Women's Political Participation: Expanding Representation and Increasing Voter Turnout

By Payal Patel


While the U.S. saw record progress in women’s representation in politics during the 2018 midterm elections with a record number of women candidates running for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, women are still significantly underrepresented among political leadership in comparison to men – despite making up half of the population.

So, essentially, the group of leaders who are making important decisions on our behalf every single day and impacting our lives in significant ways, is not yet fully reflective of the constituency it is serving. And there’s an intersectional layer too when you factor in race (but more on that later).

The consequences of that gap have played out in recent events, such as the U.S. government’s inadequate response to the baby formula shortage, and most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which eliminated federal protections for people seeking abortions. That decision was a direct result of a group of men who carefully selected and nominated judges who they felt would uphold anti-choice values and force their beliefs on women and their bodies while serving on the nation’s highest court. And subsequently, they succeeded in their mission to dismantle 50 years of precedence that granted women the freedom and protections to make the best healthcare decisions for themselves.

Surely, the presence of more women on the Court (barring Justice Amy Coney-Barrett, of course), in Congress and at the presidential level (ahem, Hilary Clinton) would not only have prevented this devastating overturn, but perhaps even encouraged the enshrinement of Roe v. Wade into law of the land (as it should have been done years ago).

Alas, here we are. And many are now finding themselves wondering, what can we do? How do we move forward from here?

Well, given that it is Primary Election Day in Illinois, today’s to-do seems obvious: Go vote! Now, I realize that voting isn’t the end-all-be-all. But progress starts with a single step, and today’s step is to vote.

Historically, voter turnout during the primaries has been significantly low across the nation. But this is exactly where the magic happens. Voters often wait until the general election to cast their ballots and find that there are no quality candidates to vote for, which at times might even lead them to sit out the election altogether. I’ve seen this occur far too many times among my own family and friends. But quality candidates are often determined during the primary. And that’s where you will also find the women candidates.

Unfortunately, women often strike out during the primaries due to the lack of resources and campaign finances. Take it from someone who has been intimately familiar with campaign life as of late. This election cycle, I dipped my toe into politics when I agreed to work and support a candidate in the Illinois Secretary of State’s race. That candidate is current Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, who recently backed UN Women’s Safe Cities initiative in Chicago. She also happens to be the only woman in the Secretary of State’s race. And if elected she would be the first woman and first Latina to hold the position in Illinois history.

Naturally, I was drawn to this mission – and to Anna, who is a fierce advocate for women’s representation in politics and women’s progress overall.

So, I talked to her about how we can work to expand women’s political power, and she pointed to some of the fundamental challenges that women face, which need to be addressed in order to see progress. The first one being campaign finances, as I mentioned earlier. Women are severely underfunded, from individual donors to labor unions. And this impacts their ability to reach voters and effectively get their message out.

Anna says that part of the problem can be attributed to the gender pay gap. Women tend to support women. But when women’s earning power is generally lower than that of their male counterparts, they are often unable to give at the same level or capacity as men. Factor in race and the earning power of women of color, and the discrepancy is much bigger.

The fundraising issue was a harsh reality for Anna, a woman of color from a working-class family, who was significantly outraised by her opponent, a white man from a wealthy background.

Anna also shared the differences in treatment and coverage from the media. As someone who worked closely on her communications, I can tell you through firsthand experiences that this is very true. The questions she was asked vs. the questions her male opponents were asked were vastly different. At one point, her spouse became the focal point of campaign attacks (something you don’t often see with men).

In addition, women are just generally less likely to throw their hat in the ring due to the old “but I’m not fully qualified” school of thought. This isn’t just exclusive to politics though; I, too, have refrained from applying to jobs I’m not a hundred percent qualified for (as have other women I know).

But let’s break down how women and men with the same qualifications and credentials evaluate themselves when considering a run for public office. Whereas 36% of the men we surveyed consider themselves “very qualified” to run for office, only 20% of women feel that way. By contrast, women are three times as likely as men (24% compared to 8%) to rate themselves as “not at all qualified” to run [1].

So, what’s the fix? Anna says campaign finance reform is needed to level the playing field when it comes to fundraising. We need pay equity. We need fair and balanced coverage of women and men candidates. And finally, we need to take it upon ourselves to jump in and get involved whether or not we believe we are one hundred percent qualified to run for office – because men don’t wait. So, run.

And if political office isn’t for you, then at minimum, be an active participant in democracy.

