What Happens to Gender Pay Gap Among College Educated?

sariblogWe all have heard it, women earn about 20 percent less than men. But when, how, and why does the gap emerge? Everyone has an opinion on it, and these opinions range widely – which leads to many frustrating public opinion exchanges. Are we eternally stuck in a rut arguing about what the relevant facts are? Or could administrative “big data” shed some new light here and help move us forward? We think so…

Two new studies find that college grads start their career with a tiny gender earnings gap, but end up with a substantial gap by age 45. What are women doing wrong, or men doing right, for this to happen? This seems to be a story about “career acrobatics”, one with chutes and ladders. First, it turns out that the gap widens both in existing jobs as men climb the career ladders faster and higher within firms, and through job changes since men disproportionately move across firms to higher paying ones as they age. By the time college grads reach their peak earnings, men earn on average 55 percent more than women.

What could possibly account for such enormous earnings gaps during the first 20 years of working life? Not surprisingly for anyone, a chunk of the initial gap and its subsequent growth comes from differences between men and women in terms of the sectors and occupations in which they work. Women are definitely over-represented in lower paying sectors and occupations. The best-known examples include teachers, nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers. Many commentators argue that women themselves are responsible for pay gaps as they choose careers where starting salary is low and salary growth modest with work experience and seniority. In reality, the reasons why women congregate in these occupations are complex, and addressing occupational gender differences requires societal changes. More importantly for the debate though, women are not “causing” the earnings gap with their “bad choices” – occupational segregation accounts for no more than a third of the overall earning gap. Something else is at work.

blog sari paygap2017Another expensive “choice” women make is motherhood. Women are more likely to move into part-time positions, take time off after having children and work fewer hours than men – even in full-time work. How much of that 55 percent gap does motherhood explain? Unfortunately our data does not give a direct answer to that, but arguably all of these factors contribute to the growing earnings gap between ages 25 and 45. What we can say though is that much of the widening of the earnings gap comes from married women: their earnings grow much more slowly with age and they see little benefit from job hopping compared with men and unmarried women. Why are they not able to capitalize on their college degree like others even by switching jobs? This may be related to a phenomenon called “tied migration.” Family makes their location decision based on the “primary career”, which usually is that of the husband. This is why job moves tend to only benefit that primary career and could even hurt the secondary career. Ironically, the primary career is typically chosen to be the one with greater earnings potential – bringing us right back to the gender pay gap conundrum. This begins to look like a self-reinforcing cycle.

Career choices that look “less than optimal” in terms of long-run earnings growth may also be explained by college educated women consciously moving to lower-paying firms (within a given industry) in anticipation of needing more time flexibility when children enter the picture. Similarly, the gender earnings gap is largest in sectors, such as financial, insurance, and real estate (FIRE), that are more unforgiving of career interruptions and shorter or more flexible work hours. At age 25-27, female college grads working in FIRE earn almost exactly as much as male college grads. However, already by age 30-32 men earn about 35 percent more. In this sector men are able to obtain greater career advancements within a given firm, but a sizeable chunk of the earnings gap is due to women’s disproportionate shift into lower-paying firms by age 34.

We promised that these data could help shed some new light, but there are still many questions in making sense of the patterns. For one, what happens to the career and earnings dynamics within households as the family composition changes? Time-use studies say that the arrival of children makes spouses specialize more: one parent focuses on work while the other takes more responsibility at home, often balancing a job in the mix. It is easy to guess how this specialization usually goes, but might the dynamics look different if it was the father rather than the mother who takes a career break? Answers to those questions can clarify policy recommendations. For example, would a Swedish-style shared parental leave policy reduce gender earnings gaps or do we need a more wholesale approach to workplace organization? The latter approach would include reducing the earnings and career cost of temporal flexibility, making a work-family balance easier for both moms and dads, and reduce the need to designate a “default parent” who takes over the majority of household and child-related responsibilities.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist/economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her work described above is based on the research she conducted with Erling Barth, Claudia Goldin, and Claudia Olivetti.

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Adding a Lone African American to its Board is Unlikely to Solve Facebook’s Diversity Challenges

blog thumbsdownIn a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus earlier in October, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, made a public commitment to appoint an African American to its currently all-white board of directors – in the foreseeable future.

The promise came when members of the Congressional Black Caucus were questioning Sandberg about the lack of diversity on Facebook’s board and at all levels of employment at Facebook where only three percent of employees are African Americans, and there are no black executives. Lawmakers confronted Sandberg about Facebook advertising that has been linked to Russian accounts purchased during the 2016 election that were connected to Black Lives Matter. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that if more blacks were in decision making positions, the connection with Russian accounts and anti-Black Lives Matter content may have been caught before the FBI looked into the issue.

But is one African American board member going to be able to bring a loud enough voice to change the status quo on the board and also move the company toward greater diversity in its rank and file? Drawing on our research on how many women it takes to change corporate board dynamics we conclude that a lone member of an underrepresented group is unlikely to be an effective voice for change.

blog sumruquoteMy colleagues Vicki Kramer, Allison Konrad, and I interviewed 50 women directors, 12 CEOs (nine male), and seven corporate secretaries at Fortune 1000 companies. We found that the benefits of having women on a corporate board are more likely to be realized when three or more women serve on a board.

While even one woman can make a positive contribution, more typically, the token minority person is simultaneously invisible as a peer who can contribute and hyper-visible for being different from the majority, with irrelevant aspects of their demographic difference overshadowing their professional skills. We heard examples of lone women directors being talked over and otherwise ignored when they responded to a strategy question but asked about their preference for home decorating. In other words, being a token tends to be a powerless position.

Having two people different from the majority is generally an improvement over the token position. But it is corporations with three or more different people on their boards that tend to benefit the most from the diverse perspectives they can bring. Our results showed that with three or more women, board discussions expanded to include the interests of multiple stakeholders, including the community and to pursue answers to difficult questions such as CEO compensation and diversity. Three or more women were also able to change board dynamics toward a more collaborative approach to leadership, improving communication among directors and between the board and management.

Important to note is that Facebook’s board is currently comprised of eight individuals—six white men and two white women—and two of these individual are the inside directors, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. This elite structure reflects the lack of a wider perspective of viewpoints, experiences, concerns, priorities, and sensitivities. While this may have helped the organization’s growth, there are corporate responsibilities beyond the bottom line.

If Facebook is serious about its diversity problem, adding one African American to its board is not going to be enough. It takes a critical mass of three or more people who are different from the majority to bring about change on a board.

Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., is senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research interests include women’s leadership, racial/cultural norms and identity in youth and families, and adolescent development.

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#MeToo is a step forward, but it's time for bystanders and perpetrators to stand up

metooI applaud the strength and solidarity of the women (and men, too) who are asserting with the hashtag #MeToo, that they are among the estimated one in five women who have been sexually assaulted and one in four working women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted each year in the U.S. Enough IS enough. What I now want to know is how many men will stand up against it. Maybe things are changing… It did not take long before we saw that men were writing #IHave and now as I suggest #IWill which can reflect steps they are taking and will take to end the role they have had in promoting gender-based violence and sexual assault, to assert that they will NOT stand by while sexual harassment and assault happen, that they will call it out when they see it.

Classic rape is recognized as a crime --- when a male stranger attacks a woman at night, kidnaps her, or breaks into her home, and then forces her at gunpoint to submit to sexual acts it is (usually) seen as rape. But this does NOT describe most rape, nor are most perpetrators of sexual assault strangers. Those of us working in this field have recognized for years that most rape occurs at the hands of someone the victim knows. While some of what draws our attention today is workplace sexual harassment not involving sexual contact, clearly in the context of the Harvey Weinstein allegations we are hearing about actual sexual contact, forced sexual contact, contact against the will of the victim. The lawyers can tell you what statute covers this behavior in your particular state, but when it occurs without the consent of the woman or child or when she is unable to consent, this is a crime. A serious crime that can result in jail time, a crime which should result in the attention of the criminal justice system-- though nine times out of ten it does not.

We have known for decades that most rape is perpetrated by men known to the victim; study after study have found that many hundreds of thousands of women and girls (as well as many men and boys) are sexually assaulted each year. So why are we still surprised to hear about it today? (Yes, we are doing better responding to sexual assault and, yes, it is gratifying to see the support that the women who have come forward to report what has happened to them in Hollywood are now—mostly—receiving. But year after year after year this is still with us.)

Again and again we see a backlash against the victims. Perhaps our system of justice will prosecute those who rape very small children or 97-year-olds, or those who assault women who are the valued mothers and daughters of powerful white men, but most sexual assault is not reported and, even when reported, does not lead to an arrest or prosecution.

blogquote linda metooWe must remember it is not only Hollywood producers who sexually assault and not only young actors who are the victims. The rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault include:

  • the boss of a 17-year-old working in a fast food restaurant who needs her job so she can go to college, or
  • the supervisor of a 30-year-old mother who is a dishwasher, waitress, cashier, salesperson and needs her low wage part-time job to feed her family,
  • the manager who knows his employee can’t quit or take the chance of being fired so she won’t report or can’t find the time to go to the police or to court to press her case,
  • the manager, the frat-boy or the professor who knows the victim won’t risk the shame and humiliation of reporting and this won’t make it dangerous for him to continue assaulting her or others,
  • The senior colleague of an assistant professor who will decide her fate on the promotion and tenure committee,
  • The fellow student, the upperclassman or the star football player who knows his attention will flatter the first-year student or the jock who knows after she has had a lot to drink that he has a good chance of getting away with a sexual assault-- he knows that when she passes out in the dorm room, or by a dumpster in the parking lot, or no matter what happens to her, she will be too afraid to scream out or report what this star athlete has done,
  • Or a bus driver or taxi driver, priest, teacher, uncle, military superior, or neighbor who assaults the mother of his child’s best friend,
  • Finally there is the ex-boyfriend or partner who thinks that he is entitled to sex because she consented in the past, because he knows her secrets and can prey on her fears, insecurities, or her shame.

This is the reality of rape—a crime most likely perpetrated by a man known to the victim – an acquaintance, “friend,” classmate, employer, or partner. Such rape is more common than stranger rape. In spite of extensive data showing that rape is underreported, rarely falsely reported, and even after many Harvey Weinsteins--too many to count-- many still hold inaccurate beliefs about the nature of rape, when and to whom it happens, and its impact on the victim—the women who are young and old; Black, white and brown; rich and poor.

Yes, it is notable that women can now join in and feel supported enough to tweet #MeToo and in so doing make it clear that rape is not rare, that rape can happen to anyone. But now, it is also time to ask the bystanders and the actual or wanna-be perpetrators to stand up and say #IHave to indicate “I sexually assaulted someone,” “I stood by while my friends or classmates or colleagues did it,” or “I know men who bragged about it.” And use the hashtag #IWill to assert they will no longer stand by and do nothing but instead that they will stand up and support victims and survivors. #IWill stand up and call out these behaviors even when powerful men state “I just start kissing them. I don't even wait...when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is senior research scientist and director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.


Need help or assistance? In the U.S., call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673.

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In India, Action to End Child Marriage Has a Long Way to Go

india schoolgirl blog crop2The Supreme Court of India ruled last week that sex with one’s wife under 18 years of age will be deemed as rape for which the husband can face up to 10 years of imprisonment. This judgement, being hailed as “landmark” by Indian media, irons out a major discrepancy in the Indian law: while the age of consent for women in India is 18, an exception in the Indian penal code allowed men to have sex with their wives between 15-18 years of age regardless of their consent (Indian law does not acknowledge marital rape).

While it is indeed a laudable step on part of the Indian judiciary that called out the “artificial distinction” between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child to be “arbitrary and discriminatory”, the judgement puts the spotlight on the issue of child marriage itself. A recent study conducted by IndiaSpend -- a journalism non-profit -- found that nearly 12 million Indian children are married before the age of 10, a mind-boggling figure that shows that child marriage continues to be a real and persistent threat in the country. We also know that early marriage can be disastrous for a girl’s sexual and reproductive health. According to Girls Not Brides, complication in pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 globally. Considering that, this indeed is a landmark judgement which will now present a barrier to men wanting to consummate their marriages with their underage brides. However, the moment one begins to think about the wider socio-cultural context that child marriages take place in, the judgement sounds wildly optimistic and impracticable.

india childmarriage quoteIt is common knowledge that there is a link between lower levels of education and early marriage. The IndiaSpend research also found that as many as 5.4 million married under the age of 10 were illiterate, and 80 percent of them were female. Given that we are talking of a largely illiterate female population that is subjected to child marriage, what are the chances of them seeking legal recourse when faced with the prospect of forced consummation of marriage? Child marriage is also very often a discreet affair, one that is deeply entrenched in patriarchal values and traditions, and wary of the State machinery. Given how little agency a girl child has in a marriage, it is highly unlikely that she will report her husband for having sex with her. What, then, is the way forward? The obvious answer is education. It has always been known that educating girls and boys is one of the most effective ways of eradicating child marriage. Even the government of India acknowledged it when it said that child marriage is a reality in India due to economic and educational inequalities. However, what our government really meant was that given that child marriage is a reality, we might as well allow the consummation of marriage before the legal age of consent because “the institution of marriage must be protected”.

The government’s paranoia regarding the institution of marriage, as if it were more endangered than the Bengal tiger, is preposterous. And I don’t mean to be facetious about this. The government’s delusion is both amusing and scary; it has used this defence not only to argue for lower age of consent in child marriages but also against criminalizing marital rape which is an ongoing battle in the courts. In fact, in defence of not criminalizing marital rape, the government said that India could not follow the lead of western countries as “India has its own unique problems due to uneven literacy, economic and social diversity." Granted that India is an extremely complex terrain for the implementation of any such law, it cannot be used as an excuse for maintaining the status quo. Besides, it is not the government’s job to uphold the institution of marriage and what they call the Indian family system, based on the assumption that sexual consent is implicit in marriage and a nod to women’s autonomy will destabilize the institution. This is important because unless the government gets its priorities right, it will not be able to focus on levelling the “uneven” playing field that it acknowledges as the cause of social problems, also required for the effective implementation of women-friendly laws.

Nandita headshotNandita Dutta is deputy manager at the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) at Ashoka University in India. CSGS is a partner of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Envisioning a World of Feminist Peace

catiapostSince 1981, the United Nations has observed International Day of Peace on September 21. In its resolution, the UN marked the day as a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” But how far along are we in this process? Terrorism, nuclear weapons, militarization, and other visible forms of violence are in plain sight. And if one considers the hidden and silenced forms of violence, it is difficult to be optimistic.

As a global and long term trend, some popular and academic publications would have us believe that violence in the world (from wars to homicide) is declining. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, the 2013 Human Security Report, or Joshua Goldstein’s Winning the War on War argue that the data at our disposal shows that, not only has the number of interstate and intrastate wars decreased, battle-related casualties have also been in a downward trend since the end of the Cold War. Pinker goes as far as saying that recorded violent deaths have been on the decline at least since 10,000 BCE.

As feminists, however, we know better than to trust just numbers as if they were the only data at our disposal. Feminist scholarship and advocacy shows that those numbers and statistics are misleading, particularly as they ignore and make invisible violence against women and girls (VAWG). Monash University Professor Jacqui True claims that if qualitative and quantitative data on VAWG are taken seriously, we are not witnessing a decline in violence, quite the opposite. Feminists have exposed the extent and gravity of political violence committed in the home (so commonly characterized as non-political, because ‘domestic’); the underreporting and ignoring of sexualized and gender-based violence; and the multiple forms of harm – psychological, physical or economic – suffered by women and girls as a consequence of unequal gendered power structures during armed conflicts as well as in so-called peace times.

Feminist insights compel us to make violence and threats of VAWG central to our definition of peace. If VAWG is increasing, we cannot really say that we, as a human species, are getting better at peace. The challenge is then to recognize and make visible VAWG, its causes and consequences, as a precondition to, but also as inextricably linked to achieving a more peaceful and just world. In the view of the world’s longest-operating international women’s peace organization – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), feminist peace is expansive and inclusive. It is about recognizing all forms of oppression and violence as interrelated; about questioning how systems of power and privilege – from neoliberal capitalism and patriarchy, to militarism and racism – underlie and sustain a violent world; about providing feminist visions and models for a different, more just and peaceful future.

catiaquoteWILPF has been one of many women’s peace organizations who successfully lobbied the UN Security Council to recognize, in Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), that peace and security are linked to gender equality. Specifically, UNSCR 1325 – and several follow-up resolutions in subsequent years – created obligations for UN member states and other parties in armed conflicts – i.e., non-state actors, militias, humanitarian agencies, etc. – to adopt a “gender perspective” in the prevention of war, in peace processes, and in relief and recovery efforts. Often criticized for, among other things, adopting a narrow view of gender, UNSCR 1325 nevertheless recognizes the particular ways in which women are victimized during war, as well as the ways in which they participate in armed conflicts and in subsequent peace efforts.

A 2015 report on the implementation of the resolution – authored in consultation with women’s groups across the world by Radhika Coomaraswamy – shows, however, the chasm between feminist peace activists’ goals and the political and financial support their agenda receives from international and state policymakers. For example, despite growing evidence that women’s participation in peace negotiations contributes to the durability of peace agreements, there continues to be a reluctance to include women in conflict resolution and peace-building processes. Despite strong links between women’s rights (such as the right to education, health, political participation and leadership, or property) and their security and bodily integrity, gender equality is yet to become a central organizing principle of post-conflict humanitarian assistance, development, or human rights work.

Coomaraswamy’s report offers unmistakable evidence of the connections between justice, peace, and gender equality. Commitment to “Peace above all differences” and to “building a Culture of Peace” commands us, then, to take seriously both the work of feminist peace advocates and feminism as a lens with which to approach questions of peace, justice, and security. Only then can we begin to establish the conditions and institutions that nurture and support non-violent and just human relations, and recognize the inherent worthiness and dignity of every human being.

Scholar and activist around issues of peace and gender, Catia Confortini, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Peace and Justice Studies at Wellesley College and a member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

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Back to School, This Time with Social and Emotional Learning

27659266260 e65542181d zIt’s back-to-school time and families, youth, and educators must adjust their schedules for another school year. In the midst of the forms and information families receive – or that get “lost” in a child’s backpack or locker – you may have heard something about a social and emotional learning (SEL) initiative or curriculum. In fact, the local school system in my rural, seaside community is convening a team of educators to consider how SEL can inform and improve what teachers are already doing to promote positive youth outcomes.

SEL refers to the way individuals learn and use a set of social, emotional, behavioral, and character skills to navigate successfully in school, work, and relationships across the lifespan. Related experiences, programs, and curriculum vary widely just like the school or afterschool settings in which they are taught. Whether the particular program is focused on conflict resolution, character education, bullying prevention, or another version of social skills instruction, the development of SEL programs is based on the consensus among social scientists, educators, and health care professionals that social and emotional skills matter. The positive youth outcomes from high-quality, evidence-based SEL programs include improvements in behavior, attitudes, and academic outcomes. (Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405- 432).

Across the country at all levels of education – from state administrators of federal child care funds to infant-toddler and early childcare teachers or public school and afterschool leaders – a focus on SEL practices is gaining ground. For many, this is not a new conversation.

Here at the Wellesley Centers for Women, SEL has been an ongoing part of our work for the past thirty years.

  • In 1987, Open Circle was launched as a research project committed to the social and emotional wellbeing of children. Today, Open Circle provides a unique, evidence-based SEL program for grades K-5 aimed at proactively developing children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, positive relationships and problem solving, as well as helping schools develop a community where students feel safe and engaged in learning.
  • The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) has brought national attention to the importance of children's out-of-school time using research, training, and advocacy to strengthen children's emotional, physical, and social development.

gwynneblogFrom my desk at NIOST, I’m starting the school year by working at the national, state, and local levels to support educators and administrators in their efforts to promote positive youth outcomes, especially in the expanding field of SEL. Specifically, I am researching the SEL programs that states are currently adopting in preparation for our forthcoming workshop for out-of-school time (OST) leaders on how to integrate these practices into school-age child care or other OST settings. As I do this work, my background as a former school committee member and education advocate means I can’t resist passing along the newest SEL information that comes across my desk to the regional school administrators in my community who are convening the SEL planning discussions for local schools.

If you want more information about SEL programs and practices, check out the Wallace Foundation’s May 2017 report, Navigating SEL from the Inside Out.

If you simply want to celebrate the importance and purpose of afterschool care for the wellbeing of children and families, consider joining the 18th annual Lights On Afterschool on October 26, 2017. This campaign includes a series of events across the U.S. promoting awareness of the many ways OST programs contribute to positive youth outcomes and children’s wellbeing.

If you have other ideas or resource recommendations for how SEL can be incorporated more into OST programming, please share in the comments. Let’s make this a rewarding year all-around for our young people and those who support them!

Gwynne Guzzeau, M.S., J.D., is a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. She has been affiliated with the Gestalt International Study Center for a number of years as a faculty member and Professional Associate and served as executive director from 2014-2016.

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Developing Babies’ Literacy Skills

BlogBabyTalkFriday, September 8, is International Literacy Day! In my opinion, every day should be called Literacy Day given its critical importance to all. This is especially true for very young children as developing language and pre-literacy skills are paramount to later academic success.

Parents, caregivers and other adults can do so much to help young children with these needed skills starting with their birth. Talking with babies before they even can use words helps them learn. Talking and discussing what you are doing while you are doing it, such as diapering, or preparing a bottle can become natural and spontaneous if done often enough. Conversations can happen throughout the day including times of bathing, playing, diapering, or feeding. Adults can talk with the infant and about what s/he sees or about what is happening. When you are outside, talk about what you see as well as what the baby is looking at. This joint referencing helps to teach the infant about the world by providing the words that go with an object or event. When very young, the adult follows the baby’s gaze, and at about six months, the baby is able to observe an adult’s gaze, look in the same direction and look at the same object. Experiences of joint referencing predict children’s understanding of words (receptive language) and well as their spoken vocabulary (expressive language).

