Akanksha Thakur – 2017 Gibbard Award Recipient

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Each year, UNA-Vancouver recognizes an outstanding youth or youth group dedicated to achieving the goals of the United Nations. We are pleased to announced that the 2017 John Gibbard Memorial Award for Youth will be awarded to Akanksha Thakur.

Miss Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University and was nominated by her supervisor Heather Williams, Language and Culture Curriculum Coordinator, from SFU’s Co-Operative Education department. Williams explains:

Akanksha demonstrates her passion for equity in many ways. She has taught internationally – at a public school in Indonesia; she was recently chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; and is also on the Board of Directors of an NGO named Pratham that is dedicated to educating children in the slums in India.

The Gibbard Award presentation will take place Sunday October 22nd, 2017 at the Unitarian Church (949 49th Ave. W) at 11am (no RSVP needed). We invite the public to come celebrate United Nations Day and honour Miss Thakur for endeavouring to make the world a better and more peaceful place.

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The International Day of the Girl: Keys for Achieving Equality

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*Guest Post by UBC Student Ambassador, Karina Hsaio*

The Sustainable Development Agenda was created in 2016. This agenda introduced 17 different goals which are used as directives to eradicate global poverty. One of the crucial goals included is the need to achieve gender equality. International Day of the Girl is an important annual event that acknowledges the issue of gender inequality, promotes the empowerment of both women and men, and most importantly brings communities together.

Currently no country has successfully achieved gender equality; without the proper framework and policy implementations, women are made vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Countries also lack the relevant policies to prevent discrimination in the workplace, therefore women are still being treated unequally. Women worldwide earn less than men, for every dollar earned by men women earn 23 cents less. In politics, women represent a minority in national parliaments. When women’s contributions in the workplace are not valued equally, they are discouraged from entering the labour market or pursuing professional careers. Moreover, politics has long been viewed as a male profession; thus, without the participation of women, not only will this sector remain male dominated, policies related to the rights women will also lack the nuance necessary to achieve genuine equality.

BzmjOzbIIAAzJgY.png_large-500x500Education is one tool we can use to eradicate poverty and the problem of sexual violence. Women easily fall into the cycle of poverty due to lack of education qualifications. Without the equivalent skillsets required by the labour market, these women have limited choices when it comes to employment, and usually end up in temporary jobs. Not only are temporary jobs unstable, they also pay lower wages. Allowing women to participate in the market through stable employment will increase labour efficiency in companies; it allows the economy of a country to grow faster and stronger. Most importantly, a high percentage of women will be lifted from poverty.

The inability to secure permanent employment is one of the main reasons that women continue to rely on their husbands for financial support. Additionally, if the wife is also a victim of domestic abuse she may decide to remain silent for fear of financial insecurity. Educated women are employable women, and employable women are independent women.

But the empowerment of women and girls is insufficient for socio-cultural change – men and boys also need to be part of the conversation. Communities need to acknowledge the fact that gender equality is a fundamental human right. Men and boys are important actors in process of achieving gender equality because gender equality affects everyone.

When men and women are viewed as equal, the labour market will have a greater chance of achieving equal pay. Healthy relationships between both genders can only be achieved if mutual respect is developed. It is important to remember that the push towards societal change in gender equality does not mean pinpointing a specific culprit. Numerous factors contribute to creation of gender inequality, and it is the responsibility of the whole community to correct gender stereotypes and unfair behavior.

Other than promoting gender equality through the discussions in UN general assembly and hosting annual events like International Day of the Girl, the United Nations also promotes gender equality at the local level. To enable relevant skill development, UN Women supports computer training programs in South Sudan and India. Economic empowerment is promoted by encouraging women to start their own businesses. For example, in a Guatemalan village, women who were part of the indigenous community were encouraged to participate in an all-female entrepreneurship project. Through education empowerment women were given the relevant skillsets needed to participate in local elections, thus enabling them to participate in decision making.

The issue of gender equality has received high levels of attention internationally, and the United Nations serves as a vital platform for leaders and organizations to continue this work. However, changes can only be achieved if local and international entities improve and work alongside each other. On the international level, countries need to recognize gender equality as a basic human right and promote changes within their own administrations. Individuals and local organizations need to work together and ensure durable changes at the local level. Communities need to embrace the values of gender equality by improving access to education and through policy implementations. 

