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The Light Millennium, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Letters
at Stevens Institute of Technology, jointly presented – a panel discussion on:
Empowering Women and Gender Equality: Minority and Discrimination
For the 11th Anniversary Celebration of The Light Millennium
At Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey
on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011

Gender Equality and Empowering Women - Moderator, Keynote Speakers and Panelists

ABSTRACT: Exploring Gender Equality and Empowering Women: this program focused on the rights of, and discrimination against, minority women. It also provided an opportunity to disseminate information about the programs and work of UN-Women, as well as to promoting issues that are in line with Millennium Development Goal #3: Gender Equality and Empowering Women. The program also has encouraged ideas for e-publishing from all walks of life in order to promote effectively and extensively the proposed theme. 

(From right to left) Prof. Edward Foster, moderator and co-organizer; H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona, keynote; Ms. Diakhoumba Gassama, keynote, UNDP; Joyce Gill-Campbell, panelist; Prof. Surendra Kaushik, panelist; Bircan Ünver, panelist and co-organizer; and Sorosh Roshan, panelist.

Brief Bios of the Speakers

Report on the:

Gender Equality and Empowering Women:
Minority Rights and Discrimination Panel

by Cem ZORLULAR, Prospect Youth Representative of the
The Light Millennium to the UN DPI

The panel entitled “Gender Equality and Empowering Women: Minority Rights and Discrimination” was held at Stevens Institute of Technology Campus jointly by Light Millennium Organization and School of Arts and Letters of the Stevens Institute of Technology on Monday, November 14, 2011. The conference was a success with widespread participation from students, faculty and civil society.

The conference was moderated by Professor Edward Foster who invited Prof. Lisa Dolling, Dean of School of Arts and Letters of the Stevens Institute of Technology to make her opening remarks. In her opening remarks Professor Dolling has welcomed all, thanked Ms. Bircan Ünver and Professor Foster for their efforts on making this program possible.

Dean Lisa Dolling Prof. Edward Foster
Prof. Lisa Dolling, Dean of School or Arts and Letter of the Stevens Institute of Technology, made the opening remarks.

Prof. Edward Foster, College of Arts & Letters, Stevens Institute of Technology - moderated the panel.

Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, delivered his keynote speech entitled; Sri Lanka - Gender Equality and Empowering Women. Dr. Kohona started his remarks by stating that Sri Lanka is the first country to produce a women prime minister long before the western democracies, women in Sri Lanka currently occupy important government positions such as Chief Justice. Moreover, Sri Lankan Constitution is noted for its extensive provisions for gender equality: “not only forbids any gender based discrimination but it also sanctions the use of affirmative policies for women.”. Additionally, introduction of Women’s Charter in Sri Lanka has been important in trying to eradicate obstacles against women in the areas of: “social life, political life, economic activity and benefits, health care and nutrition and protection from gender based violence”. Furthermore His Excellency has stated that the National Committee on Women was created and equipped with necessary tools to help with the full implementation of the charter. Then H.E. Dr. Kohona noted that Sri Lanka has been an active part in global fight for equality and prevention of violence in signing international treaties, long before its counterparts in Europe. H.E. Dr. Kohona also noted that the Sri Lankan government has come up with additional measures to prevent violence such as making use of billboards against violence.

His excellency then stated that in the Economic area, Sri Lanka is about to reach all MDGs; there has been a significant decrease in infant morality and a surge in education for women. Women are also active in all areas, except for in politics. After noting the Sri Lankan state’s efforts to remedy women affected by conflict, His Excellency ended his remarks by re-affirming Sri Lanka’s commitment for universal equality.

The second keynote speaker was Ms. Diakhoumba Gassama from United Nations Development Program, Gender Team. She presented her address on behalf of the head of the UNDP gender team; Ms. Ngone Diop and Ms. Winnie Byanyima. Ms. Gassama commenced her remarks by listing international treaties that seek to provide gender equality. She has stressed some countries has unfortunately not signed them, including United States of America. According to Ms. Gassama MGS-3 and MDG-5 have particular importance in achieving gender equality. Despite significant developments, obstacles remain before the 2015 deadline. Women are under “ higher risk of poverty and hunger than men” as they do not control resources. In maternal health, child deaths are not falling fast enough due to lack of attention. Furthermore, the violence against women is in a surge globally. All these reasons, according to Ms. Gassama prevent us from achieving equality and MDGs. UNDP works to remedy such obstacles via; working with governments to implement provisions for equality, helping with legal reforms to encourage women’s participation in the legislature and bringing gender issues to global effort against climate change. Additionally Intersectional discrimination leads women to lag behind the process made in MDGs. Nonetheless, UNDP has produced few resources to fight intersectional discrimination. Ms. Gassama ended her speech by calling everyone to collectively work for equality before 2015 deadline for the MDGs.


Gender Equality and Empowering Women - Nov. 14, 2011
Panelists (from left to right): Sorosh Roshan, Bircan Ünver, Dr. Surenda Kaushik, and Joycelyn Gill-Campbell.

Following Ms. Gassama, Dr. Surendra Kaushik, founder of the Mrs. Helena Kaushik’s College for Women in India made a presentation about his work in the college. In his speech he has highlighted the importance of education for the empowerment of the women. Through the founding of the college in India, women were empowered through education. In one slide, Dr. Kaushik summarized his beliefs: Education, empowers women, builds human capital, creates human rights. Consequently, human capital empowers women and empowerment leads to equality.

