Friday, November 30, 2012

Latest issue of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender Newsletter highlights work of UNITWIN

We are delighted to share with you news of the release of the most recent issue of the Newsletter of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender. We're especially excited that a number of this edition's features showcase the diverse accomplishments of our UNESCO/UNITWIN on Gender, Culture, & Development partners and affiliates in Boston, West Africa, and India.

Highlights to check out include:

"Jumpstarting new opportunities for women scientists and engineers" - in this front-page piece, you can read about how Professor Deborah Belle's (BU) latest research shows how receiving a National Science Foundation ADVANCE program grant positively impacts women in Science and Engineering.

"Lost in Translation" - found under the Interesting Publications section. This feature presents information about the latest work of Ronni Komarow, a Brighton, Massachusetts/US-based visual artist, curator, writer, and educator who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society - one of our newest UNITWIN affiliates.

"New Video - Liberia's Phenomenal Market Women" - also under Interesting Publications. In this piece, you can read about a new video documentary launched by the Sirleaf Market Women's Fund International, also a new affiliate of the UNESCO/UNITWIN on Gender, Culture, and Development. The full length film on the Liberian market women shows how these women are helping to reconstruct Liberia and its economy. Access the newsletter link below to read and see more about this latest project.

To view the newsletter in its entirety and for access to more information on the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender, please click here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UNESCO Chairs on Gender Collaborate on Gender Case Studies eBook

From new Sirleaf Market Women's Fund video (©SMWF)
We are excited to announce that work on a UNITWIN/UNESCO Gender Case Studies eBook is now underway! The Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender headquartered in Argentina is currently collaborating to publish a compilation of gender case studies from around the world, edited by Gloria Bonder (Buenos Aires) and Brenda Gael McSweeney (Boston). Sanye Gülser Corat, Director of the Division for Gender Equality, UNESCO-Paris, will contribute the Foreword.  We are pleased to share with you some of the topics to feature in this forthcoming publication -- four of which were submitted by members and affiliates of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture, and People-Centered Development:
Female marketer in Liberia (from
The “Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund” case study describes the challenges and achievements of a non-governmental organization in Liberia that was founded to address the needs of “market women”, who conduct 85 percent of agricultural labor and trading, yet suffer from poor working conditions and a lack of recognition of their economic contributions. In addition to sharing the profiles of several typical market women, this case study analyzes SMWF accomplishments and challenges in coordinating international and local capital and institutional resources to work with the marketers and their communities. Findings emphasize taking a holistic approach that includes market infrastructure development plus addressing women’s business, personal and household goals, also national and local good governance, with supportive policies.

Professor Deborah Belle of Boston University (BU) has released findings on the impact of receiving a National Science Foundation ADVANCE program grant, for which she is Principal Investigator, that helps universities develop systematic approaches to increasing representation and advancement of women faculty in science and engineering careers. “For participants in the BU Women in Networks Mary Erskine grant program, the jump to a promising new research venture was facilitated. The awards helped women build key networks, removed research barriers and ultimately promoted a diverse science and engineering faculty at BU.” An important goal of the $750,000 National Science Foundation three-year grant to BU was to strengthen women’s professional networks in science and engineering.
In a case study in the West Bengal State of India, Krishno Dey, Chandana Dey, and Brenda Gael McSweeney examine how a grassroots development initiative in several Indian villages identified the economic benefits of local female leadership and involvement in bolstering the barter and subsistence economy. Throughout the progress of the Srihaswani village-level programme, Creative Manual Skills for self-reliant Development (CMSSRD), the village women and girls in particular found the support to build up their self-confidence and collective voice, the willingness to question and elevate their status within the family, community and larger society.
Woman Leader in the 70s (©Brenda)
Another View of Africa -- A Photo Essay on Female Education and Empowerment in Burkina Faso” will be presented by Brenda Gael McSweeney and Scholastique Kompaoré, with Cassandra Fox. This photo essay is a challenge to what the authors perceive as a media bias towards negative depictions of Africa, particularly in the area of gender equality. The authors hope that this photo essay will illustrate the positive progress they observed in Burkina Faso through their research on two powerful and inspirational initiatives -- the Project for Equal Access of Women and Girls to Education, and the Multi Functional Platform, both of which utilize technology to reduce women’s workloads, generate revenue, allow girls greater access to education, and to bring positive change to their lives. (Essay is in English and in French)
The UNITWIN/UNESCO Gender Studies eBook will also include case studies from:
Gloria Bonder, UNESCO Regional Chair of Women, Science, and Technology in Latin America based in Argentina, will report on findings from four national research projects that were implemented in Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador/Honduras, and Paraguay. As part of the FLACSO Argentina project, “Decentralization and Women’s Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean”, research teams examined the relationship between women’s rights and government policy creation and/or implementation in an effort to identify the circumstances that allow for progress in women’s rights issues, greater interaction between the state and the civil society, and the active participation of women in governmental and institutional change.
“Discourses emerging from the experiences of women -- mothers, victims of violence”, discusses the major thematic elements that have emerged from a series of seventeen interviews that were conducted with mothers from Cyprus who have been victims of violence. It challenges the conventional frames through which women victims are viewed -- as either celebrated and courageous heroines, if they were able to escape their abusive relationship, or as blameworthy victims if they tolerate the violence -- by revealing how the women’s own identities as victims of violence are shaped by those attitudes.
From the UNESCO Chair on Women's Rights in Morocco, Fouzia Rhissassi’s “The violation of peace within the institution of marriage in Morocco” examines how Moroccan women writers break taboos and reappraise traditional spaces and boundaries -- raising their voices to tell their tales and plead their own cases, as well as to explore different areas of women’s experiences.
From Spain, Virginia Maquieira D’Angelo contributes “Socialization for Equality: Women’s Organizations in Madrid in the Democratic Post-Transition”. Her case study was carried out through fieldwork and interviews. She explores the evolution of women’s groups in Madrid from the 1980s associations of working class homemakers that lacked a feminist agenda, into vehicles of political and legislative change for Spanish women’s rights. She identifies these associations as “spaces of new socialization for equality”, because they brought progress for women through collective participation and empowerment. (Available in English and in Spanish)
Burkina Functional Literacy (Photo ©Brenda Gael McSweeney)