We are amid the fight of our lives (literally). And it’s time to take this fight to the polls and vote for women up and down the ballot, particularly those in favor of progress. Because, ladies, our rights are on the line, and this election is far too important to sit out.

Yes, there’s a lot more work to do beyond voting, but there has to be a starting point.

So, today, we vote. Tomorrow, we revolt.

Find your polling place here:

P.S. To hear more from Anna about her political campaign experience, check out Episode 18 of my podcast, The Quo, here:



[1] Running for office is still for men—some data on the “Ambition Gap”. Brookings. (Lawless, 2022).



Healing Through Advocacy: Prioritizing Mental Health and Self-Care During a Stressful Political Climate

By Jessica Zaehringer


On May 2, a United States Supreme Court document was leaked to the media. This document contained information from the Supreme Court regarding abortion access. Specifically, a Supreme Court judge argued that the almost 50 year standing decision on Roe v. Wade was not necessarily constitutional. 

For many, that news felt like yet another personal and societal trauma inflicted by dated perceptions of health, especially when most would agree that reproductive rights are human rights. In fact, 69% of voters in the 2020 presidential election said that Roe v. Wade should remain as is. Restricting safe access to abortion is detrimental to not only women and uterus havers alike, but to most other people in the United States and across world. The possible decision to ban abortions has serious implications on people’s physical and mental health. In addition to the fact that marginalized groups and those in a lower socioeconomic status will be disproportionately impacted, depending on the final decision, there may even be legal ramifications for illegally obtaining an abortion. For example, in Louisiana, one of the 13 states with trigger laws, passed a new law in the Louisiana House that would make abortion a crime of homicide if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In this stressful political climate, taking care of ourselves is important, though easier said than done. Advocates working on the front lines especially need to care for themselves to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue. First, let’s focus on ways to care for ourselves and then on ways to engage in change-making/advocacy, which may also be healing during times of distress.


Caring for Ourselves

Self-care is critical in times of high stress, anger, sadness, and so forth. Again, this aspect is easier said than done, though even just a little bit of self-care can go a long way. Self-care or generally taking care of our mental wellness may mean getting 7-9 hours of sleep; drinking water; adding vegetables to meals; connecting with loved ones who we feel safe around; laughing; moving our bodies, if able; watching an interesting show or reading a book that briefly takes us out of our own reality; getting out in nature; cuddling a loved one and/or an animal companion; seeing a therapist weekly; coloring or drawing; meditating; writing or reading poetry; listening or creating music. 

Grounding techniques may also assist in creating a sense of feeling calm. A common and exceptionally easy grounding exercise is the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. First, count 5 things you can see. Second, count 4 things you can touch around you. Third, count 3 things you can hear. Fourth, acknowledge 2 things you can smell. Lastly, count 1 thing you can taste. 

Sometimes, intentional deep breathing can be helpful. When we are stressed or worried our breath gets shorter and quicker. If we purposefully slow our breath and attempt to breathe as deeply as possible we can help our nervous system to relax. 


Healing through Advocacy 

Advocacy can be a powerful way to take our power back when we are feeling powerless from external societal forces. A few ways to heal through advocacy may be to: 

  • Donate to a local or national abortion fund
  • Attend a local rally or protest  
  • Post about advocacy on social media
  • Educate yourself and help others to do the same
  • Talk with your family and friends about taking action
  • Donate to UN Women USA Chicago




[2] UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25 

[3] Feminist Therapy - Approach. (n.d.). In American Psychological Association. Retrieved from




* * *

Gender-Equal Climate Action: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a More Equitable and Sustainable World

By Payal Patel


I was in first grade when I first heard the term, “global warming.” At the time, I didn’t quite understand how it could possibly be a bad thing. As a lifelong Midwesterner brought up on the most brutally cold and blistery winters, the idea of warmer weather sounded fine to me—fantastic, even!

It wasn’t until a few years later that my eyes were opened to the harsh reality of global warming and climate change, and that our very existence—our 7.5 billion global human footprint—was contributing to the detriment of our planet and all of its inhabitants.

A school effort to help clean up Chicago’s beachfront offered me just a glimpse into this incredibly complex and ever-evolving issue. I was struck by the dozens and dozens of dead fish that had washed ashore and the overwhelming amount of human-generated waste found along the lakefront. It occurred to me then that this was likely happening on land and water across the globe, and something had to be done. It was shortly after that experience that I took an interest in environmental conservation.

