, and particularly girls, need safe spaces for dialogue and support to become well-rounded and self-sustainable. Too many young girls are searching for approval; they need good mentors to help them understand what they are feeling.

The second and final panelist, Terry D. Ince, a human rights activist with expertise in women's economic and political empowerment from Trinidad and Tobago, reminded participants that "change starts with us." She described an incident in her country during Carnival last year where a young women's movement made their voices heard, successfully removing a man from office following his distasteful comments about a young girl's death. Women should be able to walk down the street wearing whatever they choose without being harassed, attacked, or having their space invaded, and these women exemplify the power of civil society in demanding equality and rights. 

Ince also cited CEDAW in the expectation of women and girls to be protected by the government and called for participants to put pressure on their governments to uphold the treaty in practice. For countries that have not ratified CEDAW, including the United States, Murthy encouraged participants to look into Cities for CEDAW, which aims to "Make the Global Local" by passing legislation establishing the principles of CEDAW in cities and towns across the United States. 

During the Q&A portion, the following topics were discussed: 
  • Williams said, "These men didn't come from Mars, we raised them." How can we correct inequalities caused by our parents (ex. gendered ways of sitting)? 
    • In order to overcome institutionalized inequalities, we must gain the respect of those (parents) we are trying to inform. By carrying yourself with respect and projecting the change you want to implement, you can talk to people one-on-one about the development and growth of their children and make a difference.
    • Self-empowerment first, then social engagement. 
  • Growing up, girls are encouraged to be affectionate and to be drawn to affection. Caregivers are often the source of this affection, so what advice can be given to victims of molestation by these caregivers? 
    • We need protectors in the community that victims can talk to and we need to stop victim blaming. We cannot let silent suffering go on any longer. Safe spaces for dialogue and support will open the door of trust and raise awareness, enabling victims to build networks between mentors and other young people. 

Female Entrepreneurship & Economic Empowerment in Ukraine

"Women's Empowerment through Entrepreneurship with a View to Contexts of Displacement: A Focus on Ukraine" was held on Saturday, March 18 on the 10th Floor of the Church Center of the United Nations. The panel was sponsored by the World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations (WFUWO) and was moderated by Dora Chomlak, Board Member of RazomThe panel included Lyudmyla Porokhnyak-Hanovska, President of the Nation Council of Women of Ukraine, Karyn Gershon, Executive Director of Project Kesher, Iuliia Shykalova, Business Development Executive at Hideez Technology, Oleksandra Rohachova, CEO and co-founder of Inkhunter, and Larysa Polansky, Director of Textiles, Fashion & Women's Education at Ukraine Global Trade and Investment

Over the past three years Ukraine has experienced military aggression and up to 1.8 million people - mostly women and their dependents - have been internally displaced. Women in Ukraine are a disadvantaged sector: they are paid 25% less than men, mainly because they tend to hold lower-ranking positions, and 1/3 of Ukraine's women are rural residents. Although rural women own 60% of all land shares, little of their land is economically viable. Urban women that have small businesses trade in the Ukranian hryvnia, the local currency, and thus lack the benefit of the banking system, affecting their ability to accumulate capital.

The success stories of female entrepreneurs, such as the women on this panel, provide insight into new possibilities for displaced Ukrainian women along with the concept of acting locally and connecting globally. 

Gershon talked about the creation of ORT KesherNet Vocational computer centers which train women to become economically self-sufficient, particularly older women who are displaced due to their inability to gain new skill sets needed in their jobs. She views the issue as largely generational, as there is a lack of resources to retrain older employees with the shift to digitization. 

Shykalova provided insight into the growing IT industry in Ukraine, which she called "fresh" and has made the country more global and open, stimulating its economy. In just a six year period, more women are becoming employed in this industry, proving that there is a generational shift as software and IT attracts more young people. She noted that the "Soviet patriarchal society" criticizes women for either being too "pushy" or for being too "soft", and finds that it is easier for women to work with other women, as opposed to men. Ultimately, she is optimistic that things are changing in Ukraine as female enrollment rises and there are more women leaders in business. 

