Thursday, July 31, 2014

IWHHR: Week 2 (Education)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo from our course material. Credit: S. Smith Patrick


Please read through the list of United Nations Millennium Goals (available here), and then draft three to five thoughtful paragraphs about the following topic:
Which goals relate directly to girls’ education? Which goals are dependent on educating girls for their fulfillment?
You can find out more details about the Millennium Goals and get current information on the status of achieving them at

The Millennium Development Goals
Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
• Reduce by half the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
• Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
• Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling
Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
• Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
Goal 4 Reduce child mortality
• Reduce by two thirds the mortality of children under five
Goal 5 Improve maternal health
• Reduce maternal mortality by three quarters
Goal 6 Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases
• Halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS
• Halt and reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
• Integrate principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse the loss of environmental resources
• Halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
• Improve the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020
Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development
• Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system
• Address special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states

Interestingly, ALL eight of the United Nations Millennium Goals directly relate to girls' education. Had you asked me this questions prior to all of the readings and videos this week, I'm not sure I would have been able to answer the same way. I now know that sending a girl to school and educating her actually fulfills each of these goals on an individual level for that girl. Obviously, the goals are intended to be set forth on a global perspective, but it certainly starts with just one girl.

Every aspect of a girl's life (life itself, potential for poverty and hunger, maternal health, potential for contracting diseases such as HIV, malaria, etc.,) and really the community as a whole is affected by whether or not she (and other girls) are sent to school and properly educated so they can act for themselves and begin to give back to their families and communities. Once you've educated a girl and once she also begins to earn money, the majority of that money and teaching go back into her raising her children and bettering the community as a whole. This positively affects the next generation of girls AND boys. Education is really thought of as the "magic" key or the silver bullet to propelling communities forward to be more pleasant, prosperous, and cohesive.

Since all eight of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals are directly related to girls' education, it seems that all of them require educating girls for their fulfillment. I would especially point out Goal 2 - Achieve universal primary education as requiring that girls be educated in order to be fulfilled. While educating girls makes an enormous impact, it seems that the remaining goals also include other factors that are required for their fulfillment. But Goal 2 cannot be achieved AT ALL unless girls are sent to school.

Educating girls not only helps to fulfill these development goals and benefits communities, the environment, and so forth. It is a basic human right and it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

IWHHR: Week 1 (Women's Rights = Human Rights)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHR. Details on the course can be found here.

If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.


Please go to Annex I: The Beijing Declaration (link). Read the Beijing Declaration (pages 2-5), a document that emerged from the 4th United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.
Almost every country in the world has signed on to this Declaration. As you read through it, take note of two or three of the commitments in this document that interest you.
What surprises you? Do you think the commitments are realistic? Do you have any other reactions? Please comment upon them in three to five thoughtful paragraphs.
As I have begun this course, I have become acutely aware that I am not an expert in this field of social justice and human rights, and I am also very much a product of my upbringing in the sense that my views on women's role, the rights of women, and the realities of life as a woman are largely colored by my religious, socioeconomic, geographic, and familial backgrounds. That being said, my parents raised me with and continue to in engage me in a very open-minded environment, where learning was and is encouraged and looking at a particular situation or issue from a different point-of-view was and is commonplace.

In the U.S. media, stories of wars, rumors of wars, beatings, rapes, and an all-around lack of peace abound. The 18th commitment of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the result of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, states:
We are convinced that... 18. Local, national, regional and global peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels; 
Women are a powerful, fundamental force for leadership. Countries won't have women in leadership until women want to be in leadership. According to the "World's Women and Girls 2011 Datasheet" issued by the Population Reference Bureau, Rwanda, a small country emerging from civil war only in the mid-1990s, has a parliament occupied by 56% women, making it the only country in the world to have a female majority in the national parliament. Contrast that with my country, The United States, thought of to be a leader in the world has a mere 17% women in national government. Large bodies are slow to change and often get stuck in the rut of the past. Women will occupy more seats in government when women begin running for office, when women want more of a say.