Topics likely to appear in our second volume:

In “Adverse Sex Ratio in Punjab: Emerging Issues”, Professor Malkit Kaur examines the grassroots effects of Indian government legislation and interventions to prevent sex-selective abortions, in a culture that favors male children over females. Mainly qualitative studies conducted in two Punjabi villages, which included interviews and discussions with local married women, doctors, health administrators, grassroots workers, and other villagers, revealed that while access to sex-selective abortions was now more limited, a system of resistance has emerged that made sex determination screenings (and resulting foeticides) available to those who could afford it.

Equality Statue, Galway
“Irish Women Today: Perspectives from Galway to Dublin on Gender Equality” reveals that Ireland is a highly ‘developed’ nation, yet major gender disparities persist, particularly in the areas of wages and political voice. Through interviews with Irish women and men, Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney with Raffi Freedman-Gurspan and Jade Sank shares factors that contributed to these disparities, as well as some of the steps that have been taken to improve women’s political empowerment and employment opportunities.
“Special Capacity-Building for Women of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil”, will explore how local development has been instrumental in empowering and improving quality of life for local women in the Brazilian tourist town of Ouro Preto. By offering a wide diversity of job training courses, particularly in the service and craft industries, the UNESCO Chair of “Water, Women, and Development” enabled women in situations of social vulnerability to join the labor market.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

BU Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) Co-sponsoring: "Left on Pearl": Documentary on A First Women's "Occupy"

We are pleased to share with you news of an upcoming event sponsored by Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program and hosted by the Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI) of the Women's Studies Research Center of Brandeis University.

You are invited to a special screening:
GaIDI is sponsoring an interactive event to show and debate the powerful and surprisingly timely documentary:
LEFT ON PEARL [50 min. black and white film]

Time: 4pm 
Date: October 18th
Location: The Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC) at Brandeis University
                 515 South Street, Waltham, MA, USA

...with special guests Diane Balser of Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, and Rochelle Ruthchild, a Left on Pearl Executive Producer, both of whom will be sharing their experience leading the history-making women's march, takeover, and production of the film.                     

Diane Balser of Boston University's WSG

Rochelle Ruthchild, Executive Producer, Left on Pearl

A first "Occupy Movement" during International Women's Day celebrations in 1971, the film follows the spontaneous and gutsy takeover of a Harvard University building by a group of feisty, determined women, to highlight the need for a Women's Center. Among other topics, the film addresses the issues of feminism, sexuality/homosexuality, and building a political movement for social change (including, in this case, for affordable housing for the largely African-American Riverside Community in Cambridge). The action led to the establishment of the longest continuously operating Women’s Center in the U.S.! 