Now, I was no Greta Thunberg, but I did my best to contribute in my own small but meaningful way—from taking on a renewable energy project for my school science fair, to making environmental justice my platform while running for student council president in grade school. I even hosted a small gathering with fellow students at our local library to brainstorm ways our school could work to reduce waste and adopt more eco-friendly and sustainable practices.

What I noticed then (and even now) is that time and time again, it had been mostly women and girls who showed up and stepped up to lead the fight in preserving and protecting our planet.

This isn’t too surprising given that research has shown that women and girls in every society respond more effectively in times of crisis and actively work to organize and implement solutions. Yet, significant structural gaps in inequality continue to remain a barrier to their success (and subsequently, our collective success) and prevent them from fully engaging in the solution. And when women and girls make up 51% of Earth’s population, that is too large of a key demographic to not utilize to the fullest potential and capacity in the face of the greatest challenge of our time—especially when new data suggests that the active participation of women and girls is essential to successful climate mitigation and action.

It is clear, now more than ever, that in order for us to reach an effective resolution to the climate crisis, we need to achieve gender equality—and fast! This is precisely why we must take a feminist-based intersectional approach to climate action and environmental justice. Below are some data-driven points for consideration to drive investments in gender equality efforts, with the goal of achieving a more equitable and sustainable world that benefits everyone.


When women win, we all win

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that gender inequality is not just a women’s issue; it is everyone’s issue. And everyone, including and especially those who do not identify as female, should care about and advocate for gender equality. Every society, economy, community and individual benefits when women and girls are given equal freedoms, opportunities and access to resources. When women and girls become active and thriving participants of their civic, social and economic systems, the entire ecosystem is benefiting from their contributions.

Some of the benefits include steady economic growth, higher education levels, improvement in family health, and stabilization of populations—all of which are foundations for a sustainable economy of the future.

However, currently, one of the greatest barriers to achieving a sustainable economy in much of the world remains lack of access to education. Women and girls make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people [1]. By increasing access to education, their participation in the workforce rises, vulnerabilities to violence decline, and fewer children are born. Reducing population growth is one of the most effective strategies for curbing global carbon emissions [2].


Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change

UN reports indicate that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. They also make up the majority of the world’s poor population and are largely dependent on natural resources, making them more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than men. Natural disasters, pollution, prolonged droughts and reduced food production make it nearly impossible for women to recover when already living in extreme poverty.

Climate change also drives increased vulnerability to gender-based violence and health problems. In many parts of the world, women bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water and fuel—tasks that climate change makes more time-consuming and difficult. Scarcity of resources and the necessity of traveling further to obtain them may open women up to more violence, including increased risk factors linked to human trafficking, child marriage or access to resources to protect them from gender-based violence [3].

Gendered roles in much of the world also make women more susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. Women dominate subsistence farming, caregiving and cleaning. These duties are more prone to feel the effects of environmental degradation and rising global temperatures. This can drive vicious cycle of poverty. However, research shows that empowering women within these roles can reverse poverty and unlock effective climate change solutions [4].


Women in leadership are likely to drive climate change solutions

Women have consistently been on the frontlines, leading climate action and activism. Yet, they are underrepresented in environmental decision-making at all levels and continue to face glass ceilings that prevent them from reaching environmental leadership positions, nationally and internationally.

However, research confirms that in countries where women hold public office and/or have environmental decision-making power, they have 12% lower CO2 emissions [5]. They also tend to make a greater effort to pass environmental and social legislation when elected to public office. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a shining example of this. In 2020, she and her cabinet comprised of 40% women declared a "Climate Emergency" and rolled out a plan to make the nation’s public sector carbon neutral by 2025 [6].

Similarly, women-led climate action projects, initiatives and start-ups tend to be more successful, despite being severely underfunded. As Shayna Harris of Supply Change Capital pointed out during UN Women Chicago’s Women in Leadership Forum in March, less than 2% of funding is invested in women-founded and led projects and organizations. This combined with only 2% of philanthropic dollars directed to environmental causes, with women’s organizations receiving only 0.2% of donations, makes climate action initiatives even tougher to advance [7]. Building equity around women-founded and led projects will surely increase the chances of driving effective climate change solutions.