Inserting women leaders into governments, at an equal rate as men, and allowing them to make and influence decisions alongside men during times of warfare, as well as times of peace, would drastically change the tenor of international conversations and thus, conflicts and war.

Another thought is that women will have a more equal role in leadership and conflict resolution not only when they want it for themselves, but when men also want it for them. The Beijing Declaration also states:
We are determined to... 25. Encourage men to participate fully in all actions towards equality; 
When men are as interested in women's human rights as women are, more forward movement will occur. The mere fact that our class, with a topic and title such as "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (emphasis) appears to be made up primarily of women (based on a glancing at the names listed in the Piazza discussion forum) is disheartening when looking at it through the context of the United Nations commitments to action listed in the Beijing Declaration. Where are the men? Why are they noticeably absent from anything that specifically has women in the title? How will the goals and commitments be accomplished if men do not even want to learn, participate in, and support the actions and efforts being made in the direction toward the 9th commitment stated in the Declaration:
We reaffirm our commitment to... 9. Ensure the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
All of these commitments listed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action are ideals. At first reading, the commitments seem grand and unattainable for billions of people trying to work together across the world. Certainly they have not yet been met worldwide, nearly 20 years after this document was written. However, these commitments are goals. And goals are nothing if not grand and do not give cause to reach further than thought possible. As governments, countries, workplaces, service groups, churches, schools, and families begin to take heed to these goals, these grand ideas will start small and be spread to all with whom each equality-minded person interacts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading the news.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
~Theodore Roosevelt

Lately, I've been thinking how much of a "downer" reading the daily news is and yet I am, somehow, glued to it, voraciously reading everything I can. I learn of lying and corruption in governments and corporations, hosts of humans whose lives have been cut short due to the decision of another human, the slaughter and rape of innocent villagers in war-torn countries, the bombs landing in towns of innocent civilians, and simply the overall violence that seems to characterize our times. I'm often discouraged when I think about the individual lives affected and what despair each of them has to deal with. At times it is too much for me to bear and I think the individual (and collective) problems of the world are too widespread to really take on and conquer.

And then today I read this quote from the Talmud:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
And I am reminded that the efforts of small grass-roots organizations, service groups, families, and individuals are seldom reported in the media. My efforts, my prayers may seem small, but when combined with yours, they may have some worth. And I'm not at liberty to ignore what is happening in the world, but I'm also not required to save the world on my own. (Though, if I could, I would.)

Any thoughts?

Friday, July 04, 2014

Hike (okay, Nature Walk) to Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

"Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which
once existed between man and the universe."
~Anatole France

Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
photo by me

The fourth of July seemed an appropriate day to get outside and appreciate our country's rocks and rills and purple mountain majesties. KDJ and I took a drive up into Big Cottonwood Canyon and strolled around Silver Lake. It's an easy 30 minute walk around the lake, but it's just beautiful.

Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
photo by me

Often, since it's so easy and accessible for all ages, there are many people, especially families with little kids. This holiday was pretty crowded, more than I like, but the scenery still provided the serenity I was looking for.

KDJ and I at Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
photo by me

As we walked around the lake, KDJ and I decided to name all the reasons it's great to get out and hike:
  • Vitamin D
  • Endorphins
  • Clouds
  • People
  • Trees
  • Beautiful scenery
Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
photo by me

After we left the Silver Lake area, we took the turn off to Guardsman's Pass. It takes you up over the mountains into Summit County and you end up coming out in Park City. The view, as you can see, is rather spectacular.

Guardsman Pass, Utah
photo by me

Guardsman Pass, Utah
photo by me

Guardsman Pass, Utah
photo by me

I'd like to take the drive on Guardsman Pass again in September to see the autumn leaves. My goal is to make it to Cecret Lake and Ensign Peak again this season, along with Temple Quarry Trail, Donut Falls, and...