Rohachova shared her experiences as a young, female entrepreneur in the country. Having completed her undergraduate degree in 2014 and attained her Masters degree in 2015, she co-founded the company Inkhunter, an app that allows users to test out tattoos in real-time, with two of her female peers the same year. Rohachova said she was surprised to hear about gender discrimination in the workplace because she doesn't see a distinction between genders as much in her generation. She believes this type of discrimination is rooted more in "Soviet Union mindsets," although she discussed the fact that when her all-female team participated in a hackathon no one believed they would succeed (they won!). 

Finally, Polansky discussed concepts of entrepreneurship and empowerment as inspired by her six month period of work with Indego Africa. The cooperative aims to empower women by showcasing their handicrafts and introducing them to online markets to expand distribution. Polansky affirmed that when women are employed and empowered in developing countries, there is a "ripple effect" of reinvestment back into the community. Her desire is to take that framework and bring it to crafting in Ukraine, by educating entrepreneurs to participate in the global market and tying the physical work of crafting to the IT industry. 

"We are not aliens. We are humans trying to rebuild our lives."

Women Graduates-USA brought together four diverse women to discuss the challenges to economic empowerment faced by refugee and migrant women on Saturday, March 18 on the 10th Floor of the Church Center of the United Nations.

Immigrant Women & Precarious Work, Rosetta Adera, DM, New Jersey, Refugee from Rwanda
Precarious work is characterized by variable levels and degrees of objective (legal) and subjective (feeling) insecurity and has four dimensions: temporal (low job security), organizational (lack of control over conditions, pay, health & safety, etc.), economic (poor pay, wage robbery), and social (lack of collective voice and legal protection). This type of work is the reality for many refugees and migrants, and the effects are increased poverty and a lack of voice. Women are silenced, left powerless to change their condition due to the threat of losing their job if they speak up. Lack of documentation, which is a barrier to attaining better, stable employment, is particularly a problem for refugees - "When your country goes up in flames, you don't look for papers. You pick up and run." 

Psychological Aspects of Adjustments, Cynthia Grguric, PhD, New York 
Refugees and migrants go through three stages of resettling. Most psychological treatment is focused on the "pre-, contemplative" stage (are they supported, what pressures are pushing or pulling them) and "during" the period of travel (physical, emotional, and psychological traumas); however, "post stressors" remain prevalent for the first two years and only begin to decrease after five years.  The struggle between acculturation and assimilation is relevant as they gain a sense of grounding in their new settings. Economic dependency can cause guilt and pressure from back home, while feelings of loneliness and powerlessness make establishing a sense of belonging incredibly difficult, which can sometimes lead to violence. Particular pressures are put on children, who have to act as interpreters for their parents while trying to fit in at school. Culture is the glue that holds people and communities together - individual perceptions of national identity play an important role in the process. In order for refugees and migrants to successfully adjust, local communities must make the effort to reach out, practice cultural sensitivity, and provide connection and support for newcomers. 

Ramifications of Addiction, Jeanette Westbrook, Social Worker, Kentucky 
Refugees and migrants are particularly profiled and targeted by the criminal (in)justice system through DUIs, which can be used as grounds to prevent citizenship for five years and remains on record for life. Two DUI offenses are grounds for deportation, however refugees are being deported for just one offense. The main problem is that refugee settlements are doing a poor job of educating refugees about DUI laws. They may not have had DUI laws back home and often lack experience with alcohol. "The lack of access to that education and information is an institutionalized barrier." The pressure to "be American, have a beer" is thus used to criminalize and deport refugees and immigrants. 

