Gender & Human Rights

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China Pressures Europe to Stay Silent on Human Rights

 

China’s attempts to export its censorship and authoritarianism raise serious questions for all European countries.

China’s belligerent diplomacy in Europe has been in the spotlight this week after a German lawmaker who chairs the Bundestag’s Human Rights Committee was refused access to China after he criticized rights violations in Tibet. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said he was “not welcome” because of his support for “Tibetan independence.”

German Christian Democrat politician Michael Brand, who had intended to travel with the Parliamentary Committee to Tibet in late May, was robust in his response to the visa ban when he said: “We can’t just accept it when authoritarian regimes like China, Russia or Turkey carry out censorship and oppression, certainly not if they want to export these methods — and to Germany too. When it comes to human rights, pussyfooting around doesn’t pay off. Human rights are not an internal affair of the state of China.”

China’s attempts to export its methods of censorship and authoritarianism raise serious questions for all European countries about whether their approach has contributed to Beijing’s aggressive diplomacy.

When governments adopt a softer approach on human rights and Tibet, their country’s potential for negotiation on important strategic issues becomes more constricted. Going to great lengths to accommodate the Chinese leadership’s sensitivities at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping is presiding over the most eviscerating crackdown on civil society in a generation weakens a country’s leverage instead of strengthening it.

Demands from China to Western democracies, which have included telling prime ministers not to meet the Dalai Lama, or to withdraw criticism, as with this example, are aimed at reducing their negotiating strength, and asserting Beijing’s own agenda for greater gains.

Some countries in Europe, such as the United Kingdom, have acceded to such demands and kowtowed to such a significant degree that they have faced a major public backlash for doing so. In the UK, even those involved in doing business with China expressed concern about the British government’s overly accommodating approach to Xi’s state visit last year. James McGregor, a business consultant with operations in China, said: “If you act like a panting puppy, the object of your attention is going to think they have got you on a leash.”

Sometimes the accommodating approach arises from short-term considerations of political expediency, rather than from an informed position. There is no credible evidence of significant economic loss when governments do risk Chinese wrath and take a position on, for instance, whom they can and cannot meet, whether it is the Dalai Lama or anyone else. For instance, when Norway did not apologize for the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, there was no evidence of any serious economic consequences – indeed, bilateral trade significantly increased, according to an analysis in The Diplomat.

Experienced China hands understand that the Beijing leadership will seek to frame the debate in its own terms, amplifying issues that are less important in order to compel concessions elsewhere. In the case of the row with the Bundestag Committee Chair, the official statement from the Foreign Ministry deliberately blamed his support for “Tibet independence” – although the issue of the status of Tibet has never entered the equation. Virtually all Western governments acknowledge that Tibet is a part of the PRC, and the Dalai Lama’s position is that he is seeking a genuine autonomy for Tibet under the auspices of the PRC.

And yet even so, Chinese diplomats have had some success in pushing governments to adopt specific language on the “Tibet independence” question, perhaps with a view to closing down future possible support for the Tibetan people. The UK, France and Denmark have all caved in this respect, giving the unnecessary addition to their official position that they “do not support Tibetan independence.”

It is nothing new that China attempts to use economic and commercial interests to enforce submission to its agenda, but it is new that in recent years too many European democracies seem willing to cooperate with this process, sometimes even engaging in pre-emptive capitulation and self-censorship before any demands are even made.

 

Kai Mueller is Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Germany and gives regular briefings to UN Committees and Parliamentary Committees in Germany on Tibet and human rights. 

Date:      May 15, 2016

Source: The Diplomat

http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/china-pressures-europe-to-stay-silent-on-human-rights/

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UAE: Free Two Jailed for Criticizing Egypt

 

Academic, Journalist Held for Social Media Comments

UAE authorities should immediately drop all charges against an Emirati academic and a Jordanian journalist that relate to peaceful criticism of Emirati and Egyptian authorities.

The Emirati academic, Nasser bin Ghaith, faces charges that include “engaging in hostility against Egypt,” following online comments made before his arrest in August 2014. The UAE-based Jordanian journalist, Tayseer al-Najjar, informed his family that his detention since December 2015, relates to his online criticism of Israeli military actions in Gaza and the Egyptian security forces’ destruction of tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai region of Egypt.

“UAE authorities seem to believe they have the right to detain anyone who ever expressed any views, anywhere, that they disagree with,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “There is no justification for throwing a journalist, or anyone else, into prison for expressing a peaceful opinion.”

Bin Ghaith and al-Najjar both spent time in incommunicado detention after their arrests. Local sources who asked not to be named for their protection told Human Rights Watch it is likely that they were held at a state security facility in Abu Dhabi that has been the subject of numerous credible allegations of torture.

Bin Ghaith’s whereabouts remain unknown, although he appeared at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi for court sessions on April 4 and May 2, 2016. Media reports about the May 2 session indicate that he is accused of violating various provisions of the penal code, a 2012 cybercrime law, and a 2014 counterterrorism law. Some of these charges, according to local media reports, relate to “six tweets and images ridiculing the Egyptian president and government.” UAE authorities should immediately investigate the allegations of torture that local sources said bin Ghaith made to the judge at the May 2, 2016 hearing, Human Rights Watch said. Bin Ghaith is scheduled to appear in court again on May 23.

Majida Hourani, al-Najjar’s wife, told Human Rights Watch that she has been able to speak to her husband by telephone since his transfer to Al Wathba prison in early March. She said that her husband told her he has not been formally charged. She said he had posted the social media comments that UAE authorities had questioned him about in July 2014, nearly a year before he moved to the UAE to take up employment there.

UAE authorities do not allow Human Rights Watch access to the country. UAE residents known to have spoken with rights groups are at serious risk of arbitrary detention and imprisonment. The UAE’s 2014 counterterrorism law provides for the death penalty for people whose activities are found to “undermine national unity or social peace,” neither of which are defined in the law.

“What the UAE characterizes as hostility against foreign governments is what most people consider criticism or analysis,” Stork said. “This is a prime example of the UAE practice of invoking national security to persecute peaceful critics.”