Even singing helps babies with their language and literacy skills- no matter how well you sing. Silly songs can get babies’ attention, while repeating familiar songs can help calm and soothe them. You can even make up songs as it is the sound of your voice that is most important to the baby.

Reading27742524862 492ed3471a z and sharing books begins at birth. Try to read aloud to your baby every day! With the very young infant you may look at only one page of a book- in time, you can look together at two or more. Turning the pages, labeling pictures and describing what is happening on the page all lead to vocabulary and grammar development. Reading to your baby also predicts their early reading and writing skills! Cuddling together to read and share books is a very pleasant experience for both the infant and you! These very early enjoyable experiences can lead to a life-long love of reading. When there are plenty of books available, an infant may even try to look at the pictures in books on her/his own. And, remember your local library is a good source of books for your infant.

When a baby’s life is filled with talk, conversations, and books, the infant has a good start on the road to academic success.

Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D., is a senior research scientist and member of the Work, Families and Children Team at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. Her research focuses on child development, early care and education, and school readiness, with a focus on policy implications.

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Addressing DACA Impact on School Climate

diversechildrengroupThe Trump administration has announced the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This decision will affect 800,000 young people in our country. Within six months, they could lose their protected status. This will undoubtedly impact students and their families in a profound way.

At Open Circle, we are deeply concerned about how this will affect the way students engage with school, teachers, and their peers. It’s important to acknowledge that this decision will have ripple effects that will permeate every facet of a school community since schools reflect the fears, concerns, hopes, and aspirations of the neighborhoods they serve.

It is critical during these times of uncertainty that schools remain places where children and families feel welcomed, safe, and cared for. Equipping our children with skills and tools to talk about and express their feelings is essential to emotional wellbeing. Key to this process is providing time in the school day when students are explicitly taught social emotional learning (SEL) skills and have the opportunity to share their emotions and experiences in a non-judgmental, nurturing environment. Encouraging this skill building and providing this communication channel ensures that children are well cared for and able to stay engaged in school.

Focusing on the quality of relationships is another important way to support your school community. It is important to reassure children and families that the positive relationships they have nurtured within their school community remain strong and unwavering.

As educators, we should be aware that feelings of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and sadness may arise for many members of our school community.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • As much as possible, keep the lines of communication open and free-flowing.
  • Be clear on what your school stands for and reaffirm your mission and commitments to the students and families.
  • Give grace and empathy when necessary.
  • Create time in each day for both students and staff members to talk about how they are feeling.
  • Teach specific coping strategies and give students opportunities to practice.
  • Provide children with the tools they need to manage their feelings and give them permission to express the range of emotions that will no doubt be present.
  • Schedule time daily for meditation, calm breathing or reflection through journaling or sitting quietly. These practices can reduce stress and increase focus which supports learning.
  • Take care of the emotional needs of the adult community. We must first attend to our needs before we can adequately care for the needs of our children.
  • Share facts about current events as you understand them with students.

Sometimes we think that making students aware of what’s going on in the news will make them upset or anxious. Saying nothing may invite rumors and heightened anxiety. Students need to receive and process information with the guidance of caring adults.

Whether or not the rescinding of DACA directly impacts us or people we know, we will all feel the effects of this in our lives. Our children need to know that there are adults who care, and who are willing to support them no matter what. SEL programs such as Open Circle can provide schools with the structure and resources they need to help children successfully navigate challenging circumstances.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester was named Open Circle's new Director in July 2017. Prior to that she led Open Circle’s teacher development programming, which prepares educators to implement and integrate the Open Circle Curriculum. Open Circle is a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College.

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New Messages in Boston Race Protests

AHoffmanBlogPostNew Messages in Boston Race Protests

In 1973, when I was 21, I dropped out of college in New Jersey and moved to Boston. I didn’t have a clear plan or strong reason for the move. A girl I knew, on whom I was developing a huge crush, had relocated here; so had my boyfriend (life was complicated). The bookstores in Harvard Square stayed open until midnight—in contrast to the town I’d grown up in, which had no bookstores at all. It seemed like a cool place to be.

So I was new to the city, and living in my own world of discovering feminism and sharing collective apartments and working at odd jobs and coming out. I was not aware of Judge Arthur Garrity’s ruling in 1974 ordering students to be bused from neighborhood to neighborhood in order to desegregate the Boston Public Schools. I may not even have been aware of the violence that greeted the first black students to attend South Boston High, who were abused and threatened and pelted with rocks. Gradually, I learned. I remember being at a party at which half of the guests suddenly grabbed their coats and rushed out, someone having received a call that a black family in the South End was being attacked and needed defenders. These same progressives and others organized marches against the racist violence, but their outcry didn’t make much of an impression, in a city whose politics were dominated by ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights), the South Boston Marshals, and other antibusing groups.

I didn’t really understand what had happened in Boston until years later, after I did some reading about the city’s neighborhoods; the class, racial, and ethnic tensions that shaped them; and how they were changing because of redlining and gentrification—in particular, The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions, by Hillel Levine; Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, by J. Anthony Lukas; and All Souls: A Family Story From Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald.

The contrast between then and last weekend—when more than 40,000 people (from within the city, its suburbs, and beyond) turned out on a hot, humid August day to protest a so-called Free Speech Rally on Boston Common that threatened to give a platform to racists, Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members—is astounding. From my vantage point, my fellow marchers seemed to come from all walks of life: students, union members, elders, yuppies. Blacks, whites, Latino/as, Asians, Native Americans. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists. LGBTQ folks and straights. Feminists, anarchists, socialists, Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans. Most of the signs were home-made, and they, like the marchers who carried them, were both serious and joyful: “Black Lives Matter,” “Jewish Lesbian Against White Supremacy,” “The Only Thing We Hate is the Yankees,” and “Boston Ain’t Nazi-Town.” At one time, I wouldn’t have been so sure of that. Yet Mayor Marty Walsh seemed to have no doubt that he was speaking for most of his constituents when he declared, “We reject racism, we reject white supremacy, we reject anti-Semitism, we reject the KKK, we reject neo-Nazis, we reject domestic terrorism and we reject hatred, and we will do every single thing in our power to keep hate out of our city.”

amyh bostonmarchHow did this turnaround happen? I’m glad of it, but I don’t know. Some of the people I talked to theorized about a better-educated population, a two-term black president, more understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people and other nonmainstream folk—and even the experience of the 1970s, from which at least some white people in Boston concluded that the anger, fear, and hatred that they directed toward people of color caused only misery and destruction—not only to others but even to themselves.

Surely some of it has to do with demographic changes. Boston is no longer as white as it was in the 1970s, and its neighborhoods are not quite as segregated (although don’t get me wrong, they are segregated still). People with wildly different backgrounds, cultures, and values have more day-to-day interaction—at work, on their block, in stores, on the T. Crime is down. Art, music, literary, and cultural events are not confined to Symphony Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hatch Shell on the Fourth of July—there are happenings throughout the neighborhoods that draw people out into the open, to enjoy them together.

Yet Boston remains a city of enormous economic inequality, institutional racism, struggling schools, and expensive housing and mass transit. The old fault lines could easily re-open, as people compete for scarce resources. After the march, some—cynics? realists?—said, “Nice turnout—now what?” For August 19 to be meaningful, we have to keep it going. For some of us, the protest was just one of a life-long series of actions, while for others it was a first. For all of us—certainly for me—it is an inspiration to keep marching in a positive direction, by remaining engaged and active, by working for justice and peace.

A writer, editor, and community activist, Amy Hoffman, M.F.A., is the editor-in-chief of Women’s Review of Books, published by the Wellesley Centers for Women and Old City Publishing. Her most recent book is The Off Season, a novel, forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press.

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Reflections on Charlottesville

layli charlottesville 2Reflections on Charlottesville

Why has it been so hard to eliminate racism in the United States, despite concerted and valiant efforts, ever-growing numbers of people of goodwill, lots of good thinking about the issue, and some clear-cut progress and gains over the years? As a researcher and director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, a research institute with a demonstrated commitment to gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing in all its forms, including ending racism, my mind turns more to questions than answers today, in the wake of what happened in Charlottesville this past Saturday, August 12.

Questions I am asking include things like: What are we doing that we think is working but which actually isn’t working? What do we need to do that we aren’t doing that would actually work? Which of the things we are actually doing do work and just need more time or more people involved? And, in what ways do we need to more deeply operationalize things we know to be true but tend to abandon to the realm of platitudes? How can we more effectively move from intellectual knowledge to concrete action to measurable social transformation?

Last week, I spent a week in retreat with members of my religious community, the Baha’í Faith. For two of those days, I led discussions addressing the elimination of racism, which Baha’ís refer to as “The Most Challenging Issue.” We gave thought to the inner (self-focused) and outer (public) actions and practices needed to truly eliminate racism, and we asked some hard questions about our own practices and the practices of others in the social change field. We reflected deeply on passages such as these, penned 1938 by Shoghi Effendi, who was charged with guarding the unity of our Faith as it grew from local to global:

“Freedom from racial prejudice, in any of its forms, should, at such a time as this when an increasingly large section of the human race is falling a victim to its devastating ferocity, be adopted as the watchword of the entire body of the American believers, in whichever state they reside, in whatever circles they move, whatever their age, traditions, tastes, and habits. It should be consistently demonstrated in every phase of their activity and life, whether in the Bahá’í community or outside it, in public or in private, formally as well as informally, individually as well as in their official capacity as organized groups, committees and Assemblies. It should be deliberately cultivated through the various and everyday opportunities, no matter how insignificant, that present themselves, whether in their homes, their business offices, their schools and colleges, their social parties and recreation grounds, their Bahá’í meetings, conferences, conventions, summer schools and Assemblies.”

“A tremendous effort is required by both races if their outlook, their manners, and conduct are to reflect, in this darkened age, the spirit and teachings of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. Casting away once and for all the fallacious doctrine of racial superiority, with all its attendant evils, confusion, and miseries, and welcoming and encouraging the intermixture of races, and tearing down the barriers that now divide them, they should each endeavor, day and night, to fulfill their particular responsibilities in the common task which so urgently faces them. Let them, while each is attempting to contribute its share to the solution of this perplexing problem, call to mind the warnings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and visualize, while there is yet time, the dire consequences that must follow if this challenging and unhappy situation that faces the entire American nation is not definitely remedied.”

Our takeaways from these days of contemplation and discourse left us poignantly aware that inner and outer work must constantly run parallel, allowing us to transform into beings who actually desire and actively create justice, peace, and harmony, from the level of our deepest gut feelings to the level of our highest spiritual aspirations. To think all the “right” thoughts and hold all the “right” values is not enough, because the transformation of society requires so much more.

layli charlottesville 1As a developmental psychologist who works from an ecological systems theory framework, I know that interventions on racism must take place at every level from the most interior to the most distal, in order to be successful and sustainable. Yet, as a lifelong scholar of both African American studies and women’s studies, I also know that we must perpetually refresh our understanding about what kinds of social movement methods work, and we must stay tuned in to when and where they need refinement. Sometimes, our assumptions about what kinds of methods work and why they work (or don’t work) need to be questioned.

As a developmental psychologist, I also can confirm that babies don’t enter the world knowing hate. Hate is learned by imitation, but it is also absorbed passively through language and imagery, and stimulated by deprivation, hardship, ridicule, and trauma. While unchecked power and privilege, often conferred by birth circumstances, also have the power to accelerate hate, these alone are not sufficient to create it. There is a complex calculus to how hate is created – which means there is also a complex calculus to how it can and must be uncreated. We are sophisticated enough now as a society to figure this out and execute on that knowledge.

A big part of my talk at the Baha’í retreat centered on the politics of invitation, the notion of inviting others to a better world, as differentiated from the politics of opposition, which rely on fighting and struggling our way to a better world. If unity is the goal, opposition cannot logically be the means to that end. And we now know that, psychologically, opposition to people and their views only entrenches them further in their views. So, what other methods might we consider if we want to eradicate racism and promote justice, peace, commonweal, and amity?

All of us can take small everyday actions to eradicate racism, and some of us can take sweeping, expansive actions to catalyze the eradication of racism on a broad scale. What’s stopping us? Please share your questions and thoughts about how we can genuinely eliminate racism from our country and the world!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

 

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13 Reasons Why and the Need for Correct Messages About Teen Depression and Suicide

13 Reasons Why Character Poster Clay Jensen13 Reasons Why and the Need for Correct Messages About Teen Depression and Suicide

By now, parents and professionals have reacted to the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. Mental health advocates and school administrators have highlighted the risks of depicting suicide as a means of revenge, of dramatizing teen suicide, and of showing school counselors as uncaring and ineffective. I would be remiss if I did not add my voice to others' by expressing my dismay that this program exposes teens to such unhealthy messages about such an important topic, and that teen depression is presented as a malady that can only be addressed through suicide.

Rather than repeating the many critiques of this series, my purpose here is to share correct messages about adolescent depression and suicide that we, as professionals and parents, should know and should be sharing with our children. Of course this is a difficult topic to broach with adolescents, but given that so many teens have watched this series already, we must embrace this opportunity to teach our children, and ourselves, about youth depression and suicide. This conversation is particularly important now, in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Month.

In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and rates of suicidal thinking and behavior are particularly high among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual youth. While youth depression and youth suicide are distinct concerns, approximately half of all teens that die by suicide have a mood disorder, such as depression, at the time. Adolescent depression is quite common, with approximately 11 percent of all teens experiencing depression during adolescence. Although youth depression is prevalent and impairing, we now have available numerous depression prevention and treatment protocols that work. Thus, most teens who struggle with depression go on to lead healthy and productive lives.

How do we know if a teen might be experiencing depression or considering suicide? Among other symptoms, signs of youth depression include low mood or irritability, lack of interest in activities, a change to sleep or eating patterns, reduced concentration, fatigue, low self-esteem, and thoughts of death or suicide. Of course all teens experience such symptoms now and then. We worry about teens that experience a cluster of these symptoms, and when these symptoms persist over a period of at least two weeks.

tracy thirteenreasons quoteLikewise, we worry about teens that exhibit signs of suicide. Sometimes these signs are subtle, such as giving away prized possessions, withdrawing from friends, or exhibiting significant behavioral changes, such as intense fights with family and friends. Teens thinking about suicide may also provide verbal cues, such as, “I wish I were dead” and “It’s not worth it anymore.” Also, many people who contemplate suicide do so because they believe they are a burden to others, and that they will be doing others a favor if they are no longer here. Thus, if you hear a teen say, “My family would be better off without me,” it is important to take action. Remember that 50-70 percent of people who make a suicide attempt communicate their intent prior to acting, mostly through such actions or verbal cues. Thus, if you recognize any of these signs, it is important to ASK. Although many of us find it scary to ask about suicide, or worry that asking about suicide will give someone the idea to attempt suicide, we know from numerous studies that talking about suicide will not lead to suicidal behavior.

How do you ask a teen if s/he might be thinking about suicide? Ask the question directly. It is okay to ask a teen if s/he has ever felt like it would be better if they were dead, or if, when very upset, they have experienced suicidal thoughts. If a teen acknowledges suicidal thoughts, s/he should be provided reassurance that help is available, and should be brought for an evaluation and treatment immediately. It’s important to remember that most people who talk about suicide do not really want to die. In fact, most suicides are not impulsive acts, and most people who contemplate suicide give many cues of their intentions, making suicide a largely preventable form of death in the United States.

The primary danger of 13 Reasons Why is that it reinforces damaging myths about youth depression and suicide. Now that this series has been released, and knowing that our teens may well have watched it, our best course of action is to counter those damaging myths by sharing important truths about teen depression and suicide.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D. is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, as well as the director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which focus on research and evaluation designed to prevent the onset of mental health concerns in children and adolescents.

References:

Avenevoli, S., Swendsen, J., He, J., Burstein, M., & Merikangas, K. R. (2015). Major depression in the national comorbidity survey–adolescent supplement: Prevalence, correlates, and treatment. Journal of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(1), 37-44. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2014.10.010
Berkowitz, Larry (2017). Suicide Assessment and Intervention Training for Mental Health Professionals [PowerPoint slides]. NEAS, 2400 Post Road, Warwick, RI.
Burton, C. M., Marshal, M. P., Chisolm, D. J., Sucato, G. S., & Friedman, M. S. (2013). Sexual minority-related victimization as a mediator of mental health disparities in sexual minority youth: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of youth and adolescence, 42(3), 394-402.
Gould, M.S., Marrocco, F.A., Kleinman, M., Thomas, J.G., Mosstkoff, K., Cote, J., & Davies, M. (2005). Evaluating iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 293(13), 1635-43.
Joiner, T. (2009). The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: Current empirical status. Psychological Science Agenda, 23(6).
Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J., Harris, W. A., ... & Whittle, L. (2014). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance--United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Surveillance Summaries. Volume 63, Number SS-4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nadworny, E. (2016). Middle School Suicides Reach an All-Time High. www.NPR.org
Nock, M.K., Green, J.G., Hwang, I., McLaughlin, K.A., Sampson, N.A., Zaslavsky, A.M., & Kessler, R.C. (2013). Prevalence, correlates, and treatment of lifetime suicide behavior among adolescents: results from the Nation Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(3), 300-10.
QPR Institute. QPR Online Gatekeeper Training for ORGANIZATIONS [Training modules]. Retrieved from https://www.qprinstitute.com/organization-training
Robins, E., Gassner, S., Kayes, J., Wilkinson Jr, R. H., & Murphy, G. E. (1959). The communication of suicidal intent: a study of 134 consecutive cases of successful (completed) suicide. American Journal of Psychiatry, 115(8), 724-733.
The JED Foundation. (2017). 13 Reasons Why: Talking Points [Leaflet]. Retrieved from https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/
World Health Orgranization. (2004, September 8). Suicide huge but preventable public health problem, says WHO [Online forum post]. Retrieved from WHO Media centre website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2004/pr61/en/

 

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A Week to Appreciate Afterschool Professionals – April 24-28

A Week to Appreciate Afterschool Professionals – April 24-28


SocialGraphic EmpoweringIt’s Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week! Perhaps we should back up - what is an Afterschool Professional? Maybe you call them staff, teachers, or care providers. There are many names for the same thing – someone trained to work with youth during out-of-school time.

This week is a chance to recognize the “professional” in Afterschool Professionals. We know that afterschool matters for kids, and that afterschool professionals impact the quality of that programming. Some fun facts:

  • Participation in afterschool programs consistently increased from 2004 to 2014, rising by nearly 2 million children from 2009 to 2014 alone. In 2014, 10.2 million children (18%) participated in an afterschool program.
  • Regular participation in afterschool programs has been shown to help narrow the achievement gap between high- and low-income students in math, improve academic and behavioral outcomes, and reduce school absences.
  • The Afterschool field has defined what it takes to provide quality afterschool programming. The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) has adopted a set of Core Knowledge and Competencies, and at least 24 states have their own versions.
  • Afterschool Professionals are well-educated. A recent NAA survey of its members found that 34% of staff surveyed reported having a Masters or Doctorate degree.

And some less fun facts:

  • Less than half of afterschool professionals surveyed have access to health insurance and 39% do not have any benefits (such as insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, retirement savings).
  • The field suffers from high turnover (with some estimates up to 40% annually), with pay cited as the number one reason people leave their job.

So how can you show your appreciation? The actions of this week should be twofold. First, express your individual appreciation for those in your community who work with youth – maybe your own children - afterschool. Give them a card with words of heartfelt thanks, bake them some muffins, say thanks. But don’t stop there. Second, take some time to appreciate the incredible contribution of afterschool professionals in improving youth academic, behavioral, and social emotional outcomes. Given the proposed budget cuts of the current administration, it seems an opportune time to also suggest you contact your representatives and let them know how much you support afterschool professionals (the Afterschool Alliance also has information to guide you).

This week is a chance to both thank Afterschool Professionals for keeping our kids safe and happy, and to think bigger about what it takes to be an afterschool professional and the huge positive impact they have on the lives of youth. So, to all the Afterschool Professionals, thank you!

Betsy Starr, M.Ed. is a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her work focuses on professional development and system-building for the field of afterschool and youth development.

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Female Kicker Makes History

FootballStockFemale Kicker Makes History

When Arizona high school senior Becca Longo on Wednesday officially signed on to be a kicker for Division II Adams State University Football, it was notable for a key reason: She was getting paid.

Of course, she is not literally getting paid. But she is getting a scholarship to play. There is growing history of female athletes playing football at the college level, but it’s not clear that any others have been recruited and given an athletic scholarship.

Katie Hnida, who played for Colorado and then New Mexico, walked on. And while Shelley Osborne in 2014 was recruited from Jeffersonville High in Indiana to play defensive back at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, they play in the NAIA, which does not award scholarships. (Three years later, however, she is still on the roster as an active member of the team.

Why do scholarship dollars matter?

Symbolically it’s a big deal. Not only for the obvious problem women have getting paid the same money for the same work as men (the wage gap now stands at 82 cents to the dollar men earn). But the scholarship also begins to challenge an historic bias about how males and females view and participate in sports. Culturally, there is an assumption that men play to win and women play for fun and fitness, notions reinforced through the origins and structures of sport opportunities.

It has taken decades for female athletes to be viewed as individuals every bit as driven and intense as their male counterparts. The scholarship helps make that case for one simple reason: When coaches recruit, they don’t waste money. They are picking talent and assembling the elements of their team with a goal of winning.

Credit Adams State coach, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Timm Rosenbach.  He told media that he just picked a player he thought could compete. “I see her as a football player who earned it,” he said. “She has a strong leg and can be very accurate.” Last season Longo made 30 of 33 point-after kicks and a 30-yard field goal

When Hnida in 2003 became the first female to score an extra point in an NCAA Division I game (she actually scored two, against Texas State), it was seen as a stunning event. More than a dozen years later, Longo’s recruitment is more noteworthy than shocking.