Left on Pearl offers the opportunity for a rich discussion on feminist social justice issues then and now, for international cross-cultural comparisons at that time and today, as well as for debate on the strategies and effectiveness of "occupy movements", and more recent phenomena such as "flash mob" events that go viral on the internet.

For more info:


Co-sponsors include: Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) of Boston University; Gender Working Group (GWG) of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University; The Brighton-Allston Historical Society; and Dr. Shulamit Reinharz, Director, Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis University.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Conservation Architect Gurmeet Rai on the Struggle to Preserve India's Cultural Heritage

We are pleased to announce that this summer, one of our UNESCO/UNITWIN India-based founding members was featured in a top India weekly news magazine. In a recent interview with Revati Laul of Tehelka Magazine, Gurmeet Rai, Director of the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI) in Delhi, discussed the important and difficult task of preserving India's impressive natural and cultural heritage. Throughout the feature, Rai explained the growing importance of public-private partnerships in fostering the protection needed for cultural heritage sites across a rapidly globalizing India. Also touching on the need for multi-level, public consultation in planning for conservation, the Delhi-based conservation architect referenced UNESCO's stated belief that "conservation cannot happen without the participation of the people." She went on to explain that conservation and protection are "about protecting the whole cultural ethos" of a place and its people. In closing, Director Rai emphasized that if the Government and people of India hoped to preserve the country's cultural heritage, firm principles supporting equity and rights would have to be applied. Much of the content of the interview with Director Rai resonates with the theme of people-centered development that lies at the heart of our UNITWIN's work. To read the full-length article, click here.

Gurmeet Rai; Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UNITWIN gender case study to be used in course at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

We are thrilled to announce that the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University will be using our Srihaswani (Creative Manual Skills for Self-reliant Development) Study in their coursework. The Academic Dean at Fletcher has informed us that he will be using "Srihaswani: A Gender Case Study, Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India" in one of his upcoming courses. Below is the letter we received from Dean Uvin:

"Dear Dr. McSweeney

As a result of your email I actually discovered a publication of yours and have now decided to use a paper in a book you edited in one of my courses! It is this one:

Krishno, Dey, Chandana Dey & Brenda Gael McSweeney with Rajashree Ghosh. "Srihaswani: A Gender Case Study Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India." In Brenda Gael McSweeney (Ed.) Another Side of India: Gender, Culture, and Development. Paris, UNESCO, 2008: pp. 39-55. 

I will use it less as an example of gender (although it IS important to me that it has that feature too, as I try to mainstream gender concerns throughout my course) as of a particularly intense way of working in a participatory manner. That stuff takes time, adaptation, flexibility, commitment; it goes through small steps forward in people's self-confidence, degree of organization, options available, growth in networks, etc. To me, this case exemplifies this style of work very well, with its strengths and weaknesses, and it is for that reason that I will assign it for discussion.

Thanks for doing that work! 

Peter Uvin
Academic Dean and Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies
Director, Institute for HUman Security

 Cover image of "Srihaswani: A Gender Case Study, Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India"
This is exciting news for those who worked on the e-book Another Side of India: Gender, Cutlure, and Development and more generally, for our UNITWIN partners around the globe. The use of our gender case studies in the classroom truly fits with the rational behind UNITWIN: to have work at the grassroots level inform academia. We look forward to hearing some of the ideas put forward by the Fletcher students as they explore and discuss "Srihaswani: A Gender Case Study".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Panel on Gender and Development: Discussing "Gender Analysis" at the 18th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

We are pleased to share with you that on April 14, 2012, the 18th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government presented a panel on Gender, Poverty, Opportunity: The Role of Women in Development. Before a packed room full of attendees from across Massachusetts and New England, the panel focused on the overarching question of why 'gender analysis' is becoming an ever more apparent element of international development. Panelists were also asked why looking at gender issues matters and in what ways academics and practitioners in the development sphere can make a persuasive case for the importance of attention to gender in development. Finally, with an eye to the future, the moderator's final question prompted the entire room to consider, in going forward, the best ways to ensure consistent and comprehensive attention to gender in development. Drawn from senior positions in government agencies, international nongovernmental organizations, and academia, the specialists on the panel were able to present varying perspectives and consequently, ignite a rich and stimulating discussion.

Panel participants included:

Stephenie Foster, International Consultant, Former Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators. General Counsel for the U.S. General Services Administration. Currently a Professor at American University.  

The Panelists:

Carla Koppell, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality & Women's Empowerment, USAID & a Senior Advisor to the USAID Administrator. Carla has an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School. A highlight of Carla's discussion came when she explained to the room that although the US has not signed CEDAW, the State Department acts under the assumption that the US is indeed a signatory of the Convention. Carla made it clear that the obligations and accountability at the heart of CEDAW are wholly respected and adhered to within the State Department.