 

Date:      May 13, 2016

Source: Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/15/uae-free-two-jailed-criticizing-egypt

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Somalia: sexual violence must be subject to criminal justice, says UN expert

 

A United Nations human rights expert today called on the Government of Somalia to enhance the capacity of the judiciary and police force in handling cases of sexual and gender-based violence, and to prohibit the handling of such cases by traditional clan elders.

“I call on the Government to prioritize the creation and implementation of a twin strategy: to enhance the capacity of the judiciary and the Somali Police force, and to prohibit clan and traditional elders from resolving or adjudicating such cases,” said the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga, in a press release.

“There is also a crucial need to create human rights awareness among clan elders and religious leaders about women’s rights, as one way of facilitating change within communities,” he added.

Mr. Nyanduga began his visit to Somalia on 16 April. During his mission, he visited Mogadishu, Kismayo and Baidoa, and met the Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Federal Government authorities in Mogadishu, representatives of Jubbaland state, and the South West state.

On Saturday, at the end of his third mission to the country, Mr. Nyanduga noted that the Xeer Somali traditional dispute resolution system continues to play a key role in the country, given that rule of law institutions are still being established. He was concerned to learn that traditional elders adjudicate sexual and gender-based violence cases, such as rape, due to the absence of a fully functioning criminal justice system in many parts of Somalia.

He called for the adoption of the Sexual Offences Bill during the forthcoming session of Parliament to further guarantee the protection of women’s rights and also urged the Government to implement the recommendations arising from Somalia’s 2016 Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council, including the adoption of a moratorium on the death penalty.

Mr. Nyanduga commended the Federal and regional authorities and Parliament for committing themselves to holding elections later this year, widening the electoral base and ensuring that a 30 per cent women representation is met. However, he expressed concern that representation of youth, minorities and persons with disabilities, is not similarly guaranteed.

The Independent Expert also reiterated the need to address the human rights challenges that journalists and media in Somalia face. He warned that the Media Law must not be used as a tool to harass journalists, but rather to ensure respect for the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

He noted with satisfaction the Government’s commitment to adopt the National Human Rights Commission Bill, establishing an independent National Human Rights Institution before the end of its tenure, and urged that this commitment be met.

“However, another bill, the Counter Terrorism Bill, could potentially negatively affect the enjoyment of human rights,” Mr. Nyanduga said. “I urge the authorities to ensure that this bill conforms to international human rights guarantees in accordance with Somalia’s international human rights obligations and the revised Federal Constitution. To be effective in fighting terrorism, the law must be firmly entrenched in human rights.”

AMISOM’s role in Somalia

The Independent Expert commended the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for the role it continues to play in the country. He noted its commitment to comply with human rights and international humanitarian law, including ensuring accountability for violations committed by its forces. Regarding the incident on the killing of the four civilians by AMISOM forces in Bullo Mareer, Lower Shabelle, the expert urged the Mission to conduct thorough, independent investigations and make the findings of its inquiries public.

In this regard, he welcomed the plan by the UN and AMISOM to hold the first UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy implementation review workshop on 26 and 27 April, urging that stronger collaboration on the ground will foster compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law, which is a shared objective for both the United Nations and the African Union.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Date:                      April 15, 2016

Source:                  UN News Centre

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Just 1 of 13 gender crimes reported in Delhi

 

Worries about getting stuck in prolonged investigation and litigation and fear of retaliation deter women from going to the police in cases of crimes against them. Not surprisingly, only one of every 13 incidents of gender crimes reaches the police stations in Delhi, while it is only slight better in Mumbai, where one of nine cases is reported to the police, says a study carried out by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

The situation is as dismal when overall crime is considered, with the study, titled Crime Victimisation and Safety Perception, finding that only half of all offences are ever reported, and of these only half are eventually registered as FIRs.

In terms of sexual harassment cases, none of the six reported in Delhi and only two of the five cases in Mumbai led to an FIR being filed.

In Delhi, 1 in 11 cases of all criminal events involved sexual harassment, compared with 1 in 25 in Mumbai. Of the sexual harassment cases, 94% in Delhi comprised staring or passing of lewd comments. It was worse in Mumbai, however, with almost a quarter of the cases involving indecent touching or groping or being followed by men.

Among the seven overall crime categories studied by CHRI, theft was at the top in Delhi, while sexual harassment placed second at just over 9% of all crimes.

Physical assaults, logging just under 9%, constituted the third most common offence in Delhi.

Two-thirds of the cases of physical violence in the capital and four-fifths of those in Mumbai involved grabbing, shoving, slapping or beating. Attacks with dangerous objects, including guns and knives, accounted for over 11% of the cases in Delhi and just under 10% in Mumbai.

As seems to be the case in many countries, CHRI’s survey corroborates the fact that most criminal events go unreported. Overall, 53.2% of crime cases identified by the survey in Delhi and 58.2% in Mumbai were not reported. The primary reason for people not reporting these incidents is due to fear of being caught in bureaucratic police and court systems.
While these trends are consistent among all kinds of crime, some reasons for not reporting are more emphasised in certain classes of criminal activity. For example, of the 80 households in Delhi that experienced sexual harassment, 74 of them did not go to the police for help. Of these, 52 said they did not want to get stuck in prolonged police and court matters. In Mumbai, there were 45 cases of sexual harassment, 40 of them unreported. In 26 cases, the victims avoided police intervention for fear of retaliation by the perpetrators.
Overall, in both Delhi and Mumbai, seven in 10 households visited a police station to report a crime. In both cities, for two of the most common offences — theft, including break-ins, and assault — over two-thirds of households that experienced these crimes approached the police. Overall, nearly half of those who reported crime in Delhi used a helpline, including police helpline 100. By comparison, just under a quarter of those in Mumbai took recourse to phone assistance.

Taking all crimes together, in both cities less than half of the cases reported to the police by the respondents ended up with the registration of an FIR. Given that only half of all crimes experienced were reported in the first place, this means only a quarter of the criminal incidents were registered.

 

By:                         Raj Shekar

Date:                      April 26, 2016

Source:                  The Times of India

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Just-1-of-13-gender-crimes-reported-in-city/articleshow/51985745.cms

 

 

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Fowzia Adde: Overcoming barriers for refugee women

 

Fowzia Adde is at work in her office in the Townsite Center in Moorhead. Every minute, it seems, a bingfrom her computer indicates the arrival of another email—from businesses seeking funds from her organization, groups inviting her to conferences on gender equality and female empowerment, an elderly relative asking for help coming to America.

