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WMC News: PWV Media Training, the UN, DRC Child Soldiers, Hijabi Beauty, & More

January 12, 2017

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The Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices is the premier media and leadership training program for women in the country. Representing a range of expertise and diversity across race, class, geography, sexual preference, ability, and generation, participants receive advanced, comprehensive training and tools to position themselves as media spokeswomen in their fields, thereby changing the conversation on issues that fill headlines. Graduates join a network of alumnae who support each other in their media goals.

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The UN’s Concrete Ceiling

UN Women demonstrate for equality on International Women's Day. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

By Shazia Z. Rafi | January 9, 2017

Global feminism hit a concrete ceiling in 2016. The first woman U.S. major-party presidential candidate was unable to rally votes in enough states across the country for her election despite an incompetent, openly racist male opponent. Record numbers of qualified women candidates ran for election as the ninth United Nations secretary-general only to have the door slammed in their faces with a Wonder Woman cartoon as honorary ambassador offered to the world’s women by the U.N. bureaucracy as a consolation prize.

Feminists failed in the UNSG election mainly because we did not have a clear and agreed-upon strategy to navigate the minefields of the U.N. Security Council selection process. It was clear from the first rounds that the man to beat was the eventual winner, António Guterres, former head of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and former prime minister of Portugal, and the only male candidate with extensive U.N. experience.

Three women were of comparable qualifications—Helen Clark, administrator of the U.N. Development Programme and former prime minister of New Zealand; Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, director-general of UNESCO; and Susana Malcorra, foreign minister of Argentina and former U.N. chief of staff. They faced an uphill battle against open misogyny in the Security Council. Women’s groups and governments in favor of a woman failed to forge a joint strategy for success. We can see in hindsight that women campaigners needed to coalesce around one woman for the job. More >>

Image description: UN Women demonstrate for equality on International Women's Day. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

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In DRC, Girls Choose to Become Child Soldiers to Escape Poverty

Girls in DRC are choosing to become child soldiers, driven by poverty and lack of access to education. Here, a girl washes her hands in a muddy water in Kitshanga, DRC. (MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti)

By Rumbi Chakamba/Guest Blogger | January 6, 2017

Throughout the decades-long conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, children have been abducted and made to serve as soldiers. While most are male, it is estimated over a third are female, used mainly as domestic and sexual servants, but sometimes as fighters. Now the London-based NGO Child Soldiers International, or CSI, has released a report showing that many of the girls in armed groups weren’t enlisted by force. They joined of their own free will—driven by poverty and a lack of access to education.

The NGO interviewed more than 200 female former child soldiers following their escape from local militia groups, collectively known as the Mai Mai. The researchers found that many of the girls who had joined by choice cited the burden of school fees as their primary reason. Education was beyond their reach, but life with an armed group would at least offer them food, security, and, they thought, better opportunities. “I was pushed out of school for failing to pay the fees, so instead of roaming aimlessly in town, it was better to go and help [the militia] in the bush,” one girl was quoted as saying in CSI’s report. More>>

Image description: Girls in DRC are choosing to become child soldiers, driven by poverty and lack of access to education. Here, a girl washes her hands in a muddy water in Kitshanga, DRC. (MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti)

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After A Year of Anti-Choice Attacks, This Young Texas Latina Is Fighting Back

We're ready to fight back.

By Micaela Elizabeth Canales | January 11, 2017

I don’t actually remember what happened to the condom—just that it was on one minute and then not on the next. Afterward, when my boyfriend and I realized what had happened, we sat on the edge of his twin bed, half-dressed. I knew I wanted to buy some Plan B emergency contraception.

I was sixteen when this happened. As a teen in Texas, I had seen firsthand how hard it could be to get reproductive health care, especially if you are poor, young, undocumented, differently abled, LGBTQIA+, Black, Hispanic, or a person of color. The Supreme Court abortion case win this summer was a major triumph for reproductive justice, but Texas anti-choice politicians have since continued to attack reproductive healthcare access in the state. More >>

Image description: Two Latina women holding a black sign that reads "Latinas should be Frida make our own decisions" 

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What A Hijabi Beauty Contestant Means To Hijabi Teens

Halima Aden

By Faatimah Solomon | January 9, 2016

Ever since reading the work of authors such as bell hooks, Simone de Beauvoir, and Naomi Wolf, I have dismissed the concept of physical beauty as a trivial social construct. The mainstream narrative of beauty glorifies Eurocentric beauty ideals and promotes unrealistic body types, which in turn plays into deeper, systemic issues of racism and sexism. What I failed to realize by making this assumption, however, is that despite the reality of their roots, physical beauty and outward appearances still effectively play a significant role in how many aspects of societies function — and it is therefore very impractical to dismiss them as petty and irrelevant.

Perhaps I was so willing to ignore these social constructs, though, because I was personally clueless as to where exactly I fit into this sphere. As a female, Muslim teenager who chooses to don the hijab, I can’t really relate to the mainstream fashion trends that are associated with beauty and propagated in fashion magazines and all over social media, such as crop tops or high-waisted jeans. Instead, I scour Instagram and YouTube for hijabistas who make hijab tutorials and put together lookbooks with modest clothing. Women who wear the hijab are rarely integrated into the mainstream narrative of beauty, and as a result I never got external ‘validation’ that my hijab was beautiful.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Halima Aden, a Somali-American Muslim teenager who wears the hijab, made it to the semifinals of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, making history by doing so. More>>

Image description: Halima Aden

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A New Avenue to End Sexual Violence on Campus

We can't back down.

By Sara Surface | January 6, 2016

Sexual assault has been an issue about which I have been deeply concerned for the last four years. I’ve been professionally and personally involved in a variety of efforts to tackle this rampant and complex problem. Throughout this work, I’ve always struggled with the question “what is the most effective, meaningful, and impactful avenue for change in this arena?” That is until last month, when I joined colleges and students from around the country to participate in the first National Leadership Institute — which was the first multi-disciplinary collaborative of 20 colleges and universities across the country dedicated to addressing gender-based violence on campus. Then, I felt as though I’d found my answer.

Growing up, I was never afraid to speak out. Calling out people on inappropriate and unfair actions or words was a practice embedded in my high school’s student culture. But when I got to college, challenging other students who often made misogynistic comments made me feel isolated. I no longer had a network of peers to back me up and my feminist remarks went against the campus’ social norms.

In my second semester of college, a friend introduced me to an all-female identified peer education group that gave presentations on sexual assault and survivor support. I felt more at home with that group within the first five minutes of our first meeting than I had in the previous six months I had spent on campus. I started giving presentations to fraternities, sororities, and clubs based on my own perspective as a survivor and soon realized how much more receptive my audience was to an educational model rather than a ‘call out’ model. I then understood that my previous approach to expressing my ideals — calling people out when I disagreed with them — made people feel attacked rather than welcomed into challenging a culture that promotes gender-based violence. I saw so many more light bulbs go off in these audiences during my first few presentations than I had the entire time I publicly called out others in high school and the beginning of college. When I began to supplement my peer education work with collaborative efforts involving other partners on campus and in the community, it finally felt like I was moving the needle. More >>

Image description: Students protesting with sign in the middle reading "We a rape free campus" as well as another sign in the corner reading "Sustainability: A+ Global Ed: A+ Safety from Sexual Assault: F" with the F circled.

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This week WMC SheSource features experts on Donald Trump’s cabinet confirmation hearings, the Golden Globes show this past weekend, Donald Trump acknowledging Russian involvement in the election, Martin Shkreli’s ban from Twitter for harassing a journalist, and Martin Luther King Day.

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