Friday, December 18, 2015

Margaret 'Peg' Snyder delivers African Studies Association Annual Lecture

UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate Margaret 'Peg' Snyder, the Founding Director of UNIFEM (The UN Development Fund for Women) recently gave the annual lecture for the Women's Caucus of the African Studies Association. Her lecture was titled “Four Decisive Decades: The Birth and Growth of a Global Women’s Movement”. The event coincided with the 40th anniversary of the first world conference on the status of women in Mexico City and the subsequent creation of UNIFEM, as well as the founding of the African Studies Association’s Women’s Caucus.

Peg Snyder (bottom right) with colleagues of the ASA Women's Caucus.
Photo credit: African Studies Association Women's Caucus

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coming soon: Bulgarian Folk Concert!

You are invited to a traditional folk music performance in Brighton, Massachusetts on November 15th! Dr. Barbara Gottfried of BU's Women's & Gender Studies faculty has a long association with Divi Zheni, the Boston-based Balkan Women's Chorus & Orchestra.

As Barbara shared with us, “Divi Zheni is a chorus and orchestra of 25 women from the U.S. and Bulgaria directed by renowned Bulgarian vocalist, instructor, and conductor Tatiana Sarbinska. We sing to share our love of Bulgarian music—once you have heard it, you can never go back.” 

Photo courtesy Barbara Gottfried
Barbara teaches courses in women in literature, mass media, and film at BU’s Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies program. As the Divi Zheni website notes, “She has traveled extensively in the Balkans, including trips to Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. She has studied Balkan dance and singing at seminars in Ohrid, Macedonia with Goran Alacki and Ljupco Manevski [Tanec] and Bansko, Bulgaria with Tatiana Sarbinska, and the dance of Transylvania at a dance camp in Felsosofalva in the Transylvanian part of Romania [Szekelyfold]. She has been folk dancing since a fateful night in 1971, when she stumbled upon Israeli dancing in the MIT Student Center.” 

Do join to enjoy the upcoming cultural performance 
by this renowned Balkan Women's Chorus!
Brighton Allston Congregational Church, 404 Washington, Street, Brighton
Sunday, November 15th at 2 pm

Friday, November 6, 2015

Shahla Haeri featured in upcoming BU lecture series, Monday November 9th

Dr. Shahla Haeri, one of the founding coordinators of the UNESCO/UNITWIN program based at Boston University, will be featured in the Asian Women in Public Life lecture series. Shahla will be speaking on "Muslim Women's Paths to Power: From Bilqis to Benazir" on November 9th at 12:15pm at the Pardee School located at 121 Bay State Road, Boston, Massachusetts. 

Dr. Adil Najam, Dean of BU's Pardee School of Global Studies, will be the discussant. 

As Shahla shared with us on the theme:
 "'Kings, when they enter a city, disorder it, and make the mighty ones of its inhabitants abased. Even so they too will do' (Quran 27: 32-33).  So says judiciously the Queen of Sheba to her advisors and counselors in the face of imminent threat of war from a formidable adversary.   Juxtaposing the Quranic story of the Queen of Sheba, and the purported Prophetic hadith: 'Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity,' Shahla Haeri in her forthcoming book (2017) attempts to bring to life stories of the legendary and historical women who have reached the apex of authority and power in patriarchal Muslim societies.  Taking an ethno-historical view of Muslim women’s paths to power and a cross-cultural anthropological perspective, she explores the circumstance surrounding women’s ascent to power in medieval Egypt, Yemen and India or in modern Pakistan, Turkey or Indonesia.  She critically discusses the politio-religious discourses, and cultural beliefs and practices that have helped or hindered women from attaining political leadership and authority in Muslim societies.  Highlighting medieval and modern examples of Muslim women who actually occupied the exalted office of a sultan, a queen or a prime minister, Haeri problematizes the assumption of religious objections to women's political leadership in Islam. She asks whether the justifications for barring women from positions of political leadership are to be sought in a divine mandate, a prophetic dictum, or patriarchal cultural traditions?  The theoretical line that runs through women’s narratives is threaded through a focus on the paradox of patriarchy, i.e., the animating dynamics of father-daughter relationship.  With the growing Muslim women’s mobilization in the public domain and their demand for political representation and leadership, this book on the historical and contemporary Muslim women rulers is highly timely."