Adde is the executive director of the Immigrant Development Center, a nonprofit organization committed to helping immigrants and refugees find economic prosperity in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Symbols of her accomplishments can be found on every surface of the spacious room: framed certificates sit on her bookshelves, blueprints of the IDC’s latest project, the International Marketplace, hang on the beige walls next to photographs of her eight children, and a glass trophy bearing the words “YWCA Woman of the Year” pokes out from beneath the clutter of papers and coffee cups that cover her desk. A ray of sun shines through the window and falls on the award, catching Adde’s eye.

“It didn’t happen magically,” she says, taking the trophy in her hands. “It was a lifetime of changes that brought me here.”

Since 1997, Adde has learned to maneuver a new life as a minority among minorities: a refugee woman in a country that has for so long catered to white, English-speaking men.

Adde’s experience, while remarkable, is not singular. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, women and girls comprise about half of the tens of thousands of refugees who come to America in search of sanctuary every year. It is not possible for native United States citizens to fully comprehend the hardships that any refugee, regardless of gender, must endure; this experience becomes even more complicated when the refugee is a woman.   As a result of gender roles and their position in society, they are at an increased risk for discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence.

“The huge sound of weapons, like thunder”

Thirteen-year-old Adde was in her form one classroom in Mogadishu, Somalia, when the war began. The year was 1990, and rebel groups, hoping to overthrow the regime of President Siad Barre, had entered the capital city. Adde and her classmates, just teenagers, sat terrified in their seats as the sounds of screams and gunfire echoed outside.

“If you didn’t come from a country that’s war-torn, it’s hard to realize,” she said.  “It’s the huge sound of weapons, like thunder.”

The sounds grew closer and closer to the school as parents began to arrive. Adde watched as her friends were taken in the arms of their crying parents, not knowing whether she would see them again. Her own mother finally came to bring her home, to what they thought was safety.  Once home, Adde and her six younger siblings were ushered into the basement. Her father, who was working for the government at the time, had already fled. “He was the first target,” she said.

The house shook and dust began to fall from the ceiling, and Adde’s mother knew that they could not remain hidden in that basement. They began making plans. All of the banks had been closed, so the residents of Mogadishu had to find other ways to get the money they needed. Luckily, her mother had a fair amount of gold jewelry saved. “She wanted to buy the new styles,” Adde said. “She didn’t know that this would be something that would save us in the future.”

Every day her mother would take those treasured pieces—necklaces, bracelets, rings— out from their boxes and drawers and sell them in the market for less than a quarter of what she had originally paid.  Three months later, with enough money saved, Adde’s mother gathered the children and told them to pack only what they could carry on their small backs.  Together they fled by foot and bus to the port town of Barawa, more than 200 km away.

Barawa, while farther from the violence, presented Adde’s family with its own challenges. Compared to Mogadishu, Barawa was a small, impoverished town.

“That was the worst thing that happened to us,” Adde said. “Nobody wanted to buy [gold] from her. Nobody had money.”

They stayed in Barawa for three months. During this time, Adde took on the role of daughter, sister, and mother. She would walk miles to fetch enough water to give each of the kids a bath. She entertained and comforted them while they waited for their mother to return with food. When she did return, she came bearing only the head of an animal and less than half a pound of rice— all to feed seven hungry children.

Prior to the war, meals had been a time for Adde and her family to gather around large, communal plates of hot meats and rice. The children would scoop up their own servings, always filling their stomachs. In Barawa, with food so limited, they let their mother divide their portions for them. Nobody wanted to share. “When life is like that, you lose your choices,” she said. “You just want to get out of that problem, and you want to look for a way out.”

A fishing boat to Kenya

Their way out was a small fishing boat traveling from Barawa to Kenya. Adde’s family survived the trip, but many others did not. She recalls watching whole boats go down in front of their own. But the coast of Kenya was no safer for them than the water; they were illegal refugees, some of the first to arrive in Kenya, and they came with no paperwork. For four days they sat in that crowded boat as the Kenyan government blocked them from setting foot on solid ground.

“We thought, ‘what now? Now we reached a safe place, and nobody wants us,’” she said.

Finally, the United Nations and the Kenyan government reached a deal to take in refugees. Legs shaking from hunger and seasickness, Adde and her family stepped off the boat and began the journey to the refugee camp.

The camp was located on the outskirts of Mombasa, a very damp, muddy part of Kenya, where malaria ran rampant and the tents provided by the UN collapsed when the rain came. There were no sources of clean water, no private bathrooms. Adde’s immune system, accustomed to the mild weather in Mogadishu, was not prepared for such conditions. She contracted malaria in the first months.

“But I was one of the fortunate,” she said. “I made it through.”

Adde’s mother, desperate to provide a better life for her family, refused to stay in that camp for more than a year. She sold her belongings in downtown Mombasa and found an apartment in the city. Adde finished her high school education and learned medicine in Mombasa. Eventually, she was hired by the UN to become a nurse in the camps. She made a monthly salary of $50, but she never saw that check. Her mother would pick up Adde’s salary every month, and along with the money she continued to make in the markets, pay the rent on the apartment. The family lived in that apartment for six years.

“After that, I knew life will be better,” Adde says. “We just paid a lot for a price, you know?”

On June 16, 1997, Adde left her family and her war-torn home behind and fled to America; however, like many women, her struggle did not cease when she stepped off of that plane in Washington, D.C.

Refugee women face barriers and isolation

Hank Tkachuk, a professor of communication studies at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, has spent the last 30 years working with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Lutheran Social Services to help resettle refugees. He has also created curriculum which allows students in his Intercultural Communication class to act as mentors for local refugees every semester. For three decades he has worked with refugees, many of them women, attempting to break down the barriers that prevent them from beginning anew in America.

“Women were less likely to be educated, they were less likely to have linguistic skills, they were less likely to have worked outside of the home,” Tkachuk said. “Add those all up, it makes it much harder to be a refugee woman than be a man.”

