Step It Up
I flew to Miami, Florida this afternoon for the bi-annual board meeting of the USNC UN Women, the United States National Committee for United Nations Women. Our meeting starts Saturday morning and finishes at noon on Sunday.
In our winter newsletter, our president Lalita Janke thanks us for past work and encourages our renewed commitment to our mission of raising funds for UN Women. She says, “Our combined financial support of UN Women’s initiatives allows them to expand programs that teach economic and leadership skills; empowering lives, giving women their dignity and training them to reach their full human potential and encouraging governments to pass laws that protect women and girls.”
I was present at the event where UN Women was introduced to the world five years ago. It was formed out of several UN agencies and departments, made into a single entity. The first executive director was Michelle Bachelet, former and current president of Chile.
Today UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka urges countries to step up and sign on with a commitment to take action toward gender equality with “bold steps to accelerate change in the lives of women and girls.”
It’s been 20 years since the Beijing Conference.
I knew a few women who went to that. It was a game changer for action on women’s rights. UN Women notes that there has been progress in these 20 years but we’re still far from equal rights for women in so many areas – equal pay, protection from exploitation in work and life, and seeing women in government.
The Step It Up program of UN Women “asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap – from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment. NOW is the time to Step It Up!” UN Women says.
The U.S. has made the commitment; Nigeria has not.
The latest country to sign on is Bolivia, bringing the total to 90 countries.
Devalued and Dismissed
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is powerful. I read it a couple of months ago and discussed it with my Mount Holyoke Alumnae book group. This week my other book group, Baker’s Dozen, discussed the book.
I couldn’t attend because I was meeting with a third book group – this one a group that reads books by international authors. They had read Adichie’s Americanah, and had invited me to lead the discussion at Fairfield CT Library.
Kathleen, a member of Baker’s Dozen, also couldn’t attend. She sent her comments. “Black Americans are undermined, devalued, dismissed, ridiculed, disrespected, subjected to hardships and limitations that others are not. Most profoundly, this web of evil is virtually invisible to those who are not its victims! And so the title of the book is appropriate. The chasm between those who see and understand (because we are presented with these systemic barriers and challenges and assaults constantly) and those who don’t understand (because, for them, the barriers actually don’t exist and the system works as it should) is profound.
No Sugarcoating From Charles Blow Either
Charles Blow talked about a speech he gave to a group of ‘at-risk’ young black men in an op-ed in The New York Times this week.
“I didn’t sugarcoat things for these boys,” he said. “I gave them the unvarnished truth, the same way I would for my own boys. For me, it is very important to help children place themselves historically, even when that history is painful, because within that truth they can anchor themselves and from it they can aim themselves.”
I love the phrase, “they can anchor themselves and . . aim themselves.”
For myself, to know what holds me in the world, what history is mine, i.e. what provides my anchor, is necessary to give me a platform from which I can go out, or “aim myself.” I am enthralled by this image! I think it may help me as I search for the theme of my future writing, maybe another book?
But this wasn’t the focus of his op-ed. Rather, it was how important the image of a black president is for these boys. He says, “As I told them: For many young people like you and like my own children, the first president they consciously registered was Barack Obama, a black man.”
That’s a powerful image for black teens and twenty-somethings. And for all of us. Our president doesn’t have to be a white man, and maybe we will even learn that the president doesn’t have to be a man!
Major Anniversary in Nigeria
I was reminded by Max Siollun that this week marks the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s first coup and the death of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
His was one of the first Nigerian names I knew. I learned it in Peace Corps training in 1962. I was married with a small son when he died. That coup was the first step leading to the Biafran War.