Watch this space for news on the release of Shahla's book!

Photo of Dr. Shahla Haeri: courtesy  BU

Photo album by Brenda Gael McSweeney depicting Dr. Shahla Haeri's event at BU's Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies here

Article by Camille Nguyen on the screening of Shahla's documentary and talk as part of the lecture series of BU's Center for the Study of Asia, here  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Destry Rides Again, at the original site of the Egyptian Theater in Brighton Center!

The Brighton-Allston Historical Society (BAHS), a UNESCO/UNITWIN Network Affiliate, invites you to a special screening of Destry Rides Again:

Join to view this classic film with an original take on society's stereotypical gender roles! Enjoy the setting steeped in the cultural atmosphere of the then famous Egyptian Theater built in 1929 in Brighton Center (now site of the Elks Lodge, at 326 Washington Street).

The Egyptian: courtesy BAHS Archives


Photo album by BAHS Board Director Brenda Gael McSweeney of the packed-to-capacity event: hearty Congratulations to the organizers, and profuse Thanks to the enthusiastic audience! View photographs here:

Friday, October 16, 2015

UNESCO's Dr. Sonia Bahri moving on!

Sonia Bahri as the then Chief of Section for International Cooperation in Higher Education – UNESCO/Paris came to visit us back in 2007 at Boston University to announce the official creation of our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture, & Development! After collaborating with us for many years as our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network expanded thematically and geographically, she became Chief of UNESCO's Section for Science Policy and Partnerships. Sonia is once again on the move: she will be an advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation and education policies, and will help University Paris-Dauphine launch its Master2 in Peace Studies. 

Congratulations Sonia! 

(Left to right, July 2007): Dr. Sonia Bahri; Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, initiator of this UNESCO/UNITWIN Network; Dr. Barbara Gottfried, Women Studies Program faculty; and Maryam Shahsahebi, then WSP program manager.

Beyond the Book IX!

Mark your calendars! WGS is proud to be a sponsor of the book-art exhibition Beyond the Book IX, opening 21 November at the Faneuil and Brighton Branches of the Boston Public Library.
Do join the opening reception on 21 November from 11am-1pm at the Faneuil Branch at Oak Square!

You are invited: "over-under-in-between" by Martha Shea Smith

You are invited to the opening reception on October 20th for the exhibition "over-under-in-between" by Martha Shea Smith at the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library in Oak Square, Brighton.

Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program is proud to be an exhibition sponsor!

Venue: 419 Faneuil St, Brighton MA

Mass. Memories Road Show Collection

Women's Empowerment in West Africa is now part of a Boston historical archive! The exhibition that the Faneuil Branch of The Boston Public Library hosted in its art gallery on female education and empowerment in Burkina Faso over four decades is captured in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection! More below.

Photo by Eric West

Friday, October 9, 2015

Women's History Initiative in Brighton/Allston now figures in the University Archive and Special Collections at UMass Boston

Brenda Gael McSweeney, Board of Directors of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society – a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate, describes the background to this photo collage contributed to the University Archive and Special Collections at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

"This photo captures the Women's History Initiative that I launched with the Brighton Allston Historical Society when I came from India to live in Oak Square in 2003. The BAHS published fabulous accounts of men's contributions to our town's history; however one Member, Louise Bonar, had detected the phenomenon of 'Brighton's Forgotten Women'! So we undertook research and hosted events on Brighton's remarkable women. Here is Jennie Loitman Barron of Selkirk Road in Brighton in the 1950s. She became the first full-time female judge in Massachusetts. Her daughter Joy gave us this photo.