We are – at long last – becoming acclimated to the talent and intensity of female athletes. It is not a freak occurrence to see women excel. It’s sinking in that high-level ability can be developed, trained and practiced. Why shouldn’t a 5’11” 140-pound athlete with a powerful leg and strong mental make-up kick field goals?

Just consider the arching bombs that female soccer players launch down a field toward a net. Aim over uprights and a boundary is breached.

Longo’s signing marks progress in the cultural understanding that women – as well as men – can be dazzling athletes worth real money. (NCAA women’s tournament basketball game UConn vs. Mississippi State, anyone?)>

Yet even as Longo’s name was hurriedly added to the Wikipedia “female American football players” entry, one notes that the list isn’t very long. The reasons for girls and women not to play football – aside from reasons no one should – reflect a stubborn gender bias about what is “appropriate” and what is not, particularly when we are talking about kickers.

Journalist Laura Pappano is writer-in-residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women and was a leader of The Women’s Sports Leadership Project. For seven years, she edited the FairGameNews blog, now preserved as an archive.

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Supporting Housing Stability for Victims of Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Sexual Assault

Supporting Housing Stability for Victims of Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Sexual Assault

This policy brief originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2016 Research & Action Report from the Wellesley Centers for Women as part of the multi-media series Advancing the Status of Women & Girls, Families & Communities: PolicyRecommendations for the Next U.S. President.


safety imageVictims of Domestic Violence Often Face Housing Problems
The physical, psychological, and economic consequences for victims of domestic violence (DV) and their families have been well documented, and although recent federal legislation provides certain housing protections for some DV victims, many women and their families remain at great risk for homelessness and ongoing violence.

Concerning Data, Trends, and Experiences
Domestic violence (DV) exists in every community, affecting people regardless of age, race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality. Federal legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 and its reauthorization in 2013 acknowledges the problem and provides some housing protections for victims of DV in federally subsidized housing. While such housing protections are an important step forward, there remain critical gaps for many DV victims.

In addition to the physical and psychological effects of DV, many women face considerable economic hardships and challenges securing stable housing for themselves and their families if they try to leave an abusive partner—research indicates a concerning relationship between DV and female homelessness.) Further, dominating behavior by an abuser is part of a pattern of control, and some women trying to leave an abusive relationship may often need to move to substandard housing -- or end up without any housing -- while they often continue to be at risk for violence from their abuser after they leave.

Research has found that among women who were seeking help after separating from an abusive partner, 25 to 50 percent reported housing-related problems. Over one third (38 percent) reported that they became homeless immediately after separating from their partner. An additional 25 percent reported needing to leave their homes during the year after separation.

The same study found that homelessness for DV victims may result from circumstances such as a sudden and urgent need to be safe from an abuser. In such cases, victims may rely on emergency calls to the police for help. However, due to zero tolerance policies or nuisance ordinances across many cities, DV victims who repeatedly call 911 for help may be evicted. Such policies may result in women staying in abusive relationships in order to keep their homes. Women in subsidized housing face additional barriers and are especially vulnerable because there are few low-income housing units available, and the federal programs developed to assist women by paying a portion of their rent (e.g., Section 8) have long waiting lists.

housingstability

VAWA of 2005 established important housing protections for women in certain federal housing programs. The 2013 reauthorization expanded housing protections to protect more victims by 1) expanding the violence categories to include sexual assault in addition to DV, dating violence, and stalking, 2) expanding protections to cover all federally subsidized housing programs, 3) clarifying the notice tenants must receive about their rights under VAWA, and 4) including an emergency transfer policy requirement for landlords, managers, and owners.

This legislation represents considerable progress in recognizing the housing issues that victims of DV face and has put protections in place for victims to be able to stay in their homes or move to another location. However, implementation challenges remain: there is no definition of “actual and imminent threat,” putting public housing residents at risk for eviction; it is not clear where victims can file complaints against housing administrators; and victims living in private housing are not covered by the legislation. These gaps further extend victimization.

Approaches and Recommendations
Recommendations for improving housing stability include:

  • According to VAWA, a public housing agency (PHA), owner, or manager may evict or terminate assistance to a victim if the PHA, owner, or manager can demonstrate actual and imminent threat to other tenants or employees at the property. Like VAWA 2005, VAWA 2013 does not define “actual and imminent threat.” Therefore, it will be critical for advocates to work with the federal agencies responsible for administering the provisions to include a clear definition of this crucial term as well as guidance in their regulations.

  • The housing protections contained in VAWA do not clearly indicate where to file complaints if a PHA refuses to comply. Policymakers and advocates should provide additional guidance on filing procedures and requirements, and these should be provided to tenants along with their notification of rights.

  • In coordination with local law enforcement and DV advocates, there should be outreach and training provided to PHAs and owners on VAWA 2013 that include victim-centered information on the dynamics of DV, sexual assault, and stalking.

  • Confidentiality requirements that protect the disclosure of personal information required in documents that must be presented by a victim seeking housing protections should be bolstered in the interest of protecting the victim’s new location from an abuser.

  • VAWA is designed to protect victims who reside in federally subsidized housing programs. However, legislatures should consider policies and procedures that protect victims in private housing and those who own homes with their abuser. In a 2015 study that I co-authored along with Kelly M. Socia and Malgorzata J. Zuber, we found that an increase in foreclosures in a community leads to increases of DV reports to police. Indeed, DV affects women in all communities, and there should be housing protections available to every victim seeking to leave an abusive partner.

  • There should be coordinated efforts between the federal government and local communities to eliminate the application of nuisance ordinances to victims of DV, stalking, and sexual assault.

April Pattavina, Ph.D. is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women working with a team of collaborators on the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative.

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For the Trailblazing Women Who Mentor Me

For the Trailblazing Women Who Mentor Me

January is National Mentoring Month, a time to recognize the value of mentoring in all its forms. Kavindya Thennakoon ‘19, a student assistant in the WCW communications department, reflects on the profound impact that mentors have had on her path to Wellesley and beyond.


KaviAntoniaMentorship was the reason I came to Wellesley College, all the way across the globe from Sri Lanka. Back in 2013 on the day of the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child I was given the opportunity to address the Sri Lankan parliament on the status of young women in Sri Lanka and on what can be done to make things better. I spoke on how Sri Lanka lacked a comprehensive sex education curricula, how the judiciary victim-blamed women and girls, and how male parliamentarians sitting in the audience had set a very bad precedent.

Little did I know that in the audience were two Wellesley women, the past U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele Sison (Class of '81) and UNRWA chief of staff Antonia DeMeo (Class of ’89) who was the UNICEF deputy representative to Sri Lanka at the time. In the years to come Antonia became such an important part of my life -- a mentor if not for whom Wellesley would have remained just a distant dream.

Antonia has remained such an incredible role model, who I constantly run back to for advice, guidance, and reassurance. For me, both my mother and Antonia were such good role models of women who’ve broken the barriers, defied the norms, and shattered the stereotypes.

Coming into Wellesley I was embraced by a host of wonderful mentors, from Sarah Isham and Elizabeth Mandeville (Class of ‘04) from Career Education, who connected me with a number of great opportunities while helping me figure out my options and interests, to Milena Mareva (Class of ‘01) from Admissions and Karen Pabon from Slater International Center, who were always there with advice and support to handle the tough transition from home to college. From there I made my next stop at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and I couldn’t have possibly asked for anything better.

My work here at the Centers as a communications assistant is something beyond a mere task-oriented job. To me, it has been a learning journey where I’ve gathered such important skills in the areas that I am most passionate about. It’s such a refreshing change to be mentored and guided rather than merely supervised, which is the exact environment that the WCW communications team members, especially Donna Tambascio and Megan Cassidy, have created.

Kaviquote

At WCW I have ample creative space to work on projects that I am interested in, to work with software that I am keen to know more about, and to learn something new every day instead of ticking a to-do list. More than anything else, it’s such a great feeling to work under people who value your mental health and wellbeing above all else, and who are ever ready to give you all the space and time you need to recover. Looking back at my journey starting off in a community where girls are not allowed to be out on the streets past seven and where rape victims are blamed for their dress and chastity, I can not stress enough the critical role played by the trailblazing mentors in shaping my life.

Young adults who face an opportunity gap, but have a mentor, are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor, according to a 2014 study commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. However the report also stated that 1 in 3 young people in the U.S will grow up without a mentor. This number could grow when considering countries like mine where the concept of mentorship is still foreign. Having a safety net of women who you can fall back on for advice, guidance, and mentorship is a chance that every girl deserves. In a world where board rooms are tipped off balance, where feminism is a crime, and where women are constantly othered every step of the way, we all need that extra push.

Kavindya Thennakoon is a student assistant in the communications department at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is a Wellesley College sophomore (Class of ‘19) double majoring in Anthropology and Cinema and Media Studies.

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Year-End Reflections: 2016

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Year-End Reflections: 2016

2016 was an intense year. The Wall Street Journal’s Year in Review captured the feeling quite well with this headline: “The World Order in Flux.” It has felt that way not only in the geopolitical sphere, but also in the ecological sphere and the psychological sphere. It has been a year of wild ups and downs, surprises both good and bad, and looming unknowns. I don’t really think that this year was an exception, however; rather, I think it is reflective of an accelerating trend. I don’t expect 2017 to be any less eventful or easier on the soul. Rather, I think this year has – and next year also will – require everything we have to steer the world aright. But steer we must! There’s no letting go of the wheel or the reins!

The year was dominated by election politics, the plight of refugees, the horrors of war and the toll of extremism, increasing intolerance around the world, and accelerating climate change. Quieter but equally important stories were about the suffering of the economically strained as well as the destitute, the worsening crisis of addiction and the medical and mental health struggles behind it, and the erosion of women’s rights and freedoms in the U.S. and around the world. Quieter still has been the story of the erosion of the boundaries of truth and reality, especially (but not only) in the media, as evidenced by the way the polls let us down and also the fake news explosion, leading up to the selection by the Oxford Dictionary of “post-truth” as the word of the year…

We are in many respects losing touch with the foundations of a world we thought we knew, but apparently did not. My guess is that this process will continue, exposing the illogic of a flawed logic that has governed world affairs for a very long time – a logic that fails to put gender equality, social justice, and, more plainly, human wellbeing at the center of how we do things. The current scenario will plague us until we recalibrate accordingly.

The other night I was thinking about how many people feel immobilized by impending changes in the U.S. government. I thought to myself, “If I was president, what would I do?” Then I realized that that is a question we all need to ask ourselves. And then, rather than following that thought with “I’m not president, so those things will never happen,” we should follow it with “OK, now how can I work for those things anyway, even though I’m not president?” I was reminded of the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation movement, and other powerful social movements around the world, like the decolonial and independence movements of formerly colonized countries, the anti-apartheid movement, various labor movements, peace movements, land rights movements, and other human rights movements. These were all movements of people who worked for their agenda anyway, even though they were not president, not heads of state. They were not just partisan political movements, but they were cross-cutting movements by people of conscience for equality, social justice, and human wellbeing.

The bottom line is this: We can never forget that we ARE a super-power in our own right, if we choose to be. So, in 2017, let’s choose it!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

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The Power and Purpose of Post-Election Relationships

adults sitting circleThe Power and Purpose of Post-Election Relationships

One of the central themes of the work we do at Open Circle is relationship building. Developing and nurturing positive and meaningful relationships in schools within the adult community, among the student body and between adults and students is the foundation for creating a learning environment in which everyone feels cared for, can be their best self and do their best learning.

In these post-election times, keeping the focus on relationships is even more important. Now more than ever we are charged with intentionally taking time to address the range of emotions and feelings that our children are experiencing. Giving children the tools needed to speak up, to be allies and positive leaders can empower them during a time when many are feeling confused, uncertain and/or powerless.

Social and emotional learning provides a framework in which to engage students in discussion, reflection and action that can lead to clarity, bridge building and calm.

In the midst of caring for our children we must first attend to ourselves. Similar to the flight attendant instructions of “put your oxygen mask on first,” we cannot expect to be effective with helping our children manage their feelings and how to disagree without being disagreeable if we don’t first do those things ourselves.

The complexities and the social dynamics that we have seen during the election and are seeing played out post-election contain intricacies that our children cannot fully grasp. Our children’s processing of current events is a mirror of how we are processing those same events. They know something is up, but they only know how they should feel or react to that “thing” as they observe how we, the adults in their network, are reacting. Children take their cues from us.

Our children’s pain, tears, fears and anger are often mirror reflections of our pain, tears, fears and anger. To gain a deeper understanding of what many of our children are feeling all we have to do is look at what is happening within the adult community. Children do not process their emotions nor do they take firm stances on social and political issues in a vacuum. Children’s ability to process current events is directly related to how the adults are processing those same events. Many of our children have seen social dynamics during this election season that are confusing and confounding for them. It is critical that we, the community of adults caring for children, are intentional about doing our own processing, healing and talking. Sharing our emotions, fears and hopes with each other. These moments of caring for one another as adults will equip us to be emotionally available for our children and will provide clarity for us as we model how to be in genuine caring positive relationships with one another, when we agree and even more importantly when we disagree.

ocblogquoteWith this in mind, let us be intentional about the work we do with each other. Let us not fear having difficult conversations, shedding tears, or being allies for one another. It is only when we have walked the walk that we can we be effective conveyors of talking the talk.

Now more than ever, it is important for us to lean in and not shy away from each other. Modeling for our children the power of the tending instinct.* Embracing each other, literally and figuratively, to create communities, schools, classrooms, offices in which no one feels less than, marginalized or pushed to the side. Teaching our children to care for themselves and each other increases empathy, self-awareness and social awareness, which may lead to responsible decisions when they engage with one another and to building relationship skills that bridge political affiliation, race, religion, class, gender identity, and nationality.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester is a program manager at Open Circle, a leading provider of evidence-based curriculum and professional development for social and emotional learning in elementary schools. Open Circle is a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College.

 

 * Taylor, E. Shelley, 2014, The Tending Instinct: Women, Men and the Biology of Nurturing.

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World AIDS Day: Reflections and Hopes from an African Village

16183812469 598e896cd5 z 300x199World AIDS Day: Reflections and Hopes from an African Village

The Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation, (PCE) my persistent mission and struggle, is building a firm foundation for Uganda's rural young people as well as shaping the attitude and consciousness of the grassroots people. This World AIDS Day, I would like to reflect about the Amor Village community, the village where I was born.

Amor Village is composed of 871 households; with a population of 1,479 people. This is a very poverty-stricken community, composed entirely of farmers who rely on agriculture for their income and rain drops for their food production. Every household has a history of HIV-- either someone has died or is living with HIV. Of these, 77% are young people below 30 years of age. This has left so many orphaned children, struggling to survive and make a living for/by themselves.

Our HIV/AIDS interventions have been very minimal, due to lack of the necessary resources required to respond to the needs of the community. For example, there's a family of four—a father, mother, and two sons--all infected by HIV/AIDS. Such a family needs psychological support, food, and medication as well as education for the two boys. This is just one of the examples of families in need of our support, but within the wider community of the 24 villages we are currently supporting through educational interventions.

That said, we have registered achievements in terms of our health interventions: 812 rural girls received education about the dangers of early sex, teenage pregnancy, and early marriages; 104 rural boys received education about condom use and HIV/AIDS risks. We partnered with the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) which provided HIV counseling and testing for 203 people in the community. In conjunction with Open Circle, a project of the Wellesley Centers for Women, we conducted a Life Skills training for 106 people, including youth, teachers, and parents; communication, problem-solving , and leadership skills were some of the topics of the training. This project was funded by the International Research & Exchanges (IREX).

We have barely scratched the surface of possibilities, and with support we hope to move forward with our preventative health initiative such as facilitating the counseling and testing of the local people, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, and general education about reproductive health, family planning, and parenting. We will be able to implement programs to meet our health goals after we acquire resources such as a laptop, projector, generator, camcorder, cameras, stationary, funds for the rental of venues, facilitating the consultants and the project implementer.

The PCE Foundation is a Ugandan national rural development and empowerment NGO founded in 2011 to empower rural communities through dynamic but simple programs that directly involve and benefit community members, especially women and children, currently operating in rural communities of the Tororo and Buteleja districts in Eastern Uganda. The Foundation embraces community-driven solutions to community challenges. This fosters the implementation of not only relevant/appropriate need based but also sustainable projects. In line with this principle, the PCE Foundation has identifies community needs that are developed into fully fledged projects, that benefit individuals and families directly affected by HIV/AIDS.

My journey over the last five years, since I founded the PCE Foundation, has transformed my life. Little did I know, after having lost nine siblings to HIV/AIDS, that I would have so many people from across the world sharing their care, resources, and love. I am enriched by this large global family, and my neighbors and villagers are, too.

Beatrice Achieng Nas, BSC, was Community Solutions Program Fellow through the IREX Board, and a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women in fall 2013. She worked previously with Build Africa Uganda before founding the Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation.

 

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VAW: A Call to Action

BlogRibbonImageVAW: A Call to Action

Yesterday was the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Womenis the glass half empty of half full? 

It is clear that this day calling for the elimination of violence against women is still necessary—in fact, it is crucial. Despite notable advances, many millions of women still suffer victimization and gender-based violencephysical, sexual, emotional, and psychological. Female genital mutilation, child marriage, marital rape, and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV) remain epidemic and have serious psychological, emotional, and economic consequences.

Skepticism about reports of sexual violence is still with us. Few rapes are reported and only a small proportion of these cases lead to arrest and prosecution. Indeed we still live in a “rape culture” where tales of sexual assault are dismissed as “locker room talk” and perpetrators are not held accountable for their behavior. Yes, there have been countless and pronounced steps forward in the past 40 years (which is when I started my work in this area.) United Nations (U.N.) and governmental proclamations against violence against women (VAW) have proliferated and much research on prevention and consequences of GBV has been funded and has resulted in evidence-based practice. We have witnessed reform of laws against sexual and domestic violence, new policy and practice as it pertains to prevention and intervention, and new and much more widespread services for survivors.

Not long ago sexual assault and domestic violence were hidden behind closed doors or kept secret as shameful and somehow the fault of the woman or girl. Today, while such misguided opinions and judgmental attitudes still exist, we have witnessed significant changes in the U.S. and in many countries around the world. Violence against women is a topic that is no longer hidden. Attention is focused on GBV across the globe, in war zones and in the aftermath of conflict or disaster. We can note the successes of the Violence Against Women Act, the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, and the more recent White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Also there are efforts to curb and eliminate domestic sex trafficking and human trafficking in the U.S. and around the globe. Social media also keeps this issue in the forefront and no longer hidden, we are counting dead women and we #sayhername aloud recognizing the intersections of gender, race, and violence.

We must celebrate the achievements and thank those who have worked so hard to make these advances… but we must not lose sight of the fact that there is much work to be done. It is clear today that while the governmental and international organizations have done and can do much to support changes to eliminate violence against women, this work has always needed the work of many hands. And in our future, there is likely continued fluctuation in support of the elimination of all forms of VAW. As always, we need to assure, pledge, and guarantee continued support and funding of this work—support that will come from many donors-- individuals, centers, working groups, and private foundations. Today we must re-double our efforts to encourage support for the elimination of violence against women from everyone—every woman and every man.

#sayhername | @JGBVR_wcw | #orangetheworld | @SayNO_UNiTE | @WCWnews | #givingtuesday… add your recommended links in the Comments section.

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D. is a senior research scientist and the director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Three Activities to Help Students Deepen Their Gratitude

Three Activities to Help Students Deepen Their Gratitude

This article originally appeared in Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.


classroomocIt’s one thing to teach kids to say “thank you” when they receive a gift or when someone does a favor for them. But how can we help children understand what gratitude really means, in ways that will make them more likely to feel it deeply, express it authentically, and reap its many benefits?

One way to increase kids’ gratitude is to guide them to not only acknowledge that someone else did something for them, but to also consider why the person did it, what the cost to the person was, and what benefits they have received from it. The idea is that gratitude happens when you realize that another person has intentionally done something that benefits you, especially at a cost to themselves.

This thinking process, which researchers refer to as “benefit appraisal,” highlights the interpersonal nature of gratitude and may help strengthen our relationships. In one study, elementary schoolers who were taught benefit appraisal reported more positive emotions and showed more grateful attitudes and behaviors than other students, both immediately and months later.

gratidue quoteIn partnership with the Greater Good Science Center and the John Templeton Foundation, Open Circle, an evidence-based social-emotional learning program for students in grades K-5, has added a new component based on the science of gratitude—including benefit appraisal. In addition to incorporating gratitude into their professional development workshops for educators, they developed gratitude lessons and practices for their classroom curriculum for grades 4-5.

The pilot group of teachers who have tried the gratitude curriculum have responded very positively, reporting benefits for themselves and their students such as strengthened classroom relationships and community, higher levels of positive emotions, and more generous and compassionate action.

We are grateful to Open Circle for allowing us to share three sample activities for helping students deepen their understanding and practice of gratitude—along with insights from some of the teachers who have used them.

Click here to see the full post in Greater Good and read the three sample activities for helping students deepen their gratitude.

Emily Campbell is the research assistant for the Greater Good Science Center’s education program and a Ph.D. student in education at UC Berkeley.

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Approaching Adulthood: Assisting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Approaching Adulthood: Assisting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

In 1954, the United Nations established Universal Children’s Day (November 20) to promote togetherness and children’s rights. It is a day that reminds and encourages us to work towards a better future by improving the wellbeing of children all across the globe. In recognition of Universal Children’s Day, Joan Wallace-Benjamin, president and CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers, looks at the obstacles facing children and young adults who are at risk of aging out of foster care and highlights programs that can improve their welfare.


joanblogimageTransitional age youth, those who are leaving state systems of care, are one of our most vulnerable populations of children. Each year in the United States, about 23,000 young people age out of foster care, according to Child Trends, because they reach the legal age of adulthood (18-22 years, depending on the state) and are no longer qualified to receive state services. And each year, these youth lack a permanent relationship with a biological or adoptive guardian, forcing them to navigate the challenges of adulthood without a mentor and critical support systems.