Darci Ashe, who has collaborated with Tkachuk for much of her career, has worked with Adde and other refugee women for more than 20 years. She is a foster parent for unaccompanied minors, a former longtime employee at Lutheran Social Services, and the current Director of Development at the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment, or WE Center, in Fargo. Asche and her coworkers at the WE Center are committed to educating the community and helping New Americans grow accustomed to their new home. They offer resources like cultural competency training, new business training, behavioral health guidance, and a language exchange program.  In all of these roles, Ashe has been exposed to the challenges that these women face. The greatest obstacle she sees in the lives of the female refugees she works with is a sense of isolation. Many of them come from villages where family and friends lived side by side, offering companionship and sharing the burden of childbearing. When they come to America, they leave this community behind.

“If they have small children, it doesn’t really make sense for them to have a job and then try to figure out how to pay childcare,” she said. “So a lot of times the husband will have more than one job and the women will stay home with the children. That just completely puts a halt to any kind of integration because they’re stuck at home.”

Jonix Owino is not a refugee, but she is familiar with the experience of transitioning to American life as an African woman. She has also seen this kind of isolation at work. After completing her undergraduate work in her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya, Owino moved to Fargo to obtain her master’s of sociology degree at North Dakota State University. One day after moving to Fargo, she had a conversation with a refugee woman who had been in America for more than 10 years.

“I asked her, ‘Who are your friends? What are your networks?’” Owino said. “She told me that she had nobody outside of her immediate family.”

Owino was inspired by this one woman’s experience to complete her master’s thesis on the isolation of refugee women in America. She designed a study to see if such isolation was a common theme among all refugee women in the area and interviewed ten refugee women, all 40 years or older and from different countries. She found that all of them, to some extent, were experiencing the same isolation.

While compiling her research, Owino found that some of the most common causes of this isolation were cultural differences, language barriers, and a lack of opportunities to connect with local people. Many of these women are escaping war and violence in countries that placed a very strong emphasis on community and family. “Moving into a very individualistic society can make it harder for them to recover from their very distressing lives,” she said.

For this reason, Owino and Ashe agree that women like Adde, who come to America without a spouse or children, are at an advantage. Without a husband to rely on they are forced to integrate; to receive government benefits they are required to go out, learn English, and get a job.

Adde: Help from strangers

Adde was a registered nurse in Kenya, trained to help treat refugees like herself who suffered from disease and injury. In America, she considered herself lucky when she found her first job: working as a housekeeper at the Savoy Hotel. But the back-breaking work cleaning rooms could barely pay for her first month’s rent, so she took on a second job as a cashier at 7/11.

At this convenience store in Southeast Washington, one of the district’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Adde had her first encounter with the danger and discrimination so notoriously faced by refugee women.

“There was a supervisor there who was a very bad man,” she said. “He knew I was young and he knew I was innocent, I was new. He took advantage of me. I worked 40 hours, I would only get paid for 25. I don’t know what he did with my other hours…To this day, I curse him. He used me. I needed that money, you know? And he took advantage of me.”

At the time, Adde did not fight back. “I wish I knew how to complain… I didn’t pick up my voice. I didn’t want to lose my job.”

Despite the injustice she faced during those long two-shift days,  Adde’s bright smile and trusting heart helped her find company in the least likely places.  First, there were her neighbors: a family of Vietnamese refugees, who made her dinner on her first night in America. Then there was the middle-aged Spanish woman who trained her at the Savoy and whose resilience and work ethic inspired her to keep going. There was the bus driver who drove her home after all of her two-shift days, calling out “Fowzia! It’s 16th Avenue. Go home,” on the nights when she fell asleep in her seat. Finally, there were the customers she met at the 7/11. There was a school for the deaf in the neighborhood, and students would often stop by the store between classes. She spoke to them in hand gestures, her own improvised version of American Sign Language.

“You know what I liked about the deaf university?” she asks. “I could understand them because my language is already deaf in this country.”

The challenge of culture shock
Even when refugee women are able to find work and some sense of community, culture shock can still prevent them from growing accustomed to their new life.

“For a lot of the women, where they’re coming from, there’s already a kind of oppression,” Ashe explains. “And so when they come to the U.S., often times women are struggling to kind of figure out how to maneuver in that more progressive atmosphere.”

In many ways, this new, progressive society can bring with it new forms of oppression. Many of the traditions and customs that these women have known their whole lives are no longer acceptable when they come to America, and they are forced to choose between carrying on a tradition that is considered  inappropriate or to give up a piece of themselves.

One drastic difference that refugee women must adapt to is a new kind of childrearing. “Childrearing customs and habits vary widely, and they’re not always acceptable here,” Tkachuk said. “Most of the places where these refugee women come from use more corporal punishment… so it’s harder, even, because they don’t have parenting strategies that are okay here.”
Clothing is another point of contention for many refugee women, specifically those escaping violence and turmoil in a primarily Muslim nation. Tkachuk has experienced this struggle secondhand in his time resettling refugees.

“Men are easy, because men will wear Western clothing,” he said. “We can get used or thrift store pants, shirts, and a suit coat for men,  and they’re happy as clams…. The women do not wear Western clothing.”

Adde, who wears long, flowing dresses in her office rather than Western slacks or a suit, agrees. “If you are a Muslim woman, you carry the tradition,” she said. “You cover your hair, you wear a long dress, and automatically you are a target of some fools who are racist. I think that people who are racist are very sick… There is no space in me for racism. I feel a human being is a human being. Woman carries tradition, so she is the number one target.”

After six months of working two jobs, sleeping only on the bus rides between shifts, and being harassed by her boss only to barely make enough money to pay her rent and put food on her table, Adde decided to leave Washington, D.C. Several of her friends from the refugee camp in Kenya had been resettled in Fargo, where they told her the rent was cheaper, the people were kinder,  and the jobs were easier to find.

“Good stuff” happened in Fargo

In December of 1997, in the middle of one of the city’s snowiest winters, Adde arrived in Fargo by bus. “Then, a lot of good stuff happened.” She found an apartment that cost $420 a month— half of the rent on her apartment in D.C. She got a full-time job working on a production line at Sheyenne Dakota, Inc. She began taking English classes in the evening. She got married and gave birth to her first child in 1998.

This life, while more pleasant and prosperous than the brief one she led in Washington,  still bore its own disappointments.