A Personal Story, Martine Tchitchihe, UPenn, Refugee from Cameroon
After receiving threats from Boko Haram, an extremist terrorist group, Martine came to the United States in October 2014. Luckily, she was told to bring all of her documentation prior to leaving her country, which has made circumstances slightly easier. Immigration websites claim that it takes 45 days to get asylum, however Martine knows women who have waited for 11 years. Moreover, each time a refugee has to retell her story, she is forced to relive it, which has psychological effects, and if she forgets or mistakes one detail of her story, she will not be granted asylum. Martine profusely thanked her friends from Peace Corps Cameroon and UPenn, many of whom where in the audience. She cites them as her support system; they made her refugee journey to the United States possible, and keep her going every day. However, one word remains stuck in her head - "alien," a xenophobic term often used to refer to refugees and migrants. She states, "We are not aliens. We are humans trying to rebuild our lives." Martine, along with the other panelists, extended a call to action for participants to befriend at least one refugee or migrant, act as their mentor and advocate, and promote understanding in their community. 

Empty Words or Meaningful Actions?

On Friday, March 17 the UK NGO CSW Alliance held a discussion in the Hardin Room of the Church Center for the UN on how to ensure that Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 8 ensure the economic empowerment of women and girls. UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, "No Poverty", aims to eradicate all forms of poverty everywhere, while SDG 8, "Decent Work and Economic Growth", serves to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, along with full and productive employment and decent work for all. 

One panelist spoke on the experience of older women, a group that is consistently excluded from global data and discussions despite the statistic that women over the age of 50 are 1/4 of the world's population. She reminded listeners that aging is a gendered experience. Women tend to live longer than men and, due to cultural norms and the gendered division of labor, will end up caring for multiple generations at the same time. They will take on more household and care-taking responsibilities (unpaid work) to allow the younger generation of women to enter the workforce. With the additional stresses of being disadvantaged throughout their lifetimes, poverty can hit older women especially hard. She asserted that SDG 8 must begin to measure unpaid work in order for public services and infrastructure to recognize the contributions of this group and provide support for older women and subsequently those they care for. 

The next panelist began by asking the audience "Who is civil society?" The answer: we are all civil society, and we have a responsibility to act and address human rights, women's rights, and the 2030 agenda outlined by the SDGs. We are the instruments and resources for economic empowerment and it is not only a goal, but smart economics, to serve as a critical voice for women and girls to influence the implementation of the SDGs. Civil society has played a significant role in raising awareness of gender equality and rights particularly by influencing the language used to talk about these issues. For example, they introduced "the girl child" to texts (previously, statistics of children under 18 clumped boys and girls together, failing to recognize their gendered experiences) and got the word "harmful" added before "traditional practices," making a difference in how people conceptualize the impacts of culture. 

The panel ended with an even stronger call to action. The final speaker referenced the byline of the SDGs - "Leaving No One Behind" - which promises the success of these goals and of achieving gender parity. "But I am calling for an end to empty words and a push to meaningful actions," she said. The continuous lack of disaggregated data alongside cultural practices which subordinate women have to be addressed; "Respecting culture is important, but human rights must come first." We also need to recognize that poverty starts at home. Additionally, poverty is not just economic - it is about a lack of capabilities, of empowerment and agency in an individual's life. The trivialization of issues such as enforced dress codes (a woman was recently fired for refusing to wear heels to work), the stereotyping of assertive women and girls as "bossy" or "pushy", and the low enrollment and employment of females in STEM subjects must also come to an end. In order to get to the roots of gender inequality, we need to look more closely at cultural practices and build an understanding. Only then, will we truly be able to "leave no one behind." 

Participants were then asked to break into small groups to discuss their thoughts, experiences, and questions on the panel. Some of the points brought up during the Q & A session were: 

  • It has been estimated that $39 billion would be needed to ensure safe education for all. What would that type of funding look like and how would it be monitored? 
  • Menstruation and lack of sanitary resources is a significant reason why some girls stop attending school. It is impossible to talk about gender equality in education when half of the population is not there. What are some ways to push governments to provide and support sanitation issues? 
  • What do the SDGs look like and mean in individual communities? The concept of regionalizing the CSW was brought up to better reach rural women and those who lack the funding to attend the CSW. 
    • One panelist noted that the CSW is a platform for advocacy and best practices. Perhaps the question should be how participants can bring key takeaways back home and implement them in their individual communities. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Inequality is the cause of our time"