October 10th is Mental Health Day 

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.15.54 PMDid you know that mental health is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

“Promoting mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, are integral parts of the Sustainable Development Agenda to transform our world by 2030 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015.” Learn more about the World Health Organization 

One in five Canadians experience a mental health condition. Bmy the age of 40, 1 in 2 Canadians have or previously had a mental health condition.1 Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 2 The mental health of a person fluctuates and at any point of time is affected by multiple stressors that may be social, psychological, and biological in nature. Mental health refers to striking a balance in all aspects of life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process, it is not a one size fits all approach, instead it is unique for every individual. Our challenge is staying mentally healthy by maintaining the balance, which is easier said than done. While physical health is easy to measure and discussed openly, mental health is under the surface and often not discussed.. Every year on October 10, the WHO celebrates World Mental Health Day. This day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own mental health and think about ways we can contribute towards supporting people in our community who are living with mental illnesses, as well as call attention to a timely mental health issue. The theme for this year’s issue is “Mental Health in the Workplace” 3

During our lives, we spend a significant amount of time at our workplace. Our experience at our there is one of the aspects that affects our mental well-being. Unemployment is a recognized risk factor while employment or returning to work is a protective factor against mental health problems. Conversely, employment in a negative working environment such as a workplace where individuals face bullying or psychosocial harassment adversely affect the employee’s’ mental health, which may be accountable for depression and anxiety, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, lost productivity and a high turnover rate. In fact, mental health is seldomly considered as a key aspect of an employee’s’ health, yet, the WHO highlights depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. A study by WHO researchers estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Many of these illnesses can be treated, but access to treatment is often difficult, and stigma may prevent people from obtaining services even when they are available.4

As a healthy workplace benefits both workers and employers, therefore, the question arises, how do we create a healthy workplace? The answer is easier said than done, that is, the onus lies on both the workplace management team and its employees’ in being proactive and leading by example. However, it seems that this is seldom the case. Consequently, in July this year, an utterly empathetic response from a chief executive to his employee who was taking a break to cope with mental health issues took social media by storm. “It prompted thousands of retweets, garnered dozens of headlines when an employee who had written that she suffers from anxiety and depression, wrote an email to her colleagues saying she’d be out for a couple of days to “focus on my mental health.” Her chief executive replied by thanking her, saying every time she sends an email like that “I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health” and “you are an example to us all, and help us cut through the stigma.” 5 This sets a strong example of the meaning of a healthy workplace, illustrating the willingness of the employee to be open about her mental health as well as the employer positively acknowledging his employee’s needs and reminding his colleagues to do the same. This teaches us that we need to be open and acknowledge each other’s mental health needs in order to foster mental well-being in the workplace, which will help to decrease negative attitudes and discrimination and empower individuals to promote mental health and dignity for all.

The writer:
Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.07.16 PMMichelle Chakraborti is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. My dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michell is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!

Sources

(1) Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

(2) http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/ (accessed October 3, 2017)

(3) http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2017/en/

(4) Report by the World Mental Health Federation on World Mental Health Day 2017 (https://www.wfmh.global/wmh-day/wmhd-theme-2017/; accessed October 5, 2017)

(5) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/07/14/the-mental-health-email-shared-round-the-world/?utm_term=.4917f75de3db (accessed October 5, 2017)

Image citation:

https://workplaceleeds.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/top-tips-for-celebrating-world-mental-health-day-at-your-workplace/; (accessed October 5, 2017)

Day of the Girl Panel: Hosted at Byrne Creek

Making sense of an interconnected world. Together.

Parents and students of the Burnaby School District and general members of the public are invited to attend a panel event geared to build awareness about International Day of the Girl Child and all of its implications.

The free panel event will be held at Byrne Creek Community School at 7777 18th Street in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday, October 11th from 7pm until 9pm in the Centre for Dialogue. Pre-registration is recommended at globallearning@sd41.bc.ca in order to receive updates and reminders; please email the number of people in your party, with names and the school affiliation (if in Burnaby).

Confirmed panelists include Ariana Barer from WAVAW and Rosio Godomar from Educate Girls Network. Both are women with extensive experience and opinions on effective strategies to empower women and girls to not only become economically self-sufficient, but to be contributors to their community and challenge society to achieve gender…

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Disability Justice: The Call to Action

By: Naomi Shi (bio below), UNA blog writer

 

Disability, the theme of the upcoming Rosemary Brown Conference this year, is experienced by more than 19% of the world population. In Canada alone, more than 5.3 million people are affected by some form disability. Discrimination towards persons with disabilities is ingrained in our culture and is still immensely relevant to the international community. Ableism conceptualizes the belief that people with disabilities are inferior, and that having a disability is a defect rather than a dimension of difference. The interpretation of difference as a defect is the root of ableist acts, as it fosters the culture of discrimination in society.