Another global sector that could benefit from gender equality is agriculture. Women, especially Indigenous women and women in the Global South, are known to drive agricultural solutions, thanks to their vast and unique knowledge passed down from generations of women whose history has long been rooted in sustainable practices. However, their input remains limited due to lack of land rights and ownership, which prevents them from having access to equal resources and virtually no decision-making power in agriculture. UN Women estimates that 64% of women globally do not have equal land rights to men in practice [8]. But when provided equal land rights and the same resources as men, women can increase agricultural yields by 20-30%, while helping reduce hunger by 12-17% [9]. Furthermore, when given equitable resources and decision-making power, women are more likely to choose sustainable fuel options that reduce emissions globally.


Women are powerful change agents and crisis leaders

As referenced throughout, women are leading environmental movements, locally and globally, even despite the many challenges and inequities they face. When you take a look at any list of current leaders in climate activism, it is predominantly comprised of women and girls.

Recent data points to women’s abilities to adopt innovative and preventative measures at a faster rate than men. In a review of 17 studies from around the world, the presence of women in conservation and natural resource management resulted in stricter and more sustainable extraction rules, greater compliance, more transparency and accountability, and better conflict resolution. This research supports the notion that women tend to think for the collective whole rather than themselves. Women are more likely to make more decisions that support the public good, provide fair pay and benefits, and encourage honest and ethical behavior [10].


Join our mission

It is clear that in order for us to have a shot at saving our planet, women and girls need to be at the heart of climate action. And in order for that to happen, we need gender equality now.

Inspired by UN Women’s recent efforts to shed light on the intersection of gender equality and climate action, I set out to speak to women within my own network on this topic.

In my new podcast, The Quo, which highlights the work and stories of challengers, disruptors and changemakers, I recently interviewed Emmy Victor, National Weather Reporter for AccuWeather, and Jennifer Walsh, entrepreneur and nature expert, about ways we can all be a part of the solution. You can stream the episodes here.

At UN Women Chicago, we have also made a chapter commitment to raising more awareness around gender-equal climate action, most recently through this year’s Women in Leadership Forum on International Women’s Day, which featured a panel of women leaders in sustainability. That event subsequently inspired the theme of our biannual Empower Hour, held on Earth Day to coincide with the continued theme of gender equality and climate action. You can learn more about the event here.

Our recent efforts were also highlighted in a national story on AccuWeather. Click here to view the segment.

To join us in our mission to create a more equitable and sustainable world, visit to become a member and part of our powerful community of leaders and changemakers.



[1] UN Women. “Facts and Figures.”,urban%20boys%20(60%20percent)

[2] Project Drawdown, “Health and Education @ProjectDrawdown #ClimateSolutions.” 7 Aug. 2020,

[3] UN Women. “In Focus: UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66).” 2022.

[4] One Earth. “Why women are key to solving the climate crisis.”

[5] Kwauk, C. (2021). Why Captain Planet should have been a woman. Retrieved 17 June 2021, from

[6] Reuters. “Ardern declares climate emergency, pledges carbon neutral New Zealand government.” 2020.

[7] Our Voices, Our Environment: The State of Funding for Women’s Environmental Action.

[8] China Dialogue. “Why women’s leadership is key to climate action.” 2022.

[9] United Nation Climate Change. “5 Reasons Why Climate Action Needs Women.” 2019

[10] Leisher, C., Temsah, G., Booker, F. et al. Does the gender composition of forest and fishery management groups affect resource governance and conservation outcomes? A systematic map. Environ Evid 5, 6 (2016).



Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

By Nashwan Al Othman, M.D.


Gender equality matters not only in its own goal, but also as a prerequisite for other goals, especially the health and development of societies and as a driver of economic growth. Therefore, it is no wonder that all 191 United Nations members and at least 22 international organizations committed to promote gender equality and empower women by 2015 as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) they adopted in 2000.

Despite progress in some areas by 2015, many reports mentioned gender equality and women’s rights as “unfinished business” that need to be addressed beyond 2015. In the report entitled, “Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD found that:

  • Schools need to be made safer and more affordable for girls

  • Young women are less likely to complete secondary education

  • In many low-income countries, young women are less likely than young men to be in paid work, education or training

  • Stereotyping of women’s roles in society, business, and the public sector need to be challenged.

  • Enterprises owned by women are significantly smaller, less represented in capital-intensive sectors, and have less access to finance

  • Better gender equality in education boosts female labor force participation and economic growth

  • In most countries, women are still under-represented in parliaments, judicial systems, executive branch of governments, and senior civil service—even in countries where they account for the majority of public sector workers

To address this unfinished business in gender equality and other interlinked global goals, the United Nations General Assembly (UN-GA) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all." To cover more in-depth gender inequalities, more indicators have been added to allow a more holistic approach to women rights issues and challenges.

