Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Direction

Okay, so I really need to recreate my blog. I have completely reconfigured my thesis into something that still intrigues me, yet is potentially more feasible. I am planning to get IRB approval and then interview a small group of women within either the UN or associated NGOs about their development of an activist identity. In doing so, I plan to examine the differences and commonalities that have led each woman to become intrinsically involved in her area of activism. This is perfect for me because it wont force me to privilege one social issue over another, but instead allow me to examine how individuals in general become engaged in various issues and movements. I would like to make my research relevant to UVU,  and so I am considering surveying a group of UVU students before I leave for Geneva in order to assess their varying propensities to become activists. By so doing, I will be able to reference them in my research and the ways in which UVU might be able to further encourage them to become socially aware and active. I will be able to do this through comparing their views and experiences to those of the women I interview in Geneva. Additionally, I plan to present my research on UVU campus once I return from Geneva. 
I found an incredibly helpful article on JSTOR today titled "Individual Orientation Toward Engagement in Social Action" which lays out a measure called the Activism Orientation Scale (AOS) which is meant to assess "activist propensity across a wide continuum of social action behaviors, ideological positions, and movement issues" (Corning, Myers, 1). My research could potentially form around this measure. The article also references me to many other potentially informative authors. I plan to continue reading through this article and review any other relevant literature I can find. 
If I can get IRB approval then I can apply for a SCOP grant which could add another $1,500 to my funding. I am also planning to meet with the counselor for the Philosophy department this week to set up my internship credit for the summer, and thereafter I plan to apply for an internship scholarship through the school. I was informed a few weeks ago that the money being donated to my internship/senior thesis from various UVU departments might have to come in the form of a reimbursement rather than an up front contribution. This would be a hassle for many reasons, including I would have to take out a loan, save all of my receipts, and figure out how to pay off the loan with the reimbursement once I return from Geneva. I received and invoice from WOW and am turning that in along with the rest of my travel authorization paperwork with the hope that having the invoice will allow them to reimburse me before I leave for Geneva rather than after. 
I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am really excited about this new direction, I feel confident it is within my realm of ability and I believe we need to be studying the development of activists in order to encourage activism locally, nationally, and internationally. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's coming together

I made additional progress this week in many ways. 

Firstly, I purchased my plane ticket (I will be flying to Geneva on May 15 and flying home on August 8). Finalizing these dates will really help move the process along, as WOW will be able to more concretely set up my grassroots project and know what conferences and events I will be able to attend. Additionally, it gives me peace of mind to know exactly what dates I will need to plan my summer around. 

Secondly, I have continued researching the international initiatives being taken to empower women. A particular organization that will be helpful in my research is the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. They "conduct research and training for gender equality and the empowerment of women as a central focal point for research and training on gender issues within the United Nations system," (Commission on the Status of Women, fifty-second session). I will try to gain access to the ideas of the people involved with this initiative while I am in Geneva, and hopefully set up a few interviews.

I received a confirmation of the generous amount to be donated by Peace and Justice Studies (on the condition that I will keep in contact with Michael Minch throughout my internship/thesis process and present on my experience when I return in the fall). Additionally, I believe the School of Humanities and Social Sciences will be supporting my work with a donation as well, but I am still waiting for a confirmation of this. 

I will be meeting with Mark Olsen of Integrated Studies tomorrow to go over my paperwork and figure out the best way to set up funding for my thesis. It seems that it would be easiest to have all those on campus willing to contribute to collaborate on how to go about this, rather than having to fill out the same forms multiple times. Additionally, Mark brought to my attention the possibility that the donations might have to come as a reimbursement rather than a concrete donation to be received before departing for Geneva. This could potentially be really stressful, if I need to figure out a way to get money elsewhere and be compensated afterwards. I will be going over my options with Mark tomorrow.

The deadlines for my classes are proving helpful, as I am having them revolve around my senior thesis as well. This means that I will have to have an outline for a paper (focusing on international empowerment initiatives) turned in this week as well as a literature review. These deadlines give me something concrete to work towards. 