However, ableism is more blatantly and commonly integrated into our culture, albeit the great anti-discrimination progress that is repeatedly depicted. Many nowadays fail to even recognize ableism as legitimate and predominant discrimination. Accessibility, or the lack thereof, is one of the most obvious forms of discrimination people with disabilities face. Disabled people are still to access places and services only open to their able-bodied counterparts. How often have you seen wheelchair ramps at the back of a building? Is that something you even notice? Ableist terms have also become naturalized in the English language, with many people carelessly using pejoratives (and often without knowing the harmful connotation behind these words) in casual conversations, harmfully promoting the prejudicial treatment of people with disabilities in daily life.

Although ableism is a significant and universal detriment, it is consistently marginalized and disregarded as a pressing and relevant social justice concern. Framed as lacking, undesirable, and laced with pity and stigma, the wrongful perception of people who have disabilities and the blind integration of ableist acts in society contributes to the widespread assumption that disability does not constitute a serious category of oppression. While indignation with issues such as racism and sexism is heavily circulated and publicized by social justice activists, it contrasts their chronic disregard and indifference towards ableism. This normalizes the marginalization of disability, and it further undervalues the weight of ableism when compared to other forms of discrimination.

The winner of the Rosemary Brown Award for Women this year has helped change how society views people with mental disabilities. Dr Dana Brynelsen is a stalwart advocate for the rights of children with learning disorders. Pioneering the Infant Development Programs of BC since their founding from 1975 to 2009, Brynelsen has dedicated her efforts to promote inclusion at a time when isolation of children with developmental disabilities was common. The program she fronted has ensured over 100,000 families had the support they needed to help these children realize their full potential. As the recipient of numerous awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention, Dr. Brynelsen has been recognized for her unyielding commitment to the well-being of infants and families across BC. She received the Order of British Columbia – the province’s most prestigious honour – in 2014.

The call for disability justice is urgent and pressing. Dr. Dana Brynelsen’s persistent work in the domain of early childhood intervention exhibits how the fostering of a culture based on inclusion, rather than segregation, has positively altered society’s perception of disability. Through her achievements in her field, she shows how disability justice has the power to not only change the way how people perceive their culture and its regards to diversity and difference but also to fundamentally change the way social change is enacted. It is vital that disability, and ableism, be considered equally amongst other issues of social justice.

The fourth annual Rosemary Brown Conference will be held on September 23rd at Asia Pacific Hall at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and will include discussions on gender, sexuality, and disability.

Naomi Shi

Naomi Shi
Volunteer Blog Writer, UNA Vancouver
Naomi is an avid and eager student who is driven by curiosity. She is a student newspaper editor, a youth parliamentarian, and is currently approaching her senior year at Little Flower Academy. She strives to learn more about past events that shaped the world around her and understand its correlation to current events that continue to dominate and influence the world today. Having been an active participant in Model United Nations for three years – through attempting to rectify simulated international conflicts, she has become a more conscientious student. Model UN has increased her knowledge in world matter and allowed her to better comprehend different mindsets and perspectives through attempting to rectify international conflicts. In 2016, Naomi volunteered with Canada Global Culture and Education Association along with 70 other British Columbians as Canadian ambassadors, leading a cultural exchange camp in Guangzhou, China. She was able to teach and supervise workshops on English, Canadian history, and social justice for five weeks to underprivileged youth in China. She is excited to complete her final year of secondary education, as she hopes to pursue her interest in sociology and post-colonialism in the future.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I would love to go to Israel, as it is an epicentre of history and religion. Visiting Jerusalem and its bountiful landmarks of cultural, historical, and religious significance is something that I wish to do within my lifetime.