In the U.S., nearly 36,000 children are at risk for aging out of the system, as they are at least 9 years of age and have a case plan for long-term care or emancipation. For those who are at risk of aging out of foster care without a permanent solution and forever family, they are at greater risk for homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, early pregnancy, substance abuse, and struggles with physical, mental, and behavioral health.

Often times, these youth are dually enrolled in multiple state systems of care, including child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral and mental health services. In 2015 in Massachusetts, 312 out of 800 youth offenders in the Department of Youth Services had previous involvement with the Department of Children and Families prior to their detention, according to a 2016 Tufts University study. This sequential, often simultaneous, involvement in multiple systems of care place these youth at a crossroads; they lack positive, unconditional supports and mentoring that is offered through adult relationships as well as concrete resources and tools required to thrive independently, including housing, employment, health insurance, education, and basic life skills. Transitional age youth are often removed from conversations pertaining to child welfare and are underserved in the innovation of strategies to best support and strengthen children within these systems.

joanblogquoteThe Home for Little Wanderers believes that these youth deserve every opportunity to thrive and succeed to their full potential as they enter adulthood. By collaborating with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Mental Health, and the Massachusetts Task Force for Youth Aging Out, the Home has developed specific and effective supports to serve this population. Through customized, age-specific services the Home has implemented innovative programs, including the Young Adult Resource Network (YARN) for “wraparound” services, the Roxbury Village to provide transitional housing for homeless youth, Academic Support for College and Life (ASCL), Peer Mentors, Life Skills programs, and Life Coaches. All of these programs share the same goal and ultimate vision for success: to connect young adults with community resources and help them become contributing members in the community while acquiring the skills they need to achieve self-sufficiency.

Alongside this, the Home works tirelessly to collaborate with various agencies through both communication and action to advocate for change and ensure their voices are heard. Through shared partnerships, the Home works to strengthen connections and services for youth who are at risk for transitioning out of care, which not only prepare them for entering adulthood, but also foster connections and relationships with adults and peers that will follow them on their path toward personal and professional success.

For more information on the Home and their work with Transitional Age Youth visit: thehome.org

Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D. is president and CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers as well as a graduate of Wellesley College, Class of 1975.

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Thoughts on the Safety Pin--To Wear or Not

Thoughts on the Safety Pin--To Wear or Not

The International Day of Tolerance (November 16) was established in 1995 by the United Nations to help increase public awareness of the dangers of intolerance. In our current climate of heightened intolerance both in public discourse and acts of violence, we need no reminders--but we do need clarity and strategies to build our strength and effectiveness as activists who choose to respond proactively to intolerance. The following is written by Christine Saxman, a National SEED Project staff member and Chicagoland high school teacher who reflects thoughtfully about the safety pin symbol that is being worn by people in the U.S. and Britain to show solidarity with targeted/marginalized people in our communities, and how every action we take has consequences.


WCWsafetyPinI wrote these thoughts as a white, upper-middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual, secular humanist woman, with the primary goal of connecting more deeply with other white people and being open to all other intersections. I was deeply impacted by and must honor this writer of color--Isobel Debrujah’s “So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin.” There was also much reaction to a white writer, Christopher Creelty’s, “Dear White People Your Safety Pin is Embarrassing.” After I wrote my initial reflection, I was also deeply impacted by ryboylorn’s “On Safety Pins, Pant Suits, and (Faux) Markers of Safety,” the personal testimony of so many people of color who were yet again targeted by the white fragility that could not tolerate the message that their pin is not enough, and by the need for Mia McKenzie’s “How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and ‘Ally Theater’” to be re-shared so many times. So I’ve reflected and added to my original piece. I humbly offer it here.

INTENT and IMPACT:
Pay attention to and appreciate all the thoughtful dialogue that prompts deep self-reflection and understanding of one’s purpose/self-reflection, taking ownership of the impact of one’s actions, regardless of intent. Own your impact if you wear the pin or if you do not wear it. But do not dismiss anyone who shares a negative impact with you from their perspective as a targeted group. Listen. Believe. Take further action and focus on repair.

INTER-CONNECTEDNESS:
Appreciate (and question) the history of the pin: from Australia’s #illridewithyou to support Australian Muslims to the history of the pin to combat the anti-immigration sentiment post-Brexit.

nov15logCALLING IN WITH LOVING ACCOUNTABILITY:
For some white people, this might be one of the first public actions they have taken and it is all they can see to do. As a white person, I have the energy and responsibility to support them in this step. I do not expect people of color or other targeted groups to take this action. And I personally have to be vigilant internally when I monitor and judge the behavior of other white people negatively to make sure I’m not just trying to make myself feel like I am the good white anti-racist, falling prey to competitiveness that props me up and allows racism and other -isms to continue on happily. This is the question I would pose Christopher Creelty, given the chance. How can we hold other white people in loving accountability, moving them to action? How can I do that with humility in the service of inspiring other white people to take deep, abiding action?

LOVING ACCOUNTABILITY ONE STEP FURTHER:
I see another white person wearing a pin who feels like they deserve credit for doing so. How can I use that symbol to start a conversation and move to actions we can take to back up the symbol, to give it some weight? In my own humility, I can possibly learn a new action. Perhaps, I can help someone realize an action they could not envision. Perhaps, we can work in solidarity. We can even continue the conversation to ask how can we move to a more overt symbols--a Black Lives Matter Pin, #NODAPL, #ISUPPORTDREAMERS, #STANDINGFORLGBTQ rights, #NoHumanIsIllegal…. And I commit to lovingly calling to action those whose only action is wearing a pin. I can emphasize that we are in it together.

ACCOUNTABILITY:
As a teacher I have been asked many times to identify as an ally publicly by my students and colleagues and so I have chosen to honor those requests and hold the anger/frustration/disappointment from others who do not believe I have the right to call myself an ally. It is one of those tough accountability decisions that I reflect on regularly and discuss with anyone calling me in or out. I am always a work-in-progress. I welcome all feedback, listen, believe, and act on the accountability that aligns with my commitment, humility, and humanity.

WHITE SUPREMACIST CO-OPTION:
What happens when white supremacists are faking it? I totally support all targeted groups to stay steadfast in their refusal to trust anyone wearing the pin. But as a predominantly privileged person, I go back to my responsibility to start dialogue with others I see wearing the pin. What does it mean to you? What’s your story? And if I doubt their answers and sincerity, I call them in and have another accountability discussion about White Supremacy. I commit fully to that. I had to do it in high school in Pennsylvania. I can do it as a grown woman now.

INTERSECTIONAL SYMBOLISM:
For me, the pin symbolizes standing against all the violence: racism, Islamophobia, anti semitism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. As a victim of sexual assault, I want to see the pin. I will ask for support and action from those wearing it. And I will have the conversation if it is just an empty gesture. But, wow, will I enjoy the conversations that let me know I am not alone. Don’t underestimate that.

BOTH/AND:
I believe we must wear a symbol and question the symbol. I believe we must wear a symbol and take action. I believe we must have this conversation and interrupt racism, Islamophobia, anti semitism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia at the same time. I believe we can be both/and. But we must take action. Our humanity depends on it.

saxmanI love the people in my life who push me to be better. I owe much gratitude for this piece to Mirah Anti, Jorge Zeballos, Pat Savage-Williams, Andrea Johnson, Donald Burroughs, Matthew Biecker, Ashley Tuzicka Ray, and Jamie Utt.

This piece was written by Christine Saxman, a National SEED Project staff member and Chicagoland high school teacher.

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November 9th Reflections: Through Harriet Tubman’s Eyes

LMaparyan11.9November 9th Reflections: Through Harriet Tubman’s Eyes

We have a new President-Elect. For many of us, on either side of the aisle, it is not what we expected. My daughter cried when I told her, not just because she is a girl, but also because she is an immigrant. She is scared, and I, as her mother, had to reassure her that life will go on and that we will be okay even if there will be new challenges.

It occurred to me that this is the attitude that I must carry forward, not just at home, but in my work, life, and leadership. It is the attitude that many before me have maintained, against the face of obstacles and conditions as hard or harder than what I am facing now. Like Harriet Tubman, I must “follow the drinking gourd” and keep my sights on the North Star of my aspirations.

nov9blogThe biggest gift I can offer at this time is empathy – to those whose hopes were shattered, to those whose anger, pain, and frustration led us in this surprising direction, and to those who are just plain terrified right now, especially the little ones and the youth. Clearly, we are a country of different realities, and we need to find common ground. I remind myself of my own mantra, “All of us are sacred.” As Thich Nhat Hanh taught me, I breathe in, breathe out, and utilize the present moment as a place of refuge.

The second biggest gift I can give is my continued commitment to peace, amity, love, liberation, and the freedom borne of illumination, as well as the very concrete and achievable ideals of gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing. We can’t give up! Even with the rhythm of one step backward for every two steps forward, we are still making progress, we are still transforming our society and the world. We can’t use this moment to further polarize ourselves; rather, we must use it to dig more deeply within ourselves for places of connection. As we know, thanks to our relational-cultural theorists, is that connection is what causes us to thrive.

How can we work with what we have to achieve what we need to achieve and get to where we need to go? Our own ingenuity is being invoked, as is our ability to “make a way out of no way.” Because I’ve seen it done, I know we can do it. Let’s share our creativity and plentiful gifts as we figure this thing out together.

Onward! The North Star is still shining!!

Please feel free to share your reflections.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

 

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What’s Next: Coming Together

LayliVoteWhat’s Next: Coming Together

Since voting this morning, all I have been able to think about is the next four years. Without even knowing yet who is going to win, my mind has already jumped ahead. What do we want the next four years to be like? What can we do to make them be the way we want them to be? The negativity of the last 18 months has been excruciating, and I know it doesn’t represent the best of who we are. I want better for all of us!

Indeed, as executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, whose mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing, these concerns have been at the forefront of my thinking. How can we ensure that the times that lie ahead lead us closer to these ideals?

Today we plant the seeds of the next four years with our thoughts, emotions, and actions. It is more important today than ever that we consciously start thinking about what we’d like our nation and our culture to be like, that we work as hard as we can to generate the good feelings we know are best for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the country, and that we take actions immediately that move us in the right direction. We can start doing this even before the polls close, just as soon as we have cast our ballot – because these actions will be relevant no matter who wins.

What will you do to move our country in a positive direction, to heal the divide?

LayliVoteQuoteI’m starting with a post-election community unity block party in my neighborhood. I’m inviting the people I see every day – and a few I’ve yet to see, since I’m new to my neighborhood – to my home for an evening of fellowship and food with my family. I’ve let everyone know that it doesn’t matter how you voted, where you worship, whom you love, or where you come from – I just want us to come together in the spirit of friendship and community. My hope is that we will affirm each other as neighbors, discover through conversation the wonders of our diversity, and deepen our sense of connection, concern, and shared destiny. Maybe you can do something like this on the block where you live, too.

Over time, I am going to make a point to reach out to people whose political views differ from my own (even though I am non-partisan by choice, due to my Bahá’í faith, I do hold political views!) and find ways to connect, talk, and share – over lunch, in a joint endeavor, through our kids, in our places of worship or community service – in any way I can find.

To heal our nation in these times, I feel certain that enlarging the circle of people that we can call friends and enlarging the circle of people who know that we care about their wellbeing and happiness will help shift the tides. I believe that, if all of us did this – even with one or two people – we would heal this great divide in no time. Are you up to the challenge??

Let me know what you decide to do. Let’s not retreat into our enclaves of comfortable sameness. Let’s instead enlarge our sense of community and welcome new people in until our nation is one big circle – or many small overlapping circles – of inclusion. The leadership we need doesn’t just come from the White House – it comes from within our hearts.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

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Preventing Depression in Young People

Preventing Depression in Young People

This policy brief originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 Research & Action Report from the Wellesley Centers for Women as part of the multi-media series Advancing the Status of Women & Girls, Families & Communities: Policy Recommendations for the Next U.S. President.


depressionpreventionDepression is Prevalent but Prevention Programs Are Limited

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide—it is the most common psychiatric disorder in the U.S., and is particularly common among lower income populations, and among women beginning in adolescence. The average age of onset for depression is 15, and about 20 percent of all people will have experienced an episode of depression by the end of adolescence. Youth depression is associated with a host of negative and long-term consequences, including poorer school performance, difficult peer and family relationships, increased risk of substance abuse, and poorer functional outcomes in adulthood. Of particular note is the connection between youth depression and suicide. Although not all people who commit suicide were depressed at the time, depression and suicidal behavior are indeed linked. Suicide is a tremendous problem in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of death among American adolescents.

Although depression is among the most treatable of all mental illnesses, and although we have evidence-based treatment approaches for depressed youth, the reality is that only about half of all depressed children and adolescents ever receive treatment, and only about half of those who do receive treatment actually improve as a result. Nearly all of those who recover from depression will experience a subsequent depressive episode within a few years. Specifically, 40 percent of youth who have experienced a past episode of depression will relapse within two years, and 75 percent will relapse within five years. This means that a typical 15 year-old who develops an episode of depression, if she is fortunate enough to receive treatment and benefit from it, will experience another depressive episode while she is graduating from high school and transitioning to adulthood.

Although nearly one in five young people experience an episode of depression by the end of adolescence, treatment protocols for youth depression only help about half of those they target, and relapse is common and debilitating. Funding for depression prevention efforts is limited, and preventive programs are difficult to access.

Promising Prevention Efforts

Youth depression is a problem of major proportions, affecting millions of children and families and interfering with children’s social, emotional, and academic functioning. Although evidence-based treatments for youth depression have been found to work well, treatment resources often are difficult to access. Most adolescents who recover experience relapse, and the long-term consequences of youth depression are significant.

Recently, promising research has suggested that depression is among the most preventable of major mental illnesses. We now know of strategies that work to prevent youth depression, including providing cognitive behavioral interventions to adolescents at high risk and helping youth to strengthen social relationships. Based on this research, many European colleagues now encourage a focus on preventive efforts for youth at risk for depression. Although funders and policymakers in the U.S. support preventive efforts for medical concerns, such as healthy eating and exercise to address heart disease, prevention, unfortunately, is often overlooked in mental health. Researchers, policymakers, and practitioners should focus attention on identifying youth at risk for depression, providing evidence-based preventive interventions to at-risk youth and families, and assisting at-risk youth in accessing preventive and/or treatment resources, as needed.

depressionpreventionquoteApproaches & Recommendations

Recommendations for enhancing a focus on the prevention of youth depression include:

  • Increase use of depression prevention interventions by increasing funding for research. Although several depression prevention interventions have been found to decrease the onset of depressive symptoms or disorders among at-risk youth, such programs are still not readily available in community-based mental health settings, and many practitioners do not know how to implement evidence-based protocols. More funding is needed for large-scale effectiveness trials that examine ways of disseminating evidence-based interventions in real-world settings and for large-scale trials that compare the efficacy of different evidence-based programs for different populations.
  • Attend to family processes that influence depression risk and that promote depression prevention. Research suggests that parental depression is a significant risk factor for depression onset in youth, and that family processes both maintain and may help alleviate depression. Policymakers, funders, and practitioners must attend to the important role of families in identifying and supporting youth at risk for depression who are appropriate for preventive efforts. In addition, interventions to prevent youth depression may benefit from a focus on enhancing family understanding of youth depression, improving parenting skills, and also on addressing parental depressive symptoms that may affect the efficacy of interventions targeting at-risk youth.
  • Integrate youth depression prevention efforts into places where youth are most readily accessed. Efforts to prevent youth medical concerns are an established focus of public health strategies, resulting in, for example, vaccinations from physicians and auditory screenings Integrate youth depression prevention efforts into places where youth are most readily accessed. Efforts to prevent youth medical concerns are an established focus of public health strategies, resulting in, for example, vaccinations from physicians and auditory screenings at school. Unfortunately, routine screening for depression and suicide risk is generally overlooked both in primary care and in schools, although these are the places that youth are most readily accessed and serviced. Policymakers, funders, and practitioners must support additional training for school and medical personnel in identifying at-risk youth, evaluating youth for mental health concerns, and connecting youth to appropriate mental health services. Additionally, research is needed to evaluate primary care and school-based depression prevention interventions, so that, when at-risk adolescents are identified, evidence-based depression prevention services are readily available in locations that are comfortable and accessible to those in need.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D. is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women as well as the director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which focus on research and evaluation designed to prevent the onset of mental health concerns in children and adolescents.

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Partnerships are Critical to Student Success

NIOSTpartnershipskidsPartnerships are Critical to Student Success

The days are getting shorter, the air feels crisper here in the Northeast, and children everywhere are heading back to school -- a welcome return to routine and to the exciting possibilities of a new year, but still it’s hard to let go of summer. Fresh and sweet in our minds here at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) (and hopefully in many of your minds, too) are the unique joys of summer -- yes, popsicles and bonus hours of daylight, but also the special learning opportunities that summer brings.

Summer learning programs offer the chance to develop interests and skills, focus on social and emotional learning, and engage youth in positive ways. Summer learning programs can also offer an important strategy in closing the achievement gap between low-income children and their middle- and upper-class peers.

Luckily, these kinds of experiences do not need to be packed away with our shorts and flip flops. More and more, out-of-school time (OST) programs are partnering with schools to create amazing, year-round learning experiences for children and youth. At NIOST, we believe collaborations like these are a critical ingredient to student success, and we applaud the work they are doing to engage with children and youth throughout the year.

The U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the only federal funding stream dedicated to afterschool, actually requires grantees to work in collaboration with schools. In practice, partnering with schools may simply mean that afterschool programs communicate student goals and learning needs with school staff, which is a great start.

Some programs, though, are going further -- modeling how a true partnership can produce positive youth outcomes. Through my work with the US Department of Education, I have had the pleasure of seeing such programs in action. For example, Rhode Island’s 21st CCLC grant supports an innovative Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Initiative at Central Falls High School that allows students, driven by their interests, to earn academic credit in alternative ways. Students work closely with teachers and community members who provide hands-on learning either after school or in the summer. The students then create rigorous final products and do presentations to demonstrate their learning. Early data indicate that the approach is improving graduation rates.

NIOSTpartnershipsquoteBoston After School & Beyond (BASB) is a public-private collaboration that advances student learning through a coordinated approach to school and community partnerships. Through initiatives such as Advancing Quality Partnerships (AQP) and the Summer Learning Project, BASB empowers organizations that serve Boston Public Schools (BPS) students after school and in the summer to provide high-quality social and emotional learning opportunities and to communicate with schools about the skills students develop at their programs. NIOST has helped BASB investigate the nature and functioning of such relationships. Schools, community partners, youth, and families are finding value in these intentional partnerships.

One of the major strengths of partnerships like these is that they are able to leverage family, school, and community resources to chip away at nonacademic barriers to learning and healthy development. Schools are ill-equipped to assume this responsibility alone, and teachers often lack sufficient resources to address the various needs of their students, such as learning disabilities, mental health issues, family instability, negative peer influences, and poverty. The flexibility of the OST field, backed by its expertise in positive youth development, enrichment, and social and emotional learning, can help to fill these gaps in our school system by complementing and supporting traditional education. So, rather than expecting schools and teachers to do this work alone, collaborative partnerships with OST programs can be integral building blocks on the road to educational equity.

As summer comes to a close and school-year routines settle in, remember that not every part of summer will leave us. Thanks to the creative partnerships between schools and OST programs, many of our nation’s youth (and the staff at NIOST) are looking forward to the continuation of collaborative, year-round learning opportunities.

Betsy Starr, M.Ed.is a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her work focuses on professional development and system-building for the field of afterschool and youth development.

 

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Encouraging Girls to Pursue STEM

engineering studentsEncouraging Girls to Pursue STEM

Females outnumber their male colleagues in higher education, tend to get better grades, yet do not proportionately pursue STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. A woman’s participation or pursuit of STEM-related studies is a question of choice, not ability. Women are just as intellectually and academically capable of performing in STEM fields, yet the share of STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded to women over the past decade has fallen. Unfortunately, statistics about the participation (or lack thereof) of women in STEM fields should not come as a surprise; for far too long headlines have told this all too familiar story. Though we have long been aware of these alarming statistics, we should set forth to understand it and find ways to combat it.

There is no shortage of literature on this topic. A simple search of the phrase “girls in STEM” yields a staggering number of results. Though it goes without saying that solutions to closing the participation gap are heavily rooted within the plethora of reports regarding the achievement gap, longitudinal studies on children’s beliefs about academic competency, and sex-linked interest preferences, that focus on the strategies in which we can encourage girls to pursue STEM fields will make us most aware of the ways we can reverse the alarming aforementioned statistics.

Keys to Encouraging Girls to Pursue Math and Science

  • Increasing Confidence: When students are more confident about their abilities in a subject, they are more likely to engage in that subject through higher level classes or extracurricular activities.
  • Supporting Self-Efficacy: Through providing detailed feedback that helps students understand their mistakes and focusing on a student’s ability to learn and improve, teachers can increase student efforts.
  • Exposure to Role Models: When polled, 53 percent of girls that are interested in STEM reported knowing a woman with a STEM career, compared to 36 percent of girls without an interest in STEM.

blogpullquoteSTEMGirlsNational nonprofit organizations like Women Who Code have already inspired thousands of young girls to pursue math and science because they created a community of support and mentorship. Change, however, is not solely made by the positive influence of one organization. Change, rather, is the result of continued, localized efforts. Teachers, parents, and peers can provide a reliable network for aspiring female mathematicians. Encouraging girls to pursue STEM-related careers carries implications far beyond equalizing some set of statistics. More girls in STEM means more innovation, more opportunity, and more highly skilled workers in our economy. Most importantly, however, encouraging STEM means that every student has the ability to freely pursue his or her true passion without societal inhibition. As we think about the ending of another school year and opportunities for summer exploration, we must remember to not only endeavor to help girls realize the importance of math, but also to realize their propensity to achieve.