Additionally, we have been putting a letter together to send to a list of local businesses we are planning to ask for funding. we are also brainstorming some potential fundraisers, such as live bands playing during an otherwise silent auction.

This is where I'm at for now, let me know if you have any feedback! Thanks!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Additional progress

I made additional progress this week, and even if it seems minimal, it will add up. I updated my budget sheet with more accurate estimates and sent it out to a few people, and I heard back from Dr. Michael Minch that Peace and Justice Studies will be able to offer some support, although I am not sure of the amount yet. He should be getting back to me about that next week.

I am also trying to make it through most of the reports by the Commission on the Status of Women before I move on to other relevant material. The one I am working my way through now addresses many issues, including financing gender equality and the empowerment of women, assisting Palestinian women, the need to release women/children taken as hostages or imprisoned during periods of conflict, female genital mutilation... and that is all of the content I have made it through so far. Reading through these reports will be very helpful because each one has the same general intent (to empower women), but with different focuses and through different initiatives. They lay out all of their agreed conclusions, actions that need to be taken, specifically point out obstacles that need to be overcome, and assert calls-to-action to encourage the involvement of governments, NGOs, and individuals. It is also a great way to find new references, because they refer back to every relevant past report. Below I will list a few pertinent quotes I picked out:

United Nations. (2008). Commission on the status of women: report on the fifty-second session (Supplement No. 7). Retrieved from UN Women website:

"The Commission notes the growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth and that increasing women's economic empowerment is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and to the eradication of poverty, and recognizes that adequate resources need to be allocated at all levels, mechanisms and capacities need to be strengthened and gender-responsive policies need to be enhanced to fully utilize the multiplier effect." (p.2-3)

"The Commission is concerned that insufficient political commitment and budgetary resources pose obstacles to promoting gender equality on women's empowerment and continue to undermine the effectiveness and sustainability of both national mechanisms for the advancement of women and women's organizations in advocating for, implementing, supporting and monitoring the effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly." (p.3)

"Strengthen education, health, and social services and effectively utilize resources to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and ensure women's and girls' rights to education at all levels and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health, as well as quality, affordable and universally accessible health care and services, in particular primary health care." (7-8).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Women's empowerment: the key to preventing sex trafficking

So I would really like to focus on the initiatives that work to empower women and thereby prevent sex trafficking, violence against women etc. What question can I possibly answer?... What initiatives are being taken to empower women on an international level, how effective are they on a national level, and how can they be improved in policy and practice? Does this sound coherent? What suggestions do you have, and what possible problems do you foresee? As a result of my research methods class I feel like I need to come up with an independent and dependent variable. Does this sound like too much, and if so, how can I make this project doable?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Open doors... more options... more headache

So this week has been informative and productive, yet additional gray areas have developed. 

On a good note, I have been in additional contact with my internship coordinator (the UN Rep for WOW in Geneva) who has given me some clarity regarding my experience. She has sent me a few necessary documents which will help further define my experience abroad, including specifying some of the particular costs which will be helpful in raising the necessary funds. I will be living in-home with a couple who has worked at the UN and they live right off the tram line which is EXTREMELY convenient. I was given their contact information so I can introduce myself/ask any relevant questions. Additionally, my rent with them will be about half of what housing ordinarily costs in Geneva and I will have access to laundry facilities as well as internet. My general schedule will be Monday through Friday from 10 a.m- 5 p.m with some evening meetings/events... attending conferences, meetings, special events and doing special assignments. There is usually no weekend work required and we can be given weekend extensions (Mondays or Fridays) if we would like to travel (this will give me some good time to work on research). I am also working with WOW to set up an individualized grassroots experience in Europe based around my particular interests. WOW is also working to set up a mentor for me in my area of interest, which I would like to have beforehand to know what I will have access to and therefore be better prepared. I am really excited for the opportunities I will have, as Afton put it, "Lucky you...Jessica arriving in May .....because you will included in the delegate list for the World Health Assembly (WHA).  Both participating at the Human Rights Council as well as the WHA is a rare opportunity.  So some of your activities at first will be based on attending these two UN meetings AND preparing for the June Human Rights Council panels,written and oral statements usually related to your individual interests." She also sent me links to the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women and the launch of UN Women and suggested I follow the outcome, as it will be relevant to my future work with WOW (and my research). I am also planning to contact previous WOW interns to ask them about their experience and opportunities, and any relevant advice they might have. I think this will be really helpful.

