Saturday, May 7, 2016

Women and Environment in Nigeria

The final day of the Commission on the Status of Women conference offered just as powerful messages as the first day. It was fitting to end the conference knowing that the next generation is actively working towards the sustainable development goals. Lehigh’s United Nations Youth representatives, De’Anna Daniels and Lyasha Bishop, ’16, presented on behalf of the Center for Women’s Studies and Intervention (CWSI) based in Abuja, Nigeria. This NGO educates women in Nigeria about world problems and how to create change or be part of the solution. Daniels’s and Bishop’s presentation, called Women and Environment in Nigeria, discussed the ways in which women can be part of the solution to the organization’s goal of sustainable development. Daniels pointed out that Nigerian women are absent from all levels of policy making, and one goal of the CWSI is to address this gap. “This presentation will present a strategic action plan needed for sound environmental management that will require involvement of women,” Daniels said. The CWSI began work in 1999 in Abuja, Nigeria on social and legal rights, specifically women’s rights and the elimination of gender based violence and training.
The presentation for the CSW focused on the strategies for action for Nigerian women to be active in policy conversations with a critical role of woman and as stewards of the environment. Daniels and Bishop addressed the strategies by categorizing each issue and solution based on the SDGs. The main focus being SDG#15, Life on Land. Due to gender divisions of labor, women in many parts of the world shoulder responsibility of agricultural work, water, and fuel collection in order to provide food for their families. Environmental degradation and lack of access to, and control over natural resources, have consequently, had an especially severe impact on women.
The United Nation’s charge on the environment calls for women to play an import role, given that they are the ones that have a hand in the ecosystem and access to resources. Women’s contribution as a critical determent for the implications of the environmental policies, as noted in the the first World Conference of Women in 1975 in Mexico City and conference there after have brought up these issues. The conversation continues to points towards the need to step up gender equity in environmental decision making like water collection, especially in areas heavily affected by HIV AIDs given that the lack of water expedites deaths.
Daniels and Bishop shared six specific ways Nigerian Women are affected by environmental problems by grouping them with the sustainable development goals,in order as presented:
-       The principle fuel for cooking in rural areas in Nigeria is wood. Such extensive reliance on wood causes erosion and changes in microclimate, this is a concern of SDG#7 Affordable and Clean Energy.
-       Deforestation, the illegal logging and clearing of forest has depleted the forest in Nigeria and large scale construction were women primarily engage in agricultural activity and depend on the resources, without regard of environmental effects, this is a concern of SDG#15 Life on Land.
-       Decertification, or coastal entrenchment and erosion this has resulted in migration, dysfunctional family loss of villages, conflict, lose of livelihood and internal displacement, cultivation of land in inappropriate places, this is a concern of SDG#14 Life below Water coastal environment.
-       Lack of information on environmental issues, so many Nigerians are unaware of environmental issues and very few women are involved in natural disaster management this is a concern of SDG#4 Quality Education.
-       Absence of gender mainstreaming and environment, Nigerian women are absent in all levels of policy formulation and decision making in discussions on policies including environmental issues such as pollution and population explosion, this is a concern of SDG#16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
-       Exploration of solar minerals has led to loss of land property decline in economic activity, particularly affecting women, changes in social life of women, increase of poverty level, this is a concern of SDG#12 Responsible Consumption and Production.
The strategies for action put fourth by CWSI are holistic, multidisciplinary, and intersectional approach.
-       Awareness creation, education is key in order to understand environmental issues and take action
-       Government and civil society action need to play a large role
-       Funding alternative energy sources for cooking, as a direct action

Overall, the presentation laid out the issues women in Nigeria currently face, where those issues concern the sustainable development goals, and specific strategies for action. The call for action is clear, and our youth seems well equipped to take them on.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Empower Women and Girls Globally


1.    make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

synonyms: authorize, entitle, permit, allow, license, sanction, warrant, commission, delegate
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On the final day of this year's Commission on the Status of Women, I chose to sit in on a session entitled "Empower Women and Girls Globally." From the title itself, there was little to predict in terms of sub-focalizations, however I can honestly say that it may have been one of the more meaningful presentations I attended.

Unfortunately, with a bus to catch back to campus, I was unable to stay for the entirety of the session, but what I was able to witness has left a lasting impression.

Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence

Although locally-based, the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence representative raised her voice on behalf of all those affected by acts of gender violence. Between 2001 and 2012, New York City alone reported 864 domestic violence homicides of which 4 out of 5 victims were women. Other forms of abuse, whether physical, sexual, emotional or financial in nature largely go unreported. Statistics like this should render us speechless, but in this and many regions of the world, desensitization is far too common. What was previously infuriating has become the norm, and this must stop.

But how?

