School's Back in Session: How to Support Women's Global Access to Education from the Bay

The United Nations Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, issued a statement on August 2019, asserting that “education helps young women and girls become fully engaged citizens...We are counting on young people to disrupt the status quo and to push for transformative policies that shape the future they envision, as young leaders, allies and advocates for gender equality.”

The impact of educating women is wide-reaching, bringing benefits to various aspects of the society in which she lives. World Vision indicated that women tend to invest 90% (as compared to 30-40% of men) of earnings back into the home, elevating the health and education status of their family members. Their research supported that education can promote women’s participation in the workforce -- translating to increased political participation and overall reduction of poverty. However, when it comes to making school attendance more feasible for girls, especially in parts of the world that are still defined to be developing, there are a broader range of tangential barriers to address -- child marriages, deep-seated stereotypes around school attendance, and even menstrual hygiene management -- to name a few.

And while aiding efforts to increase access to education has been a key priority for the UN Girls Education Initiative, the scope of the challenge has been more significant than raising female matriculation rates in primary and secondary education programs. To address the core issues at hand, the status quo certainly has to be disrupted -- and there are several UN initiatives which have aimed to address these challenges from various angles. Below are examples of core programs that you can lend your support:

Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable - This is the theme of the International Day of the Girl, designed to provide safe spaces for girls to make their voices heard and to encourage their participation in the process of making decisions. On their website, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative suggests a few ways in which to get involved, as listed below: 

  • Share stories of girls who are ‘unscripted’ and ‘unstoppable’ in their communities, families or schools. Examples could include girls stopping discrimination and child marriage, girls breaking stereotypes, or girls increasing access to secondary education and skill development.

  • Interview women aged 35-45 years old who were girls when the Beijing Declaration of Action was adopted in 1995 and ask them what’s changed for them in the past 25 years. What advice would they give to their younger selves or girls today?

  • Profile people in your organisation – especially those who work in protection or humanitarian issues and ask them to retell a story of ‘the bravest girl they have ever met’. For example, the story of a girl who ran away from an early marriage in order to finish school.

INEE Guidance Note on Gender - In a newly revised format (updated from 2010), this guidebook has been a critical resource to inform educators, policymakers, and civil society leaders of the necessary frameworks to provide education in safe and gender-specific ways to communities experiencing conflict and emergency. Emilie Rees Smith (UNGEI) & Silje Sjøvaag Skeie (Norad) call out the ways that the guide’s practical programming examples ensure girls and boys are able to access education in the context of crises in this article. 


UN Women’s Virtual Skills School (VSS)- Taking full advantage of the technological resources available at the tips of our fingers, this program provides online and offline platforms on computers, tablets, and mobile phones for users to access vocational training, general technological skills, and continued academic learning. The vision is to benefit girls, women, and boys to expand their access to potential job opportunities and expand their skill sets to promote a better quality of life. See more info here.

Photo credit: UN Women/ Ryan Brown


Soroptimist International Honors Our President

Soroptimist International of San Francisco, a non-profit that empowers women and girls locally and globally, honored our chapter President, Amy Logan, with the Ruby Award on March 10, 2018, at their 96th Annual Awards & Luncheon. This award is given annually to a woman who works to improve the lives of women or girls, and whose work has had a significant impact on and inspires and encourages other women. Past recipients include Congresswoman Jackie Speier, filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and Futures without Violence CEO Esta Soler. Amy gave the keynote presentation at the awards event and talked about the work of our UN Women USA chapter and board. Soroptimist International awarded Amy $1000 which she donated to UN Women USA for UN Women San Francisco!

Women Supporting Women: Join UN Women San Francisco's Global #ShesGotHerBack Campaign!