Collage by Ali O'Hare
Also depicted is our Women's History Initiatives team that shared the stories of Brighton's Women of Vision: best-selling novelists, a newspaper columnist, the de facto postmaster and numerous strong social activists across four centuries. At top right is Linda Mishkin who currently presides the BAHS, then Priscilla Biondi, Mary Rita Grady, then me – Chair of the group, next is Peg Collins, the immediate past President receiving an award, and at bottom left, Nancy O'Hara.

Other BAHS Board Members Ronni Komarow, Sharon Cayley and Ann Mulligan also presented last May at our multi-media show at the Congregational Church in Brighton Center. Earlier on we had created a Heritage Museum exhibit that ran for over a year, and a Women's Heritage Trail Guide and Bus Tour! Boston University's Women's Studies Program and the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis both supported these initiatives. Collage prepared by Ali O'Hare. Pictured clockwise from top left: Jennie Loitman Barron and colleagues, Linda Mishkin, Priscilla Biondi, CSJ Mary Rita Grady, Brenda Gael McSweeney, Peg Collins and Nancy O'Hara."

Also available: Women's History Initiatives: Gender, Culture, People-Centered Development

Photo credits: Jennie Loitman Barron & colleagues, courtesy BAHS; photo of Brenda Gael McSweeney by Nancy O'Hara; all others by Brenda Gael McSweeney

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Announcement: UNESCO-Paris Renews our UNITWIN for 4 Years!

Delighted to report that news is just in that UNESCO, Paris has extended the Agreement governing our UNITWIN Network for Gender, Culture, & People-Centered Development until August 2019!

Ambassador Irène Rabenoro on behalf of UNESCO's Education Sector wrote that "In light of the very good results achieved by the above-mentioned Network, confirmed by the positive evaluation of the report on its activities, I am pleased to inform you that UNESCO agrees to renew the above-mentioned Agreement for an additional period of four years."

We wish to congratulate all Partners and Affiliates of the Network in India, West Africa, Greater Boston and beyond on their numerous innovative contributions, and look forward to exciting initiatives during the forthcoming chapter!

Dr. Carrie Preston & Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney 
on behalf of The UNESCO/UNITWIN based at the 
Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, Boston University

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mark your calendars: Upcoming event on Women in Politics in Indonesia on October 6, 2015

We're happy to announce that WGS (Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program) at BU will be joining GaIDI (Gender and International Development Initiatives) of the Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis in co-sponsoring a talk on The Role of Political Parties in Women's Political Representation in Indonesia. The talk will take place at WSRC on the Brandeis University campus at 1515 South Street in Waltham at 12:30pm on October 6. 

WSRC Visiting Scholar Siti "Nur" Nurjanah, who has been part of the GaIDI team will be joined by Guest Speaker Christopher Candland of Wellesley College. WSRC announced: 

"This talk will discuss how Indonesia’s ratification of CEDAW — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — has pressured its political parties to adopt a 30 percent quota for women in its electoral system. It will also examine how political parties circumvent the law and continue to establish a male-dominated political culture."

Meantime, see below concerning an award that Nur and her NGO A Voice for Women to Deepen Democracy won this year! More here. Nur is pictured second from right. 

Info and photo courtesy of Making All Voices Count

Please feel free to share this information with others who might be interested

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Breaking News: Raffi Freedman-Gurspan makes history – this time at the White House!

Photo courtesy Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan of our Boston University WGS community just made history as the first openly transgender official at the White House! Raffi took up her new senior post as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office on August 18th, following a stint in trans advocacy as Policy Advisor for the DC-based National Center for Transgender Equality’s Racial & Economic Justice Initiative. 

Raffi worked early in her career until mid-2011as Course and Research Assistant with Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney at BU/WGS (Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program) in the arena of Gender and International Development. Their collaborative effort on Irish Women Today: Perspectives from Galway to Dublin on Gender (In)Equality was published last December by the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender.