The 2015-2030 approach to gender inequalities required governments, NGO, enterprises and all active citizens to commit to:

  • Addressing girls’ completion of a quality education

  • Promoting women’s economic empowerment

  • Providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health

  • Ending violence against women and girls

  • Ensuring women’s voice is presented in leadership and decision making

So, where do we stand after seven years of adopting SDGs and nearly at the mid-milestone until 2030? Unfortunately, we are still far behind achieving any targets of SDG5. It may surprise many of you to know that the U.S. is not even within the 10 countries with the narrowest gender gap!

According to the World Economic Forum, political empowerment still has the largest disparity among the dimensions of the gender gap. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised new barriers and challenges, while all pre-existing gender gaps have amplified the crisis asymmetrically between men and women—even where women have been at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic as essential workers.

In my humble opinion, a lot of progress can be achieved by bringing more men into the cause. Gender equality/inequality affects both women and men and has a strong impact on their lives. Many men (and unfortunately, some women) still view gender equality as a “women’s issue” with a perception that women are the only ones who will benefit from a more equal society, and therefore, it is women’s duty to fight for it if they want it. In reality, men also benefit from gender equality as much as women, and even more than women when it comes to gender norms. So, men should fight to achieve gender equality not only because it is right, fair and just, but also because of the benefits that gender equality brings to them as individuals and as members of communities. This is why  it is important to engage more men in standing for gender equality and to help make men understand how gender equality is relevant for them.

In an article published in Harvard Business Review, data shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged. However, too many organizations still miss that opportunity by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women—from the way they network to the way they lead.

Gender equality is not a zero-sum game; men will not lose if women win. In fact, a study by McKinsey projects that in a “full potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, $28 trillion dollars (26%) would be added to the annual global GDP when compared to the current business-as-usual scenario.

That is why we should not only advocate a “He For She” mentality, but also aim to champion He & She for They.



Economic Empowerment: Empowered Women Empower Economies

By Bailey Reiners


Who runs the world? Small female-owned businesses!

As you’re likely familiar, UN Women is the UN organization delivering programmes, policies and standards that uphold women’s human rights and ensure that every woman and girl lives up to her full potential. One of the nine focus areas of UN Women is to improve economic empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

There are a number of ways you can support economic empowerment of women and girls, and in this article, we are highlighting the brave, passionate women starting their own businesses as a means of taking their economic power into their own hands. Now, let’s get a better understanding of what defines a small business, the industry and how you can use your economic power to empower small female-owned businesses.


What is a Small Business?

The US Small Business Administration Bureau (SAB) defines small business as an independent business having fewer than 500 employees. That’s a huge range of one employee to 500!

The size of a business determines the kind of support and financial aid it may be eligible for. So keep in mind, businesses with 500 employees are often competing against people with one employee for the same financial support. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

If you have a business, you can check to see what size it classifies under with the Size Standard Tool from the U.S. SAB.


How Many Small Businesses Are There?

As of 2020, there are 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, which is impressive compared to the number of large businesses—20,139. It’s important to note that only about 19% of those small businesses have paid employees, meaning most of those businesses are single employee businesses or they contract work out rather than having additional employees on their payroll and benefits. Still, that’s a lot of people who are passionate enough about something to start their own business.

Narrowing that down even further, less than 1 in 5 businesses, regardless of size, are female-owned employers. However, of the nonemployer firms we mentioned earlier (the 19% of 31.7 million), roughly 10.1 million or 41% of all nonemployers are owned by female identifying individuals. That’s an almost even split of female to male business wonders. But then when you look at firms that hire additional employees, only 1.1 million or 20% of employer firms are female owned.

You can see that initially, when companies are small single employee companies, there’s almost an equal amount of businesses started by women (41%) and men (59%). However, as companies start to grow, either on their own or with financial support, and they hire additional employees—female-owned businesses only account for 20% of employer firms compared to 80% of male-owned businesses.

That’s a massive difference in economic power between female- and male-owned businesses. If women are unable to hire additional employees, they will inevitably struggle to grow at the same rate as men.


Why are Female-Owned Businesses Growing at a Slower Rate?

There are a number of reasons why female-owned businesses grow at a slower rate than male-owned businesses, but financial support is a major contributor to this difference in growth.