“I lost my hope of being a nurse anymore,” Adde said. “I told my caseworker that I used to be a nurse, and I gave her all of my certificates. She tried to find me a job working somewhere close, a clinic or the family health center or something, she applied me to three jobs and I couldn’t get any jobs. It was fine with me, I said ‘to hell of it,’ you know?”

Adde took the CNA test without going to a single class.

She scored 100%.

Even after this feat, Adde was unable to find a job in the medical field. However, she knew that she was meant to do more than turn down sheets in hotel rooms, work night shifts at convenience stores, and assemble wires on a production line.  She took an over-the-phone interpreting job through Network Omni, a translation service company out of Oakland, California. She worked out of her apartment in Fargo, and spent her days bridging the language gap between non-English speakers and their employers, caseworkers, doctors.

“I was like that movie, ‘Bruce Almighty,’” she said.  “I will hear everybody’s stories because I am interpreting. I would interpret somebody whose water was cut, and another one electricity cut, somebody broke their hip I am there, there is an accident or somebody’s getting a ticket I will be there. Somebody who is very sick in the hospital, somebody who’s kid ran away, everything.”

It became increasingly difficult for Adde to walk in the shoes of the disenfranchised for eight hours a day without becoming emotionally involved with her clients.

“When I see something wrong happening, I will interrupt,” she said. “I almost got in trouble a couple of times because they would say ‘Your job is to interpret, not to advocate. Stop caring for these people or you will lose your job.’ I said ‘Alright, I want to lose my job.’”

Adde left Network Omni without any idea what her next step would be. Without a job she had no money, but she still had to pay her rent. She was also sending money back to her mother and siblings in Africa every month.

Motivated by the stories she heard from her clients at Network Omni and her own experiences as a female refugee, Adde committed her time to volunteering with several groups in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She became a voice for the racially, sexually, and financially oppressed.

Adde picked up the trophy on her desk. “When I got this, I didn’t know I was a ‘Young Leader of Today,’” she said. “The women around me decided that. I was just volunteering. I would do everything.”

In 2003, the same year that she received the award from the YWCA, Adde’s volunteer work culminated in the creation of the Immigrant Development Center. Today, Adde and the IDC assist new Americans by providing funding and entrepreneurial training for those who wish to start businesses in the area. Some of the businesses that they have helped create include restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, and clothing stores.

“It came together because I have seen a lot of stuff that’s missing from the programs that are giving to the refugee community,” she said. “There is a need for an increase in programs. There is a need of making sure they have a chance. It’s not people who want to destroy this country…it’s people who decided to come to a land of opportunity, and want to make it better for their family, you know? They are hard workers. They are looking for chances to be given, and this is that chance. It’s for the believers.”

Programs to help women aren’t accessible

Asche explains that the lack of assistance available to refugee women in the Fargo-Moorhead area is not due to a lack of trying. “There are programs that are out there and there are programs that are available,” she says. “It’s just that they’re not accessible, either for financial reasons or just sheer need.” The Adult Learning Center, which offers English language classes to New Americans, fills to capacity. Southeast Human Services and the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center work with victims of sexual violence, a common occurrence with refugee women, but their resources are limited. Asche hopes to form a women’s group through the Consortium, where refugee women can talk about their experiences in a comfortable communal atmosphere. Again, money is her greatest obstacle.

“You know, there’s nobody throwing around $400,000 to form a women’s program,” she says.

Ashe says that Adde’s success and her contributions to the F-M are just one example of the things refugee women can accomplish, if only they are given support and assistance.

“I think the number one top word for working with refugee women is ‘resilience’,” she said. “Just seeing how resilient they are, considering what they’ve been through. I still can’t imagine it. Sometimes I think I suffer secondhand just from hearing their story. I’m dumbfounded by how they can just come to a new place, not speak the language, sometimes not have a formal education, and then just achieve these really amazing accomplishments.”

Adde believes that this resilience is at the core of the human spirit, and if one can find it, they can get through anything. Refugee women, and any other oppressed group, can fight through the hardship if only they believe in their own strength.

“I have seen what poor means,” she said. “What refugee means. What it means to be a low-income family in America. What it means to be a middle-income American. I am part of the American Dream. I put together a project that’s over a million and a half projects and I am achieving that for me. I was like, ‘you got it Fowzia. The rest is history, you know?”

This piece was completed for the Investigating and Narrating the News course where all students reported  on refugee issues and stories in Fargo-Moorhead.

By:                         Katie Beedy

Date:                      April 21, 2016

Source:                  The Concordian

http://theconcordian.org/2016/04/21/fowzia-adde-overcoming-barriers-for-refugee-women

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Bangladesh: 20 Million Drink Arsenic-Laced Water

 

20 Years After Discovery, Failing Government Response

The Bangladesh government is failing to adequately respond to naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water across large areas of rural Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Approximately 20 years after initially coming to international attention, an estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh – mostly rural poor – still drink water contaminated over the national standard.

The 111-page report, “Nepotism and Neglect: The Failing Response to Arsenic in the Drinking Water of Bangladesh’s Rural Poor,” documents how Bangladesh’s health system largely ignores the impact of exposure to arsenic on people’s health. An estimated 43,000 people die each year from arsenic-related illness in Bangladesh, according to one study. The government identifies people with arsenic-related illnesses primarily via skin lesions, although the vast majority of those with arsenic-related illnesses don’t develop them. Those exposed are at significant risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease as a result, but many receive no health care at all.

“Bangladesh isn’t taking basic, obvious steps to get arsenic out of the drinking water of millions of its rural poor,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The government acts as though the problem has been mostly solved, but unless the government and Bangladesh’s international donors do more, millions of Bangladeshis will die from preventable arsenic-related diseases.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 134 people for the report, including people suspected of having arsenic-related health conditions and caretakers of government wells in five rural villages, as well as government officials and staff of nongovernmental organizations. It also analyzed data regarding approximately 125,000 government water points installed between 2006 and 2012 (constituting the overwhelming majority of government water points installed during this period).

Arsenic is found in water from hand-pumped, mostly shallow, tube wells across huge swaths of rural Bangladesh. Although deep wells can often reach groundwater of better quality, government programs to install new wells don’t make it a priority to install them in areas where the risk of arsenic contamination is relatively high.