Raffi's primary interests over the years have included public policy making, minority and indigenous peoples' rights, and gender equality matters. We are thrilled that the work of the White House will now benefit from Raffi's talent and activism promoting gender equality and justice.

"Brava" Raffi, from WGS and the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Congratulations to Gloria Bonder on New Membership!

Exciting news: Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, has invited our colleague Gloria Bonder to become a member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. Gloria coordinates the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender, on which BU/WGS represents North America.

The Broadband Commission has adopted an ambitious goal, that "countries around the world should strive to ensure that their populations fully participate in tomorrow's emerging knowledge societies".

As Gloria says, this honor is also an opportunity to raise awareness among decision makers about gender issues, and encourage them to define and implement policies and programs addressing gender equality in the Information/Knowledge Society.

Photo Courtesy Gloria Bonder

Friday, July 10, 2015

Breaking News: Ronni Komarow of our Network receives Community Award!

There was great excitement in the Brighton/Allston community the evening of 17 June 2015 when Ronni Komarow was awarded the prestigious Unsung Heroes Award for her selfless commitment to the advancement of Brighton/Allston in a ceremony at Boston College. 

Ronni in accepting the award declared: 
"I certainly feel my fellow Board Members deserve the award too, and that whatever you put into things, you receive so much more in return! ..." 
Here, Ronni was referring to her fellow Board Members of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society (BAHS, a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate), and of the Friends of the Faneuil Branch Library. Ronni was later invited to become a member of Boston Creates, Mayor Walsh's new creative arts initiative. 

Participants at the festivities, and notably at the BAHS and Friends of Faneuil tables, were thrilled to be present at this festive occasion.  

Ronni delivering her acceptance speech. Photo credit: Eric West

As the event's official program stated, Ronni was lauded for her energetic participation at the forefront of the campaign to keep the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library open. She is an officer of the Board of Directors of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society and a member of its Women's History Initiatives Standing Committee. The nomination papers also cited her work at the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center.

Below is the official citation of The State Senate, Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizing Ronni's contributions. Those of Mayor Marty Walsh, The House of Representatives of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and The Boston City Council, as well as the Award plaque, appear with a flickr set of photos from the event here

Members of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network from the Boston area and around the globe join in congratulating Ronni. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'Small World' Connections at the Harvard Ed Portal!

In a program at the Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Allston, a neighborhood of Boston-Massachusetts, the students studied “famous” local people. Pictured below is Marisa in the fifth grade who was assigned to study Brenda McSweeney. Surprisingly, Marisa met up with Brenda at the Harvard Ed Portal opening of the Unbound Visual Arts Exhibition on Community! As part of the Boston Public Schools, GPA's Pilot status gives the school autonomy to offer innovative curricula and a school culture that supports high expectations and achievement.

At right is Marisa pictured here with Brenda and her photographs
of evolving women's roles in the community in West Africa

Marisa is working away at the exhibition's 'Connections' happening! She is connecting her passions to entries of like-minded participants. This activity was designed by Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) President Ruth Rieffanaugh. Also pictured is Marisa's aunt Marcie Laden who is on UVA's Board of Directors (Photo credit: Eric West)

It's possible that Marisa's assignment was inspired by a publication – in which Brenda is one of the Brighton residents featured – called Legendary Locals of Allston-Brighton by Linda Mishkin. Linda is now President of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, that like UVA is a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate. More on the Legendary Locals volume here: 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Aminata Salamata Kiello's Paper on the Legacy of Enslavement in West Africa now published!