As of 2020, the proportion of VC funding to female-only founders declined to just 2.3%, according to research conducted by Crunchbase. This means that nearly 97% of Global VC Funding goes to male-owned businesses, which is even less than the previous year at 2.8%.

If female business owners continue to receive funding at this insanely low rate compared to their male counterparts, they will never have the economic power male business owners hold, which allows them to make the biggest decisions and have the greatest impact on….well, everything—including the rights of women and girls globally.


Why is it Important to Support Small Businesses?

So now that you have an idea of the greater business landscape, let’s dig into why it’s important for you and everyone else to support small businesses.

All companies—even the big unethical monsters—once started out as a small business by someone passionate enough about a product or service to make their dreams come true.

Because female business owners are at a financial disadvantage by receiving funding and support at a significantly lower rate than their male business owners, they are not able to grow, hire other employees and a financially thriving business with the same ease that male-owners can.

So where can they get funding if not from financial institutions and government resources?

That, my friend, is where you come in!

With a lack of federal aid and employees, small female-owned businesses need your economic empowerment now more than ever.

Ideally, it’s best for you to prioritize supporting the female-owned businesses in your local community rather than shopping online. For every dollar you spend at a small business, 67¢ stays in your community (compared to 14¢ when purchasing from big corps & online).

That means when you shop local, nearly 5x the amount of money stays in your community compared to when you shop online. It’s also better for the environment because you cut out shipping, and these businesses earn higher profit margins if they don’t have to use third party platforms—like Amazon, Etsy, Faire etc.—to earn your business.

Another great way to find and support small businesses is to utilize aggregate websites like Etsy to find products and services you like, and then order directly from the businesses website rather than the big corporations website.


How Can You Best Support Small Businesses?

Great question! First thing's firstditch your Amazon and find ways to reduce your reliance on big corporations, name brands, subscriptions and shipping. Make a commitment to first try to find the products and services you need locally before resorting to online resources. Even if you can’t find what you’re looking for at a small local business, it’s still much more beneficial to shop locally even at larger stores because your money helps pay for local employees to keep their jobs, earn a paycheck and contribute to your local economy.

Your support also doesn’t have to be financial—although money is power. You can also support small businesses by finding and following them on social media. Start by searching hashtags like #smallbusiness or #shopsmallbusiness or more specific hashtags local to your area like #smallbusinesschicago.

It’s difficult for small business and social accounts to compete with the ever changing algorithms that often omit their content from feeds, which has a major impact on their business and sales. Plus, once you find a couple that you like and that you engage with regularly, you’ll see them in your feed more often and it’ll be easier to find more small business to support and start weaning from relying on big businesses.

Simply put, ​​”when you support women-owned businesses, you are investing in women's economic empowerment, gender parity in commerce, vibrant communities, and the growth of the economy overall.’ — Woman Owned



End Child Marriage in Illinois, America and Around the World

By Saundretta James



Child marriage is still legal in 44 states across the United States of America. It is a fact. Each state varies on the age that is considered legal to enter into marriage, however, below the age of 18 years is considered “underage” for many other privileges in the United States, including the right to vote. Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage in the United States, is currently the “only organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and advocacy.”(1) 


“Child marriage, or marriage before 18, was legal in all 50 U.S. states as of 2017. Thanks to Unchained’s relentless advocacy, that is changing. Delaware and New Jersey in 2018 became the first two states to end this human-rights abuse, followed by American Samoa in 2018, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Pennsylvania and Minnesota in 2020 and Rhode Island and New York in 2021.”(2)


Currently in the state of Illinois, 18 is the marriage age. However, “legal loopholes allow parents to enter 16- and 17-year-olds into marriage without any input from the minor. If no parent is willing or able to consent, minors may enter into marriage with judicial approval.”(3) It is vital that no exceptions be made. It is imperative to protect minors. In 2021, UN Women Chicago joined the Illinois Coalition to End Child Marriage along with 19 other organizations/groups including UNICEF USA, She Votes Illinois, and the United Nations Association of Chicago. The goal, is to end child marriage in Illinois making 18 years the legal age to marry with no exceptions. 


