Crisp fallen leaves in splendid shades of auburn strewn across front lawns; family members reconnecting in buzzing excitement as they huddle around the kitchens; rich aromas of cranberry sauce and apple pie floating out of ovens and through the dining room table. For many, Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to return to a space with loved ones, and express gratitude for the blessings in their lives.
It is also a time for the UN SF chapter to reflect on many of the strides -- both big and small -- supported by the United Nations organization in aiding economic and social empowerment of women and children around the world. To name a few of these:
Cameroon: Millions of women and girls who had been forcibly displaced due to the violence in the country have been exposed to great violence and exploitation in the past years. However, responses and funds from Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) have enabled the provision of healthcare and psychological resources -- from medicines to counseling for survivors. Read some of the personal stories here.
China: The United Nations Populations Fund and the Chinese government have partnered together toestablish economic and educational programs to combat gender discrimination reflected. From one of these programs, Wen Xiujuan learned how to create her own agritainment business, providing entertainment activities on her farm, enabling her to become economically independent. Read more about her journey here.
Bangladesh: The UN Refugee Agency and the Ayesha Abed Foundation have launched a vocational training program for refugees who have entered into the country, operating out of Cox’s Bazar. Women are able to learn how to block print, silk screen and also do tailors/ alterations. With the goal of training 500 women by the end of year one, there is opportunity to continue scaling the program if there is continued success. Read more about this initiative here.
While there is still considerable work left to be done in each of these arenas, this is the perfect time of year to take a look at the impressive progress which has been made to date. That is definitely something to be thankful for.
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.