- Created on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 23:04
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 00:25
- Written by Ellie Johnston
Knowing the nuances of navigating leadership is something that comes with years of experience, but sometimes we don't have years to develop experience. In the video Mary Shindler explores some techniques for strong leadership and preventing burnout for young leaders. Whether you are working on a political campaign or getting a community initiative started (and even if you aren't young!) these tips have universal applicability.
This training was part of the 2013 Lead Now Fellowship training series. We will continue to post videos from trainings as we can.
- Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 16:54
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 23:14
- Written by Anna Malinovskaya
A few weeks ago, the 57th session of the United Nations annual Commission on the Status of Women brought together countries’ representatives and members of civil society organizations in New York City. Delegations from countries and organizations shared their vision of and good practices for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. The series of meetings turned out to be bitterly disappointing for two reasons.
First, the session was overtly politically charged. Quite a few countries did not hesitate to make politically provocative statements oriented more towards past conflicts and misunderstandings than the topic at hand. Syria, for example, appealed to the international community to “take action against Israel” and “condemn the occupiers.” It also mentioned that “some governments” breed terrorism within its borders and asked the international community to address this issue. Venezuela’s speech sounded very much like an attempt to glorify Hugo Chavez and his regime. Russia, paranoid, as usual, about other countries interfering into its domestic affairs, reminded the international community that Russia’s government is the only body that knows best what policies would be good for Russia. Such an atmosphere at the session showed that countries came to the meeting with heavy political baggage that they were unwilling to leave aside for even five minutes – the time given to each country’s delegation for a speech on the session agenda.
But perhaps more disappointing was some countries’ explicit reluctance to even discuss certain issues related to violence against women. Kuwait, for example, stated that, in its view, any attempt to make a link between religion and violence against women is “intolerable.” What is really intolerable is closing a particular issue for open discussion on the grounds of some allegedly universal truth. Whether some religions sanction socio-economic or physical violence against women and girls is a question that is currently being explored by scholars and civil society. Attempts to turn this question into a statement, without any evidence, are equivalent to imposing one’s highly subjective perception on the international community.
In a similar vein, Tunisia declared that it fully supports the goal of elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, as long as it doesn’t contradict “the precepts of Islam.” What this means, in my understanding, is that there is a line that some countries draw for themselves and which, no matter what, they do not want to cross. It’s the line beyond which there will be no discussion. It’s the line beyond which there can be no questions.
Unlike Kuwait and Tunisia, Lebanon admitted the “challenge of promoting non-violence while retaining cultural values and religious beliefs.” In other words, the country was open to dialogue with the international community, recognizing in advance the complex nature of the question and potential disagreements about it.
Some countries, when opening highly controversial political issues for debate, were unable or unwilling to elaborate on their views and offer a viable alternative. For instance, the Holy See stated that China’s one child policy is a blatant violation of reproductive rights, but did not provide any potential solutions for China’s demographic problem. Indeed, does today’s China have an alternative?
The second aspect in which the session was a disappointment were the many countries’ approaches to the agenda. Almost every speech was a listing of how many rehabilitation centers a country has built, how many hot lines it has opened, and how many counseling services it has funded. No doubt, many countries have built up an extensive infrastructure to provide legal and psychological support and medical assistance to women victims of domestic violence, rape, or other abuse. These achievements are laudable, but they all address the symptoms of the “disease” while ignoring its causes. Only two countries of all the countries I heard speak, touched upon the roots of the problem. One of them, Moldova, explicitly referred to society’s morals and the need for moral education as fundamental in eliminating violence against women and girls. The other, the Holy See, went deeper and stressed the mass media’s responsibility for society’s sense of morality:
“In many parts of the world, women are the first victims of reductive ideologies that postulate and glorify a conception of the human body and of its sexual availability that is strongly threatening to the dignity of women. Pursuing this ideology only leads to a vision of the human person, wherein women … are easily considered as a possession … disposable at will. The advertising which proliferates around the world today is an example of how the human person is demeaned, commodified and sexualized into an object for others’ perversion and lust. The woman is thereby reduced to a body without a mind or a soul. In this context, it is most urgent for us to discern solutions that are not merely limited to the short term, or lowest common denominator, and which inevitably prolong the causes for violence, but rather to pursue solutions which address the root causes of violence versus women.”