Second speaker in the panel was Ms. Joycelyn Gill-Campbell, Organizational Coordinator for the Domestic Workers United. In her speech she has touched upon a less advocated humanitarian issue that is very prevalent all around. She spoke about the abuses domestic workers face and the lack of legal protection they have. Before the implementation of the laws to fight workplace abuses, domestic workers were forced to work in dismal conditions, overtime and underpaid. Currently, thanks to DWU, Domestic Workers United has achieved success in New York state to implement laws that protect the rights of the domestic workers. DWU’s work has ensured that domestic workers have the same rights as other employees. Finally Ms. Gill-Campbell stated that her organization is trying to make their cause global in order to protect domestic workers all around the world, and announced their upcoming Convention, which is scheduled in December 2011.

The next speaker was Ms. Sorosh Roshan, the founding president of International Health Awareness Network-IHAN. She has opened her remarks via noting that while we have had significant developments in many areas, gender equality was not one of them. According to Dr. Roshan, one of the causes of gender inequality is how we educate our children. We tend to assign gender roles from early childhood, and thus create a disadvantage for the girls by not teaching them how to defend themselves or how to deal with finances, which are very useful life skills. Furthermore, according to Dr. Roshan the inequality is exacerbated because; girls receive much less nutrition then boys, are introduced to sexuality before they are physically and emotionally prepared for and women girls more and more violence. Dr. Roshan concluded her remarks by stating that only if we change these trends can we achieve gender equality.

The final panel speaker was Ms. Bircan Ünver, founding president of the Light Millennium Organization. Prior of her formal presentation, she showed a printed brochure of the UN-Women, and explained that the formation of the UN-Women is the core idea behind this program, and suggested to the audience to check out the “unwomen.org” website. In her remarks, she has stated that even though women are technically a majority by occupying half of the population, they are a minority in control the of the political power or the financial resources. According to Ms. Ünver, one of the main reasons for this phenomenon is the governments. Citing Mr. Guterrez, United Nations Undersecretary for the Refugees, she has stated whenever there is a political change, women are usually affected the most. Finally she gave the example of the native country, Turkey has politically allowed the undermining of the women through changing its education system from empowering women to oppressing women as religiously oriented schools were replaced by “Village Institutes”.

After the remarks, the floor was open to questions. The questions asked by the audience varied from the prevalence of human trafficking in Europe to abortions in China. One very notable event was the number of questions from the audience asking how they could partake in the international effort for equality.

The Light Millennium 11th Anniversary Program
Photo: Leanne Barrineau, IHAN Representative

On behalf of The Light Millennium, we would like to thank to Professor Foster and Dean Dolling for collaborating with the organization and hosting the program. We would like to thank the keynote speakers and panelist for their contribution into the program as well as bringing in a different and diverse angle that enable The Light Millennium and the College for Arts and Education at Stevens to present the concept within a wide and global spectrum that overall program has provided multiple angles on prevalent issues in the world.

President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, Dr. Nariman Farvardin attended along with many professors, researchers, instructors, students, representatives from civil society organizations, NJ Councilman, and also representative of the African Views were among the attendees. 

The total attendees that the program received was about 200.

The program was started with a reception prior of the program, announced program and its contents delivered successfully, and with the lively and interesting interactive session, ended 10pm.

Attendees from the November 14, 2011 program

- . -

DISCLOSURE: We would like to thank to the keynote speakers, distinguished panelists, Prof. Edward Foster, co-organizer and moderator, and to Dean Lisa Dolling, for hosting this event as well as for her opening remarks. We also thank to Jennifer McBryan and Dave Silverstein, College for Arts and Letters - CAL at SIT for their contribution during the preparation process of the event.

We also thank to Ms. Debra Pagan, and all the student volunteers of the event and the staff of the CAL.

Attendees from the Nov. 14, 2011 program Audience Bill and Councilman

Photos by: Yauchin Lam, Student, CAL/SIT & Justin Ross

KEYNOTE ADDRESSES (are available in the following links):
- by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha T.B. KOHONA, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations (html)
(also as
pdf)

- by Ms. Diakhoumba Gassama, Diakhoumba Gassama, Special Assistant to the Director of the UNDP Gender Team.
*** Ms. Gassama delivered her keynote address on behalf of Ms. Winnie Byanyima, Director, Gender Team, Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP; and Ms. Ngone Diop, Head, Poverty and MGD Cluster, UNDP (also as pdf)


PANELISTS (presentations are available via active links - in light blue color).

Ms. Joycelyn Gill-Campbell, Organizational Coordinator, Domestic Workers United

- Prof. Surendra Kaushik, Founder, Kaushik Women’s College in India (slide presentation - also on Vimeo)

- Dr. Sorosh Roshan, President, International Health Awareness Network, NGO Rep.
(also as pdf)

- Ms. Bircan Ünver, Founding President, The Light Millenium, NGO Rep. (also as pdf)

- REPORT on the PANEL by Cem Zorlular, Prospect Youth Representative, The Light Millennium to the UN DPI

- Brief BIOS of the Speakers

- Stevens’ College of Art & Letters Hosts Gender Equality Panel with Distinguished Panelists (external link)

- Photos from the Program by African Views Collaboration (external link)


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This e-platform is under the umbrella of The Light Millennium, which is A Charitable, Under 501 (c) (3) Status, Not-For-Profit organization based in New York. Introduced in August 1999; Established in January 2000; and Founded by Bircan Ünver on July 17, 2001, and associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations effective on December 12, 2005.

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