Dr. Jishnu Das, Senior Economist, World Bank. Part of core team preparing the 2012 World Development Report  with a lead on 'Education and Health: Where do gender differences really matter?' Currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. Jishnu has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. In response to the question of how to make a convincing case for specific interventions aimed at promoting gender equality in education, Dr. Das made a heartening point regarding the success of conditional cash transfers in keeping an increased number of girls in school for a longer period. He argued that that these incentives could shift broader beliefs surrounding the potential costs and benefits of educating the girl child. 

Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Program, Women's Studies Research Center - Brandeis University, Former United Nations Coordinator and UN Development Programme Rep in India. In her response to the moderator's questions, Dr. McSweeney reminded the room of enduring gender caps at home and abroad. In particular, she touched on the different faces of gender inequality introduced by Amartya Sen in his keynote speech at the launch of the Radcliffe Institute. Repeatedly, she urged the group to ask "Where is the outrage?!" With a wealth of experience from her time at the UNDP, Dr. McSweeney was able to explain the significance of indices such as the Gender Inequality Index. Developed by the UNDP to highlight the ongoing invisibility of women's contributions and introduce reproductive health issues as a societal issue, McSweeney called this new index courageous and a new way of moving forward towards gender equality and empowering women.

Encouraging an enriching and illuminating discussion amongst panelists and audience members alike, the panel on Gender, Poverty, Opportunity was a highlight of the 18th Annual International Development Conference. Gratitude and credit goes out to Panel Organizers Tonusree Basu, HKS '13; and Lauren Harrison, Vice-Chair of Panels and Keynotes for the 18th Annual IDC.

~Katherine Lochery, MIT Leadership Center and 
UNESCO/UNITWIN Network: Gender, Culture & Development

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Women's Day in Santiniketan

We'd like to share with you a letter from Chandana Dey, our colleague in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. In the message below, Chandana tells us about "Women's Week" activities in Shantiniketan.

Dear Brenda,

It’s been “Women’s Week,” here in Santiniketan and we have been hearing “women’s voices” on topics ranging from physical violence to women wanting more say in who they marry. The energetic and productive discussions on these subjects really showed how much support women have gained in their fight against rape and how much people-both men and women-want to bring cases of violence against women to justice.
Below is a picture of some women who were awarded for their hard work throughout the year, working for women’s empowerment. The two women on the left are my team members-Saidurnesha Khatun, who looks after both the children in the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (Home Schools) and the adolescent girl campaign, “WE DEMAND”, and Mungli Murmu who heads the Ajoli Food Processing Unit for AHIMSA.

I am also sharing with you a snapshot of participants from a Women's Day discussion on physical violence and threats faced by women from all classes. The speakers were Shahana Khatun and Sunanada Mukherjee. I moderated this discussion. 

The main problem brought up was the insecurity faced by women-of all classes-while traveling and commuting. The discussants talked about, in particular, the threats women receive from land mafia and other powerful bodies, and the often unsympathetic response of the authorities. The positive role of the media was also highlighted. In conclusion, the speakers felt that women needed to unite and protest jointly at events such as these. Everyone also agreed that the 8th of March was not just a day for being together, but that it continues to represent just one day in the enduring struggle for women's rights.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On March 7, 2012, as a prelude to International Women's Day, Boston University's Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program co-sponsored an important event on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). GaIDI, the Gender and International Development Initiatives of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC), was the host and lead organizer of one in a series of bi-lingual readings about Pierre Foldes. Before a crowd in the Liberman-Miller Lecture Hall at  WSRC/Brandeis, author Hubert Prolongeau and scholar/activist Tobe Levin read from Undoing FGM: Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris. A world-renowned surgeon and anti-FGM activist, Pierre Foldes is best known for his work on post-FGM clitoris repair. As a result of his surgical work and his commitment to speaking out against FGM, victims of the harmful practice are given back hope for the future.