While the NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence frequently finds themselves at the front line of gender violence responders, they and some of the other NGOs leading the session are heavily involved in advocacy campaigns designed to empower women and girls at all walks of life. Here are a few key take-aways:

  • It is never too early to teach a girl that she, as a person, holds intrinsic value.
  • It is never too late to teach a woman that she, as a person, is capable of great feats regardless of the challenges she has faced and others that have torn her down. 
  • To be feminist is to support other women; time spend devaluing another person is time wasted.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

From the Eyes of a Youth Representative

What is a youth representative?

Nine years ago, Lehigh University established the world’s first United Nations NGO Youth Representative program. In this capacity, students are able to serve as the voice of NGOs at the United Nations with a particular emphasis on those that are unable to procure consistent representation otherwise. The benefit is mutual, allowing students the opportunity to engage in meaningful work outside of the classroom and ensuring that NGOs, both large and small, have the ability to actively participate in United Nations functions. This model has since been adopted by the UN’s Department of Public Information, resulting in an overall increase in youth participation in the UN NGO community.

What do we do?

                As a youth representative, it is our mission to understand and act upon the mission of our organization. From attending briefings and conferences to assisting in long-term strategic planning, we keep ourselves incredibly busy, and this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was no exception.
                For the first time ever, two youth panels, both organized by Lehigh University youth representatives, were selected to give presentations on the last day of the CSW. Of course, we were thrilled and honored for this opportunity, but what is even more exciting is the thought that this could potentially set a precedent for youth participation at future conferences and UN functions.

What did we learn?

                Without getting into the nitty-gritty details of the presentations themselves, I thought it might perhaps be more valuable to share the end result of this opportunity. In observing my fellow classmates present on behalf of their NGOs, my eyes were opened to both the challenges and benefits of serving as a youth representatives. To keep it simple, consider the following Lessons Learned:

·         Flexible identities: When speaking on behalf of your NGO, you must be ready and willing to commit to that identity. While you may also be a Lehigh University student, your composure and professionalism reflect directly upon the organization you represent.

·         Honesty: However, at the end of the day, we are, first and foremost, students. We are neither founders nor full-time staff members of our NGO, so if a tough question is sent in our direction, it is perfectly okay (and expected!) that we reply with honesty: “I’m not sure I know the answer to your question, but I can find out for you. After the session, we can exchange cards.”

·         Responsibility: If possible, we should make the effort to connect with our NGOs in-person. Whether that is applying for grant funding to observe on-the-ground initiatives or availing ourselves to the availability of our NGO founders and staff members when they do have the means to visit UN Headquarters in NYC, it is our responsibility to strive for first-hand, direct interactions.

How may I obtain a Youth Representative?

                For more information about Lehigh University’s Youth Representative program or to express interest in engaging Lehigh students at the United Nations on your NGO’s behalf, please contact the Director of the Lehigh-United Nations Partnership, Dr. Bill Hunter (
Lehigh Home 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Experience the CSW with me!

To mix it up, I decided to create a vlog (video + blog) showcasing the Lehigh's presence during the last day of the CSW- enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Dialogue of Empowered Disabled Women: impairment does not make us disabled but rather the accessibility of society

Of the many CSW sessions I observed, I found the Dialogue of Survivors in a Disabling Environment powerful, disturbing, yet inspiring. The panel was moderated by Eleanor Lisney, a founding member of the Sisters of Frida. The Sisters of Frida is an experimental collaborative group that allows disabled women a space to share experiences, provide mutual support, and foster relationships with different networks.

Speakers at this panel included Alexia Manombe-Ncube, the Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the office of Vice President, Namibia. She described the obstacles of growing up with disabilities in a village in rural Namibia where she was never taken seriously, viewed as an object to be swept aside because of her limitations, and how she personally experience intense gender-specific turmoil at an early age. Another speaker, who was extremely passionate, was Lucia Bellini. Lucia is an advocate for disabled women and domestic violence. She believes that disabled women deserve the right to make choices and that societally constructed limitation toward disabled women internalize a negative view of each individual which oppress disabled women both physically and emotionally. The third speaker was Suzannah Phillips, a legal advisor to Women Enabled International. She passionately stated that the rights of persons with disabilities is a human right and that the UN must promote policies that reflect these specific need. Also, that the UN must provide accessible information to women with disabilities avoiding complex jargon because it further limits their individual circumstances. Lastly, Michelle Baharier, the final speaker, founded a disabled lead arts organisation that promotes a different perspective of disabled women within mainstream society. Being a disabled activist artist, she discussed the victimization of disabled women in psychiatric wards and how forced medication can cause long-lasting emotional and physical abuse.

A few of the main points touched on during the panel discussion had to do with identity and empowerment. For example, Michelle professed the need for women to accept their disabilities and work together to support one another. Lucia Bellini explained how disabled women still see themselves as sexual beings. As a result, they oftentimes fall victim to sexual violence because they rely so much on their partners because they view themselves as unworthy of finding someone else. Another notion of identity discussed had to do with intersectionality. Eleanor, in response to a question asked by an audience member, described the concept of intersectionality and how overlapping identities can cause gender/racial-specific obstacles. These tragic yet empowering stories described by these women left a lasting impression on my overall experience of CSW and my perspective of women empowerment as a whole.    