Each month, coalition members sit with one another on virtual coalition calls and discuss progress made. The work to be done is not easy, yet necessary. These members are making phone calls, recruiting more coalition members, and raising awareness to have legislation change; in order to protect minors who are not always able to leave abusive marriages. These coalition members work to end forced/arranged and child marriage. An arranged or forced marriage is when “one or both parties enters without full, free consent.”(4) According to the U.S. State Department, “forced marriage is a human rights abuse.”(5) As well, “forced marriage is also recognized by the International Labor Organization as a form of modern slavery.”(6)

Survivors of child marriage are doing brave work to change this law across the United States. Each story is different. However, there is a common theme. A child is being coaxed, forced, told that they must enter into a marriage without their full consent. Survivor stories can be found here:


Findings on child marriage issues in the U.S. can be found here:

In addition, the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” published an article which can be located here:

UN Women Chicago is also a member of the National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the United States. To find out more information on the National Coalition to End Child Marriage, visit:

The following application outlines the responsibilities of coalition members:


It is vital to learn more about the studies and findings on child marriage as it helps to guide the fight for it’s ending.


Insights and Perspectives

Each meeting, I learn something new about child marriage. However, I learn most from the survivor stories. These stories are from the sources. These stories depict what each survivor experienced. As a married person, I cannot imagine being forced into a union with little to no way out. However, many people are. After reading more stories; I realized that I actually knew a few people who had been forced into marriage as children. One woman I know was only 15 and we lived in Georgia at the time. I remember that her mother had signed her away to a much older man. I remember hearing how he abused her. She had many children. They are no longer together, but I saw firsthand, the effects of forced/child marriage. The fact that I had forgotten until recently, made me realize how easy it is to turn a blind eye to her situation. I am married with two children, one passed away before the two that I have now. I entered into my marriage with full consent. However, it is a difficult journey as a woman to fight for rights within a marriage. For me, raising children and homeschooling them is a joy. I received several degrees before I was married. I have rights that not many other women exercise or even understand they have. I appreciate that I was able to be educated and still strive to do so. However, what about these other children, girls/boys who are not allowed the right to continue because they were signed away to someone else? For someone else to decide their direction? Through UN Women Chicago, I am able to fight not just locally, but nationally and thus, globally. It has become my passion. I do not know what these survivors are going through. However, I am honored to hear them share their own experiences. It also helps me to fight harder for opportunities for both of my children without forcing them into situations that violate their human rights.


Call to Action

There is a way to end child marriage. It has already happened in several states across the U.S. Here is a list of action items and resources.


For UN Women Chicago

  • Join monthly coalition calls
  • Join email campaign
  • Attend monthly Public Affairs committee meetings to help with campaigning.
  • Spread awareness via social media


Other Recommendations

Join a State Coalition:

Join the National Coalition:

Campaign via Email:

Join a “Chain-In”:

Become a Pro Bono Lawyer:

Become a Pro Bono Psychotherapist:

Become a Social Media Ambassador:

Host a Postcard Party:



Fighting Child Marriage: 

Follow Unchained At Last on Instagram 

Follow UN Women Chicago on Social Media for updates

Published Data:

Child Marriage Information:

Interested in helping put an end to child marriage? Join the Public Affairs committee for UN Women Chicago and we can fight this together. Reach out for more information. Let’s create a future for young children that honors their human rights!





  3. 750 Illinois Compiled Statutes (“ILCS”) 5/203, 5/208


  5. and

  6. and


* * *

COVID-19 and Menstruation: A Pandemic of Taboos

By María Barragán Ortiz


It was June 2019. I was visiting the city of Chiang Mai in Thailand, when I saw the

beautiful Inthakhin or Pillar of the city during a walk. I was ready to enter it when I found

myself in front of a sign with a woman’s silhouette crossed out. The sign read: “Men only.

Women are prohibited to enter because they menstruate. It is believed that it humiliates and

ruins the sanctity of the city pillar.” I took a step back and read it a couple more times.

“Women are prohibited to enter because they menstruate.”


Taboos, myths, and lack of education around the menstrual cycle make menstruators’ lives

difficult and in many cases dangerous, especially in times of emergency like a global

pandemic. In the world, 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services, and in

developing countries only 27% of people have adequate hand washing facilities at home,

according to UNICEF. The pandemic has caused menstrual products shortages, and

shelters and social work facilities have run out of supplies to provide to those in need.

As Covid-19 has spread, so has misinformation, discrimination and stigma around

menstruation. Women and girls are told not to bathe during their menstrual cycle (US, UK,

Israel); not allowed to touch food (India); and even prohibited to be at home or go to school

(Nepal, Afghanistan). In Tanzania, some believe that if a menstrual cloth is seen by others,

the owner of the cloth may be cursed. In Sierra Leone, it is believed that used sanitary

napkins can be used to make someone sterile. In Surinam, menstrual blood is believed to be

dangerous. And as the list of myths goes on… and on.