Author Hubert Prolongeau and FGM Scholar/Activist and Translator Tobe Levin read from Undoing FGM at the GaIDI WSRC event, Brandeis University

Dr. Tobe Levin, former WSRC/HBI (Hadassah Brandeis Institute) Scholar, signing a copy of the book she translated  over to Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, a founder of GaIDI and WSRC Resident Scholar

GaIDI and other WSRC scholars and students interacting at the event. L to R, current and former GaIDI members: Janet Freedman, Ruth Nemzoff, Rahel Wasserfall
To learn more about a courageous French physician and the women who welcome his help, visit:

For more on the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC) Scholars Program and events, see

For more on the Boston University Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) courses, faculty and events, see

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BU Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program Co-sponsoring: "Not My Life": Documentary on Child Trafficking Worldwide

Save the Date: March 26, 2012
Event: "Not My Life" - Film narrated by Glenn Close
Director: Oscar-nominated Robert Bilheimer
Time: 7:45 PM
Location: Brandeis University Campus, Olin Sang 101

We are pleased to share with you news of an upcoming event WGS is co-sponsoring, hosted by the Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI) of the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC). On March 26th at 7:45, you are invited to a screening of the powerful documentary on child trafficking entitled "Not My Life." Filmed across four years and five continents, this unprecedented project reveals the terrifying scope and depth of one of the worst forms of human rights abuse in the world today. "Not My Life" goes beyond simply raising awareness about the pandemic of child trafficking around the globe and highlights the work and enduring commitment of modern-day abolitionists.

Dr. Mei-Mei Ellerman, member of GaIDI and Board Director of the Polaris Project-leading anti-human trafficking NGO in the US and Japan-will give an overview of the issue of modern-day slavery and a brief introduction to the film. After the film, Dr. Ellerman, GaIDI/WSRC and the Co-sponsors will invite the audience to remain for a discussion of "Not My Life", the role of the 21st century abolitionists, and how to join the fight against slavery in our times.

Co-sponsors include: Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University; Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program of Boston University; Gender Working Group, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University; Our Bodies, Ourselves; Coexistence Program, Brandeis University; Brandeis Interfaith Chaplaincy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reporting from Rwanda: A Letter from Former Gender and International Development Student, Rachel Vannice

BU Alum and former Gender and International Development student, Rachel Vannice has been serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda since May 2011. In her letter below, Rachel writes about the work she has been doing to promote the growth and success of a women's informal cooperative. In addition, Rachel also touches on additional projects aimed at educating and empowering young men and women in the region.

Abakobwa n'Abagore- Girls & Women as Actors in Development in Rwanda

I came to Rwanda as a Peace Corps Volunteer in May of 2011. I am currently situated in Nyagatare district in the Northeast of the country. In my community, I have had the opportunity to work with the Centre de Développement Pour les Femmes (Center for Women's Development). The women have come together with capital support from a local religious community. They have formed their own informal cooperative and are empowering each other with new skills in traditional Rwandan basket-weaving and embroidery. I have been connecting them with local resources to become an official cooperative to reap the benefits that come with such a legal status as well as attempting to find them new markets so that they may continue to grow their small business and move from the subsistence farming that the majority of them practice.

Women making traditional Rwandan baskets

Women working on livelihoods projects

As a member of the Peace Corps Gender and Development (GAD) committee and the National Coordinator for all GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and BE (Boys Excelling) camps, I have also had the opportunity to work on the empowerment and sensitization of young women and men through lessons on life skills, communication, and goal-setting. In addition, much of our focus was on reproductive health and the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission. Our main vehicles for this information transfer included week-long camps and then the formation of clubs at local schools, with camp attendees as animators and co-facilitators. Further, most clubs are co-facilitated by local teachers so that the clubs and camps are sustainable.

Participants of Camp GLOW - Eastern Province, along with Peace Corps volunteers and Rwandan facilitators.

Friday, January 20, 2012

International Conference: Women, Creativity and Social Concern

On January 5th-7th, 2012, the Women's Studies Centre at Visva-Bharati in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India hosted an International Conference on Women, Creativity, and Social Concern. Dedicated to the memory of Ashramkanya Amita Sen, the conference celebrated the 100th year anniversary of her birth.

The conference focused on the "social construction of gender in the Indian context by analyzing the various institutions such as education, household, community, market, and the state" and hoped that discussion would "help to evolve perspectives on development and strategies to counter the inter-linked forces of caste, class and patriarchy." Key guest speakers included Professor Amartya Sen and Professor Martha Nussbaum. Below you can view a selection of images from this most successful event:
Conference Inauguration: Lighting the lamp with Asha Mukherjee and Professor Amartya Sen
Asha Mukherjee delivers the Welcome Address

Professor Amartya Sen delivers the Inaugural Address
Remembering Smt. Amita Sen: Professor Martha Nussbaum delivers a special plenary lecture 
Professor Nussbaum in discussion with Asha Mukherjee and Arvinder Ansari
For additional photos, click here

If you would like to read more about the conference, please see below for the conference outline.