Monday, March 28, 2016

Les enfants de la rue ont une famille.

 La question des enfants de la rue n’est pas un phénomène nouveau particulièrement en Afrique. Cette question a fait l’objet de nombreuse discussions de la par des hommes politiques et des intellectuels africains sans véritablement avoir un impact sur le terrain. Est-ce a cause de la définition qui est associée a ce phénomène (voire UNESCO) ? Est-ce due au manque d’engagement des acteurs politiques et sociaux ? Pour l’organisation Save the Child Initiative Nigeria et selon ses représentants : « les enfants dit de la rue ont une famille, et il est de notre responsabilité entant qu’adultes d’assurer a chacun de ses enfants la possibilité de s’épanouir dans leur environnement familiale. »
La 60e session de la Commission de la Condition de la Femme, a été le lieu de rappeler aux pays africains et la communauté internationale l’impérative qui est celle de la protection de l’enfance. En  partenariat avec des associations de femmes, des ONG pour la protection de l’enfance et le gouvernement. Save the Child Initiative Nigeria a inscrit sa stratégie sous le model économique de la sous-région. En effet, pour circonscrire le problème des enfants dit de la rue et facilite le retour de ces derniers dans leur famille respective. Elle a établie des connections dans l’ensemble de 15 Etats constituant la Communauté Economique Des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO).
La présentation faite par l’organisation Save the Child Initiative Nigeria a montrée qu’une action collective était nécessaire et que les bénéfices de ces actions sont non seulement visibles, mais souhaitables dans la mesure où elles bénéficient à l’enfant, la famille et a l’Etat. Plus de 500 enfants durant la période 2014-2015 ont été réuni avec leurs parents. Un suivit psychologique est donné a l’enfant et aux parents, de même que réinsertion dans le système scolaire. Pour les plus âgés, des formations sont offertes pour faciliter leur intégration dans le marché du travail.
Il est certes vrai que beaucoup reste a faire, et les obstacles tel que la langue (la CEDEAO regroupe des pays dont langue administrative est celui hérité de la colonisation) et les guerres inter-ethniques ne facilitent pas les actions qui sont faites a l’endroit des enfants. Mais une pareille initiative a le mérite de prévenir l’ébranlement des familles. Pour cela, il est important que chacun s’investisse. Les enfants dit de la rue ont une famille, si l’un d’eux était le votre souhaiteriez-vous le (la) revoir ?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Femmes de réconfort : Une approche historique conflictuelle.

C’est dans un ambiance plutôt tendue que la fort délégation japonaise composée de représentants d’associations de femmes, d’intellectuels et d’amis du japon que s’est ouverte la session portant sur la problématique des « Femmes de réconfort ou Comfort Women». Un problème exploitation des femmes coréennes a des fins sexuelles durant la deuxième guerre mondiale par l’armée japonaise qui oppose aujourd'hui la Corée du sud au Japon.

Tour a tour, les orateurs, ont exprimé leur vive condamnation devant ce qu’ils désignent comme étant « une campagne internationale de diffamation » qui porterait atteinte a la femme, l’armée et a la nation japonaise toute entière. Parmi les exemples cités, on peut noter la résolution passée par le parlement canadien en 2007 contre l’armée japonaise en relation avec l’esclave sexuelle. L’introduction en 2013, dans certains manuels scolaire au Canada des actes de violence commis par l’armée japonaise. Enfin, la construction par des militants activistes à Séoul, au Canada et aux Etats-Unis de monuments a l’honneur des femmes coréennes victimes de la guerre contre le japon.

Si le japon a depuis exprimé ses regrets par l’intermédiaire de son Premier Ministre Mr Shinzo Abe pour les faits occasionnés a la Corée durant la guerre et payée la somme de 8.3 million de dollars de réparations. Et que les deux parties ont convenu de ne pas critiquer les uns les autres sur cette question dans la communauté internationale. Qu’est-ce qui peut bien justifier cette attaque contre le japon? 

Comme certains intervenants l’on si bien rappelé, le japon n’est pas le seul pays qui en temps de guerre comme en temps de paix s’est vue commettre des actes répréhensibles sur les femmes et les enfants. Récemment, des témoignages de violes contre des mineures (filles et garçons) en Centre Afrique ont été portés à l’attention du publique. Ses actes ont été commis par certains casques bleus des Nations-Unies, ceux-là même qui ont pour mission d’assurer la paix. Pourquoi ne sont-ils pas persécutés soit par les Nations-Unies soit par leur pays respectifs ou simplement par le pays dans lequel ses actions ont eu lieu ? Mais comme De Louis Dumur disait, je cite : « Une injustice dont nous profitons s'appelle la chance ; une injustice dont un autre profite s'appelle un scandale. » 

        Pour en savoir plus sur l’origine de la controverse vous pouvez visiter les liens ci-dessous: