“A Powerful Voice”, DVD and discussion
The AGM began with a welcome by Program Convener, Dr. Janet Heinicke, who welcomed the participated to what she called an “audacious enterprise”, i.e. the launching a conference focused on an examination of several of the issues identified as critical issues for women in the world in the Beijing Platform on women at the Beijing Conference on Women, These issues were those about women in areas of conflict and violence; issues about women experiencing trafficking, issues about women and efforts to change their images in the media; and issues about immigration and in particular its effect on the lives of women.
The first .program session presented visually facts about the movement to end marginalization of women and ultimately end poverty through the stories of three women from three very different parts of the world, Vietnam, Bosnia and Mali. Discussion was wide ranging and offered participants an opportunity to express widely varying viewpoints about such questions as
How did widespread poverty in their respective communities impact the challenges faced by the women featured in the
What are some of the factors that contribute to .poverty?
How is poverty in the United States different from poverty in developing countries?
Why is it important to reduce the number of people living in poverty around the world?
Why are women and girls affected disproportionately by poverty?
How is empowerment of women and girls an effective way to address global poverty?
“Today’s real Life stories of women”
Rona Popal, Afghan Women’s Association International
The next program session, chaired by Dr. Jackie Shazhadi, brought the participant back to reality from the more distanced view of film and screen. Rona Popal,
Executive director of the Afghan Womens Association International, provided conference participants a summary of the status of women living today in Afghanistan, her home country. She spoke from the standpoint of an Afghan women and current head of the organization, a small US organization designed to help Afghan women go through the first four years of school. The organization, a comparatively young one was formed in 1993. Popal spoke of the millions of Afghan children who are orphans today and of women and children left without any means of helping themselves. Though the organization was formed in 1993 by women in the US who decided that “something needed to be done”. “Now”, said Popal, ”nothing has changed”. She spoke of the lack of security for women, of women who need food, clothing, shelter, schools. She spoke despairingly about NGO money going to the urban centers of her home country, or to warlords. Among the facts she shared were the following pertinent ones:
thirty percent of Afghan women give birth before the age of 18
every 27 minutes an Afghan woman dies in childbirth
relief and help goes to urban areas
women who are successful in getting to the United States (as refugees) repeat the same behavior problems which occur in Afghanistan
Afghan families here need help with human rights issues, empowerment, issues which are also true in Afghanistan
She closed her remarks by pointing out that a twenty five year war in Afghanistan means that a generation has been raised in a culture that only knows war; it is important, she said, to address women’s rights. ‘Don’t forget about us ‘, the women say, It is important to address women’s rights from Islamic law (moderate law).Popal urged work that would empower civil society , work on education to empower women for their economic support; she supported the idea of micro enterprises. She closed with the words ‘“the thing is…each girl needs to believe that she can DO SOMETHING!”
"Taking Action on CEDAW"
Moderator: Linda Sekiguchi
Presenter: Alice Dahle (photo center)
"Moving our Minds... to Ideas and Action, A Vision for the Future of WG-USA"
2009 President's Address, Florine Swanson (photo right)
Afternoon Session I:
“Trafficking in the 21st century: Slavery in the 21st century”
Moderator: Camille Macdonald Polski
Presenters: Abraham lee, US Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition.
This session began with the provocative statement, “Human trafficking happens in every country in the world; trafficking is modern day slavery.” Lee, speaking for the current presidential administration, said that trafficking is a top priority for the United States Government. Lee pointed out that trafficking is a “multi dimensional crime”. In addition to being a very specific crime it is exploitation through fraud, force or coercion. (See the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000). Sex trafficking is defined as that in which commercial sex is induced by force, fraud or coercion on a person under eighteen years of age. Listeners at the conference were told that it is estimated that 12 million live in such slavery conditions.
Why does trafficking thrive today? Listeners were told that it thrives due to social and economic marginalization. Those who attended the conference were given copies of the 2009 TIP report, produced by the US Department of State (Trafficking in Persons report). The report ranks the efforts of foreign governments in their efforts to combat human trafficking, which flourishes in a time of economic crisis. The administration is using a “3P approach” to this crime, i.e. prosecuting, protection and prevention. Lee stated that “we need to put the bad guys in jail” and advocated a “victim centered approach”. A fourth “P” is being introduced, that of “Partnership” with various NGO organizations. There is also an effort to raise awareness by the provision of a National Human Trafficking Resource Center (accessible at 1-888-3737-888). New statistics reveal that children between the ages of 12 to 14 in the US get involved in crime and sex, and potential trafficking situations within two weeks of running away from home.
Marisa Ugarte followed Lee’s presentation with information about 2 million children in Mexico who experience abuse. She focused on the operations of trafficking cartels in which victims are coerced with false promises; or instances in which children are sold by parents. She pointed out that “it is easier to cross people than drugs into the United States”. Once here the victims are held in ethnic enclaves.
Ugarte stated that coalitions against trafficking should be formed in each state and each municipality. “What is missing”, she stated, “is the political will to do so!”
Afternoon Session II:
“How Women are changing the Images of Women in Media; Building on the Beijing Platform for Action”.
Moderator: Dr. Jackie Shazadi
Presenters: Kathleen Cha, former AAUW President, CA; Elahe Amani, Chair, Women’s Intercultural Network
This final Friday session began with a review of the comprehensive statement of public policy goals from the platform:
promote balanced and non discriminatory images of women and girls n the media
improve program content and reduce violence
increase women’s access to media at all levels
increase women’s access to decision making in the media
improve media education, training and mentoring
Listeners were told that “media is a powerful means of communicating and acculturation.” They were reminded that media is transnational; they were also reminded that all media has a viewpoint, that there is no such thing as “objective reporting”. Other opinions which were expressed include the following
womens’ views and voices are marginalized
women are under represented in the media
gender equity is the key topic being discussed around the world
women are twice as likely to be portrayed as victims as men
the tone underlying such depiction is that they deserve to be victims
media is controlled by a very few people
across the world women are establishing women’s networks in insure more equity
Elahe Amani, Director of the Womens’ Intercultural Network and Director of Technology at Ca State University at Fullerton presented statistics about the use of technology. The penetration of email in the US is 72.5%.79 million women in the US are on line. 42 million women (18 to 77 yr) are active in social media. The figures for women on line include the following
73% are millennial ( 18-26 yrs of age)
62% are Gen X (27-43 years of age)
46% are boomers (44-62 years of age)
30% are matures (63-77 years of age)
Who rules in the world of social media? Women! We should be using the social networks to further gender equality. In the professional world equality, in presentation is missing. We need to more active, said Amani, in promoting women as leaders and making sure this happens when you buy cheap cigarettes in cyber space!
“The Very Real Issue of Immigration”
Moderator: Dr. Jackie Shazhadi
Presenters: Rucha Tadwalker, Asian and Pacific Islanders; Brenda Y Beza, Mexican American
Tadwalker spoke from the context of her work with a Center for Domestic Violence in Los Angeles. She talked about the barriers that immigrants face, including language barriers, lack of a support system, multiple abusers, misconceptions and stereotypes, past experiences (that the immigrant woman may have had), lack of knowledge, shame and immigrant status. The speaker reviewed for listeners the legal remedies that are available to immigrant women who face domestic violence. She also reviewed the various remedies and challenges to providing services for victims who are immigrants but also victims of domestic violence. Brenda y Beza spoke about students who are unable to get student aid if they enroll in colleges or universities but are illegal immigrants due to the circumstances in their families when they came into the country. These students, though often outstanding high school graduates from US schools, experience great difficulties in obtaining a higher education.