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.