Documentary recap: A Path Appears

February 9th, 2015


A Path Appears: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

The second installment of “A Path Appears” focused on cycles of poverty in West Virginia, Haiti, and Colombia. The episode started out in Appalachia West Virginia, where Jennifer Garner served Nicholas Kristof’s tour guide in her home state. They meet poor women who are struggling to provide for their children, because of the burdens preventing people from overcoming poverty. WIC, a program for poor mothers does not cover many expensive purchases, such as diapers. Young mothers are often struggling to afford the necessities while also coming to terms with their inability to get hired. The insecurities and vulnerabilities they face as high school dropouts becomes a seemingly insurmountable wall to overcome.

Next, Kristof travels to Port-au-Prince Haiti with Alfre Woodard. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere with a history of messy aid including, short term projects that never created solutions. In such a poor country, families are left with few options when they have too many mouths to feed. Many children end up in the Restavek system (comes from French words that mean stay with). Families in rural areas with too many children will send small children, usually daughters, to live with someone in the city and essentially work as a slave. The Restavek Freedom Foundation was created in order to rescue children out of those situations. Kristof and Woodard followed the process of one girl being successfully removed from her abusive Restavek family. In an effort to move away from the Restavek system, the importance of education is continuously stressed as the main mechanism for a better life.

Kristof’s final stop is in Cartegena, Colombia, where he travels with Eva Longoria where teenage pregnancy appears to be an inescapable issue. The area is plagued by poor sanitation, which cause respiratory problems. Ill health and unplanned pregnancies are two factors that prevent growth within the population. Many girls drop out of school because of the high teen pregnancy rates. Kristof and Longoria learn about Colombia’s teen pregnancy problems from a woman named Catalina. Founder of the Fundación Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar (Juanfe), Catalina mourned her own loss of a child by creating a center that helps pregnant teen women and those who have already had children. The center focuses on education for the reduction of infant mortality, it trains the teen mothers to earn their own income in a short period of time, and teaches them the tools to keep away from the many gangs and violence, which are high in the area.

This episode leaves the viewer with a some closing thoughts. Poverty and education is a zero-sum game; if you don’t invest in the front-end then you must invest in the back-end. More money should be focused on programs for poor parents, so that their children can begin life closer to the starting gate. When education and other life programs are not invested in, more money ends up funneled into prison and other programs that deal with high school dropouts.

“The road to overcome poverty is partly about something as non-numerical as hope”- Nicholas Kristof

Don’t miss the final episode of A Path Appears, airing at 10pm on PBS  Monday, February 9.

Watch the first two episodes online until February 14.

Org Spotlight: My Life My Choice

February 6th, 2015

My Life My Choice


Founded in 2002, My Life My Choice is an organization fighting against the commercial sexual exploitation of young people in the greater Boston area. Led and fueled by survivors, My Life My Choice’s unique model empowers youth through engagement with a powerful community of advocates who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation personally. Envisioning a world free from the buying and selling of children, the organization works in four main survivor-led arenas:

  1. Survivor mentorship
  2. Prevention education
  3. Professional training for service providers
  4. Advocacy and leadership

In the greater Boston area alone, MLMC has trained 7000+ youth providers, mentored over 300 girls, and trained more than 7000 youth service providers. MLMC’s services for youth are inclusive, comprehensive and gender inclusive as of 2014. Last year, they launched a pilot mentorship program for 12-18 year old boys and transgender youth.  MLMC encourages young survivors to stay engaged with the organization through the MLMC Leadership Corps, fueling the next generation of powerful survivor advocates. The organization has been recognized by the US Department of Justice as a national model for sex trafficking prevention.

My Life My Choice is a member of the Justice Resource Institute and partners closely with other local and national change-makers including the SEEN Coalition (Support to End Exploitation Now)  and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Anti Trafficking Taskforce. In 2011, MLMC was a key voice in the drafting of Massachusetts anti-trafficking legislation that assured that exploited minors specialized survives rather than jail time.

International event

February 5th, 2015

International Gender Conference in DEV

DEV organisers are seeking contributions to panels at the International Conference on Gender Relations and Rising Inequalities.

The increasing evidence for rising inequalities across developing and developed countries has left us with a deepening concern about where this leaves gender relations, with new questions about directions of change and the new forms that gender inequalities may take in the years to come, and the challenges this will pose for development and social justice. It feels like an important moment for gender analysts to take stock and to look forward.

To engage with these issues, DEV will be holding an international conference on Gender Relations and Rising Inequalities at the UEA between 6-8 July 2015, and are seeking papers and panel convenors.

For further details, please get in touch with Nitya Rao ( or Cecile Jackson ( – or alternatively, visit our website at and select the ‘Gender Conference’ tab.

New report by Refugees International

February 5th, 2015


February 4, 2015
Author: Marcy Hersh

Congolese Women: What Happened to the Promise to Protect?