Aminata Salamata Kiello
UNESCO/UNITWIN at WGS/BU is delighted to announce a new publication in our Occasional Paper Series. The author is Aminata Salamata Kiello of Niamey-Niger and Ouagadougou-Burkina Faso who has prepared a paper entitled "The Legacy of Enslavement of Men and Women: Cases from West Africa". Aminata Kiello examines  the gendered impact of historical to modern-day slavery in several countries in West Africa, as well as its impact on the development of African societies. Her paper highlights the stigmas of modern-day slavery, particularly for women, who are subjugated both within the family structure and society at large, and who may be subject to a gender-specific form of slavery known as wahaya. Championing empowerment through education and cultural pride, Kiello argues that combatting the economic, social, and psychological determinants of slavery is key to West African development overall.

As Saniye Gulser Corat, Director of the Division for Gender Equality, UNESCO Paris, writes: "In West Africa, Kiello's case study about the influence of enslavement on modern slavery analyzes how women and men were impacted differently by describing the condition of “wahaya” women, who are stigmatized unofficial wives and slaves, and the brake the practice represents to African societies’ development."

Here is the link to the 'opens like a book' version of Aminata's Paper: 

The PDF version of the paper can be found at:

Both begin with the original French version authored by Aminata Salamata Kiello, and conclude with an English summary by Cassandra Fox.

Photos: Brenda Gael McSweeney

A First Publication in Our Network Collection in an African Language!

We're happy to announce that a first publication in Moore on women's empowerment in Burkina is available in our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network collection! An article on lightening African women's workloads and freeing up time for educational and lucrative activities has been translated from French into Moore by Adama Jacques Sibalo. Moore is an official language in Burkina Faso, and Adama has published a series of books in Moore since 2002. The article that he translated in June 2015 is "Burkina's Women Shape Progress" by Brenda Gael McSweeney and Scholastique Kompaoré (the French version called Les femmes du Burkina façonnent le progrès was translated from the English by Tshali Kabanga Charlie). The Moore translation was made possible thanks to Professor Emeritus John Hutchison of BU's African Studies Center and Coordinator of The African Language Materials Archive (ALMA) at Michigan State University. More on this story at:

Translator Adama Jacques Sibalo

Photo courtesy of Adama Jacques Sibalo

Friday, May 29, 2015

BAHS Rocks with Nick Racheotes & John Broderick!

From left, all from the Brighton-Allston Historical Society Board of Directors: Richard Salvucci, Presenter John Broderick, Joe Caniglia and Fran Gardinowhile BAHS VP Charlie Vasiliades converses with guests.

Brighton Center was alive on Thursday May 28 with a presentation by BAHS Executive Committee Officer and Webmaster John Broderick, and Board of Directors Member Dr. Nick Racheotes. This multimedia event was hosted at the Brighton-Allston Congregational Church for an audience that spanned the generations. John and Nick gave first-hand accounts of their interactions with the key musical players of the epoch. This they complemented with poignant photographs from the time, and music clips that had everyone swaying in their seats!

During their talk, John and Nick shared a glimpse of the evolving roles of women in the music scene in Greater Boston and beyond. These ranged from back-up singers and accompanying pianists to lead stars.

One of the local hit records discussed was "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby” by the Tune Weavers.  It was written by the founding member of the group, Margo Sylvia.  “Margo was the first and only Cape Verdean woman ever to write and record a hit song,” said John Sylvia, Margo’s husband and fellow band member.  “No one else has yet to do that again.” First released in 1957, the record went on to sell over two million copies and was later covered by Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton.

For more of John and Nick's stories, watch this space!

 In this slide, two of the four group members are women!
At left is presenter Nick Racheotes, sharing more ideas after the event with  BAHS Member Bruce Kline.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Oak Square: A Walk Back in Time" features Women of Vision!

Brighton Allston Historical Society Vice President, Charlie Vasiliades, and Wilma Wetterstrom, BAHS Board Member Emerita, led an evening journey through Oak Square, Brighton over time  an event hosted and co-sponsored by the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library. Charlie's presentation highlighted one of the town's Women of Vision: Mary Faneuil Bethune.

