- Created on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 03:01
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 03:03
- Written by AoC Blogger
Thanks to all of the SustainUS members who voted on the latest amendment to our bylaws! The amendment passed, increasing the leadership opportunities available to youth. To recap what this means, any youth 29 and under is now eligible to run for the Steering Committee and any youth 18 and older is now eligible to run for the Board of Directors. We are excited to be able to extend a wider range of engagement to all of our members. Please note that this change will not affect program participation age requirements for Agents of Change delegations, Citizen Science applicants, or Lead Now Fellows.
- Created on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 23:04
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 00:25
- Written by Ellie Johnston
Knowing the nuances of navigating leadership is something that comes with years of experience, but sometimes we don't have years to develop experience. In the video Mary Shindler explores some techniques for strong leadership and preventing burnout for young leaders. Whether you are working on a political campaign or getting a community initiative started (and even if you aren't young!) these tips have universal applicability.
This training was part of the 2013 Lead Now Fellowship training series. We will continue to post videos from trainings as we can.
- Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 16:54
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 23:14
- Written by Anna Malinovskaya
A few weeks ago, the 57th session of the United Nations annual Commission on the Status of Women brought together countries’ representatives and members of civil society organizations in New York City. Delegations from countries and organizations shared their vision of and good practices for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. The series of meetings turned out to be bitterly disappointing for two reasons.
First, the session was overtly politically charged. Quite a few countries did not hesitate to make politically provocative statements oriented more towards past conflicts and misunderstandings than the topic at hand. Syria, for example, appealed to the international community to “take action against Israel” and “condemn the occupiers.” It also mentioned that “some governments” breed terrorism within its borders and asked the international community to address this issue. Venezuela’s speech sounded very much like an attempt to glorify Hugo Chavez and his regime. Russia, paranoid, as usual, about other countries interfering into its domestic affairs, reminded the international community that Russia’s government is the only body that knows best what policies would be good for Russia. Such an atmosphere at the session showed that countries came to the meeting with heavy political baggage that they were unwilling to leave aside for even five minutes – the time given to each country’s delegation for a speech on the session agenda.
But perhaps more disappointing was some countries’ explicit reluctance to even discuss certain issues related to violence against women. Kuwait, for example, stated that, in its view, any attempt to make a link between religion and violence against women is “intolerable.” What is really intolerable is closing a particular issue for open discussion on the grounds of some allegedly universal truth. Whether some religions sanction socio-economic or physical violence against women and girls is a question that is currently being explored by scholars and civil society. Attempts to turn this question into a statement, without any evidence, are equivalent to imposing one’s highly subjective perception on the international community.
In a similar vein, Tunisia declared that it fully supports the goal of elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, as long as it doesn’t contradict “the precepts of Islam.” What this means, in my understanding, is that there is a line that some countries draw for themselves and which, no matter what, they do not want to cross. It’s the line beyond which there will be no discussion. It’s the line beyond which there can be no questions.
Unlike Kuwait and Tunisia, Lebanon admitted the “challenge of promoting non-violence while retaining cultural values and religious beliefs.” In other words, the country was open to dialogue with the international community, recognizing in advance the complex nature of the question and potential disagreements about it.
Some countries, when opening highly controversial political issues for debate, were unable or unwilling to elaborate on their views and offer a viable alternative. For instance, the Holy See stated that China’s one child policy is a blatant violation of reproductive rights, but did not provide any potential solutions for China’s demographic problem. Indeed, does today’s China have an alternative?
The second aspect in which the session was a disappointment were the many countries’ approaches to the agenda. Almost every speech was a listing of how many rehabilitation centers a country has built, how many hot lines it has opened, and how many counseling services it has funded. No doubt, many countries have built up an extensive infrastructure to provide legal and psychological support and medical assistance to women victims of domestic violence, rape, or other abuse. These achievements are laudable, but they all address the symptoms of the “disease” while ignoring its causes. Only two countries of all the countries I heard speak, touched upon the roots of the problem. One of them, Moldova, explicitly referred to society’s morals and the need for moral education as fundamental in eliminating violence against women and girls. The other, the Holy See, went deeper and stressed the mass media’s responsibility for society’s sense of morality:
“In many parts of the world, women are the first victims of reductive ideologies that postulate and glorify a conception of the human body and of its sexual availability that is strongly threatening to the dignity of women. Pursuing this ideology only leads to a vision of the human person, wherein women … are easily considered as a possession … disposable at will. The advertising which proliferates around the world today is an example of how the human person is demeaned, commodified and sexualized into an object for others’ perversion and lust. The woman is thereby reduced to a body without a mind or a soul. In this context, it is most urgent for us to discern solutions that are not merely limited to the short term, or lowest common denominator, and which inevitably prolong the causes for violence, but rather to pursue solutions which address the root causes of violence versus women.”
Many countries also boasted on how many of their seats in parliament or minister positions are now taken by women. Although this is an achievement that has the potential for inducing long-term changes in the societal status of women and girls, countries should keep in mind that attitudes cannot be imposed from above unless they have a strong foundation at other levels of society. Legal changes do not necessarily bring in wide-scale societal changes.
As I was walking early Saturday morning in Manhattan to catch my bus home, I was verbally abused by two adult men in their 30s or 40s. When I chose to ignore their offensive sexist comments, they shouted at my back threats of rape. If it had not been the center of Manhattan and if they had dared to physically abuse me, I would surely have appreciated hot lines, rehabilitation centers, and counseling services. But why do I have to become a victim in the first place only because of someone’s fundamental lack of morality? And would the fact that the United States is at the forefront of promoting legal gender equality have made my trauma less painful? Very meaningful in this regard is one of the slogans of the recent campaign against rape in Delhi, which reads “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly.”
Anna Malinovskaya was a SustainUS delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. She is an international undergraduate student.