Moreover, some national and local politicians divert these new wells to their political supporters and allies, instead of the people who most need them.

“If the member of parliament gets 50 percent [of the new allocation] and the upazila [sub-district] chairman gets 50 percent, there’s nothing left to be installed in the areas of acute need,” explained one government official who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity.

Human Rights Watch also found a serious lack of monitoring and quality control in arsenic mitigation projects. In a small but significant number of cases, some new government wells are themselves contaminated with arsenic above the national standard. A Human Rights Watch analysis of government data found that 5 percent of the wells reviewed were contaminated above the Bangladesh standard.

The World Bank, which funded the installation of approximately 13,000 rural wells from 2004 to 2010, should promptly and thoroughly investigate whether they are contaminated and, if they are, replace or rehabilitate them. Bangladesh’s international donors have an important role to play, and they should do more, but with more care, Human Rights Watch said.

In 1995, an international conference in Kolkata helped draw the world’s attention to the problem of naturally occurring arsenic in the groundwater across huge swaths of rural Bangladesh. From 1999 to 2006, the government, international donors, and nongovernmental organizations oversaw a concerted effort to mitigate arsenic contamination in Bangladesh’s groundwater.

Under the national well screening (the bulk of which occurred from 2000 to 2003) some 5 million wells across the country were tested with field kits and the pumps painted red or green according to whether they were above (red) or below (green) the national standard. The screening found that wells of an estimated 20 million people yielded water with arsenic above 50 micrograms per liter (the national standard).

Since 2006, however, the urgency of such efforts has dissipated. A nationwide study of drinking water quality in 2013 found a similar result to the earlier screening, a rate of contamination that corresponds to some 20 million people exposed to arsenic above this level.

“Bangladesh should not allow national and local politicians to divert these life-saving public goods to supporters and allies,” Pearshouse said. “Contaminated government tube wells urgently need to be replaced or rehabilitated, before people lose what little faith they have left in the government’s commitment to provide safe water.”

Statements by people interviewed:

“When it comes to arsenic problems they usually say, ‘We have nothing for your illnesses.’”
–Nouka, a woman living in Balia village with black spots on her shoulders, arms, palms, and the back of her hands

“I’ve never been to a hospital, I’ve never seen a doctor. I take no medication. No one from the government has ever told me anything about arsenic or that I suffer some effects of arsenic poisoning.”
–Astha, a woman in her 40s living in Ruppur village, suspected of having arsenic-related health conditions

“There are no government-installed water sources in this area. Look at my children! Even if we feed them as best we can and look after them well, they will fall sick from arsenic in the water.”
–Khobor, a farmer in his mid-30s in Bilmamudpur village, with arsenic-related skin lesions on his chest and feet

“It has been at least 10 years since arsenic people came from the government to conduct tests and paint the tube wells red or green [to indicate which were above or below the national standard]. I wish they’d come back and do their job properly.”
–Agrahayan, a man in his mid-50s who lives in Ruppur village, suspected of having arsenic-related health conditions

“There are no government-installed tube wells in this village. They installed one in the nearby school but it hasn’t been working for years. They don’t give them to us but I don’t know why. I don’t know who to ask or how to ask.”
–Janala, a woman in her 40s living in Ruppur village, suspected of having arsenic-related health conditions

“Many government tube wells are installed in private homes; the owners bribe government people or use their political connections. We don’t even know where some of them are, they’re so secretive. It makes me very angry to think about this.”
–Khaddro, a farmer in his 30s living in Ruppur village, suspected of having arsenic-related health conditions

“Site selection of new tube wells is essentially all about politics. They give them to their political allies, their supporters, those close to them or those who work for them. It is very frustrating, they don’t consider the real needs of the people.”
–Anonymous government official

“Six people from my household drink from this well. We don’t let others drink from it. My father-in-law is a friend of the upazila [sub-district] chairman. They are in the same political party, so they have a political friendship. We paid 30,000 taka (approximately US$390) to the upazila chairman.”
–Anonymous caretaker of a government tube well

 

Date:                      April 6, 2016

Source:                  Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/06/bangladesh-20-million-drink-arsenic-laced-water

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Human rights warning for universities operating overseas

 

Legal obligations continue to apply in transnational setting, say Lancaster scholars

Duty of care: higher education providers have an obligation to try to ameliorate the wider human rights situation where they operate, such as Bahrain, scholars argue

Universities that deliver transnational programmes in countries with dubious human rights records have been warned that they are putting more than their reputations at risk.

Gearóid Ó Cuinn and Sigrun Skogly of Lancaster University Law School argue that institutions and accreditation agencies could potentially face legal challenges in their home countries if they do not use the course certification process to try to uphold human rights overseas.

Their argument hinges on the possible interpretation of the delivery of higher education as representing the administering of a public function; and on the likelihood that the accreditation of such activities would fall into this category.

Writing in the International Journal of Human Rights, Dr Ó Cuinn and Professor Skogly say that a series of cases at the European Court of Human Rights have established that a state’s obligations in this area continue to apply when it is invited to exercise a public function extraterritorially by another country.

In the article, they examine the delivery of medical education in Bahrain by theRoyal College of Surgeons in Ireland under statutory regulation by the European country’s Medical Council, in the context of the protests that rocked the Arab state in early 2011.

The authors detail allegations of torture at a military hospital where RCSI-Bahrain training was provided and warn of “consistent violations” of medical neutrality in Bahrain’s health system. But, they say, the Medical Council renewed RCSI-Bahrain’s accreditation in 2014 without sufficient reference to human rights issues.

Dr Ó Cuinn and Professor Skogly say that higher education providers and agencies cannot be held responsible for the wider human rights situation in a country, but do have a duty to try to ameliorate the situation.

In the Bahrain example, they say, accreditation could have been refused, or made conditional on the local authorities taking steps to investigate and demonstrate accountability for complaints of torture.

In addition, Dr Ó Cuinn and Professor Skogly say that quality assurance must take account of circumstances on the ground, highlighting that simply providing a mechanism for students and staff to raise concerns may not be sufficient in societies where dissent is frowned upon.

Dr Ó Cuinn, an academic fellow in Lancaster’s law school, told Times Higher Education that institutions that fell short could potentially be subject to judicial review.