As announced by BAHS,

BAHS presentation in the Art Deco Faneuil Library reading room
"Ever wonder what the Oak Square area USED to look like? Join Charlie Vasiliades and Wilma Wetterstrom as they present a program showcasing over 70 historic photographs from the collection of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, taking you back in time for an imaginary walk through Oak Square and its surrounding streets and hills. You will see a landscape that changed from a rural New England scene to the vibrant neighborhood of today  a fascinating journey!"

Charlie explained to the assembled audience that Mary Faneuil Bethune was credited with saving the magnificent Faneuil estate from destruction through her intervention with General George Washington. The Faneuil Gatekeeper's House survives to this day, and is featured as Stop 17 on the Brighton Allston Women's Heritage bus tours and in the Trail Guide, the latter available at the Brighton Allston Heritage Museum and in an e-version at this link on the website.

Faneuil Gatekeeper's House - Stop 17, Brighton-Allston Women's Heritage Trail Guide

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Harvard Ed Art Gallery Opening Reception for UVA Exhibition: The Context of Community!

                                                Photo: Courtesy Karen Smigliani, UVA Council of Advisors

Unbound Visual Arts is delighted to announce that an exhibition titled The Context of Community, is being hosted at the new Harvard Ed Portal Gallery. Curated by Julia Ryan, the exhibit features work of members of UVA's Board of Directors and Council of Advisors: Tsun Ming Chmielinski, Heidi Lee, Susan Loomis, Francis Gardino, Ruth Rieffanaugh, Brenda Gael McSweeney and Sarah Berry and UVA members Marian Dioguardi and Sarah Smigliani. The exhibit will show at the Harvard gallery throughout June 2015.

Below are some photographs taken at the full-to-capacity opening!

Also, see here a set of photographs by Eric West:

Pictured are l. to r.: Curator Julia Ryan, UVA Founding Council of Advisors Member Brenda Gael McSweeney, and Guest Majid Bensellam hailing from Meknes, Morocco; displayed are Brenda's 'Community' photographs taken in Burkina Faso in the mid-1970s and 7 years ago.
Brighton Allston Historical Society (BAHS) Board Members came out in force to participate at the opening events: at left, BAHS Co-Treasurer Mary Regan, speaking with BAHS Board Member Sharon Cayley. Displayed are the oil painting 'Time to Come Home' by Marian Dioguardi and an acrylic on canvas titled 'Together' by Sarah Smigliani.
Eminent Massachusetts politicians joined to support the work of UVA - above center is State Senator Will Brownsberger pictured with State Representative Kevin Honan, enjoying the art and culture festivities with other guests.
UVA's President, artist Ruth Rieffanaugh explains her work to photographer Eric West.


We were delighted that photographs of Burkinabe women leaders taken by Brenda Gael McSweeney featured in the exhibit. More on this here at our UNITWIN's Equality Burkina blog:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

UNITWIN Affiliate Member Turns to Educational Books for Children

                             Photo: Andrew Werner
 Mina Mauerstein-Bail, affiliated with our network through the Sirleaf Market Women's Fund, has now branched out her educational initiatives to include authoring a series of children's books set in European and other countries that carry a message of tolerance and accepting diversity. 

The first volume of this series is set in Ferney-Voltaire, where Mina lived and worked with the United Nations for a number of years. It was there that she met Max and Voltaire, the main "characters" in her first book. 

Mina writes of her most recent work:

"Many years ago I was asked, “What is the best gift one can give to a child?”  I thought about this for a long time. I have come to the conclusion that the best gift would be to instill a sense of curiosity and kindness in children -curiosity about people and the world we live in and kindness, a virtue and a value that can turn despair into hope. The touching and humorous adventures of Max and Voltaire and their furry pals challenge us to think about how  embracing both the familiar and the different can make our lives interesting and rewarding and that no matter how bad a situation is, how it can change for the better."

She is contemplating Max and Voltaire "traveling" to Italy, where she was born, and to Dakar, Senegal, where she served with the United Nations Development Programme for several years.