Sophia Zupanc is a Wellesley College student (class of 2019) and a Wellesley Centers for Women Student Ambassador.

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The New $20 Bill: A Victory for Women, or, Happy about Harriet!

rotator1 04202016The New $20 Bill: A Victory for Women, or, Happy about Harriet!

One of my favorite footnotes in the world appears at the bottom of the first page of the Combahee River Collective Statement in the first edition of Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology on page 272. It reads, “The Combahee River Collective was a Black feminist group in Boston whose name came from the guerrilla action conceptualized and led by Harriet Tubman on June 2, 1863, in the Port Royal region of South Carolina. This action freed more than 750 slaves and is the only military campaign in American history planned and led by a woman.” As a Southern Black woman now living in greater Boston, I have in my travels back and forth driven across the Combahee River many times, moved by the small highway sign that unceremoniously identifies this historically significant waterway. It has become a kind of sacred place to me, over which I always say a silent prayer when crossing. Whether on Interstate I-95 or Highway 17 (the older, smaller “blue route” that runs parallel, all the way up and down the East Coast), it is a prayer of gratitude to Harriet Tubman and all that she did for the liberation of human beings.

She was a tiny woman, a woman with a disability, and, of course, a Black woman--who also happened to be an almost superhumanly courageous person and a logistical/navigational genius. She commandeered the Underground Railroad, shotgun in hand (so that no one would run back to slavery). An abolitionist in word and deed, she led the Combahee River Raid. She eventually worked as a suffragist. And, in her old age, she founded an old folks home for indigent women, even though she herself died indigent in that very home. Race, class, gender--she covered it all. Her story is one of the archetypal stories of American culture. We are because she is, and because she is, therefore we are, to paraphrase my retired philosopher colleague, Ifeanyi Menkiti, and many other African cosmologists and epistemologists.

blogpullquoteTubman1aWhen the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced two years ago that it was planning to put a woman on the $10 bill, I voted for Harriet Tubman every chance I got. I was privileged to participate in an invitation-only phone call of women leaders with representatives from the Treasury Department, and I also voted online as an “ordinary citizen.” And I unapologetically urged my friends on social media to do the same. So, when the announcement arrived last week that Harriet Tubman would be the face of the new $20 bill, I was ecstatic. Victory!!! Who better to represent so many different marginalized U.S. populations, not to mention to embody, personify, and reify the black feminist theoretical innovation of intersectionality, emblazoned onto popular discourse by the very Combahee River Collective that so revered Tubman??

I have to hand it to Jack Lew, the U.S. Treasury Secretary who recognized that the time was right--indeed, overdue--to put a woman on a piece of high-circulation U.S. currency and to right some historical wrongs. In fact, not to stop with Harriet Tubman, Lew spearheaded a series of changes to the $20, $10, and $5 bills to reflect a more inclusive history of the U.S. Beyond the addition of Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill, a diverse group of suffragist women will be added to the back of the $10 bill: Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Like the women of the U.S. today, these women were ideologically and politically diverse, ranging from radical to reformatory in both rhetoric and method. Their history of interaction is complex, as texts such as Angela Y. Davis’s Women, Race and Class, and documentaries such as Ken Burns’ and Paul Barnes’ "Not for Ourselves Alone," reveal in captivating detail. Placing these women together on the back of the $20 bill suggests symbolically that we can work through our differences for good--a message badly needed right now in the U.S. It took 75 years--three generations of activism--to achieve the vote for women in America. No single woman did it alone, and women of diverse opinions each played a pivotal role, even when they disagreed on tactical and ideological points. This is a great inspiration for our times. And to add even more inspiration, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Marion Anderson, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt will be added to the back of the $5 bill to give life to the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.

blogpullquoteTubman2aAdmittedly, if I had a private audience with Secretary Lew, I would suggest the inclusion of some notable Americans of Asian, Latin, Middle Eastern, Native American, and Pacific Islander descent in addition to the very welcome inclusion of African Americans on the new bills--and I might even suggest that he replace the image of slaveholder President Andrew Jackson (after whom my hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, is named, incidentally) with these diverse Americans, since he has (too) long had his day in the sun. I can only hope that this is the plan for the $50 and $100 bills!

I think it was a good decision to begin these momentous changes with the currency of everyday life. $20s, $10s, $5s--we look at these every day, and now these ordinary currencies will stimulate important social discourse. They might even stimulate the economy! #GenderPayGap, #SayHerName, #NotThere, #EverydaySexism, and #BlackLivesMatter are all having a heyday. All of these discussions should move a step forward now that we have racial and gender diversity on the money!

In sum, this was a great week for U.S. women, U.S. history, and maybe even the U.S. economy. Who won’t be excited to get and try out the new $20 bill? ATM machines, anyone?? Another milestone toward gender equality has been passed, another hurdle cleared. Although there is still a long way to go, I am thankful and glad, indeed, exuberant!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

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The Value of Mentorship: A Personal Reflection

blog4.13The Value of Mentorship: A Personal Reflection

Two summers ago I started what I thought would just be a summer job at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), with Georgia Hall, Ph.D, a senior research scientist with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). That summer job extended into the fall semester of my junior year at Wellesley College and when I returned from my spring semester abroad, I was excited to be working with Georgia as the Shirley R. Sherr research intern for the summer. Now in my senior year, I am still working at NIOST and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities it has given me. In particular, I am incredibly grateful that I have had an amazing mentor in Georgia.

This experience has been invaluable, because of Georgia. I have been able to learn so much and have been exposed to so many aspects of research that I would otherwise not have had and which many undergraduate students never get to experience. This past summer, while assisting Georgia with her work in the Women and Girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project, I was also able to pick my own topic to investigate. This was incredibly exciting because it gave me a chance to use skills I already had, learn new skills, and explore my own interest. I learned so much, including being able to analyze data and conduct site visits. Georgia was an incredible mentor every step of the way, giving me feedback but also letting me work on my own. Thanks to Georgia and all the other amazing WCW researchers at NIOST, I have acquired skills that I will use for many years to come.

When I first began the daunting process of applying for jobs, I reflected on the experiences that I have had and realized how strongly they influenced my career path. Although I hope to go into health care, I want to work for several years before continuing on to graduate school. Thanks to my experiences with Georgia, I now have the skills and passion for data analysis—an incredibly important aspect in the health care field. Georgia encouraged me to take a quantitative analysis class, too, and I now am able to pursue such work immediately after graduation.

Without someone encouraging and inspiring these interests and helping me along the way, I may have never found out how fascinating data analysis could be (at least for me—some people may disagree!). Soon I’ll be completing my time at Wellesley, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d love to spend my afternoons working and anyone else I would want as a mentor. I am sure that what I have taken from my time at NIOST and what I have learned from working with Georgia will help me for many years to come. And I know that if I ever need advice, there’s always someone waiting to help.

Juliana Robeson is a Wellesley College senior (’16) majoring in Spanish, minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. In addition to her work at NIOST, she serves as a Student Ambassador for the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is pictured above (right) with her mentor, Georgia Hall.

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Fighting... Women in Sports

indexFighting... Women in Sports

I’m not an athletic purist, one who finds poetry in the elemental mano-a-mano competition of strength, agility and smarts (sigh, yes, I know there’s strategy) of boxing and mixed martial arts, which include grappling moves. Honestly, I just don’t enjoy seeing people beat, punch or twist the crap out of one another. Period.

That aside, I appreciate what Ronda Rousey is doing these days. When you consider that the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates we are 43 years away from wage parity with men, Ms. Rousey deserves credit for speeding things up.

In 2012, she became the first woman signed by Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world, and three years later claims to be the UFC’s highest paid fighter. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes, who compiles the list of highest-paid female athletes, puts Rousey at #8 for 2015 with $6.5 million in earnings, including $3 million in salary (the other $3.5 million from endorsement deals plus a bestselling book and three movies).

Mind you, his calculations came out before the Ms. Rousey’s blockbuster UFC193 November 2015 fight against Holly Holm, which drew 56,215 to Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, the largest crowd ever for a UFC event. It was also the third most purchased UFC pay-per-view event, attracting more than 1.1 million buyers.

Despite the pre-match promotions and expectation that Ms. Rousey would continue her rampage, the fight turned out not to be a female version of The Thrilla in Manilla. Ms. Holm won – quickly -- stunning everyone who had expected Ms. Rousey to continue the dominance that had her winning 11 matches in the first round.

There remain troubling inequalities in men’s and women’s combat sports. When women box at the Olympics in Rio – women’s boxing debuted in the modern era at the 2012 London Olympics -- there will be three events to the men’s 10. And in classic Olympic Committee style women’s competitions are slightly shorter than the men’s. There will be four 2-minutes rounds, while the men will have three 3-minute rounds (men get an extra minute!).

Yet, women’s fights have gained legitimacy and come a long way from the days of mud wrestling. The emergence of mixed martial arts as a spectator sport – and UFC as a forum – are just over two decades old. Where mud wrestling – not actually a sport – was a 1980s phenomenon about the sex appeal of barely clad women grappling in brown goo, UFC is not titillating in the least.

Ms. Rousey, the MMA competitor, hardly evokes the version of herself with the blonde trusses wearing the painted-on swimsuit in the new Sports Illustrated issue. Which is to say, you never know where progress toward gender equality in sports will come from – or the complications such a boost will offer. Feminism can demand purity, much as boxing fans focus on the base beauty of the physical human contest.

Some celebrate Ms. Rousey as the quintessential feminist while others see her as a traitor. When asked by an Australian reporter about gender pay equity in sports, she didn’t offer an ideological frame – or much sympathy. Rather, she said, “I think that how much you get paid should have something to do with how much you bring in.”

She added that, “I’m the highest-paid fighter not because Dana and Lorenzo wanted to do something nice for the ladies. They do it because I bring in the highest numbers. They do it because I make them the most money. And I think the money that they make should be proportionate to the money they bring in.”

There are a thousand reasons why it’s more complicated than this for women in sports as well as other jobs and career fields. But as we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, it is a reminder that gains are not always neat, intended or harmonious. And sometimes we win even when we don’t mean to.

Journalist Laura Pappano is writer-in-residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women and a leader of The Women’s Sports Leadership Project. For seven years, she edited the FairGameNews blog, now preserved as an archive.

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Connecting with You in 2016

BLOGTOPConnecting with You in 2016

People of all ages are spending more time on smartphones or tablets. Did you know that smartphone users are expected to increase to 70 percent of the global population, or 6.1 billion phones, by 2020? In the past couple of years many have experienced the phenomena of selfie sticks, and wearable technologies like FitBit or the Apple Watch. We have computers that not only talk to us, but listen to us and track our steps, our sleep, our heart rate. Technology invades our everyday (and every night) experiences and changes how we interact with the world. Technology offers us an overwhelming variety of information and choices about what we read or listen or view. It helps us stay connected and informed.

It’s essential to us that we stay connected to you. Much of our social change work can be found on our website (wcwonline.org). Thanks to a new responsive design that is built off an engaging visual template donated by Capgemini*, you can view the site more easily on a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or computer on your desk; you can stay better informed of the important work we’re doing.

As you know, research is a big part of WCW’s four decades of groundbreaking work. And we want to learn from you, too. You already let us know how our content impacts you when you tweet, share, like, or pin our work. However, we want to learn more from YOU!

We are experts on research, social change--but we need you to share your insight on how you use the wcwonline.org website.

  • Are you able to find the information about the social issues in the lives of women and girls, families and communities that is important to you?
  • Do you find what you need by viewing our video commentaries, listening to our podcasts, downloading a fact sheet, a policy brief, or a presentation?
  • What is helpful?
  • What is missing?

The website analytics we use give us many valuable statistics but they don’t tell us the complete picture about you, and the information you seek.

Please help inform us by taking a few minutes to fill out the quick survey and help us understand what areas of our work you are most interested in, how you learn about our work, and ways we may be able to make your online experiences with our website and social media more beneficial. This is a great way to impact WCW’s dissemination efforts and further help to improve the lives of women and girls, and their families and communities. Thank you!

Sue Sours is the Information & Technology Systems Manager for the Wellesley Centers for Women, at Wellesley College.

*Top level design elements for wcwonline.org were generously donated by the Rapid Design Team of Capgemini, one of the world's foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services. "Gender equality is an important component of Capgemini’s focus on diversity and inclusion, and larger corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy, and it is proud to have helped The Wellesley Centers for Women more effectively disseminate its research through support for the refreshed website." Learn more about Capgemini!

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An OST Quality Case Study

IMG 0427Photo courtesy of MELC

An OST Quality Case Study

My father-in-law used to say that getting old is not for the faint of heart. It takes a dogged determination to persevere while keeping on top of new issues that arise. I think the pursuit of quality in out-of-school time is similar. That effort is long-term and takes group effort, not just individual commitment. Just as there are services and doctors to help the aging, there are processes and assistance for those committed to improving quality in out-of-school time (OST) e.g. afterschool or summer programs. The process we promote at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) is “continuous quality improvement” (CQI) and our clinicians are “Quality Advisors” or QAs. The QAs are councilors who offer resources, tips, feedback, and guidance. They can be working internally but more often they are occasional visitors from outside.

To best illustrate the concept of doctoring or coaching the CQI process I’ll share a story from Veirdre Jackson, director of Professional Development Dimensions, at the Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC) near Philadelphia. Several years ago MELC embarked on a quality improvement initiative in OST programs serving youth kindergarten through sixth grade in three counties. To support this work, MELC received funding for professional development and curricula and received state supported quality advising tied to quality improvement. MELC targeted improving Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills as their overall goal and used the Assessment of Program Practices (APT) tool as their improvement gauge. The tool serves as both a baseline and a year-end measurement, but most importantly the scales are research-based best practices. The specific scales MELC looked at gave a rich picture of areas where staff should be supporting youth, building relationships, and guiding behavioral expectations. The results of the APT baselines gave a clear picture, for example, that routines were not working and wait time was excessive which led to disruptive behaviors and staff taking punitive measures in a cycle of frustration.

IMG 0428Photo courtesy of MELC.This scenario is not uncommon in OST (and among anyone with children). Jackson says her trainings that address youth behavior are routinely sold out. OST staff are often part-time and enter this field from a wide variety of career backgrounds that may not offer experience and training in child development that school-day teachers who work with children systematically gain. With an increase in challenging behaviors and a decrease in the presence of self-regulation skills by youth, staff quickly become mentally exhausted and get trapped in the cycle of reacting instead of responding to behaviors.

With the results of the APT, the CQI process began with visits from QAs. The QAs gave feedback on the physical environment and how to make routines such as transitions flow more quickly and orderly. Primarily the coaching addressed interactions between staff and youth and guided staff to de-escalate rather than escalate situations. Staff who asked, “When are you going to work with the youth?” realized their emotional status and behavior were key to youths’ behavior. Staff shifted away from punitive tactics to understanding what’s happening in a situation and addressing that need. Additionally, curriculum was employed to provide staff with appropriate strategies, and individual youth received focused skill-building that was age appropriate. Staff realized that their own social emotional wellbeing helps them be their best and that in turn helps youth be their best.

This experience points to the structure behind CQI: setting goals, using data to drive an improvement plan, making program adjustments, and using resources that involve staff in carrying out the changes and being part of the solutions while keeping a focus on engaging and supporting youth. NIOST has been a leader in advancing quality work for more than three decades and provides all the elements needed to begin this work. Training is available including Quality Advisor, APT tool use (now online), and how to use data for program improvement. Resources for adopting a CQI process and engaging staff, parents, and schools are also available.

Last month, my colleague Betsy Starr wrote about the importance of professional development to attain quality in out-of-school time programs. It is gratifying to hear of the MELC work, to learn of professional development successes, and know that OST is making a significant contribution to improving the lives of children.If our Quality Advisors are our OST “doctors” then we need to make sure that all OST programs have access to this important care.

Kathy Schleyer, M.S. is the Director of Training at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College(Video: Ellen Gannett, M.Ed., is director of NIOST; Photos: Courtesy of Montgomery Early Learning Centers.)

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Re-thinking Self-esteem

blogjan1116Re-Thinking Self-esteem

If there is one notion that’s likely to receive nearly unanimous validation in contemporary culture, it’s that self-esteem is a good thing. While there may not be agreement on what is it or how to do it, its elevated placement in Maslow’s hierarchy has led to the notion that it is something we should all have, and that we should have enough of it. In fact, not having enough self-esteem is cited as the root of all sorts of social and psychological ills. When low self-esteem is cited as the cause of a particular objectionable behavior, the explanation seems more accusatory than diagnostic. For example, there are few cultural indictments more shaming to parents than to have a child with “low self-esteem.” It is no wonder then that cultivating self-esteem has become a central, even if implicit, goal in parenting and therapeutic practices. Consequently, what started as a developmental construct has taken on the valence of a cultural meme, with a taken-for-granted acceptance of its meaning and import. Left unexamined, any construct, even one with all the apparent virtue of self-esteem, can take on the central distortions of the dominant culture. The problem for Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) practitioners--parent, teachers, and therapists alike--is that something gets lost in translation when self-esteem becomes a proxy for the Separate Self: when it is defined as an individualistic and privatized commodity. When the construct of self-esteem is imported into a Separate Self developmental framework, the near inevitable result is the cultivation of expression of power-over practice.

Let me explain. Power-over practice does not require intentionality; oblivion to context is sufficient. Such was probably the case when I observed two young boys (presumably siblings) soccer-kicking a cereal box through the crowded aisles of an upscale grocery store. The boys were having a grand time, while two adults (presumably parents) stood by with bemused “boys-will-be-boys” smiles. The store employees stood tight-lipped and hapless, not daring to interrupt this unfettered assertion of want and will. The shifting configurations of observing adults (me included) expressed our shared un-ease through furtive glances at each other, almost certainly unanimous in our disapproval of “parental over-indulgence.” It has since occurred to me that what we witnessed could have been tinged with no small measure of parental fear. It could have been that the parents could not risk re-directing this uninhibited behavior for fear of depleting the boys’ supply of self-esteem. What became clear is this: when the “Self” is disconnected from community, an impulse is treated as an imperative, and simple desire can become a demand. We commonly understand self-esteem to mean feeling good about oneself. But what if “feeling good” can only be achieved by getting what I want when I want it at the expense of others?

blogpullquoteSelf esteem1I could not help but be reminded of something that my grandmother Donnie would say to young people in our family. If anyone one of us dared to violate her standards of good grooming or “respectable” behavior, she would say: “Don’t go out acting like you don’t have people.” At the time, her counsel was little more than an irritation. “Having people” could mean anything from representing your family by working hard in school to properly ironing a ruffled blouse. It’s a safe bet that my grandmother never heard of Maslow, and I’m guessing she lived the better part of eight decades without ever using the words “self-esteem.” She did, however, know a lot about respect, reverence, and dignity. What we now call self-esteem is what my grandmother expressed as self and other--awareness. Her version of self-esteem was awareness of connection to community. Further, it meant appreciation for the care that community bestows, and an obligation to represent that care in the world and to the world. Put plainly the lesson was this: how you go out into the world is not just your private business; your behavior reflects on and has consequences for the communities from which you come.

Self-esteem as a construct is not likely to go away, nor perhaps should it. However, it may look decidedly different if it were conceptualized from a more relational perspective. When I think back on the admonition from my grandmother, “having people” translates into three relational practices: appreciation, acknowledgement, and agency.

Appreciation involves knowing that the beginning of being is relationship. Furthermore, wellbeing and accomplishment are made possible through the contributions and often the sacrifices of others. This practice engenders a sense of self-worth, distinctly different from the illusion of self-sufficiency. In other words, to practice appreciation is to is live the nuanced distinction between being worthy to receive and being entitled to receive.

Second is acknowledgement: cognizance of and responsiveness within the relational-cultural landscape. As members of a marginalized community, this level of consciousness was essential for survival. This practice is akin to what RCT scholar Yvonne Jenkins first referred to as social esteem. By introducing the construct of social esteem, Jenkins challenges the notion of self-esteem as a privately held property and responsibility. In her framework, questions of being, belonging, and mattering cannot be effectively addressed without cognizance of the social-political context within which they arise. When African American elders talked about “having people,” they were saying that oblivion to context is not an option: that we were responsible to for discerning how personal behaviors might impact communal experience. In no small way, this consciousness contributes to the development of anticipatory empathy. (Being allowed to kick someone else’s property through a crowded grocery aisle actually deconstructs this quality of relational consciousness.) Acknowledgment as a relational practice enables clarity and intentionality in navigating the complex interdependencies of a stratified cultural landscape.

blogpullquoteSelf esteem2One of the foundational tenets of Relational-Cultural Theory is that the purpose of being in relationship. Having a sense of agency then is to claim our responsibility as co-creators of human possibility. I can think of a no more telling example of this perspective than a conversation I had with a young Indonesian man a few years ago. He told me that as a member of a religious minority in his country, he knew that he had to work twice as hard to get half as far: precisely the advice that I had heard growing up in a racially stratified culture decades earlier. Interestingly, this belief did not engender defeatism or victimhood. Rather, it confirmed the obligation to community: to advance the contributions of preceding generations and to provide “uplift” for future generations. Further, it instilled confidence in our ability and obligation to make the world a little bit better for others.

To infuse the notion of self-esteem with a more communal perspective does not eradicate personhood; rather it enlarges it. A culture that overemphasizes the primacy of the individual creates obsession with self-possession and fear-riddled autonomy. In contrast, a relational perspective insists that self comes to fuller expression through action in relationship for the precise purpose of enlarged capacity for responsiveness in relationship. There is an alternative to the version of self-esteem that manifests as “I should say, do, and get what I want when I want it.” Imagine the possibilities for cultural transformation when self-esteem (feeling good about oneself) manifests as “We belong. We can. We matter.”

Maureen Walker, Ph.D. is director of program development at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley Centers for Women.