“[Institutions] need to factor human rights obligations into accreditation processes and oversight and make sure they understand [that] human rights law will continue to apply…Due diligence needs to incorporate human rights awareness, [it is not] a narrow, marketised thing that can exist in a bubble,” he said.

 

By:                         Chris Havergal

Date:                      April 4, 2016

Source:                  Times Higher Education

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/human-rights-warning-for-universities-operating-overseas

 

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How Mexico’s attack on human rights undercut an international investigation

 

Pushback goes beyond the Ayotzinapa case of missing students with reports of widespread torture and group accusing government of ‘smear campaign’

With little fanfare, Mexican officials have quietly tried to undercut an international investigation into one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies: the attack on 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training school, who were kidnapped and presumably killed by police and whose bodies have never been found.

At a press conference on Friday, an investigator working on a third inquiry into the case repeated the government’s claim that the students’ bodies were burned at a rubbish dump – even though two previous investigations by international experts have rejected the theory.

Forensic scientists from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, a non-governmental organisation, have both ruled out the government’s version of the events: weather records show it rained on the night of the students’ disappearance, while satellite images show there were no fires at the site on the night.

But the Mexican government seems intent on maintaining its theory – described by the former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam as the “historical truth” – in an effort to close down a case that has caused international embarrassment and sent President Enrique Peña Nieto’s approval rating plummeting.

“It’s a battle between the [IACHR] and the Mexican government to construct the version of events,” said Ilán Semo, a political historian at the Iberoamerican University.

The IACHR must conclude its activities in Mexico by 30 April and, according to the interior minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, will not receive any more renewals of its mandate.

According to Semo, the battle with the IACHR over its investigation into the 2014 Ayotzinapa attacks forms part of a broader pattern of behaviour in which the government has questioned the legitimacy of human rights activists and international organisations.

The IACHR has called it “a smear campaign”.

The Mexican government has said outside investigators such as the IACHR are welcome to work in the country and says they have received full cooperation.

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But the pushback against international human rights investigators goes beyond the Ayotzinapa case. Last month, the secretariat of foreign relations denied permission for a UN special rapporteur on torture to continue his work in the country, arguing its agenda was saturated with other visiting missions.

Juan Méndez, an Argentinian, had previously incurred the wrath of the Mexican government for reporting onthe widespread use of torture by the country’s security forces. A Mexican undersecretary for human rights called him “irresponsible and unethical”.

Peña Nieto has himself supported the “historic truth”, telling a military event in February that “the Mexican state has deployed a broad, institutional effort to pursue justice” in the case of the missing students.

Others have followed his lead: several pro-government newspapers published front-page stories on the government’s latest announcement, and an “anti-crime” group lodged a criminal complaint against the president of the IACHR team investigating the Ayotzinapa attack, accusing him of misuse of public money.

The Mexican attorney general’s office (PGR) subsequently opened a preliminary investigation against the IACHR’s executive secretary, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, prompting a scornful reaction from the human rights commission.

There are thousands of disappeared persons, homicides, incidents of summary executions, executions committed by agents of the state. And from this universe of problems it decided to proceed with this preliminary investigation?” the IACHR president, James Cavallaro, told the newsweekly Proceso. The PGR abandoned the investigation.

Álvarez Icaza was more blunt, telling reporters: “Mexico is experiencing a return to authoritarianism.”

Three UN experts in human rights issued a statement on Wednesday, demanding that the Mexican government “actively counter the current stigmatisation campaign that attempts to undermine those that work as promoters of fundamental freedoms in the country”.

Semo, the political historian, said that historically, Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had resorted to similar tactics during its decades of one-party rule in the last century, in order to confuse the public and weaken the opposition.

“They are not going to confront them directly,” Semo said. “Their tactic is to say, ‘They’re inept, they don’t know how to do their jobs, they’re wasting money, they should go home because they’re not good for anything, they should send better people … It’s to confuse international public opinion.”

 

The article initially said the subject of the investigation was José Antonio Ortega Sánchez. To clarify, Ortega Sánchez filed the complaint against Emilio Álvarez Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

 

By:                         David Agren

Date:                      April 6, 2016

Source:                  The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/06/mexico-human-rights-ayotzinapa-missing-students-iachr

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Pilot Training Program to Improve Transgender Competency Among Medical Staff in Urban Clinic

 

The widespread discrimination and mistreatment transgender individuals face in the healthcare system could be alleviated with specialized provider training to increase knowledge about transgender health and needs, and to promote positive attitudes. The evaluation of a pilot training program implemented in an urban clinic shows the potential to change attitudes and improve competency, as reported in a study published in Transgender Health, a new peer-reviewed open access journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available open access on the Transgender Health website.

Corina Lelutiu-Weinberger, PhD, Hunter College of the City University of New York, and coauthors developed and delivered three 2-hour training sessions to the staff of New York City-based outpatient clinics serving primarily individuals of color and low socioeconomic status. A comparison of pre-training and post-training scores showed significant changes in attitudes toward transgender individuals, transgender-related clinical skills, awareness of transphobic practices, and readiness to serve transgender patients. The researchers describe the scope of the competency training provided in the article “Implementation and Evaluation of a Pilot Training to Improve Transgender Competency Among Medical Staff in an Urban Clinic.”

“Studies such as this are an important academic contribution to the transgender health literature,” says Editor-in-Chief Robert Garofalo MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Director, Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “There are limited interventions in the published literature aimed at training healthcare providers and improving healthcare outcomes for transgender people. Pilot studies and programs such as these developed by this NY-based team can hopefully be the first steps in a broader movement educating providers about transgender health issues and improving access to care.”

 

By:                 Mary Ann Liebert

Date:              February 2, 2016

Source:          The City University of New York

http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2016/02/02/pilot-training-program-to-improve-transgender-competency-among-medical-staff-in-an-urban-clinic/

Originally published by Eurekalert

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Stanford and other elite universities have a gender problem: Too few women professors

 

In its 125 illustrious years, Stanford has spawned legendary tech companies and claims 32 Nobel laureates, but the epicenter of innovation has yet to solve a pressing problem on its own campus: a dramatic lack of women on the faculty.

Women represent just over one-fourth of the professors at Stanford, a disparity that grows even more lopsided at the top: Of its full professors, a rarefied group with incredible power and influence over their respective fields, only 22 percent are women.