To complicate things, I realized this week that my current internship with UWEP is only wanting me to gather existing statistics on the educational opportunities/attainment of European women. This is much less in-depth than I imagined, which could give me the opportunity to focus my thesis around something other than the effects of education. I am, for instance, extremely interested in what is being done an the international level to empower women generally (through education, access to healthcare, welfare etc.) all of which would greatly reduce the vulnerability/desperation of women and prevent poverty, abusive situations, and trafficking to name a few benefits. I need to think through my options considering the research I have already done and the surface research I will be doing for UWEP. 

I met with one of my thesis advisors this week and decided to push my Capstone 2 course until the Fall which will allow me to do research in Geneva without the pressure of composing it in its entirety. This way, I will be able to do additional research in the Fall and get more detailed input from my advisors. He also offered to help me develop/refine the specific skill set I will need to do good research (e.g., interviewing, surveying). I will be able to plan out my exact methodology once I refocus my research topic. I also found out that I will be getting funding from the Gender Studies program, which is GREAT news! Seeing as WOW is a non-profit, any donations can be made out to them and are therefore tax deductible, which will be a draw for some organizations.

As Afton put it, "Geneva is such an action packed place.... full of International organizations, conferences and workshops so you will have many, many options!!" Basically, I am going to reevaluate my opportunities this weekend and try to narrow down my interests in the realm of women's issues.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Continuing research...

So I am in the literature review stage, hoping that I am doing things right. With every article/book that I read, I get a bazillion new references and feel a bit overwhelmed. One day at a time, I tell myself. Otherwise, I would probably focus on how short of a time I have to raise A LOT of money... prepare myself for primary research... brush up on my French and get used to the idea of living in Switzerland for 3 months. Ah!

So I am thinking of posting some of my references and the most poignant or useful information they have provided. I intend to pull the statistics within these articles from their original sources. There are so many organizations and relevant legislations that I need to look further into, including: US FBI, UNICEF, UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, Polaris Project, UNIFEM, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 2007, La Strada International, Violent Crimes Institute, UNDP, STOP Programme, DAPHNE Programme, Hague Ministerial Declaration on European Guidelines, Title VI of the Treaty of Amsterdam, European Council meeting in Tampere, Council Framework Decision, Brussels Declaration, 2000 UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, IOM, LEFĂ–, Conference on Trafficking, Slavery and Peacekeeping... etc. I am keeping track, and will get through it eventually.

Here are a few things I have pulled out:

Cummings, N., Parrot, A. (2008). Sexual enslavement of girls and women worldwide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
The primary drivers differ depending on the specific situation, but education, religion, cultural values, family structure, socioeconomic status, traditional myths, geography, economics, employment status, discrimination, patriarchal government policies, criminal statutes, political unrest, and natural disasters all affect sexual slavery and the trafficking of women and girls. (p. 13)
Many economically unstable nations become source countries for the trafficking of women, sexual debt bondage, or prostitution. Human trafficking and the sexual enslavement of women for sexual exploitation are highly lucrative, second only to drug trafficking (Pallen, 2003). An estimated 700,000 women are trafficking each year for sexual purposes, and about a quarter of them come from eastern European countries in which there is political and economic instability (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2005) (p.21)
No single strategy, by itself, will eliminate sexual slavery and trafficking of girls and women. Removing migration restrictions, reducing poverty, eliminating discrimination, and supporting sustainable development are all pieces of a very complex solution (UNDP, 2005). Improving or reversing the social, political, and economic conditions that support sexual slavery and trafficking is critical, but it is not enough. Control measures, effective legislation, and appropriate legal approaches are also necessary. All of these measures need to take into consideration the sociocultural realities of specific countries. (p. 24)
Trafficking is a by-product of “supply and demand” where devalued, marginalized women and girls are used for profit by men and for men. “With the exception of the dynamic of former victims becoming recruiters,... women do not traffic themselves or organize themselves en masse to travel internationally to enter prostitution. Women do not voluntarily put themselves in situations where they are exploited, beaten, raped and enslaved” (Hughes, 2000a, p.644). (p.28)
It is the most vulnerable women in society who get trapped into being trafficked and forced into sexual slavery. They are exploited “because they can be” (Brown, 2001, p.3). While transnational attempts to stem the tide of trafficking are often highlighted in the media, the reality is that the crime thrives on conditions that leave women in the lowest ranks of society, with the least opportunity for social mobility. (p.28)
Goodey, J. (2004). Sex trafficking in women from Central and East European countries: promoting a ‘victim-centered’ and ‘woman centered’ approach to criminal justice intervention. Feminist Review, 76, 26. Retrieved from