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MotherStruck!

motherstruckMotherStruck!

This article was originally published on Huffington Post and is posted with permission by the author.

Reproductive freedom. What do these words mean? They mean having the children you want, when you want. They mean not becoming pregnant when you don't want and not having children you don't want. They mean sexual freedom; becoming and expressing who you are.

International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) was founded because women were becoming pregnant when they didn't want to be and either having children they didn't want or resorting to unsafe abortion to terminate their pregnancies. We at Planned Parenthood in the USA and abroad have focused on providing safe and effective contraceptives to women who want to delay, limit, time and space their children, as well as safe abortion services. Along the way, my grandmother started a program to help women conceive, become pregnant and have the children they wanted. Fertility services are now offered at many IPPF clinics around the world.

I was reminded of this last night at the opening of a marvelous new play, MotherStruck!, written and performed by Staceyann Chin, a half-Jamaican, half­-Chinese, lesbian immigrant to Brooklyn, who decides to have a child. The play chronicles her poignant search for the right partner--both the romantic and the sperm­ donor varieties--her marriage to a gay man (who dies before his 30th birthday), and her subsequent assisted insemination by his younger brother. After a fraught pregnancy and difficult delivery, Staceyann experiences the trials of motherhood as a single mom and the difficulty of trying to eke out a living as a poet in Brooklyn.

The play reminded me that reproduction is not relegated only to heterosexual couples, and that childbirth and raising children are often not easy or without pain and trauma. This is why reproductive freedom is vital.

At the curtain call, Staceyann Chin's daughter, Suri, bounded onto the stage with flowers for her mother. The actor enveloped her and held her tight in her arms ­­ a gift to her mother, and to us.

Alex Sanger is Chair, International Planned Parenthood Council, and a former member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

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Professional Development is a Key to Quality

apasProfessional Development is a Key to Quality

On December 10th, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes several provisions for out-of-school time (OST). Importantly, the act gives more flexibility to state education agencies to put resources toward training, professional development, and quality improvement for OST programs and staff. At the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), we are strong believers in the power of quality programs, and are working to help the field achieve quality for all.

As OST begins to take on a larger role--with more than 10.2 million children and youth now participating in OST programs, public and private investments in afterschool programs increasing dramatically over the last two decades, and the nation’s leaders looking to afterschool programs to help with everything from closing the achievement gap to improving our kids’ social emotional skills--quality programming is more essential than ever. Not just any program will help achieve desired student outcomes. We have a solid research base showing that program quality is what determines whether programs meet their youth developmental and academic goals, and that higher quality programs deliver better experiences for kids (see, for example, this research). However, quality is uneven across, and even within, afterschool programs.

blogpullquoteOSTSo, how do we promote and ensure quality? One major key is staff training and professional development. Since NIOST’s early role in the Massachusetts Afterschool Research Study (2005), which found that programs with more highly educated and trained staff demonstrated greater staff and youth engagement and better activities than programs with less educated and trained staff, evidence has been mounting that professional development and staff training can significantly affect program quality. In short, OST programs need to be of high quality to have a positive impact, and a main path to quality is through staff training. But, of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Where is an OST program to begin? How do you know quality when you see it, and what should staff training and professional development look like?

The OST field has come a long way toward understanding what makes up quality and how to get there. Many cities and states have developed research-based Quality Program Standards and Core Knowledge and Competencies for professionals (like those adopted by the National Afterschool Association) defining quality programs and practice. Continuous Quality Improvement--a process by which one defines quality, assesses it, and then works to support its growth and development--is becoming commonplace.

Assessment tools can further help programs measure components of quality and guide professional development. They can also empower OST professionals to build the skills they need to improve quality. The Assessment of Program Practices Tool (APT), part of NIOST’s Afterschool Program Assessment System, is designed to help programs evaluate and strengthen practices that research suggests are linked with positive youth outcomes. Combining observation and self-assessment, APT looks at the overall afterschool program, homework time, and activities. It helps staff observe and demonstrate their skills, characteristics, and program features that contribute to measurable positive child and youth outcomes.

It’s great to see federal lawmakers agreeing that quality matters in OST. With clarity of vision from an assessment tool, programs can focus their staff training and professional development on areas that need improvement, and best leverage the ESSA funding.

Betsy Starr, M.Ed.is a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her work focuses on professional development and system-building for the field of afterschool and youth development. (Video: Ellen Gannett, M.Ed., is director of NIOST.)

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Local and Global Perspectives on Human Rights, Drugs, Crime, Women and Children

122115blogLocal and Global Perspectives on Human Rights, Drugs, Crime, Women and Children

Substance abuse among women in Massachusetts is increasing dramatically. It is also a worldwide problem. Locally and globally we need to work for a public health model that is responsive to human rights concerns and effective in protecting families and communities.

The United Nations will be holding a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York in April, 2016. In preparation, a Global Civil Society Survey was conducted in spring 2015 to identify key areas of concern. Among the five areas to emerge from this process are drugs and health; drugs and crime; and protecting the human rights of women, children and communities in drug-related penal policies. Penal Reform International (PRI), based in the United Kingdom, is spearheading the collection of suggestions on alternatives to incarceration, and Andrea Huber, PRI’s policy director, forwarded me a request for input to this process.

This focus could not be timelier in terms of my work. For the past two years I have conducted research into women, crime, drugs and children in Massachusetts. I have analyzed caseload data of women seeking substance abuse services through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, focusing primarily on mothers, and identifying those that are justice-involved. In 2013 alone, there were 33,000 admissions of women to treatment. Of these, almost one half had children under 18 years of age. Almost 30 percent of women’s admissions had some blogpullquoteDrugsWomenform of justice-involvement (mostly probation). However, comparisons between justice-involved and non-justice-involved women revealed few differences on demographic and other characteristics. For example, their ages, maternal status, the number of children they have, their children’s ages, and the percentage living with their children.

Also, I talked with women in residential addiction treatment houses--some of which permitted children to live with their mothers--and asked them about their history of treatment, the pros and cons of having their children with them in recovery, and whether justice-involvement had helped or hindered their recovery efforts. Although some women acknowledged that being arrested and locked up for a brief period of time might indeed have saved their lives, they had not experienced effective treatment while incarcerated; and over time their addictions had worsened. Women on probation face a different type of problem. If they experience a relapse they are caught up in negative, escalating sanctions. They are likely to be incarcerated--not because their original offenses warranted prison sentences--but because they have broken their conditions of probation. On the other hand, women in treatment facilities funded by the Department of Public Health are more likely to be encouraged to think about how and why they lapsed and to learn from those experiences.

These differences of approach between the public health and criminal justice paradigms are crucial because the average number of relapses for people in treatment in Massachusetts is around eleven. Gradually, the realization is growing that the criminal justice response to addictions, especially for women, is unworkable. Another reason to support the public health paradigm rather than justice-involvement is because of the universal lack of trauma-informed, effective treatment in prisons for women.

These findings clearly support the NGOs around the world that recommend treating health and human rights as the corner of international drug policy and call for a public health response through the following statements: “Civil society has clearly expressed the need for a public health response to the problems associated with drug use.” “There is a need for gender-sensitive services for women who use drugs...and to support pregnant women and women... with children.” [We need to] “Add a human rights lens to the drug policy conversation and include a gender lens.”

Erika Kates, Ph.D. is a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College; she leads the Massachusetts Women's Justice Network.

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The Right to Research: How Data Helps Women’s Human Rights around the World – The Case of West African Market Women

GBlog2The Right to Research: How Data Helps Women’s Human Rights around the World – The Case of West African Market Women

This past November, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana as a member of the international research advisory committee for a study on West African market women that was sponsored by the African Women’s Development Fund, Ford | West Africa, and the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (full disclosure: I’m a member of the SMWF board). This sweeping study, in which over 500 women from four Anglophone countries--Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone--were interviewed, was the first ever to examine market women’s contributions to economic and social development in West Africa, particularly from the perspective of the market women themselves. Five researchers--a coordinating lead researcher, Dr. Comfort Lamptey, plus one researcher for each country--collected and analyzed the data, and we were convening in Ghana for a validation workshop to which national government officials, UN operatives, NGO leaders, funders, and market women leaders had been invited to discuss the results and formulate next steps.

Market women--those everyday traders who sell foodstuffs and other necessities in local open markets--are a force to be reckoned with in their respective countries. Yet, their voices, concerns, and ideas have often been ignored because they are considered economically and socially marginal due to their location in the informal sector and the fact that many continue to live at subsistence level. Nevertheless, as our study showed, market women make up approximately 80 percent of the women working in the informal sector in their societies, and, without them, their countries couldn’t function. They are the ones responsible for moving crops and livestock from farm to market and for basic processing of foods most frequently used. Whether rice or corn, yam or cassava, plantains or peppers, pineapples or papayas, sugar cane or palm oil, greens or groundnuts, goat, chicken, or fish--they are the ones who bring it to market and sell. One thing we agreed on at this conference is that no longer should these women be referred to as “petty traders,” because there is nothing petty about what they do!

In fact, our study revealed that market women play a major role in human capital development in their respective nations because, after feeding their families, their major economic expense is paying school fees for their children--and often for the children of others, such as extended family members. In our study, there were market women paying school fees for up to 13 children; an average was four or five. Often, these women also generously take care of neglected or orphaned children in their communities, even on their subsistence-level budgets. Market women are committed to education, and many have put children not only through primary schGBlog1Layli Maparyan with the Delegation from Liberia.ool, but also secondary school and university. Some can claim heads of state, government ministers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, professors, and corporate executives among those they have educated. In fact, the head of Ford | West Africa expressed that he was in part inspired to fund this study because his own mother was a market woman. Even President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Africa’s first democratically elected woman head of state, after whom the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund is named, is the grand-daughter of a market woman. Almost everyone in West Africa--or anyone from West Africa, living in the diaspora--is related or connected to a market woman.

Although our study was able to identify the fact that market women contribute significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) of their respective nations, further detailed study of their contributions to GDP by economists would be the next logical follow-up. Such data would provide leverage for convincing governments to earmark budgetary lines for market women. Market women have many needs, from infrastructural improvements to their markets (such as better stalls, improved storage and security, and improved water and sanitation), to financial literacy and business skills training (which will enable them to better engage formal sector institutions), to basic literacy programs (our study found that most market women have only completed primary school or less), to child care and early education schemes for their children, to family leave policies and maternal care provisions that will provide flexibility and support when they are pregnant or lactating. These are the needs that were identified by the market women themselves in our study. Although some foundations, multi- or bi-laterals, and NGOs address these needs quite valiantly, they would be most comprehensively and reliably addressed if governments became involved, creating relevant policies, contributing dedicated funds, and coordinating multi-sectoral efforts so that duplication is avoided. More detailed research about the economic impact of market women could show governments that investing in market women isn’t just the right thing to do for the women themselves, but it is also a profitable economic investment for each nation respectively, particularly as many struggle to move from low-income to middle-income economic designations.

In the study and from the floor, the market women expressed the need to strengthen their national blogpullquoteMarketWomenmarket women organizations, with a special focus on gender parity in leadership. Although women are, by far, the largest proportion of marketers and traders, often it is the few men who are afforded positions of leadership that allow them to engage with policymakers. The market women who participated in our study would like to see women’s voices rise to the top and for women’s leadership to be recognized with top-level posts. Additionally, they indicated that the time might be right for a West Africa-wide market women’s organization that allowed market women from different countries to network, share best practices, and shape policy that affects them. Many touted the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund as a good example of a multi-constituency organization that has raised the visibility of market women’s issues at the same time as it has brought different stakeholders together for a common cause, and they imagined this model growing from its roots in Liberia to other countries. Additionally, the pivotal roles of the African Women’s Development Fund, UN Women, and Ford, all of which have provided funding for market women’s issues and related actions, were lauded as model donors.

One extremely interesting and exciting development from the floor was the suggestion that market women should and would like to take more responsibility for data collection about themselves. Many market women expressed “research fatigue”--an exhaustion with “outsider” researchers who “come in, collect data on us, write books about us, don’t call us back, and don’t do anything to help us.” Fortunately, the whole purpose of the validation workshop was to present the findings to the market women, determine whether they rang true with market women, and engage in conversations about the way forward with market women as equal partners at the table with other stakeholders. At the workshop, all of us discussed ways that data and research could be maximized for the benefit of market women, including how to collect data in ways that avoid duplication and how to bring market women into the process as researchers. It is market women who know best what is important to their lives and their businesses, yet the ability of researchers from different sectors (academia, government, multilaterals, NGOs, CBOs, and funders) to converse together enriches the larger effort.

GBlog3Dr. Comfort Lamptey and Layli MaparyanMy own horse in this race has to do with making sure that women all over the world have equal access to good research that affects their lives. At the Wellesley Centers for Women, we have prioritized raising the banner of research in important conversations and working with women- and gender-focused research organizations around the world to increase capacity, where needed, and to partner as equals wherever possible. We have so much to learn from each other; but, more importantly, the world’s policymakers need more and better information about women’s lives that is informed by women themselves. Whether it is creating more opportunities for women to become researchers, or making sure there are enough women- and gender-focused research organization around the world, or making sure that data generated by and about women gets utilized in all the right places, or making sure that everyday people who aren’t researchers have the research literacy to interpret research findings critically, we believe that research is a human right and that access to data advances human rights. So, on this Human Rights Day, we are glad to be part of the cause!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

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A Global View on the Research-and-Action Connection: Ending Gender-Based Violence in Ghana

orangeA Global View on the Research-and-Action Connection: Ending Gender-Based Violence in Ghana

“16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” is an annual campaign sponsored by UN Women to raise concern about violence against women and girls and to highlight efforts at its eradication around the world. It commences on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and terminates on December 10th, Human Rights Day. It just so happens that I was in Ghana at the beginning of this year’s campaign. While my visit required me to sacrifice Thanksgiving with my family back in the States, I came home so grateful for everything I had learned and all of the people I had met that I really want to share some highlights, in the interest of the collective movement to end gender-based violence around the world, of which the Wellesley Centers for Women is a part.

IMG 6892 1WCW Council of Advisors member Abigail Burgesson and WCW Executive Director Layli Maparyan with Dorcas Coker-Appiah, Founder and Executive Director of the Gender Centre.My first visit was to the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre, a research-and-action institute in Accra founded and led by Cllr. Dorcas Coker-Appiah. The Gender Centre (as it is known) established itself by conducting Ghana’s first landscape study of violence against women in 1997. This study became the basis for Ghana’s first comprehensive domestic violence policy, authored in 2001 and signed in 2007. Prior to the passage of this law, rape was the only legally recognized form of violence against women, and the existing law denied that rape could take place between married persons. The new domestic violence law, by contrast, recognizes manifold types of domestic violence, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse, and harassment, including sexual harassment. While the law denying marital rape had to be overturned separately, this too was accomplished, making Ghana’s Act 732 a model for gender-based violence policy across Africa, particularly in places where no such comprehensive domestic violence law exists.

The Gender Centre’s landscape study was accomplished with the help of partners across the country. While the Gender Centre developed the research protocol and trained the researchers, it relied on data collectors based at other NGOs and CBOs in different regions around the country to conduct the actual data collection. The research protocol incorporated data triangulation involving legal and policy research, focus groups, and individual interviews to ensure robustness and validity across means of collection. Once the study was completed, a coalition of institutional actors, supported by the African Women’s Development Fund, was convened to conduct public education and stakeholder sensitization about domestic violence in advance of writing and shepherding the policy through the legislative process. The end-result was the creation of buy-in across the country for the new domestic IMG 6917"16 Days of Activism" Event hosted by WiLDAF Ghanaviolence law. Once the law was passed, efforts were made to capacitize the judiciary system and buttress the police force, as well as to increase the capacity of the health system to deal with domestic violence cases. In fact, a Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) was created within the Ghana Police Service and training on domestic violence was mainstreamed into the police academy curriculum. Other social actors inside and outside government also rose to support the new law in ways relevant to their respective missions.

One such organization was WiLDAF Ghana, the Women in Law and Development in Africa Association. The day after visiting the Gender Centre, I was able to attend WiLDAF’s half-day “Learn and Share Event on Gender Based Violence,” which was part of Ghana’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence programming. This workshop brought together women lawyers and judges, women and men from the Ghana Police Sercie, representatives from various NGOs (including AWDF, Oxfam, and the Ark Foundation), a leading disability rights activist, members of the religious community, and a number of journalists from various media to discuss issues of coordination. Officers from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection were also invited. The idea was that all of these groups needed to work together in an integrated fashion to insure the fullest implementation of the law and to reduce gender-based violence in Ghana. One premise was that meeting face-to-face and knowing each other in person would accelerate the process.

IMG 6919One conundrum that was discussed is the fact gender-based violence statistics have gone up in recent years in Ghana, begging the question of whether domestic violence really is on the rise or, alternately, whether the new law has merely increased reporting of incidents due to society-wide sensitization. Although both factors may be at play, there was general agreement that the law was a necessary intervention on an unacceptable situation--broad scale gender-based violence in Ghana. (Of course, lest anyone single Ghana out, the World Health Organization recently released figures that 1 out 3 women worldwide has survived one or more acts of gender-based violence--the global mean is 35 percent, with country-by-country prevalence rates ranging from 17-71 percent.) In fact, WiLDAF staged some public street theatre IMG 6921Street theatre performers who raised visibility about gender-based violence at a busy intersection during rush hour in Accra.that very morning to drive home this point, placing actors depicting bloody and bandaged brides and a groom at a busy intersection wearing placards that read “I did not bargain for this,” “I am your wife, not your punching bag,” “Real men don’t hit their wives,” and “Stop gender based violence” on their bodies. One way in which this demonstration reflected cultural particularities was the fact that the groom was dressed like an older man with gray hair, suggesting indirectly child marriage as a form of gender-based violence which also must end. After the street demonstration, the actors appeared at the workshop.

The following day, I had the pleasure of lunch with an interdisciplinary group of scholars from the Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) at the University of Ghana, Legon, led by sociologist Dr. Akosua Darkwah. Over lunch, we discussed the evolution of domestic violence shelters in Ghana and the struggles that many of them--and their inhabitants--face. There is still only one fully functioning domestic violence shelter in Ghana, which is run as a joint venture between the Ark Foundation and some private individuals. There is only one other shelter in the country, run by the state exclusively for children but not women. Exposure to sexual violence, especially incest, is a common reason for women (or girls) to come to the shelters. One common scenario is a girl who has been subjected to incest arriving at the shelter with her mother, who stays with her; another common scenario is an adolescent woman coming to the shelter by herself because she has been shut out by her family for levying claims of incest. In both cases, those who arrive tend to come and stay indefinitely, rather than staying or a period of time and then leaving. One reason is the lack of additional support services in Ghana; another reason is the extreme psychological and social difficulty of existing without family support in the Ghanaian context. For example, in a country where marriage is extremely important for social status and acceptability, people can’t marry without an extended family entourage. For women who have been ejected from their families, such family support disappears. IMG 6985Layli Maparyan with researchers from CEGENSA.Shelter staff will create family around those who come to live there, giving names, especially to babies who are born of incest, which provides them with new social identities as part of a family group. While the culture of shelters is still evolving in Ghana, particularly as the legal architecture that supports survivors of gender-based violence (e.g., restraining orders and their enforcement) continues to evolve simultaneously, these few anecdotes demonstrate the creative ways that those who care about and care for survivors are attempting to solve complex challenges. As my colleagues from CEGENSA noted, there is ripe room for research in this area--research that would help inform action.

I lift up the work of the Gender Centre, WiLDAF, and CEGENSA because, together, they demonstrate the research-and-action connection that is so near and dear to us here at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Researchers at the Gender Centre identified a crucial policy gap, designed and executed a comprehensive study to fill in that gap with blogpullquoteGenderViolencedata, convened a group of stakeholders to write new policy, and shepherded the draft policy through the national legislative process while simultaneously engaging in public education so that the government and the people were in it together. They needed to piece together support from many sources over many years to make this happen. Many others who also cared passionately about ending gender-based violence worked with them or supported this work. Now, as Ghana looks ahead the tenth anniversary of its landmark domestic violence legislation, the country can claim many accomplishments. These include the expansion of its judiciary system to address gender-based violence, a sensitized police force that includes a domestic violence unit, and the leadership of its Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. It also includes increased awareness of groups with special vulnerabilities (such as people with disabilities), and the education and sensitization efforts of numerous NGOs like WiLDAF and academic institutes like CEGENSA. All of these actors are vigorously working together to make sure that the country as a whole is moving in the same direction--away from gender-based violence and towards peace and security for women. Other countries can learn from Ghana --and other countries can increase the link between research and action to end gender-based violence.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

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Why Are There So Few Women Leading Theatres and What Can Be Done About It?

curtainWhy Are There So Few Women Leading Theatres and What Can Be Done About It?

This blog was originally published on the HowlRound website on December 1, 2015, and is re-posted with permission.

This week on HowlRound, we continue the conversation on gender parity, which has been gaining momentum this year through studies, articles, forums, one-on-one discussions, and seasons and festivals focused on women. As Co-President of the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition and VP of Programming for the League of Professional Theatre Women, I have the pleasure of working with, coordinating, contributing to, and raising awareness about many of these local, national, and international efforts. This series explores what needs to happen right now—in this precipitous moment—in order to profoundly, permanently expand the theatrical community's views and visions of women, both onstage and in every aspect of production.

When people unfamiliar with the world of theatre learn that our current research is on why there are too few women leading major U.S. theatres, their first comment is, “But it’s better than it used to be, right?” We say, “No, the situation hasn’t changed for decades.” They respond with, “I don’t understand, look at Lynne Meadow, look at Diane Paulus.” We say, “Yes, there are a few illustrious examples.” Unfortunately, comparisons with the “bad-old-days” and mention of token successes also showed up frequently in our interviews with 100 theatre professionals. Furthermore, they added, “Racial minorities have it worse, that’s where we should focus our attention to diversify leadership.”

