The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
- St. Augustine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Girl Effect

One of the major reasons that I'm interested in working in NGOs that focus on women's education/services/financial development is because after reading Half the Sky, I realized that if I was born in poverty in a developing country, my future would be bleak. I would be an insignificant nobody, characterized by my sexual promise and procreational ability, enslaved to menial labor and perhaps never given the opportunity to realize my inner dreams. I would be in danger constantly. It's a frightening and stark reality that the majority of the world's women face, and it's our responsibility not only to fight for their rights as humans, but to allow them opportunities so that they can create a better world. Because it's clear that men are not doing a good job.

Here are some videos that illustrate this reality (

It's important to become aware of what is going on. At the same time, we must guard hope and believe in  the possibility of change in order to work towards it.

I believe in the Girl Effect, n. The unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world. Research shows that support and services to girls ages 10-18 dramatically improve their lives and opportunities - and also results in significant benefits for society as a whole. Educated girls result in more stable families, more productive economic activity, improved health, less disease, and in general, better societies. Quoted from, If you want to end poverty and help the developing world, the best thing you can do is invest time, energy, and funding into adolescent girls. It's called the Girl Effect, because girls are uniquely capable of investing in their communities and making the world better. 

However, here are 10 things standing in their way


The futures of women and girls are tied together. Girls cannot advance without the advancement of women and no improvement in the lives of women will be sustained unless girls are given the tools and opportunity to reach their potential. For they are the women of tomorrow.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton

To which I respond to with a resounding AMEN.
This is what I believe in. This is what I'm working towards. What do you think?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Volunteering at the Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias

Hello Indie Volunteers!

 ¡ Los voluntarios !
I am in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, where I just finished volunteering for an amazing literary and arts festival called Hay Festival. It's an international cultural festival that invites authors, artists, musicians, and filmmakers to give lectures and converse with each other about current events, literature, or just life.

As a Green Room intern, I received the artists and acted as their personal assistants for the duration of their events. I must admit that it was the most rewarding volunteer experience I have ever had for a cultural festival. I was expecting to be given logistical work and no opportunity at all to meet the invitees, who are normally treated like VIP by people higher up the festival ladder. However, as a "Organizer" (lo que dice mi escarapela), I enjoyed the chance to meet the invitees and get to know them better outside of their public personalities.

La Casa del Socorro - por lo menos disfruté mi sancocho y la conversación :)
I worked with Bee Rowlatt, Philippe Claudel, Guadalupe Nettel, Hugo Chaparro, Senal Paz, Michelle Paver, and Joumana Haddad. As my authors/journalists ranged from British to French to Colombian to Arabic, I utlized my English, French and Spanish! I especially connected with Guadalupe, Hugo, Michelle and Joumana. I will never forget the hilarious dinner with Hugo and Senal at the Italiano Delizie... we talked and laughed until 1 in the morning, and the restuarant shut down but the Italian owner let us stay inside and talk until we absolutely couldn't anymore. Trying butifarra at the Palacio de Inquisicion with Philippe and Alessandro Baricco was similarly amusing. These two Europeans were starving and crowding the butifarra servers as if they had diamonds on their platters. Finally... I had dinner with Alessandro and Guadalupe the last day of the festival at La Casa del Socorro. We were trying to decide whether it was La Casa or La Cocina del Socorro that was the "original" seafood restaurant of Getsemaní and were getting mixed reports from people, but finally decided to go with what our taxi driver recommended. While La Casa's seafood was mediocre and expensive, our conversation was unforgettable and "valió la pena". We talked completely in French, and I only respected and liked the two writers more as the night progressed.

If you want to intern for Hay Festival, email Specifically, Hay Festival Wales is coming up in May and Hay Festival Xalapa will be in October. Happy independent volunteering, people!

Much love,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some interesting things I've read lately

One of the great and less scary things about not going to school is the opportunity I have to read again. I'm an avid reader - I devour everything, from contemporary fiction to nonfiction to essays to newspapers and so on - but it's near impossible to read while in school. I often found myself procrastinating on writing papers at USC by finishing M.F.K Fisher's The Gastronomical Me. Or staying up til 3 AM not studying for a test, but riveted by The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Now that I'm not in school, those guilty days are gone! 

Recently, I read an eye and heart opening book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn called Half the Sky. It focuses on heartbreaking exploitation of the world's greatest untapped and unappreciated resource: women. The journalistic couple relay anecdotes from countries that they have visited and reported about to illustrate some hard statistics: more girls have been killed in the last 50 years, simply because they are girls, than men were killed in all of the wars in the twentieth century. Women own 1% of the world's wealth, receive 10% of global income and occupy 14% of leadership positions in the private and public sector. They produce half of the world's food but own 1% of its land. The journalistic couple points out that the barriers for women are multiple and hard to overcome because they are so insiduous: most are cultural and simply traditions passed down every generation. Repression and disempowerment of women is a cycle that many individuals and groups do not think they can or even should break. 

But the book shows some statistics and tells many stories to evidence that this is not true. When governments support women's opportunity to work, the GDP rises and the economy stabilizes. When women control the finances of the household, they spend more money on education, food, and healthcare. Children are healthier, and therefore, societies are healthier. A recent NYTimes blog post about the extremely effective cash-handout program reports that it works because "...The payments always go to women, as they are most likely to spend the money on their families... This is likely the most important government antipoverty program the world has ever seen... A family living in extreme poverty doubles its income when it gets the basic benefit... In Mexico, malnutrition and anemia have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced. Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined. But the most dramatic results are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen by 42%. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85%. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels" (Rosenburg). 

I also read a fascinating book called Sex, Time, and Power about the evolution of human sexuality, patriarchal society and misogyny. It acts as an anthropological analysis of contemporary gender relations and certainly helped me to understand how we got to where we are today - a male-dominated society that represses, violates and exploits women. Of course, the congruence of evolution and culture is a powerful force, but not something that we cannot change. Humans of different colored skin evolved because of natural selection, and culture eventually dictated that some differently colored people were inferior but culture has changed. Natural selection selected for the different physical, psychological and sexual characteristics that women have and cultures around the world today consider women to be inferior, but culture can change again. It has, throughout the years, and it will again.

Some questions to consider: Is women's empowerment a seemingly obvious solution to ending extreme inequality and poverty? How can government and grassroots initiatives win cultural acceptance? When is right to invest in women and when is it right to give them cash payments? How can we end voluntary self-prostitution and promote instead professional self-advancement? How culturally accepted is it for women not to get a "real job"? How long will it take for women to be accepted in the workplace, let alone praised? (Research shows that subordinates are more dissatisfied with a female superior's performance even when she produced more results and was more objectively effective than her male peers) How can we connect the deepening female social advancement in the First World to the basic need for dignity and freedom of females in the Third World?