“Making a Difference: Innovation and Women in Power” was held during the late afternoon on March 17, in the auditorium of the Salvation Army building, and was sponsored by The International Women’s Forum of Connecticut. Though this session was not as well attended as some of the earlier sessions in the day, those that were there were treated to a panel of internationally renowned women leaders. Moderated by Valerie Gelb, CEO of Gelb Global Business Growth Advisors, the panelist were Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women, Christine McConnell, Executive Coach and founder and president of The McConnell Group, Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, and Kavita Ramdas, former president and CEO of The Global Fund for Women. As moderator, Ms. Gelb asked each panelist a variety of questions regarding how women in leadership positions can affect social change, though each question was tailored to the particular expertise and experience of the panelist being asked.

Overall, the panel addressed 3 main themes: the role of technology in women's empowerment, the major issues/challenges facing those who are working towards gender equality, and how women can be leaders for change.

Technology was primarily presented by the panelists as a resource that can be uniquely suited to support women’s empowerment. Carolyn Miles shared examples of how technology can be used to reach women and children who are often missed by traditional healthcare system, including innovative uses of mobile diagnostic devices that can be used to diagnose and treat children in rural areas and deep urban slums, as well as ways that technology can bring training resources to non-traditional healthcare workers so that they can better serve needy populations. Kavita Ramdas shared examples of how technology can be used to give girls and women a public voice, even when they are not physically allowed in public spaces. This has been seen recently in both Saudi Arabia and in India. Musimbi Kanyoro explained how mobile technologies have allowed disadvantaged populations access to information and resources they have been historically be excluded from, though she also noted situations in which technology can be damaging, especially for girls and women whose images are shared publicly though social media without their consent.

Major Issues
A variety of significant issues were discussed by panelists. One of the most cited was the assumption that economic empowerment is the solution to gender inequality. As Kavita Ramdas explained, there are many places in the world where women has achieved high rates of educational and economic parity, but still lack political or cultural power to make change because of historical cultural norms. Education was frequently described as one of the single largest factors in changing the lives of women and girls. From Carolyn Miles' perspective, education improves the future not only of girls, but also their future generations. Because of this, her organization approaches education not only as an empowerment solution, but also a protective solution.

Leading Change
The panelists provided many examples of the lessons they have learned about how to lead change, and advice for women who want to be leaders in working towards gender equality. Chris McConnell emphasized how important it is for women leaders to focus on their own leadership skills, and ways in which they can empower others by empowering themselves. She also discussed the perceived differences between women who lead in the corporate world and those who lead in the non-profit world, encouraging the world to work together to achieve shared goals. Musimbi Kanyoro called for women leaders to embrace the diversity of the world that we live in and to avoid addressing issues related to equality as single-subject issues. Kavita Ramdas provided 3 practical strategies: give to women’s rights organizations, make friends who are different from you, and use your networks as safe places to have tough conversations.

Word Choice

As the panel came to a close, two important questions of word choice came up. First, Kavita Ramdas shared that she doesn’t like to use the word “empowerment”. As she explained it, power it not given, it is taken. Marginalized populations have to reclaim their rights – they aren’t given new rights by those in power – and by doing so they change the balance of power. She also talked about the often-heard statement “women’s rights are human rights” and spoke passionately about this for several minutes. As echoed by other panelists, gender equality improves not only women, but all members of society. The use of the phrase “women’s rights are human rights” calls attention to the idea that women have not been treated as fully human, when instead we should be calling attention to the fact that all humans need the same rights, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other factors.

100 Solutions for Peaceful Advancement of Women Across Cultures

Held in the late afternoon of March 17 at the Salvation Army building, “100 Solutions for Peaceful Advancement of Women Across Cultures” served a a soft launch of the brand-new book by the same name. Available online and soon available in print, this interdisciplinary book provides solutions for the advancement of women. Authors and other involved in the development of the book were engaged in this panel session.