In 2013, the leadership of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco approached us at the Wellesley Centers for Women to be their research partner for studying gender equity in LORT leadership. There were only fifteen women who served as artistic directors, or held the combined Artistic Director/CEO position in the seventy-four LORT theatres at the time. The situation on the executive/managerial side of the theatres was better, but not much: there were nineteen female leaders. There was only one female artistic director of color. For men of color, leadership representation was also bleak: there were five leaders on the artistic side, and like women of color, none were top executive/managerial leaders. Our research, which is supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and individual donors, suggests that many issues associated with the scarcity of women in top leadership are also true of people of color. Pointing to the scarcity of people of color to avoid paying attention to women is an excuse. There needs to be action on both fronts, paying particular attention to the virtual absence of women of color in theatre leadership.

Our research strategy aimed at better understanding the career paths of those in current leadership in order to make recommendations for aspiring future leaders in the pipeline and examining the search process to make recommendations to hiring committees. We had two informant pools: our primary charge was within LORT, so we focused on current leaders and their immediate reports within the League through interviews and resume analyses. Because candidates for leadership can come from both inside and outside of LORT, we also gathered anonymous survey data from stage director members of SDC and operational managers in TCG theatre members with a budget of over $1 million.

Demographics (of gender and race) in LORT Leadership. Photo courtesy of Wellesley Centers for Women.

Demographics (of gender and race) in LORT Leadership. Photo courtesy of Wellesley Centers for Women.

First, we studied the pipeline. The career path toward an artistic director (AD) position is strongly defined by “whom you play in the sandbox with,” in the words of one of our interviewees. The skills of directing and producing can best be honed by getting invitations from multiple theatres to bring a variety of plays to the stage. But skills are not enough. To have a shot at top leadership, directors and producers need to build relationships with people who can speak to their strengths and can vet their reputation. In our survey with almost 1,000 stage directors, women highlighted two barriers toward succeeding in their quest to become the artistic leader of a theatre: a lack of opportunities to direct widely to strengthen their portfolio, and not having someone speaking to their strengths. Stage directors of color (both women and men) added to these two barriers faced by white women that they also confronted being pigeonholed into directing plays by playwrights of color.

So, yes, there is a pipeline issue facing women and people of color in their preparation for artistic leadership. How do we strengthen the pipeline?

1. Make conscious, planned, and thoughtful decisions to include women and people of color as directors and producers in programming each and every season to provide them with frequent, varied opportunities.

2. Travel and relocation are real obstacles for both men and women with families, but the preconceived notion that “they won’t want to come and do this” is a stronger barrier for women. If these issues do present a challenge, be willing to accommodate the director’s needs.

3. ADs should invite directors of color to direct the classics as well as new plays to support their portfolio growth.

blogpullquoteLORTWomenA word of caution: To conclude that the main problem is a pipeline issue and over time more women and people of color will become viable candidates is an incomplete diagnosis of the problem, and an excuse. It dismisses the large numbers of producers and directors who are well prepared and eager to take on artistic director positions. In addition to the pipeline, there is just as profound a glass ceiling that can be broken with a change in mindset among those who make hiring decisions. Here are some action points for hiring committees about selecting ADs:

1. Don’t overlook the sizable number of women directors and producers, including women of color, who have founded theatre companies, and have developed expertise in all aspects of artistic leadership. These women constitute a viable, immediately available pool of candidates, but are being overlooked in searches and are waiting just below the glass ceiling. Curiously, we found previous AD experience to be prevalent in the background of male, but not female artistic directors within LORT.

2. Be willing to go beyond your comfort zone and the current model of the male leader to trust and select women (and people of color) candidates. A fair number of female LORT ADs had worked in a LORT theatre prior to their AD appointment. These women were known and trusted, hence were promoted. There are many other talented women (directors and creative producers) who have the necessary skills without having worked in LORT. They need to be pulled into the search process.

3. Learn how to and then actively support any candidate’s success once on the job and continue to mentor them. One AD of color we interviewed points out that gender should hardly matter in choosing a candidate: “... nobody is prepared for one of these jobs when they come into it.” All new hires, male or female, people of color or white, will need support from their Board to succeed.

4. Move toward developing metrics for vetting leadership candidates to create greater transparency in the selection process and provide guidance to people in the pipeline. These metrics can also be used to evaluate the wisdom of the board’s selection and the performance of the candidate chosen.

Women have fared slightly better on the operational side of LORT theatres, outnumbering men in all departments, except executive/managerial directors (ED). So there is no pipeline problem for ED appointments; the absence of women at the top is clearly a glass ceiling issue. All it will take is for search committees to have the resolve to move beyond the model of having a man as the operational leader. But the lack of a pipeline issue for women aspiring to become EDs is true only for white women. Women of color are far fewer on the operational side and there is no woman of color who is the ED of a LORT theatre. For women of color, there is both a pipeline and a glass ceiling issue preventing their presence at the top. In our surveys, both women of color and white women’s comfort and expertise with fundraising come through as their strongest assets, and should be reasons for Board selection committees to seek them out. Indeed, a background in development is well represented among white female EDs. However, women managers reported that they are just as comfortable with budgeting, contracts, or real estate law. Ignoring these talents by placing the majority of women in development is limiting the pipeline and solidifying stereotypes that general management and finance are male domains.

Breaking the glass ceiling by creating more opportunities for women and people of color among current leadership in LORT now, without further delay, will serve as a route to simultaneously grow the pipeline reaching all the way down to high school teens who will learn to see the theatre as a possible and viable option among their career choices.

Sumru Erkut, Ph.D. and Ineke Ceder are members of the research team at the Wellesley Centers for Women, working on the Women's Leadership in Residential Theaters project.

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A World AIDS Day Hero: Beatrice Achieng Nas

bachiengnasA World AIDS Day Hero: Beatrice Achieng Nas

December 1st is World AIDS Day. This year, I’d like to shine the light on someone whose work I really admire, someone who is dedicating her life to serving and lifting up many children and families who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. I’m talking about Beatrice Achieng Nas, founder-director of Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation (PCEF), and the Rural Girl Child Mentorship Project (RGCM). I first met Beatrice when she came to the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) from her native Uganda as an IREX Community Solutions Fellow (CSF). CSF fellows are selected to come to the United States from developing countries [WC] for showing exceptional promise as community leaders. In the U.S., they train with host institutions to increase their leadership and management experience so that they can carry it back to their home countries and power up their own initiatives. Before coming here, Beatrice had already been developing both PCEF and RGCM Uganda for a few years, but both could be considered fledgling initiatives at that time. While with us at WCW, she studied women’s NGO management, which included mentoring in the areas of communications, donor relations, and grant writing, as well as research basics, program evaluation, and social-emotional learning facilitation. I’m proud to say she also taught us a few things, especially about mobilizing people around a cause!

Back in Uganda, Beatrice runs an organization to empower academically talented girls from rural communities by helping them gain admittance to and stay in good secondary schools, many of which are far from home. Many of these girls are from families that have been affected by HIV/AIDS. In some cases, one or both parents have died from the disease. In other cases, siblings have died from the disease, leaving children to be cared for by other family members, even the by girls themselves. In all cases, they live in communities where far too many people have died from AIDS. In fact, Beatrice herself lost seven of nine siblings to HIV/AIDS, and she and her mother have been caring for all of her nieces and nephews ever since. When Beatrice was growing up, some missionaries from Kentucky came through her village and noticed her--they noticed that she was smart, industrious, kind, and capable. At the time, she was working as a village barmaid, bringing in the only income her family had. These missionaries decided then and there to pay for blogpullquoteAIDSDayBeatrice’s education. As a result, Beatrice made it all the way to Makerere University, the top university in Uganda and one of the leading universities in Africa, where she majored in information technology. Her college degree led to some good positions with, first, a bank, and later an international NGO, but after working in these places for a while, Beatrice realized she could do much more on her own. That’s when she founded PCEF and RGMC.

Beatrice’s work requires her to raise funds from donors from around the world in the form of sponsorships for her students and gifts to support the organization’s many community projects. One thing I really love about Beatrice’s model of change is the fact that she understands that, to help her girls, she must also help the families of her girls and strengthen the communities in which these families live. These families and communities need economic supports, educational supports, health supports, and more. Once the girls are in school, Beatrice engages the girls’ families in livelihood projects, such as agribusiness and craft-making, that generate revenue that is often lost when the girls leave the village for school in the city, helping the families rise above mere survival. She also provides safer sex education for her girls and other community members in their villages, providing free condoms whenever possible. She counsels families against early marriage of their daughters, because, even though the practice is illegal in Uganda, many girls--even academically talented girls--are married off before they can attend secondary school, often for the economic survival of their families. And she requires the families in her program to remain free of domestic violence while their girls are in her program. When families struggle with this, she provides counseling. Her memories of witnessing domestic violence in her own family growing up fuel her commitment to helping families in the communities she serves to see past domestic violence, whether in terms of intimate partner abuse, child abuse, or various forms of sexual abuse. To help reduce violence at the community level, Beatrice borrowed strategies that she learned from WCW’s own Open Circle program--strategies that teach recognizing and managing emotions, empathy, positive relationships, and problem solving--and shared them not only with the girls and their families, but also with the teachers and staff of the schools the girls attended. Many teachers, parents, and community members reported that they had never understood the impact of violence on their girls before this training, and many also expressed commitment to eliminate violence from their relationships--in the home and in school.

aidsribbonRecently, Beatrice updated us about her activities, which have grown to support the communities where she works in even broader ways. In addition to a library/community center in Amor Village, which was her project under IREX, she has now started a school complex in Tororo village that already includes a primary school and will grow to include a nursery school, a secondary school, and a vocational education center. Twenty-seven of the mentees who started with PCEF/RGCM at the beginning of secondary school are now pursuing university education. About half of them are studying to become teachers, but the others are pursing fields as diverse as accounting and finance, adult education, economics, motor mechanics, clinical medicine, nursing, human resource management, and wildlife management. Finally, Beatrice is mobilizing donors to purchase solar panels for the families in her network so that they can stop using kerosene lamps. She just thinks of everything!

The Wellesley Centers for Women was not the first to recognize the incredible talent and heart of Beatrice Achieng Nas. In fact, Beatrice had already been recognized as an emerging leader by World Pulse, who brought her to the U.S. to speak on the World Pulse Live Tour. At WCW, we were glad to contribute to Beatrice’s ongoing leadership development, and many of us have stayed connected with her since her time in our midst. In fact, one of our researchers visited Beatrice for a research tutorial as part of a larger East Africa tour, and thanks to additional IREX support, two members of our Open Circle team traveled to Uganda to help Beatrice with the social-emotional learning trainings. We can see that the chance to “walk part of the journey together” has enriched all of us on both sides. Beatrice has benefited from WCW’s research expertise and training projects, while WCW has benefited from Beatrice’s ability to translate our work into action on the ground. We are thankful for the gift of such mutually fulfilling social-change relationships and, on this World AIDS Day, we are grateful that our work, through Beatrice, has helped families and communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Science and the Law Working Together to Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault

microscopeScience and the Law Working Together to Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault

Few would argue that the value of forensic science in solving crimes has been a game changer in favor of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenders. Indeed, forensic evidence can be credited with bringing many criminals to justice (and exonerating the innocent). In cases of sexual assault, there was hope that advances in evidence gathering would lead to more prosecutions. Fueling this possibility was a focused effort over the last few decades to train medical personnel to collect forensic evidence, known in the criminal justice vernacular as rape or sexual assault kits, in the aftermath of an assault. While intended to be thorough in the interest of evidence gathering, the exam is an intrusive and difficult experience for victims. So it was perhaps one of the most important and disappointing developments when it was discovered that thousands of untested rape kits going back many years were sitting in crime labs or property rooms of police departments across the U.S.

The outrage expressed at this revelation by advocates, practitioners, and policymakers was channeled into action through significant funding allocated by the Department of Justice to conduct research that would serve to develop priorities for testing unsubmitted sexual assault kits. The importance of these efforts was fortified in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. This legislation calls for the development of policies, protocols, and training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors regarding the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases and the appropriate treatment of victims. It also calls for the identification and inventory of backlogs of sexual assault kits and to develop protocols for blogpullquoteAsaultJusticeresponding to and addressing such backlogs, including policies and protocols for notifying and involving victims. States and local jurisdictions have also been responding by implementing backlog reduction legislation or initiatives.

Funds made available through this legislation are being used to analyze backlogged DNA crime scene samples, including sexual assault kits, and offender DNA samples for inclusion in CODIS—a national database containing DNA profiles of persons involved in crimes—and notifying victims of new developments in their cases. There are a number of important projects underway in police departments across the U.S. and some significant results are beginning to emerge that will not only be used to improve testing practices, but will also serve to challenge the entrenched organizational and cultural reluctance to take sexual assaults seriously. While borne out of an unfortunate discovery, the commitment by local, state and federal agencies to understand and address the issue of untested kits provides hope for advancing action and theory in the age old challenge to reduce sexual assault case attrition.

April Pattavina, Ph.D. is co-director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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"The Hunting Ground”—Ground zero for changing social norms on sexual assault?

HuntingGround"The Hunting Ground”—Ground zero for changing social norms on sexual assault?

This week we recognize the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Indeed, gender-based violence impacts women across the globe. Rape in conflict zones or of refugees or of child brides are all horrific and this day makes it clear that violence against women is still a pressing problem—and this includes sexual violence on college campuses.

Today we applaud the courageous women who created, produced, and spoke out in the film “The Hunting Ground.” This movie makes it clear that although sexual assault on campus occurs in the ivied halls of elite U.S. institutions (as well as in the big 10, in religiously affiliated, secular or community colleges) it is not simply one of those #firstworld problems which we must apologize for worrying about in the face of all the tragedies in the world.

“The Hunting Ground” demonstrates the extent to which sexual assault on campus represents not only the evil one person commits against another but also places the harms of campus rape within the context of the institutions. When an institution does not take steps to end sexual violence then they can be seen as providing institutional support for rape and rape culture. While, of course, not all schools fail in this way, many do and the work of the organizers of www.endrapeoncampus.org has brought this to the attention of us all.

The sexual assault of college students—of women and some men—is a denial of access to education. If permitted to continue it relegates women to a marginal status and basically is a way of telling women to “go home.” It gives this message to some women: “If you can't take what is being handed out then you can give your seat at this university to someone who can—to a male” (the male you took it from when women decided they should be able to seek an education so they could become lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, writers, political scientists--- be women who will make a difference in the world.) Carol Tracy (executive blogpullquoteHuntingGrounddirector of the Women’s Law Project, who was honored by the American Society of Criminology just last week for her fight for justice) called the women of “The Hunting Ground” courageous and amazing. Last week Carol helped me to recognize and, yes, maybe even believe, that this film and more importantly the work of these women is the ground zero for a cataclysmic change in how we respond to rape and a path to changing social norms about rape. Certainly this is a turning point in the lengthy battle to stop sexual violence and to end rape. As such, the impact will hopefully go far beyond campuses and the U.S. It is a strong message to victims and survivors throughout the country and throughout the world that they are not alone.

Since Carol and I started working in this field in the early 1970s there has been much change. Many steps forward. In the 1970s there was almost no recognition of the seriousness of the problem of rape for women and men of our land (well except for the brutal legacy of the way black men suspected of rape of white women were treated—an important part of our history we need to return to on another day because I suspect it plays a role in the conflict around men women and rape in the U.S. today.) In the early 1970s Carol was involved in a sit-in against rape that occurred at a fraternity and I was involved in research that led to the discovery that rape was much more likely to take place at the hands of someone known to the victim than to involve a stranger.

Since the 1970s we demonstrated the importance of evidence and rape kits (and then some folks “forgot” to test them) and rape crisis centers were started and researchers began to pay attention to this crime and to victimization. Laws were changed and victims were supported in the process… But in many ways it had begun to feel like we had hit a wall on the progress needed to end rape, to find justice for the survivors and to eliminate violence against women. The film, “The Hunting Ground” and the courageous and ground breaking work of Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark and all the survivors who have made their voices heard make me think—change will come ... A new wave is breaking. “The Hunting Ground” is ground zero for changing norms around sexual assault and eliminating this form of violence against women.

Linda Williams, Ph.D. is co-director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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36 Years since the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

LGBTHistoryblog

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights took place on October 14, 1979. It was the first march of its kind, and the preparation for it was rocky. The first item on the agenda of the planning conference, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the previous February, asked delegates to decide whether to hold a march at all. Many were opposed. A “hinterlands caucus” argued that calling attention to the presence of LGBT people outside of cities like New York and San Francisco would jeopardize their safety in the small towns where they lived. Lesbians and people of color were skeptical about whether the march would represent their interests.

In the end, though, the conference endorsed a march, to be organized on a grassroots level, led by a steering committee comprised of 50 percent of women and 25 percent people of color. The national organizations of the time, which were much smaller, poorer, and less influential than the ones we have now, were reluctant to join in, fearing that no one would attend, and that a failed march would be worse than none at all. The National Gay Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force), for example, endorsed the gathering only a month before it was to take place, when it had become clear that people from around the country were going to stream into Washington in large numbers.

The experience was like nothing I’d ever done before. With friends from the weekly Gay Community News, where I was the features editor, I drove in a van to the march. GCN had printed up thousands of special issues that we were planning to distribute to the marchers. Cars passed us, beeping in support and holding signs out the windows. Every highway rest stop was crowded with people like us. The New Yorkers even chartered a special train. In Washington, the metro was crowded with obvious queers from all over the country. And on the day of the march, a huge crowd of us surrounded the Washington monument. The organizers estimated that there were at least 100,000 at the rally; the media, including the Boston Globe, reported far fewer—but it was a victory that they reported on us at all. Our movement had finally grown too big to ignore. (And in an activist response to the Globe’s underestimate, Lesbian and Gay Media Advocates [LAGMA] formed, to push for accurate, unbiased coverage.)

The march had five main demands:

• Pass a comprehensive lesbian/gay rights bill in Congress.
• Issue a presidential executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government, the military, and federally contracted private employment.
• Repeal all anti-lesbian/gay laws.
• End discrimination in lesbian-mother and gay-father custody cases.
• Protect lesbian and gay youth from any laws which are used to discriminate, oppress, and/or harass them in their homes, schools, jobs, and social environments.

HPGalleryBlogHoffman10.15Thirty-six years later, the social status of LGBT people has changed enormously. Few LGBT people in Montana, say, would worry that a march in Washington, DC, would cause them to be set upon by an angry mob. In liberal Massachusetts, my employer, my neighbors, and my doctor all know I’m a lesbian. I’ve been married to my partner of 27 years since 2003—and my entire family came to our wedding. Since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in June, my marriage is recognized by the federal government as well as that of my state. I can watch many television shows and movies in which LGBT characters make it through the entire plot without killing themselves. I can kiss my wife goodbye on the front steps when I leave for work in the morning without worrying (too much) that we’ll be beaten or shot.

Vice President Joe Biden pointed out during the celebrations of Obergefell, “Although the freedom to marry—and for that marriage to be recognized in all 50 states—is now the law of the land, there are still 32 states where marriage can be recognized in the morning and you can be fired in the afternoon.” We have no federal protection from employment discrimination—nor from discrimination in housing, education, public accommodations, credit, federal funding, and jury service. For that kind of protection, we would need the federal Equality Act: the Comprehensive LGBT Nondiscrimination Bill. It has more than 200 sponsors—but it’s a little hard to imagine it getting anywhere, given everything else that is jammed up in Congress. Last year, after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, LGBT groups gave up even on the more limited Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) after pushing for it for twenty years, since the court decision would have opened the door to endless religious exemptions. (Maybe none of this is surprising, given that the US has not yet been able to pass a women’s Equal Rights Amendment.)

blogpullquoteGayRightsStill, as you may remember how the ban on discrimination in the military worked out. We had Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which was considered a step forward when it was enacted in 1993, because it prevented service members who were LGBT, or thought to be, from being automatically discharged. It was finally repealed in 2011, and the military is now forbidden to discriminate—although the situation of LGBT people who were kicked out with less-than-honorable discharges still remains to be resolved.

We did get that executive order we wanted—just last year. And we got rid of anti-lesbian and gay sodomy laws—but only after a long slog that required not only overturning antiquated state laws but also the Supreme Court’s 1986 Hardwick decision upholding Georgia’s sodomy law. The court overturned Hardwick in the Lawrence v Texas decision—in 2003.

Even child custody, which you might think had been resolved by equal marriage, continues to complicate the lives of LGBT parents and their children. Recently, “officials in Iowa refused to list the biological mother’s wife on the birth certificate of the child they had conceived through donor insemination. Iowa officials argued that the law recognizes the biological and ‘gendered’ roles of ‘mother’ and ‘father,’ grounded in the biological fact that a child has one biological mother and one biological father.” Back in 1993, the feminist science studies scholar Anne Fausto-Sterling wrote that “sex and gender are best conceptualized as points in a multidimensional space”—but Iowa hasn’t yet gotten the message. Wait until it has to tangle with the multidimensional space of gender nonconforming parents and children.

The protection of LGBT young people that we demanded in 1979 is in some ways the most depressing item on the list to contemplate. Of course, in some communities, LGBT youth can find gay-straight alliances, supportive peers and adults, and even church groups, none of which existed for the friends I marched with in 1979, some of whom had been beaten, institutionalized, or simply abandoned by their hideous, homophobic families. But LGBT youth are still disproportionately likely to become homeless because they’ve been rejected and kicked out by family, abused, or neglected. This of course leaves them vulnerable to lifelong poverty and trouble, because they lack education, access to resources, friendship, and support.