Women suffer the bulk of economic discrimination in employment and, with the mainstay of childcare responsibilities, they are often pushed into desperate social situations that necessitate drastic responses. Seemingly legitimate offers of employment in affluent European Union countries attract women with the promise of being able to make sums of money that far exceed what they might earn at home. (p.2)
Nikolic-Ristanovic, V. (2003). Sex trafficking: The impact of war, militarism and globalization in Eastern Europe. Michigan Feminist Studies, 17, 1-28. Retrieved from
The International Organization for Migration estimates that up to 500,000 women are forced to work as prostitutes in Europe. The same source suggests that “120,000 women and children are being trafficked into the European Union each year, mostly through the Balkans.” Some estimates for the United Kingdom suggest that more than 70% of women working in brothels in Soho are from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. (p.2)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Formulating a senior thesis

Photos from my last Europe trip. These are possible destination countries for women seeking greater opportunity.

Education empowers the individual and the society. With education comes the ability to understand oneself and others within a larger social/cultural/political/economic context. It can give voice to the oppressed and marginalized and provide  opportunity.

I am particularly interested in the impact of education on women from east Europe because they are highly trafficked for sexual exploitation in "destination countries" in west Europe. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 500,000 women were trafficked from Central and East Europe into the EU and forced to work as prostitutes in the 90s (IOM, 1995). In seemingly hopeless situations, these women are often desperate to leave their country of origin in pursuit of a future for themselves and their dependents.  Particular attention is due to them because "women are in a position of vulnerability to become victims of trafficking due to the feminisation of poverty, gender discrimination, and lack of educational and professional opportunities in their countries of origin," (Sjolinder, 2002). My intention is to research how the educational attainment of women correlates to their risk of being trafficked. Additionally, I want to find out whether the problems lie merely in access to education or quality of education. I also want to consider international responsibility in a non-imperialist sense. Since western countries create the major demand for the sexual exploitation of women in Europe, they need to be held responsible for addressing the issue. They may also have a responsibility to improve the quality of life in east Europe since the west had a direct hand in shaping its future particularly through the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. With improved quality of life in the social/cultural/political/and economic contexts, migration rates would decrease and women would be much less likely to become victims of sex trafficking.

I will be completing an internship in Geneva, Switzerland for three months this summer and will take the opportunity to do some primary research on this topic. I am meeting with a thesis advisor this week to begin laying out my research methodology.

Another component I am working on is fundraising, as my internship with The Worldwide Organization for Women at their UN-based office will be completely self-funded. So far I am receiving support from:

- Myself
- The Utah Women and Education Project
- The UVU Integrated Studies Department

I have already met with every department I am associated with, and each seemed excited to support, although they wanted to know the contribution amount of other departments before they pledged a specific amount. This included: Dean Yells- College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Clark- Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Michael Minch- Peace and Justice Studies, and Dr. Jeff Torlina- Gender Studies. I also applied for an internship scholarship for this semester and will apply for the summer scholarship as well. Additionally, I intend to apply for a SCOP research grant and a CEL grant. I will need to contact these entities and request to know early on whether or not I can expect to receive support from them, because I am leaving in early May. I also have some fundraising ideas that I am still needing to finalize. Fundraising will be a huge project this semester.

I am still in the literature review stage, but let me know if you have feedback that will help me refine my ideas!