The session began with the singing of the national anthem by one of the author’s family members. Upon the conclusion of the anthem, the panel moderators, Padmini Murthy and Regina Askia Williams, introduced the keynote speaker. Mrs. Innocence Ntap Ndiaye, who currently the President of the High Council of Social Dialogue by Decree and has held multiple ministerial positions in Senegal, spoke about the steps that Senegal has taken to promote gender equality. Feeling more comfortable in her native language, she gave her talk in French, with another member of the panel translating. At the conclusion of her brief talk, she was presented with an SDG pin, in honor of her work on gender quality and as an inspiration to continue fighting.

Ora Welch, CEO of HOPES CAP and the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, spoke next about the importance of education in breaking patterns of gender inequality and violence. With particular attention to early education and the education of young people, she described the role that education plays in breaking cycles of violence. Specifically, Mrs. Welch explained that women need education to become self-sustaining, and that the respect they receive (and feel for themselves) once they are economically empowered, will lead to a reduction in violence. She also discussed the importance of women’s education addressing love, noting that girls must be taught that love should feel good and not hurtful, and that they must be supported by their community when they choose to leave domestic relationships in which violence is used as a proxy for love.

Next, Dr. Murthy and Regina Williams introduced the audience to the inspiration behind 100 Solutions, and discussed their perspectives on what can be done across cultures to promote women’s empowerment. Regina draw attention to the role that caregivers, especially women, play in breaking cultural patterns that maintain gender inequality, while Dr. Murthy took an opportunity to thank the feminist men in the audience who are also working towards gender equality.

Finally, Mrs. Terry Ince, a human rights activist and entrepreneur, spoke about women in peace and peaceful ways to get there. Using the recent example of a woman’s death during Carnivale in Trinidad and Tobago, she described how women’s empowerment starts with women. Women coming together to make their voices heard can lead to change, as it has in Trinidad and Tobago. However, international conventions also make a difference, and women in Trinidad and Tobago have been able to point to CEDAW to hold their government accountable when women aren’t getting the protection that they need.

The audience then had an opportunity to ask the panelists questions. The questions were wide-ranging, covering topic such as how communities can come together to make sure that girls have safe places to go when they are experiencing violence to how the recent changes in US governance will impact the worldwide women’s empowerment movement. To conclude the session, all of the book’s authors present (and their families) were called to the stage, where they were presented with flowers. Two authors’ children read poetry, and a third led the audience in singing Bob Marley's “Three Little Birds” to end the session on an inspiring note.

"Believe in yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain"

Sponsored by Sigma Theta Tau International (the Honor Society for Nursing), “Economic Empowerment: Developing Leadership Skills for Decision-Making, Governance and Policy”was held on March 17 in at the Salvation Army building. Attended by approximately 30 participants, it was conducted by 3 panelists, an Sigma Theta Tau representative, and an UN Women representative. In general, it was geared towards women in the nursing and healthcare profession, though all content shared could be easily applied to women in all professions.

The session began with an overview of data that demonstrates the value of women membership on corporate and non-profit governance boards. The panelists shared data and stories from around the world about the benefits that women bring to boards. Of particular note, based on audience reaction, was the story of Iceland’s bankruptcy 2009, where the major companies that failed were run by men and the major companies that remained successful through the bankruptcy were led by women, and the statistic that female membership on boards results in an increase on return on investment of 8-13%.

After providing evidence of the importance of women leaders on boards, the panelists shared practical strategies and advice to women interested in developing the skills necessary for board leadership. Nine necessary skills for effective performance on a board (communication skills, ability to lead, ability to govern, program expertise, strategic thinking, marketing skills, fundraising ability, financial management, and legal expertise) were defined and practical skills for several were demonstrated using audience volunteers. Of the skills demonstrated, the audience was particularly interested in the demonstration of business card presentation, especially how a person can use their presentation of their business card to establish a relationship with someone, and cultural differences in business card practices.

The next topic was advice for women pursuing board positions. To have a successful experience pursuing a board position, one should have an open mind, understand their own motivations and goals, evaluate one’s readiness for the role, talk to mentors, assess the organization itself, and never underestimate the value that one’s decision will provide to the board. Finally, the panelists shared a variety of resources that can be used by women interested in leadership on boards. These includes international resources such as the International Women’s Forum, Global Board Ready Women, and Broadrooms, national organizations, and local organizations such as Chambers of Commerce.