By Amy Logan
You might be familiar with UN Women’s popular HeForShe campaign that engages men to support women’s advancement and gender equality. We need to continue to promote that, but I think it’s also crucial not to overlook women’s relationships with each other for this mission. While we can be our biggest champions, women can also undermine each other when coming from a mindset of scarcity or fear. People always catch flak for calling out this behavior, but it’s real, it’s a problem and it needs to change.
Women who bully in the workplace choose to target other women twice as often as men. Sometimes called “Queen Bees,” these are women who struggled to achieve their power but, instead of helping up other women once they’re in a position to, they demean and sabotage the ones they feel threatened by out of their own feelings of inferiority or insecurity at maintaining their status.
According to human behavior expert Dr. Gail Gross, “When women bully, and they do, it is often related to both competition and judgment. Judgment offers control and it has the capacity to lead to cruelty. However, this need for control can be a compensation in women for both self-scrutiny and the fear of being seen [for who they truly are].”
This might explain why even the female empowerment field is not immune to female bullies, unfortunately. I, myself, have been targeted by several who attempted to undermine my reputation, destabilize the organization I lead, or rip off my intellectual property – and these are women who claim their mission is to empower women!
I understand from an insider close to the most famous American women leaders in the female empowerment field that many of them are in ferocious competition with each other, which I find incredibly sad. What a waste of talent and energy – and it’s holding us back from making progress we so desperately need.
We can and must do better than this, and so I have conceived the #ShesGotHerBack Campaign. Launching today by my organization, UN Women USA San Francisco Bay Area, this global social media campaign seeks to inspire women to support other women by sharing the stories of successful female partnerships, mentorships, sponsorships and friendships – of which there are many! We want to call out and amplify women and girls who are directly and proactively helping one another succeed and drive this kindness to spread and multiply!
Hashtag activism alone isn’t going to solve the problem, but bringing awareness to this issue by modeling and celebrating positive examples is an important start.
If women had a zero-tolerance policy for female bullying and undermining behavior; if we felt honored to give each other a leg up when we have the power; if we consistently collaborated in solidarity with one another – we would be unstoppable and gender inequality would soon be a relic for history books.
(Yes, we still want and need the guys to get on board too, of course!)
What women have had your back? Which women’s backs have you had? Please share your own stories, articles and pictures of the women and girls that have proactively helped you and that you’ve made a point to support, mentor, or champion. Make a short video together and share! I can’t wait to get started acknowledging all the wonderful women in my life and promoting many others I’m newly discovering. I’ll be using #ShesGotHerBack and hope you will too!
Amy Logan is an award-winning global women’s human rights activist, President of the Board of UN Women USA San Francisco Bay Area, Founder & CEO of Gender Innovation, US State Department and TED speaker, author of The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice and cast and consulting producer of “The Price of Honor” film.

Q&A with filmmaker Tara Brenninkmeyer

Last year, filmmaker Tara Brenninkmeyer was a fan-favorite, winning 2016 Audience Choice Award at Global Voices Film Festival for her poignant short film, "Bis Gleich." Cindy Bao, VP of Marketing and PR, and co-chair of Global Voices Film Festival, caught up with her last week to hear about her upcoming work.
What drew you to make films?
I’ve been an actor for over 20 years. After my second child was born, something shifted. I wasn’t happy with waiting for someone else to give me a job so that I could be creative. I started writing as a way to express creativity while, at the same time, adjusting to motherhood. I found it to be so fulfilling. BIS GLEICH was my first attempt at screenwriting.
Your short film “Bis Gleich,” won Audience Choice at the Global Voices Film Festival last year. Why do you think your film resonated so strongly with the audience?
BIS GLEICH has resonated with people all over the world. It won over 40 awards and ended up on the Short-List for the 2016 Academy Awards. It’s a simple film with a simple idea--compassion and community. I think people connect with it because they need to believe that compassion and community are still possible in this chaotic and polarizing time. It’s a film that gives people hope, and hope seems to be in short supply these days.
What/How was your experience being featured in the Global Voices Film Festival?
Presenting the film at the Global Voices Film Festival was a true highlight of our festival tour. The audiences and staff were enthusiastic, thoughtful and supportive. It was a truly inspiring experience to be surrounded by so many strong women--and to have been counted as one of them.
Has being featured in the Global Voices Film Festival helped “Bis Gleich” gain more traction? Have you benefited in any way from being featured in the festival?
I certainly shouted from the highest hill “BIS GLEICH won best dramatic short at Global Voices Film Fest!” a few times. OK… maybe I didn’t shout from the highest hill, but I certainly posted the news several times on Facebook and Twitter. And people responded to that. The fact that the festival is supported by the UN Women community is a big deal.
What do you think are the major challenges that female filmmakers (directors, producers or writers) face in the industry?
The film industry is a boys club, of sorts. It takes a lot more for a woman to get a meeting or get funding for a film than a man. Hell, it’s even harder to get a good agent or manager. There is also the added challenge of being a mother and a filmmaker. I’ve had to become much better at organizing my time. Every day is a balancing act.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a woman in the film industry? How have you overcome them, or what strategies are you using to try to overcome them?
For every woman it is different. My main challenge is balancing motherhood and career. The age-old issue. On “normal weeks”, I write from 8am to 2pm. And I’ve made that work for me. Since my husband and I are a filmmaking team (I write/direct, he acts/produces) if we are filming or traveling to festivals, it gets complicated. We have to make sure that there is someone to take the kids to and from school, drive them to gymnastics or soccer or kung fu, feed them a healthy dinner, help them with homework, and be a loving, stable influence. That is hard to find. And I miss them like crazy when I’m not home to tuck them in at night.