Download the full report at (en français)

It is impossible to talk about the Democratic Republic of the Congo without talking about sexual violence. The widespread acknowledgement of gross levels of conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC spurred the international community to act in an unprecedented manner to protect women from these atrocities. In particular, there were two major investments by the United States and the United Nations, one with an unprecedented level of programmatic funding, the other with a novel coordination strategy.

While the U.S. and UN interventions yielded important results, both were built without the benefit of a strong evidence base to properly understand the context of gender-based violence (GBV) in the DRC. As a result, some policymakers in the U.S. and at the UN now believe that because women and girls continue to experience widespread GBV, these interventions have failed. In turn, some U.S. government policymakers feel that intervention is futile, and that the DRC is a bucket with the bottom removed, which no amount of funding can fix. Now, vital resources (both human and financial) are being transferred towards other competing priorities around the globe. The U.S. government is also considering new approaches that could jeopardize GBV survivors’ access to lifesaving care.

At the same time, the UN’s investment, a new approach to coordination called the Comprehensive Strategy to Combat Sexual Violence, created a five-pillared system co-led by the UN and the DRC government. After five years, this coordination strategy has largely failed to avoid duplication or generate momentum on addressing sexual violence, instead bogging humanitarian actors down with bureaucracy.

Policy Recommendations 

  • Donor governments, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations should take on more gender-based violence (GBV) initiatives, rather than focusing on conflict-related sexual violence.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development should reinstate funding for stand-alone, multi-sectoral GBV services that include medical, psychosocial, judicial, socio-economic, and prevention activities. This funding must support multi-year program cycles and include community-based organizations in implementation to build sustainability.
  • Donors should increase funding for programs that seek to address the root causes of GBV by empowering women and engaging men.
  • Donor governments, in particular the U.S., and the UN should pressure the DRC government to seriously address and prioritize GBV, particularly in the provision of sustainable health and social services to GBV survivors, as well as on issues of impunity and security sector reform.
  • The DRC Minister of Gender, in collaboration with UN Women, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should overhaul the current National Strategy to Combat Gender-Based Violence and dissolve the pillared structure for coordination.
  • In the DRC provinces where humanitarian clusters are active, UNICEF and UNFPA should activate GBV sub-clusters.
  • The DRC Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children should develop a new national strategy to combat GBV that coordinates civil society, humanitarian organizations, and the UN.

Marcy Hersh assessed the humanitarian response to women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2014.

Download the full report at   


Article of Note

February 5th, 2015

Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing

by Stephanie Barrientos.regional

Gendered global production network analysis builds on global value chain and feminist political economy. It explores the interaction between commercial value chains and societal norms in which gendered patterns of consumption and production are embedded across diverse societies. The cocoa–chocolate value chain is examined linking Europe and cocoa-growing regions in Ghana and India. Women consumers ascribe to “quality” chocolate, yet women’s contribution to quality cocoa production is poorly remunerated, enhancing value capture by chocolate companies. Contested gendered power asymmetries and societal “re-embedding” could potentially contribute to economic and social upgrading of women farmers and workers, enhancing future quality cocoa sourcing.

Regional Studies 48(5):791-803, 2014. [not open access]

To go to the article click here.

One Shade of Grey: A Feminist Fantasy

February 3rd, 2015

A little comic relief this Tuesday, brought to you by 9GAG. Enjoy!

feminist fantasy

DC event recap: Global Security and Gender–Lessons from Sweden’s Foreign Policy

February 2nd, 2015


Global Security and Gender: Lessons from Sweden’s Foreign Policy

by Student Contributor Hannah Stambaugh

Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, has announced that Sweden will be the world’s first country to pursue a feminist foreign policy. On January 28th, Minister Wallström spoke about Sweden’s groundbreaking new policy agenda at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), an event co-sponsored by the Swedish Embassy in DC. In her keynote address, Wallström emphasized that Sweden would be actively integrating gender into “all aspects of foreign policy.”

Margot Wallström, a leading member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, has served as Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2014. Amongst her notable past positions, she has served as Minister of Culture and Minister of Social Affairs, has served as a member of Parliament, and has served as Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence and Conflict. Throughout her career, she has championed women’s rights and wider human rights.

An Wednesday’s event, Wallström outlined the “what” and the “how” of a feminist foreign policy. A feminist agenda is not just a women’s agenda, “it is a wider human rights and security agenda,” she asserted.

A feminist foreign policy has three major goals: women’s rights, representation and resources. She maintains that women’s rights must be central to every level of a foreign policy agenda rather than treated as a separate issue. Sweden will be working multilaterally and bilaterally to ensure that gender is incorporated into all facets of foreign policy decision-making. Sweden will promote increased women’s representation in governments and in peace-building processes, both domestically and globally. Wallström emphasized the critical role of women’s unique voices in negotiations and mediations. One way of promoting this goal is through increased support of women’s organizations working towards peace and reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict zones. Finally, Sweden will channel greater resources towards domestic and global gender equality initiatives.

Though Sweden is hailed as one of the world’s champions of gender equality and women’s empowerment, Wallström emphasized that the country still has substantial room for domestic growth.

