Month: January 2014

Disruptive Voices: Breaking Gender Barriers in South Korea

Disruptive Voices is a South Korean Facebook group, that not only functions as an online social network, but actually organizes in-person discussions about gender in Korea, which I think is awesome. Disruptive Voices is an offshoot of Varyd, a clothing line launched in June 2013. The founders of Varyd, Rydia, a Korean National, and Vanessa, a Korean-American, both survivors of physical and sexual violence, market their clothes using models of different shapes, sizes, colors, and age, to remind us that we are all beautiful.  Varyd has been featured on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Korea Herald, DaeguCompass, Groove Korea, and Korean Buddhism.  While working on their clothing line with the aim of improving their community, they established Disruptive Voices, ..a community/movement to help support, empower, validate, and further raise awareness (about gender issues) especially in Korea. In an interview with the founders, Vanessa explained, “we are survivors and know there is a lack of communicative and safe support for people to come together (on this issue).” Through her own experience, Vanessa realized that psychological support …

Africa’s Youth: The Future to a Transformed Continent

By Evelyn Omala, Program Officer for the Segal Family Foundation Last week, world leaders gathered for the 44th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from January 22-25 where the challenges faced by youth around the globe topped the agenda. As the world’s youngest continent with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30, Africa is making tremendous strides towards developing and transforming its sectors to build a bright future. Most of what the world hears about Africa are the soaring unemployment rates, disease and poverty; therefore, one would wonder how the youth will cope with the enormous challenges in their communities. Yet out of this dire situation, a new breed of young African entrepreneurs is rising to find bold and innovative solutions to transform their communities. The role of youth in fostering Africa’s development progress cannot be ignored. Africa’s youth are burning with a desire to change the status quo and are spearheading efforts that not only reflect their talent and ingenuity, but also show that they deeply understand …

Akili Dada and Women’s Leadership: Lessons from Mandela

By: Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg (Founder) and Shea Morrissey, Akili Dada Akili Dada is an international award-winning leadership incubator nurturing a generation of young African women from underprivileged backgrounds whose commitment to the underserved is transforming their communities. Akili Dada’s development curriculum creates the foundation on which young women ages 13-35 build their skills and earn the essential qualifications they need to access key decision-making roles and leadership positions. Last month, we lost Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders in history. As individuals and as a global community, we have felt the loss intensely. In the wake of Mandela’s passing, we have been searching for ways to continue his legacy. At Akili Dada, we have distilled three key lessons from his life that we are committed to take and carry forward in our work of nurturing the next generation of African women leaders: 1. Commitment to the long-term vision is essential. Even in the 26th year of his imprisonment, Mandela kept his eyes on the prize. At Akili Dada we look at a 13-year-old girl and, with …

Ending Hunger: The Time to Begin is Now

By Kyambadde Robinah Salinge, YWCA Rwanda The 22nd African Union Summit, with the theme Agriculture and Food Security, could not have come at a better time than this. African leaders and civil society organizations are meeting to reaffirm their commitment to food security and adopting new measures to save millions who face imminent danger. Agriculture is Africa’s backbone and contributes over 70% of the GDP in many countries. Famine is not a new phenomenon and is as old as recorded history and has adversely affected much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the giant strides that have been taken to “arrest” the situation, famine has remained elusive. With the emergence of new threats like climate change, now is the time to take decisive action. The most challenging aspect has been to find the pathways to use to divert such a catastrophe. As a young leader from Rwanda, I believe that in order for the world to achieve food security, we need a holistic approach that includes both government and civil society organizations. I am proud to be the voice of those women who could not be able to be …

Beyond the Classroom: It takes more than books to keep girls in school

Girls are going to school.  All over the world the rate of girls attending school has increased.  Between 1999 and 2004, the number of out-of-school girls fell by 24% and there are new organizations every year dedicated to lowering this percentage and keeping girls in school.  The organizations below show some of the creativity and dedication required to get and keep girls in school: Skateistan Operating in Afghanistan and Cambodia, Skateistan is using supplemental skateboarding and arts-focused classes to increase school enrollement rates.  After school, students come to the Skateistan facilities to free skate, receive lessons and take other creative arts classes.  Many of the skaters were once street working children and are behind in their schooling.  But Skateistan’s “Back to School” program takes an innovative approach to keep children in school: Skateistan employs a female Student Support Officer to not only help [the children] enroll in school, but also to follow their progress.  As the contact point between Skateistan, families, and public schools, Skateistan’s Student Support Officer ensures these girls and boys continue their education for years …

African Women: Pillars of Agriculture but Greatly Marginalized

Women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the agricultural sector employs over two-thirds of all women in Africa who then produce nearly 90 percent of food on the continent. Women are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families yet remain marginalized in business relations and lack control over access to resources such as land, improved seeds and fertilizer, credit and technology. Women serve as the backbone of agriculture and food production in Africa, but the potential of women in agriculture is left largely untapped. African women comprise approximately 70 percent of Sub-Saharan agriculture workers and 80 percent of the actors in the food processing chain. Agricultural programs are rarely designed with women’s needs in mind due to a combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity. Dialogues concerning agricultural issues mostly happen at the international level, where a few speak for the …

Dear Mr. Huckabee: Access to birth control is not a government handout

On Thursday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee went on a rampage during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in downtown Washington DC. Huckabee – in a failed attempt to pose the Republican party as “pro-women” – said: Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them, it’s a war for them — and if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them each month a prescription for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. While I fully believe that Huckabee sincerely thought that what he said was “pro-women” and a testament to how the Republican party believes in women’s independence, the true message of his statement is the polar opposite. Huckabee, as many of his fellow Republicans, believe that giving women access to affordable birth control and …

Human Trafficking in America’s Backyard

Human trafficking occurs in every corner of the globe from the southernmost foothills of Patagonia to the northernmost region of Siberia. Human trafficking is an egregious violation of human rights – one that often strips its victims of self-worth only to refill them with fear, isolation and desperation. In the United States, a country most may not immediately associate with human trafficking, the U.S. Department of Justice ranks human trafficking as the second fastest growing criminal industry, behind only drug trafficking, with between 14,500 and 17,500 new people trafficked into America each year. Every hour, 34 people in America are forced into prostitution.  In 2013, human trafficking made national headlines when Ariel Castro was arrested (and eventually convicted) for kidnapping, raping, and forcibly locking three girls in his basement for a period spanning over ten years. One victim, Amanda Berry, even bore his child, thereby increasing the victim count to four. As a result of the Castro case and several others like it, the movement to punish traffickers and to end human trafficking in the …

Asylum and Assault

No matter the forces that compel an individual, the process of seeking asylum is daunting. Pushed against their will, often by powerful forces in their country of origin, refugees are forced to leave their homes, their neighbors, their friends and family to relocate to an unknown place and unknown culture, without the security of a  employment, housing, or even a guarantee of sanctuary. Refugees fleeing sexual assault face additional challenges. Assault of a sexual nature is still a taboo admission in many (if not most) cultures, and a deeply personal struggle for many individuals. The nature of an asylum application procedure, however, is at odds with this. Because of a number of reasons, reports of sexual assault and rape are often grossly mishandled during the asylum process. Studies in the United Kingdom have shown how both the review procedure and the workers themselves are ill-equipped to cope with the unique nature of sexual assault claims, which carry with them an elevated level of trauma and stigma. In the most immediate obstacle, officials are more likely to give …