It’s a problem hidden in plain sight at elite universities across the nation, but Stanford’s imbalance is greater than most: Of the schools ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech had lower percentages of women on the faculty.

“There is the false sense that things are getting better,” said Shelley Correll, a Stanford sociology professor who directs the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Research on Gender. “At this rate, we’re not getting anywhere fast.”

One commonly cited reason for the lag is Stanford’s emphasis on engineering and computer science, fields universally dominated by men. Its engineering school faculty is 85 percent male, a proportion nearly identical to Harvard and Columbia, but it is much larger — three times the size of Harvard’s, for example.

Still, even in fields flush with women earning advanced degrees — business, humanities, education, political science and law — Stanford is far from achieving gender equality.

And despite initiatives to diversify its faculty, women made up just 33 percent of the university’s new hires in the past five years, and 35 percent of those hired for jobs outside the engineering school.

And then there is the lack of women at the very top. Stanford has never had a female president, and its appointment this month of neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne was to some a reminder of the uneven status quo. The majority of Ivy League colleges, including Harvard and Princeton, have had women in the role.

“We’re kind of standing out now as a top university without having had a female president,” Correll said.

Stanford is hardly alone with its gender problem. At Harvard and Princeton, women make up less than one-third of all faculty. Columbia University in New York City has the highest representation of women among top 10-ranked schools — about 40 percent, including those in its medical center — but among its full professors, roughly a quarter are women.

In the nation’s four-year public and private colleges in 2013, women made up roughly 43 percent of faculty, but only 28 percent of full professors.

SMALL WAVES

Stanford says it has devoted $325 million to a pair of initiatives to support women and underrepresented-minority scholars and has instituted family-friendly policies, such as pushing back the tenure deadline for new parents — and that it is proud of the progress it has made.

About 39 percent of its junior faculty are women, up from 33 percent a decade ago.

“This trend provides clear evidence that at least at Stanford the move toward gender equity in the professoriate has not stalled,” said Karen Cook, a Stanford sociology professor and the university’s vice provost of faculty development and diversity.

But the advancement of women within the institution is another concern.

A little over two years ago, after sharing frustrations over dinner about what seemed like a lack of women in leadership, a group of Stanford professors — being Stanford professors — decided to see if the numbers reflected their experiences.

The group’s findings were striking, though they stressed the figures in their 2014 report were merely estimates based on publicly available data: Women leaders oversaw just 14.2 percent of the university’s budget, and led schools with 5.5 percent of Stanford’s faculty.

Provost John Etchemendy created a task force on women’s leadership in response to the findings. Later that year, Stanford named a woman, physics professor Persis Drell, as dean of its School of Engineering.

“Increasing the number of women and faculty of color … is and has been a top priority for the university,” Etchemendy told this newspaper in a statement Thursday.

Drell’s appointment and other steps encourage Andrea Goldsmith, who was part of the study group and is one of five women in the university’s electrical engineering department. Now, as a member of the provost’s task force, she said its recommendations, due out later this year, will include removing leadership barriers, nurturing those with leadership potential, and regular data reports on how the university is progressing.

“When you start reporting statistics, especially when they’re really low, they get people’s attention,” Goldsmith said.

WHERE ARE THEY?

Although women graduate students are outnumbered in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering, there is no shortage of women entering academia overall. Each year since 2002, women have earned a majority of doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, according to an annual census sponsored by six federal agencies.

“Right now we have all these women with Ph.D.s — where are they in the university?” asked Stanford sociology professor Cecilia Ridgeway, author of the book “Framed by Gender.”

The barriers are many, Ridgeway and others say: deeply ingrained stereotypes of men and women; the power of male-dominated networks and mentors; different expectations for men and women professors; greater confidence among men; a sense that academic women who also are raising children aren’t as serious or productive.

“If you look somewhat different from a traditional faculty member, some professors are going to think you’re not a serious scholar, that you’re just sort of dabbling,” said Catherine Hill, vice president for research at the American Association of University Women. “People like to hire or promote people who are like them.”

Robin Ely, a professor and senior associate dean for culture and community at the Harvard Business School, says hiring and selection committees tend to operate in a self-perpetuating cycle in which “pools of candidates are composed almost entirely of men.”

“It’s kind of amazing that there are as many women as there are in these visible leadership roles in these elite, powerful institutions,” she said, “because it really is bucking the system for that to happen.”

‘BUSINESS AS USUAL’

Recent controversies at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank — where some complained of a hostile climate for women — and the university’s handling of sexual assault cases are raising questions about a broader gender problem on campus.

Tammy Frisby, a Hoover research fellow, argues they are symptoms of a “problem at the top.”

Only four of Hoover’s 74 senior fellows are women, she said, and in the three years since the university investigated the think tank’s hiring practices and treatment of female employees, not one woman has been hired for the prestigious senior fellowship.

Still, Frisby has struggled to find people on campus with whom to mobilize around the advancement of women, often finding others to be caught up in their own related causes.

“Until we act like we’re all up against the same problem, which we are,” she said, “we’re not going to get the real leadership and cultural changes we need.”

Experts on gender inequality speculate the lack of a groundswell of activism is partly Stanford — people like to work there and don’t want to make too many waves — and partly a broader societal phenomenon: We are so used to the imbalance that we don’t even see it.

One group of students, concerned about the lack of diversity on Stanford’s faculty, is challenging the status quo with a campaign they launched in 2014, “Who’s teaching us?”

But sophomore Stephanie Pham said the stereotype of the college professor being an older white man is so pervasive, she said, that even she — a women’s rights activist who has challenged the university’s handling of sexual assault — hadn’t given much thought to the lack of women teaching her political science courses.

The status quo isn’t right, she said, “But it’s almost hard to even come to that question because it’s so normalized.”

With a new president in September and a new provost to be appointed next year, many are hoping for renewed attention to the challenge — and a woman in the provost’s seat.

“Stanford is not shy about taking on big problems — climate change, online learning, cybersecurity,” Correll said. “I think we could do the same thing here.”

 

 

By:           Katy Murphy

Date:        February 26, 2016

Source:    San Jose Mercury News

http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_29567505/stanford-and-other-elite-universities-have-gender-problem

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