Many countries also boasted on how many of their seats in parliament or minister positions are now taken by women. Although this is an achievement that has the potential for inducing long-term changes in the societal status of women and girls, countries should keep in mind that attitudes cannot be imposed from above unless they have a strong foundation at other levels of society. Legal changes do not necessarily bring in wide-scale societal changes.
As I was walking early Saturday morning in Manhattan to catch my bus home, I was verbally abused by two adult men in their 30s or 40s. When I chose to ignore their offensive sexist comments, they shouted at my back threats of rape. If it had not been the center of Manhattan and if they had dared to physically abuse me, I would surely have appreciated hot lines, rehabilitation centers, and counseling services. But why do I have to become a victim in the first place only because of someone’s fundamental lack of morality? And would the fact that the United States is at the forefront of promoting legal gender equality have made my trauma less painful? Very meaningful in this regard is one of the slogans of the recent campaign against rape in Delhi, which reads “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly.”
Anna Malinovskaya was a SustainUS delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. She is an international undergraduate student.
- Created on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 03:19
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 19:48
- Written by Jamie Seah
I believe I’ve spent a good part of the last 5 years doing diverse things, but the single accomplishment I’m most proud of would be organizing last year’s Conference of Youth (COY) at the Qatar Foundation’s Student Center in Doha, Qatar. COY is an annual international youth conference that happens the weekend before the UN climate negotiations. Asian youth presence has generally been weaker at the climate negotiations, both in numbers and in voice. I won’t try to justify why, but I’m glad to have provided an Asian perspective on the COY organizing team ahead of the conference. At the conference I was able to help people with directions and instructions in my capacity as a Mandarin Chinese speaker.
COY and Doha in general provided me with so many new experiences, and I’m honestly grateful to have the opportunity to work with local Qataris and climate campaigners from the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) to plan and organize COY. As coordinators, we worked on the conference program, finalizing keynote speakers, selecting suitable workshops, among other things. Since I’m more of a media person, I was also in charge of the @WeAreCOY8 twitter handle, our Facebook page, and our email account, which was used mainly to contact workshop facilitators.
I’m proud of having contributed to COY because it is a brilliant place for people to mill about, interact and share experiences, in addition to attending the capacity building workshops which certainly allowed for knowledge-sharing and the acquisition of new skills in preparation for the climate negotiations.
I’m proud of working towards bringing passionate climate activists together.
I’m proud of creating an environment for under-18 year-olds to experience an exhilarating 3 days, and for us to make friends. It was disappointing not being recognized for our dedication and efforts at COP, but at least we banded together during COY and formed a “Youth Access” Working Group to discuss pertinent issues and formulate plans for Young and Future Generations Day (YoFuGe). COP might have been a letdown, but COY was certainly not.
In Doha, I (regrettably) witnessed developed countries’ lack of commitment in the way the negotiations unraveled. The “Doha Climate Gateway” was haphazardly mish-mashed together in a bid to finally end the climate talks, a day after they ran overtime. Civil society was an oppressed presence, with certain youth interventions being cut down to a mere minute and under-18 year-olds kept out from the conference venue. At the Intergenerational Inquiry, Mary Robinson lamented that the current situation was akin to the “Titanic moving towards the iceberg of 4 degrees”. This is not what I envision the next climate negotiations (COP19) to be – there needs to be a radical shift in attitudes of governments and the world, and quick.
I know that many people around me have been left disillusioned after attending the climate talks, and are concerned that COP19 will again leave much to be desired. Regardless of circumstantial constraints, we cannot lose faith in us – that means continuing to come together at COY and at COP, in a strong show of solidarity. Youth representation definitely plays a pivotal role in changing mindsets and opinions at the climate talks.
Although we’re already well into 2013, memories of COP are still fresh in my mind. Philosopher Dan Dennett once averred, in ruminating on the secret of happiness, “Find something more important than you are, and dedicate your life to it.” In all honesty, before I hopped on that plane to Doha, I had no idea what I would want to spend the rest of my existence doing. Although I’m not 100% sure, I think I’ve found a cause worth fighting for.