In the midst of the Covid-19 health crisis it is more imperative than ever to

acknowledge that it is a human right to manage periods safely and in dignity at all

times. In order to do so, it is critical to mainstream the talk about menstruation as a normal

biological process and do our part in ending the pandemic of taboos. These myths and

social norms restrict menstruators’ participation in society and therefore, limit their rights and



As you can see, whether it is shortage of menstrual products, lack of access to basic

sanitation services or discriminatory cultural norms and practices, menstruators -especially

the world’s poorest- are deeply impacted by the current situation. I think I can hear you

saying… How can we help?

● Raise awareness by sharing this article and other UN Women media posts or

infographics on menstrual health. Follow UN Women social media and help spread

the word!

● Donate to UN Women to continue supporting programs across the world and raise

crucial funds to reach gender equality and empower women and girls.

● Educate yourself and others . Always strive to learn more about the importance of

collective work in order to change the negative connotations and norms surrounding

periods across the world. Check the Guidance on Menstrual Health and Hygiene to

learn more about the UN global humanitarian menstrual health and hygiene

programming and its impact.

● Join the United Nations global solidarity movement for gender equality HeforShe .

Millions of people around the world are now part of this movement. Get inspired by

their stories and take action!

● Check UN Women initiatives and get involved in one or many ways! Take part in UN

Women’s campaigns, professional networks or become a member!

Remember that your voice matters, your actions make it real. Which one will you take next?


María Barragán Ortiz

Educational mentor, female empowerment for academic purposes specialist and UN Women Chicago member


* * *


Community Resources to Act Against Racism



Our community works to foster greater understanding and action on gender inequality. Given the latest occurrences of police brutality in the US, we want to dig deeper to educate ourselves and address the systemic issues that disproportionately affect people of color. It is no longer sufficient to say that we are not racist and have that position guide our daily interactions. At this moment, we must act. We have to engage as anti-racists in word and deed through our advocacy and actions.

This page will continually update resources for personal education through books, articles and podcasts, action links, guides for having difficult conversations about race, and parenting resources to begin to raise conscious kids. 


Take Action

Register to Vote (This link can also be used to check if you are registered.)

Find out where to vote in your area



The 1619 Project by Hannah-Nikole Jones (New York Times)

2020 is the Summer of the Road. Unless You’re Black by Tariro Mzezewa (New York Times)

The Other America speech by Dr. Martin Luther King

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility : Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin J.  DiAngelo

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel

They Can't Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence : Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race by Derald Wing Sue

Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett

"Why Are All the Black kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" : and other conversations about race by Beverly Daniel Tatum

White Like Me by Tim Wise

Dear White America by Tim Wise

Dispatches from the Race War by Tim Wise

Biased by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele, PhD

Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide by Crystal M. Fleming, PhD


Educate and Learn

NYC Commission on Human Rights: Racism Report 

Outsmarting Human Minds - Test your implicit bias

The #SayHerName Project - African American Policy Forum (AAPF) brings awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence, and provides support to their families.

Center for Policing Equity - Center for Policing Equity’s work continues to simultaneously aid police departments to realize their own equity goals as well as advance the scientific understanding of issues of equity within organizations and policing.



The Conscious Kid - Diverse children's book library centering underrepresented and oppressed groups

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Skin Again by bell hooks

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy 

Raising Race Conscious Children - a resource for talking about race with young children



Rachel Cargle a writer and lecturer who explores the intersection between race and womanhood

Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How To Be An Antiracist and Director of the Antiracism Center

Nikkolas Smith, the artist behind portraits of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others

Charlene Carruthers, founder of the Black Youth Project 100

Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD - Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice



Into America with Trymaine Lee

8 minutes and 46 seconds with Chris Hays & Trymaine Lee

Into Protest and the NFL

Talking to kids about racism

White Accountability with Tim Wise

A conversation with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison 

Can you hear us now? - Being Black in America Today

A conversation with James Clyburn

Code Switch an NPR podcast tackling race from all angles

Hear To Slay with Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom

Pod Save The People Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with analysis from fellow activists Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Dr. Clint Smith III



Robin DiAngelo discusses her book White Fragility

Ibram X. Kendi on How to be an Anti-Racist