The session concluded with a discussion and question and answer session. One audience member asked for advice establishing succession plans for leadership structures, and another asked for the panelists’ thoughts about why women are more represented on NGO boards as compared to corporate boards. Another, who was new to her profession, asked how she could start the trajectory towards leadership in her field even though she’s not ready for it yet. To this, a panelist responded: take risks, get involved, and accept mentors who meet your needs.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs through “online” Business Incubator

Parallel Events, Monday, 13 March 2017
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM, Church Center of the United Nations 

Pembicara pertama dari Perth, Austalia Barat membahas tentang bisnis online focus ke perempuan khususnya fashion, perencanaan investasi masa tua, dan online training untuk bisnis pemula. Alasan utama beliau memulai bisnis dan training karena masih kurangnya bisnis atau perencanaa keuangan yang di kelola atau di mulai oleh perempuan.

Beliau membahas lebih lanjut tentang masa depan perempuan pada saat pensiun nanti. Beliau mengatakan bahwa 83% tidak siap untuk pensiun terutama pada umur 70 tahun di Australia. Oleh karenanya pertanyaan yang sering muncul untuk perempuan di seluruh dunia, adalah, apakah perempuan – perempuan yang sudah lanjut usia siap untuk pensiun dari segi keuangan? Are women prepared for their retirement? Oleh karenanya beliau memulai BPW bisnis inkubator atau projek perencanaan keuangan masa tua. Ini dapat di akses online dengan program yang ditawarkan seperti  bisnis training, one on one mentoring, dan webinar dengan tiga konsep: Get started, Get serious, Get professional”. Intinya, program ini akan membantu persiapan masa tua perempuan khususnya jika tidak ada jaminan bahwa mereka akan menghabiskan masa tua dengan keluarga (suami & anak-anak mereka). Financial security sangat penting dalam program ini apalagi untuk mereka yang tidak ada jaminan masa tua atau uang pensiun (superannuation) dari pemerintah.

Pembicara kedua, dari Taiwan, dari organisasi “Women Right Promotion and Development”, APEC multiyear project. Yayasan ini berdiri sejak tahun 1997 di biayai oleh pemerintah Taiwan dengan tujuan membangun hubungan antar pemerintah Taiwan, NGOs dan private sectors untuk pemberdayaan dan kesetaraan perempuan (gender equality). Project ini menggunakan ICT untuk membantu pemberdayaan perempuan – khususnya economic empowerment. Program ini dibagi menjadi tiga bagian (1) based line inventory – tahap ini mencari tahu bagaimana informasi dan tehnologi (ICT) dapat membantu perempuan; (2) kolaborasi dengan program Ibu Carol (pemateri pertama) untuk mengetahui persiapan dan bisnis apa yang cocok dengan peserta; (3) dan tahap terakhir, menghasilkan aplikasi “WE BOSS”.

“WE BOSS” adalah aplikasi yang membantu perempuan lain untuk mengetahui ketertarikan mereka tentang bisnis apa yang cocok, apa saja yang harus dipersiapkan sebelum memulai bisnis, kendala yang dihadapi, serta wadah untuk berbagi informasi dengan pebisnis lain yang telah sukses. Program “WE BOSS” juga membantu agar peserta paham apa aja yang harus di ketahui sebelum terjun langsung di dunia bisnis dan human resources. Aplikasi “WE BOSS” ini juga tersedia dalam berbagai Bahasa, jadi memudahkan peserta dari belahan dunia untuk mengakses dan menggunakan program ini. Kebanyakan dari peserta mengatakan program ini sangat efektif dan bermanfaat karena dapat di akses dari rumah dan kapan saja. Pada akhirnya, diharapkan pemberdayaan perempuan melalui bisnis menggunakan teknologi dapat membantu mereka dan masa tua mereka.