I recently asked the activist and writer Urvashi Vaid about why we haven’t progressed farther—at a moment when, as she put it, “some people are acting though the movement is over, and we won.” Equal marriage, she said, “is only a partial victory… The lesson from every civil rights movement is that formal legal equality doesn’t completely address people’s problems. Our community is incredibly diverse, in terms of age, race, nationality, geography, immigration status, gender identification, all kinds of parameters. We have to look at people’s lives through many lenses.” She is currently leading an effort to address income inequality in the LGBT community—because despite the stereotype of the rich, white, gentrifying gay man, many LGBT people are far less economically secure than their straight counterparts, and their children are more likely to live in poverty. LGBT people continue to experience discrimination, legal run-ins, violence, homelessness—basically, all the issues we were fighting to change back in 1979.

As the late Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Amy Hoffman, M.F.A., is editor-in-chief of Women’s Review of Books published by Wellesley Centers for Women and Old City Publishing. A writer, editor, and community activist, she is the author of three memoirs including, An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News, about Boston’s lesbian and gay movement during the late 1970s, which was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2007.

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Stopping the Pain of Social Exclusion

hands upEveryone Needs to STOP the Pain!
Everyone Needs the Pain to STOP!
Stopping the Pain of Social Exclusion

“Hands up!” The universal symbol of surrender, sign of protest, and signal for self-selection to take action. All of these are integral in stopping the pain of social exclusion.

Human beings are built to function physically, emotionally, and spiritually in supportive groups. This simple fact has recently been supported by neuroscience research and helps explain why individuals and groups of people that are marginalized or socially excluded often suffer from higher levels of chronic health problems and shorter life expectancy.

SPOT Social Pain Overlap Theory1: How and Why Social Exclusion Hurts All of Us

Being part of a group is so critical to humans that our nervous system literally uses the same alarm (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) to register the danger and distress of physical pain or injury AND social exclusion. This neuroscience finding requires that we stop bifurcating pain into physical and emotional and start realizing that pain is pain and that social exclusion and marginalization are forms of violence that impact individuals and whole groups of people.

Social Pain forms – Covert and Overt

Social pain occurs in a number of different forms, some obvious, some not so obvious. The not so obvious may be hard to see, they are insidious like the background noise or the air we breathe. They are chronic assumptions about who we are and what our interests, strengths, and weaknesses might be. They are assumed by others and attached to our identities such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender.

These subtle daily attacks or microaggressions can have devastating short- and long-term impact. For example, Native or Indigenous Americans constantly having to combat broad assumptions about cultural sacred practices, misuse of regalia, offensive displays of imagery in athletic team mascots, or even the ongoing challenge to defend one’s very existence.

blogpullquoteSocialExclusionThe obvious forms of social pain are glaringly obvious, often flagrant and extreme. Black men and women being stopped by police, detained or harassed, and imprisoned at sweepingly disproportionate rates compared to White people; too often resulting in violence and even murder.

Both the subtle and blatant forms of social pain emerge together and take place across a range of areas including reliable public safety, access to and quality of healthcare, education and jobs, affordable sustainable housing, and more. Both institutional and personal marginalization is the bedrock for social pain to occur in all of its many forms.

Psychological Resistance to Marginalization

What we know is that people who have been and are being marginalized have always pushed back in ... READ FULL ARTICLE>>

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Maggie Tripp: Firebrand Feminist in a Peck & Peck Suit

MaggieTrippMaggie Tripp: Firebrand Feminist in a Peck & Peck Suit

Maggie Tripp (1921-2014) was a trailblazer with a special connection to the Wellesley Centers for Women. Known for her impeccable appearance in Peck & Peck suits (who remembers these??) when everyone else was dressed in jeans, she was an “improbable” feminist whose indomitable spirit and can-do attitude attracted her to the women’s movement early on and whose wise and witty speaking ability allowed her to become what the Long Island Newsday described as “the respected mouthpiece of the women’s movement.” In 1974, she published a forward-looking edited volume titled Woman in the Year 2000, with provocative chapters by authors ranging from Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Letty Cottin Pogrebin to Alvin Toffler. In 1988, she donated her extensive feminist book collection to the Wellesley Center for Research on Women (as we were then called), after it was rejected by her own alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Her donation established the Madelyn B. Tripp Library, an intimate reading room filled with both important classics and lesser-known volumes that were influential in their time.

Recently, we added a particularly special volume to the library: A Woman with a Mind of Her Own, subtitled The Delicious Adventures of Maggie, Who Lived by Her Own Rules as Daughter, Wife, Mother, Businesswoman, Professor, Author, Public Speaker…and True Feminist (Archway, 2015). This book, part memoir and part posthumous tribute, was written by Maggie’s husband, Alan R. Tripp – Maggie’s biggest fan and a “women’s movement man” in his own right. This delightful and illuminating book combines personal anecdotes about Maggie in each of these roles with excerpts from her writings and speeches, to provide not only a historical record of an important figure in the second-wave women’s movement but also food for thought today.

AlanTrippVideoOver the summer, Alan visited us here at the Wellesley Centers for Women, and here’s what he had to say about Maggie>>

 

If you look carefully through the New York Times Book Review this weekend, you might just find this new book. It is the perfect read for a train ride or the beach side (where I myself read it this summer), and its anecdotes are shareable even with young feminists (read: teenagers) of any gender. It’s the kind of book that even people who don’t call themselves feminists will relate to and enjoy, and yet seasoned feminists will learn something new, too. It’s a true feminist family affair!

Alan Tripp has described Maggie as both “blunt” and “charming” – a combination of attributes that helped her break down barriers and advance the women’s agenda in her time. As a young student at Barnard, she found the rules archaic and confining and took her complaints to the school’s famous dean, Virginia Gildersleeve. The dean challenged Maggie to “resign” if she didn’t like the rules, which Maggie did, choosing to continue her studies at Penn instead. There’s a wonderful story in the book about how, later, in 1968, Maggie moved to New York and stormed into the registrar’s office of the New School for Social Research asking to take courses “where the action is.” The registrar directed her to women’s studies, and the rest is history. From there Maggie became a women’s studies instructor, author, speaker, organizer, and general firebrand! I encourage you to learn more about the life of this colorful mover and shaker who is very dear to all of us at WCW!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Learn more about Maggie Tripp and Alan Tripp's new book at TrippyBooks.com today.

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A Reformed Peace Conference Skeptic

LGblogA Reformed Peace Conference Skeptic

Earlier this summer I attended--even though I was a skeptical about peace conferences and felt they were a waste of time, energy, and resources--the Third Annual Hague Peace Conference in Holland.

Living in a post-conflict country, Liberia, I had become aware that peace was simply not the absence of war, and until the international community recognized that, peace conferences would amount to nothing. Since attending this conference, however, my skepticism has been replaced with hope.

The Hague University of Applied Sciences organized the Third Hague Peace Conference, “not for government delegations but for the new generation of students who have a keen interest in contributing to better ideas on how to improve the maintenance of peace and humanitarian law.” The Conference should have taken place originally 100 years ago, in 1915, but the outbreak of the First World War made it impossible.

The Conference evolved around an essay competition in which over 140 essays were received and of these, 75 students from 33 countries were selected, including mine. My essay highlighted my rather “unconventional” suggestions to contributing to peace around the world. Just like former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, I argued that gender equality is a perquisite to maintaining peace around the world. I drew my conclusions from one of his favorite quotes on gender equality--that it is “more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.” To illustrate my point, I gave an example of a research done by Saferworld which revealed that there is strong evidence that the gender norms which underpin gender inequality can drive conflict and violence, particularly where cultural notions of masculinity are associated with violence, domination, and control. A case study focused on some communities in South Sudan which revealed that participation in violent cattle raids, which perpetuates conflict between communities, was seen as a prerequisite to manhood and a rite of passage for young men in South Sudan.

blogpullquotePeaceSkepticThe three-day conference was full of conversations and speeches by professors, politicians, lawyers, and students from around the world and it helped further shape my ideas about peace and how, instead of been skeptical, I can contribute to achieving world peace. It wasn’t merely these conversations or speeches that shaped my thinking, but mostly by being a part this global community I had the opportunity to use my voice--and the voices of other participants--to rally behind a common good. The conference exposed me to a lot of factors undermining peace around the world as well as possible solutions to tackle them. It brought me face to face with other young people from around the world who had similar experiences as mine but who had examples of proven and possible solutions for peacebuilding. One of those participants was a Canadian law student, originally from Rwanda, who became an immigrant at a tender age because of the genocide in her country. She stressed her idea that peace is possible but only if we focus our efforts on changing international humanitarian laws.

Lastly, while at the conference, I realized how interesting and complicated the concept of peace is and how it means different things to different people. For example, a participant from Ghana told me peace is when “two opposing parties agree to pursue an agenda although it doesn't favor their interest and philosophies.” Robert Fulghum, an American author, once said that “peace is not something you wish for, it is something you make, something you are, something you do, and something you give away.” I see peace as not merely the absence of war but an “era” where every individual have the opportunity to grow, develop, and envision the future they want.

More importantly, the conference has made me more determined to stop being a skeptic--not that it is wrong--but to be more hopeful and put that hope into work for better world. It showed me that more emerging leaders should have such opportunities. I have been able to build networks around the world that will surely be useful to me in the future and the work that I will do. This conference was 100 years in the making, and there’s much work to do, together.

Laura Golakeh, M.A. is founder and executive director of Right to Read Liberia, a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, member of the 2014/2015 Gender and Peacebuilding class at the United Nations mandated University for Peace, and a 2015 summer intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Women's Soccer and the New Feminist Power

soccer ball

Women's Soccer and the New Feminist Power

We are in a fresh feminist moment, highlighted thanks to FIFA. Hang with me while I explain.

It is obviously ridiculous that the payout to the U.S. Women’s Soccer team for the World Cup victory is $2 million; the German men got $35 million last year. The $2 million is almost cute, considering it’s the same amount as the alleged bribe paid FIFA exec Jack Warner for his vote to make Qatar the 2022 World Cup site.

For a long time money has measured worth. I’m sure Warner, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and others could prattle on about why women don’t deserve a big payday: women’s sports are not big time. When you consider low ticket prices, turf fields (rather than grass), shabby player treatment (competitors stuffed into the same hotels and practice venues), it hardly looks like the big-money (men’s) World Cup event of July 2014.

For years, FIFA has treated the Women’s World Cup as an afterthought. When the U.S. women last won, in 1999, there was so little publicity that people only found out because Brandi Chastain whipped off her jersey, spurring debate about whether it was appropriate to show a sports bra in public.

Things are changing. The fashion forward will note that bras have officially become shirts (now they’re called “bralettes.”). The Women’s World Cup final became most watched televised soccer game in U.S. history. Commemorative t-shirts are selling out online. Carli Lloyd could earn $2 million (that number again!) just in commercial deals following her hat trick in the first few minutes of the game, the fastest ever in World Cup history.

Suddenly, rather than looking powerful, FIFA looks dumb and stale. For guys with a nose for cash, they are leaving a lot of it on the table. (You can’t watch a replay of Lloyd’s half-field goal online without viewing a commercial first.)

There is a big problem with the economics of how women are paid in sports (and elsewhere), which FIFA is helping to make obvious. I don’t want to say that money doesn’t matter (it does), but the U.S. women are playing out their power in a fresh feminist image that is a celebration of female skill and dominance. The effect is to make low wages look absurd. In much the same way that women have quietly come to own college campuses and advanced degrees, female athletes are demonstrating their clear-headed brilliance.

This isn’t about anger. It’s about proficiency—on the field and off. The U.S. Women’s World Cup win comes at a moment when “feminist” is no longer a dirty word among the under-thirty somethings. It comes as muscular Serena Williams is proving to be so dominant that I caught ESPN talking heads debating the other day if she might be the greatest athlete of all time. Who was it? LeBron, Michael, or Serena?

We have reached this moment through an interesting détente between old-time feminists and young women. We have don’t have to choose between sport girl or girly-girl: I saw an eight-year-old at a men’s soccer game wearing a party dress—and cleats. This new feminism is about pink and sparkles and mettle, all at the same time. It is Serena tough. U.S. women driven. Amy Schumer sarcastic. And Taylor Swift nice.

Pop star Swift, like the U.S. women’s soccer team, has amassed a base of girl fans and built an empire by reaching out and preaching friendship, self-respect, and girl-to-girl support. She has embraced stuff that is sweet: cats and cookie baking. But don’t be fooled. She was the one who forced Apple to change its payment policy to artists by threatening to withhold her album 1989 from iTunes (Apple fussed, then caved). That is power.

So when Swift invited the Women’s World Cup team to the stage before 60,000 fans during her concert at MetLife stadium following the team’s ticker tape parade in New York City, it was a visual demonstration of the new feminist might. It was women reaching out to one another and recognizing that success in one venue amplifies value in another. The bedazzled love—and support—suits them both. Blatter once famously said that the only way to get people interested in women’s soccer was for the players to don very short shorts. Now, he—and FIFA—just look out of touch.

Laura Pappano is writer-in-residence at Wellesley Centers for Women, a journalist who frequently contributes to the New York Times, and author of several books including Playing with the Boys: Why Separate in Sport is Not Equal>

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How Foreign Abortion Bans Hurt Children

SangerPostHow Foreign Abortion Bans Hurt Children

The following blog article and corresponding photo was posted on the New York Daily News, June 3, 2015 by Alex Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

With Memorial Day behind us and summer here, most kids in New York are finishing school or preparing for camp or dreaming of pools and extended playtime.

But this summer will be very, very different for one 10-year-old girl in Paraguay. Because she’s pregnant.

The girl’s doctors discovered the pregnancy after she complained of a stomachache. But despite the fact that the girl is 10 years old and that doctors have identified the pregnancy — the result of the girl being raped by her stepfather — as dangerous and high-risk, the Paraguayan government has refused her access to an abortion.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, seven countries ban abortion under all circumstances, even to save the life of the mother. Paraguay is not one of them. Even though the law of the land states that abortions are legal in instances that pose a significant threat to the health of the mother, the Paraguayan government continues to deny this child access to a potentially life-saving procedure. This constitutes a cruel denial of the girl’s basic human rights, tantamount to torture.

My grandmother, Margaret Sanger, founded the organizations that would become Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the International Planned Parenthood Federation — to provide education and services to men and women in an effort to end injustices like violence against women and enforced pregnancy. She believed that providing access to contraceptives and reproductive healthcare was integral in empowering women to fully engage and participate in their communities and live the lives they want. I followed in her footsteps and, as the head of Planned Parenthood New York City, heard from countless women who needlessly suffered before abortion became legal in New York.

Cases like this 10-year-old’s make it clear that that needless suffering hasn’t ended, especially if you look abroad. For instance, one out of every three women in Latin America is a mother before her 20th birthday. 20% of all adolescent pregnancies occur among girls younger than 15, and are often the result of sexual abuse within the family.

At IPPF Western Hemisphere Region clinics, we provide contraception and abortionblogpullquoteForeignAbortion services to women and girls who need them. What our clinic staff has seen firsthand is that blocking access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care doesn’t stop them from being needed, or even stop them from happening — it just keeps them from being safe. Due in large part to extensive abortion bans throughout the region, 95% of abortions in Latin America are performed in unsafe conditions that threaten the health and lives of women.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. Specifically, in Latin America, girls who give birth before the age of 16 are four times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their 20s.

And yet politicians around the globe — including in Paraguay and the United States — have shut their eyes to common sense and public health by continuing to ban and criminalize abortion, even abortion in cases of rape or incest. Children should not be forced into motherhood and doctors should not be kept from providing life-saving care just because of political hurdles.

And in instances like the 10-year-old girl currently pregnant in Paraguay, government officials shouldn’t be able to act counter to the spirit of the law and put young girls in serious danger because of political whims or extreme beliefs.

That’s why a broad spectrum of human rights and international advocacy organizations are calling on the Paraguayan minister of public health and wellbeing, Dr. Antonio Barrios, to immediately intervene and grant the girl access to safe abortion services. By doing that, Dr. Barrios would be upholding Paraguayan law and following the advice of leading international medical authorities — and, potentially, saving the life of a very real girl who has already survived more trauma than a child of her age should ever be forced to encounter.

Alexander Sanger is the author of Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century, published in January 2004 by PublicAffairs. The grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, Mr. Sanger is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

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Why Relationships Matter

relationships matter blog imageWhy Relationships Matter

 by Kamilah Drummond-Forrester

Relationships are essential to fostering equity and excellence in our schools and classrooms. Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are one of the vehicles that can be used to establish genuine, caring relationships throughout school communities. SEL programs that have a whole-school implementation model and are purposeful about infusing culturally-responsive curricula further enhance the positive impact on schools. It is proven that we learn best when we are in environments in which we feel cared for and connected to others. Research has demonstrated that children who have a positive connection with at least one adult stay in school longer, make better decisions, and have better life outcomes overall. Let’s be honest, when adults work in environments in which they have positive connections and feel cared for and valued, they perform better and their employers experience less turnover. Positive relationships are good for all of us.

As we research and think about our educational system and the gaps that exist for black and brown children, SEL programming has to be a critical component of the discussion. SEL programs, such as Open Circle, which include a whole-school implementation model, not only provide curricula for SEL skill building for students but also include professional development for SEL skill building and consciousness raising for all adults in the school community and at home.

The guiding principles on which Open Circle is grounded provide an importantblogpullquoteRelationshipsMatter framework for thinking about teaching and learning. The importance of relationships to cognitive and social growth, the importance of teaching SEL skills, and the importance of adults as models are the critical underpinnings of our work.

The importance of relationships to cognitive and social growth

Educators have known for a long time that “[children] don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” - Theodore Roosevelt When we show genuine care and concern for our students and their experiences, inside and outside of the classroom, and when we take the time to truly get to know and understand them, we are creating fertile ground for learning and engagement to take place.

The importance of teaching SEL skills

In my work as an educator in the Suffolk County House of Correction one of the things that struck me was how insightful and intelligent my students were. When I would ask them about their experiences in school, one theme that emerged was that being challenged by academics was not the thing that pulled them off a more positive path, but rather feeling ill-equipped to navigate and manage the social dynamics of school, family and community led to choices and situations that resulted in their involvement with the criminal justice system. Taking time out weekly to focus on SEL skill building is critical to equipping our students with the necessary competencies to cope with, manage, and rise above the daily challenges many face.

The importance of adults as models

The old adage of “do as I say and not as I do” has never been true. Parents and adults who work with children can attest that no matter what you say, children will more likely mimic what they see you do. This fact is important for caregivers and it is equally as important for educators and administrators. Taking time to invest in the quality of adult relationships and the modeling of those positive relationships is critical to this work. The student community mimics the adult community in many ways. If there is derision, gossiping, unfriendliness or devaluing among the adults, the same will hold true for the students. These ways of being permeate the space and gives it an unwelcoming, unsafe, and tense feel. Honoring our strengths, being curious and open to learn about our differences, and being honest about what we know and don’t know all contribute to the development and nurturing of positive relationships among the adult community.

By offering training for administrators, specialists and support staff, grade-level teachers, and families, Open Circle is recognizing that it does in fact “take a village.”

So as we continue the dialogue on how to fill the gaps in educational opportunity and achievement let’s not forget to start with the basics. Relationships, positive and genuine relationships, set the foundation for creating schools and classrooms in which all students and educators feel safe, cared for and engaged to do their best learning and teaching. Social and emotional programming is a means to this end. Open Circle offers the most comprehensive means of getting there.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester joined Open Circle as a Program Manager in June 2013. She is the co-founder of the Dorchester Collegiate Academy Charter School (DCA) in Boston, MA. Kamilah served as the school’s first board chair and later became the Director of Wellness to work directly with students. She oversaw the social and emotional programming at the school. This included developing the social and emotional curriculum, coordinating services with outside mental health and social service agencies, as well as working directly with students and families.

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Healthy Young People Despite a World Filled With Violence

LFortunaBlogHealthy Young People Despite a World Filled With Violence

The following article was posted May 4, 2015 on the Medicine and Faith blog of Lisa Fortuna, M.D., and is re-posted with permission by the author. She is pictured a pledge to be a Partner in Peace during the Mother's Day Walk for Peace in Boston, MA.

Because I am a priest and a psychiatrist I spend a lot of time discerning the meaning of things. The past two weeks have been filled with a lot of news stories about discord, violence and hate. A lot of this very bad news has to do with racism, divisions, greed, and power. I only have to bring up Ferguson, Baltimore or ISIS and you know the kinds of stories I am speaking of. These things bring me to two questions: How do we raise up our young people to be healthy in body, mind and spirit in a world that upholds such violence? How does our world contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress in our young people?

Today one of my parishioners asked me, “What can we do to help our kids make it in this world?”

It is an important and challenging question that I have had to try to answer either at the coffee hour after church service, in my consultation office when seeing a patient and their parents, or when investigating a new intervention that might help young people with depression or trauma.

blogpullquoteHealthyYoungPeopleAlthough these are all big questions, I have at least learned a few things over the years through my clinical practice, research and ministry about what helps young people stay healthy (or what helps them heal if needed) in mind, body and spirit. Here are my top five learnings of what helps young people:

1. Having someone in their life that is absolutely crazy about them, loves them unconditionally and lets them know it.

2. Having a sense of community and true belonging.

3. Developing compassion for self and others.

4. Connecting to ones heritage and traditions while also embracing new ideas and diversity (Includes bi-culturalism, multiculturalism).

5. Developing a sense of a greater good and commitment to something bigger than oneself (spirituality, justice, connecting across differences).

I have found that these five core areas are very important for emotional health and development.

Here are some links of some examples of youth living into these principles and adults supporting them on the journey:


La Puerta Abierta/ The Open Door—a program for clinical excellence and belonging for immigrant youth

 

What are some of the ways we can engender these types of experiences and opportunities for growth and healing in the lives of our young people?

LFortunaBlog2Lisa Fortuna, M.D. is a psychiatrist triple board certified in general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and addiction medicine. A research collaborator with scholars at the Wellesley Centers for Women, she is the medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry services for the Boston Medical Center, faculty at Boston University Medical School, and an Episcopal Priest serving as pastor in a Latino congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

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