 

Meet the 2017 Rosemary Brown award recipient and keynote speaker, Dr. Dana Brynelsen

Annual Rosemary Brown Award for Women, 2017 Recipient, Dr. Dana Brynelson

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Dana Brynelsen is the former Provincial Advisor for the Infant Development Program of BC and worked in that capacity from 1975 until 2009. In that role she supported the development of 53 Infant Programs in communities across BC and encouraged the development of a parallel network of Aboriginal Infant Development Programs. Since their inception Infant Development Programs in BC have served over 100,000 families. She has advised on the development, operation and evaluation of early childhood intervention services in BC, Canada, England and New Zealand.  Dana has a particular interest in Family Centred Care and has presented on this topic at many conferences. She worked with colleagues and faculty at UBC to establish the Certificate and Diploma in Infant Development at UBC a first in Canada, and was successful in having the York Certificate in Infant Mental Health offered through UBC.  She collaborated in developing the course work on disability for the Family Resource Program Certificate. Dana has published in the field, served on the editorial board of Infants and Young Children and is past president of Parent Child Mother Goose, a national organization that provides training and sets the policies for this attachment based program. She is a founding member of the BCFASD Resource Society and a former Director of the Society of Children and Youth. She was involved in the development of the Early Hearing Program in BC, which provides universal newborn hearing screening and leads to early language intervention for all infants identified with hearing loss. Dana worked with colleagues to establish the Early Years Conference through UBC and the International FASD Conference. She is the recipient of many awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention.  These include; Year of the Child and Family Award (1979) BCACL Partnership Award (1984), Winston Churchill Fellowship Award (1987), YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (1997), UBC Doctor of Laws (2004), Federation of Community Services Award for Excellence (2009) , BC Family Resource Programs Outstanding Achievement Award (2009), BC Council for Families Distinguished Service to Families Award (2010), Order of BC (2014). Vancouver Island University Doctor of Laws (2016).  Although retired, she continues to work in a voluntary capacity.  Her current project involves advocating for changes to the court system to ensure better outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens, infants and young children in care or at risk for out of home care and their families.

Working Abroad for UN-Habitat in the Vibrant City of Nairobi

Author: Stephanie Ortiz

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Lau over the phone as I overlooked Vancouver’s smoky skyline following the BC Day long weekend. We chatted about his recent experience in Nairobi working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) through the United Nations Association of Canada. Doug was hired as a JPC by UN-Habitat, an agency that promotes sustainable urban and human development as well as adequate shelter for all. Doug expressed that the opportunities felt endless in this lively East African city as he made his way to work every day. Something that struck Doug about Nairobi was the city’s vibrancy and the optimism that people had about the future. We discussed what it was like working at the UN office in Nairobi, his responsibilities as a JPC with UN-Habitat, and the challenges of working abroad.

During his six-month contract term, Doug discovered that the UN office in Nairobi -which has roughly 5,000 employees from all over the world- was “quite an exciting place to work.” Doug’s office was located in a zero emissions building on campus and the UN Nairobi campus was recounted as being a forward thinking place, with an open-space concept, and indoor gardens –features that align with the UN-habitat mandate. The overall campus was illustrated as having preserved gardens, lined with elegant trees, and manicured grass and described as an incredible and lively place.”You could feel that people around you were very capable and motivated,” Doug recalled.

As a JPC, Doug carried two major responsibilities. The first being monitoring and evaluating programs. He developed systems to track performance, assessed the progress of those involved, gave feedback, and then provided and guided the necessary adaptations. His second responsibility comprised of reporting essential information to stakeholders and donors. “One of the coolest parts of working with the UN is working with diverse partners.” This experience gave Doug the opportunity to collaborate with other different units and external agencies based in Nairobi. This allowed him to work with other local governments, delegations from foreign diplomatic missions, community groups, women’s groups, youth groups, and more.

However, relocating and working somewhere unfamiliar often brings along a string of challenges. Doug confessed, “it’s always difficult to adjust to working in a new city. Not only do you need to learn the new office, practices, and procedures,” you inevitably have to combine it with figuring out the transportation system, where to get groceries, and so on. Doug added, “but it becomes very rewarding as the months go on.”

When asked whether he would recommend this type of work experience to others, he responded, “Absolutely. This has been an incredibly formative experience, not just in my professional career but for my personal development. It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to work in this field. Development work hasn’t been around long enough but it’s a great field to work in and very rewarding. It’s Important to understand how competitive this field is and how important the work you’re doing is. You’re competing from a pool of candidates from all corners of the world and it should be approached as such. It’s tough, something that needs to be taken seriously. Work hard and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. It can take time. And just remember that not all citizens of all countries have the same opportunities.”

If you’re considering a career in development, the  2017 Hiring Trends Report: The Jobseeker’s Guide to Development Recruiting is well worth a read. If you’d like to participate in the UNA Canada’s International Development and Diplomacy Internship Program, you can visit the Facebook page for more information. The deadline to apply is September 5th, 2017.