Priority will be given to these five interdependent pillars of a feminist foreign policy:

  1. Increasing the role of women in rule of law and human rights,
  2. Combating gender-based violence and sexual violence, particularly in conflict and post-conflict zones,
  3. Promoting sexual health and reproductive rights (one of Sweden’s domestic strengths),
  4. Promoting the economic development of women, particularly labor rights and equal access to social services and legal rights, and
  5. Integrating women’s issues into the environmental area and the fight against climate change.

Following Wallström’s address, a distinguished panel expanded the scope of the discussion to include the role of the United States. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for the bureau of African affairs, moderated the panel. Discussants were Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Donald Steinberg, president and CEO of an international nonprofit called World Learning and a champion of pushing minority rights into the USAID agenda, and Minister Wallström. Two of the main topics discussed were the US’s role in promoting global gender equality and discussants’ views on best practices in achieving gender equality aims.

Ambassador Russell expressed her excitement about working with Sweden to integrate gender into foreign policy and outlined some of the United States’ major goals. These goals include increasing women’s representation in peacebuilding work, increasing women’s representation in global and domestic politics, and convincing skeptical foreign leaders why women’s representation matters.

Minister Wallström’s feminist policy agenda has been met with ridicule in many parts of the world, including Sweden. Nevertheless, she remains resolute in the importance of incorporating gender concerns and women’s unique voices into all levels of foreign and domestic policy. Flying in the face of critics who claim a feminist agenda is an intangible goal, Wallström has already taken several concrete steps to initiate substantial reform in Sweden’s foreign policy in her first year as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She has instituted an overrule of all ministries to ensure that capacity for the new feminist agenda is met, she has taken steps to engage civil society, and she has appointed an Ambassador-at-Large for women’s issues, making Sweden one of three countries (including the United States) with this position. Minister Wallström is confident in Sweden’s ability to create substantive reform and to lessen the stigma around the word “feminism.”

Article of Note

February 2nd, 2015

The Political Economy of “Transnational Business Feminism:” Problematizing the Corporate-Led Gender Equality Agenda.article_note

by Adrienne Roberts. International Feminist Journal of Politics (January 28), 2015.
This article traces the emergence of a politico-economic project of “transnational business feminism” (TBF) over the past decade. This project – which is being developed by a coalition of states, financial institutions, the UN, corporations, NGOs and others – stresses the “business case” for gender equality by arguing that investments made in women can (and should) be measured in terms of the cost savings to families and communities, as well as in terms of boosting corporate profitability and national competitiveness. This article uses a feminist historical materialist framework to argue that TBF is facilitating the further entrenchment of the power of corporations to create “expert” knowledges about both “gender” and “development.” Using the Nike-led “Girl Effect” campaign as an example, it is argued that TBF is promoting a naturalized and essentialized view of women and gender relations that ignores the historical and structural causes of poverty and gender-based inequality. It is also helping to reproduce the same neoliberal macroeconomic framework that has created and sustained gender-based and other forms of oppression via the global feminization of labor, the erosion of support for social reproduction and the splintering of feminist critiques of capitalism.
DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2013.849968 [not open access]

To go to the article click here.

Documentary recap: A Path Appears

January 29th, 2015


A Path Appears: Sex Trafficking in the US

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

The first installment of “A Path Appears” focused on sex trafficking in the United States. It highlighted the fact that trafficking is not just a problem on the other side of the world. Trafficking is a very real problem in the United States of America. Nicholas Kristof, coauthor of the book, A Path Appears invited famous actors to spend time in different cities taking the opportunity to speak with women who have been affected by trafficking. Ashley Judd takes a moment to share her own history of incest and rape with women in a self-help group. After sharing her story, she is taken around the city she grew up in and is reintroduced to the city through a new lens.

Magdalen House is one organization highlighted in this documentary. Magdalen House is a free, two year, residential program for women who are trying to leave a life of prostitution. After housing the women and realizing how few have anything to put on their resume, an organization called Thistle Farms was created so that the women could gain work skills. Thistle Farms is staffed by the women and sends money back into the program.

An important point made was the power the community has to reduce the propensity of sex trafficking. Searching through websites such as can aid in locating girls who have potentially been coerced into prostitution. The law enforcement needs to step up their techniques in both finding missing girls and locking up their procurers. The pimps and johns need to be targeted by police, not the prostitutes. The end of the film highlighted a police operation that caught men responding to an ad for prostitution. They have apprehended hundreds of men this way. If law enforcement makes this their focus, trafficking can be reduced.

Don’t miss the second episode of A Path Appears, airing at 10pm on PBS  Monday, February 2.

Watch the first episode online until February 14.


Kudos to IGIS and GGP

January 26th, 2015

womenThe Guardian mentions an Institute for Global and International Studies (IGIS) and Global Gender Program (GGP) Working Paper in its article, “Women Still Face a Fight for Recognition in War and Peace”.

To read the Working Paper click here.

To read The Guardian article  click here.