Sabrina Hodjati is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. View this post on her blog here.
There are few events for which I would endure a three hour flight to Minneapolis, a nine hour layover in Minneapolis’ International Airport-during which I was kindly informed by staff that overnight passengers must “sleep beneath the stairs”, and a three hour flight to New York, but the Social Good Summit is certainly one of them. How incredible and innovative must an event be to justify such inhumane layover hours, you may ask? The answer is very. The Social Good Summit is an annual gathering of our society’s most forward-thinking minds and leaders, and is perhaps one of the only times that you’ll hear Pharrell Williams poignantly tell an audience that we must focus on “disarming, welcoming, and finding the connective tissue within society.” Think of the event as a two-day TedX talk combined with a blogger convention wherein Graça Machel’s words are instantly delivered to the cyberworld by an assembly of laptop-equipped, Twitter savvy writers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the aforementioned bloggers with a fluency in social media, and attended the Summit as a UNA-USA Blogger Fellow. The United Nations Foundation is dedicated to immersing the younger generation into the global conversation, and I was pleased to see that both the audience and the press were comprised of people in my demographic. After circling the United Nations Foundation offices a good three times before finally finding the entrance, and stubbornly refusing help in my pursuit of the correct subway station, I met the other Blogger Fellows and headed to the historic 92Y to start the day.
To summarize every talk would be quite a feat, but I will focus on the topics relevant to my (and my readers’!) interests in issues pertaining to women empowerment and the Middle East.
Here is a brief recap of a women’s rights conversation I found to be extremely eye-opening:
“This is not a women’s issue-it is everyone’s issue.”
Kathy Calvin was showered with applause upon her assertion that gender inequality is a human rights violation, rather than something women alone must learn to tolerate. She was joined by Helen Clark, Graça Machel, and moderator Juju Chang in a conversation titled “Women Power. Empowered Women.” The incredible assortment of women, rightly described by Juju Chang as “rockstars of international affairs,” enlightened the audience on the seemingly archaic issue of child marriage. Graça Machel evoked gasps upon stating that “15 million families each year are sending their [young] daughters to be married” under the impression that it will provide financial stability for the family, unaware, or perhaps apathetic, that their idea of protection is actually oppression. They also spoke of the lesser known implications of child marriages such as the disenfranchisement of newly married young girls, their susceptibility to abuse, psychological and emotional issues, poorer health, and general lack of influence in the sectors of government that would prospectively work to solve the issue. To make matters worse, there is also an inordinate gap in gender data, meaning that there is more data collected on the state of men in the world than on that of women. If there is no concrete data on the amount of mental illness, health complications, deaths by childrearing or abuse, and any other issues pertaining to their well-being, how will institutions get the message that the fates of these young women must be significantly changed? The desegregation of information is a vital component of the establishment of gender equality, especially in developing nations with less apt info-gathering strategies.
Some more startling facts on Child Marriages gathered from UNICEF.com:
- If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant’s risk of dying in its first year of life is 60 per cent greater than that of an infant born to a mother older than 19
- Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15.
- If rates of decline seen in the past three decades are sustained, the impact of population growth means the number of women married as children (more than 700 million) will remain flat through 2050;
- Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are an important component of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide, accounting for 70,000 deaths each year
To follow the Social Good conversation, keep track of/use the hashtag #2030NOW or head to http://mashable.com/sgs/watch-live/ to watch the talks live.
More on my Social Good experience to come!