• Ebola: Waiting for the Global Community!

    In early October of 2014 Ebola became an emergency – in Texas. One person died. Twenty-two days later it was all but forgotten news – in the United States.

    Meanwhile it has now been a year since the World Health Organization first confirmed a “rapidly evolving outbreak” of Ebola, affecting several districts of Guinea’s southern region and its capital, Conakry.

    This video is 1 minute and 48 seconds long. Can you watch the entire video?

    While the rest of the world waits – more people die.

    Every day the global community continues to wait (now more than a year) – more people are suffering and will die. Leaders from every nation - not just the usual suspects - need to stop waiting and act.

    The NGO ONE has created a petition to tell world leaders it's time to end the outbreak AND build health systems that could stop crises like this from happening ever again (click here for the petition).

    Discussion starters:

    1. Has the world waited too long to respond to Ebola?
    2. What will it take for world leaders to put forth the funding for nurses and doctors to be deployed, for the shattered medical services to be rebuilt?


  • Shell Oil to the United States: Let us drill in the Chukchi Sea

    The Arctic is estimated to contain 20 percent of the world's undiscovered hydrocarbon resources. Drilling in the frigid and harsh Arctic seas could yield more than 23 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The price of a barrel of oil is currently $50. The executives at Shell Oil are doing the math and seeing big numbers and big profits in those icy waters.

    Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest energy firm, is seeking US approval to restart its Arctic drilling campaign in Alaska's Chukchi Sea this coming summer (2015). The Obama administration will likely decide in the next couple of weeks whether to let Shell drill in the Arctic this summer.

    The Artic is home to polar bears, whales, and many other species. Greenpeace and many other environmental NGOs are opposed drilling in the remote waters. They argue that it is too difficult to contain spills in the harsh Artic conditions.

    Environmental groups like Greenpeace are saying that if oil companies are allowed to drill off Alaska’s shores there is a 75% chance of at least one major spill (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1. Should the US government deny Shell the necessary permits and permissions it needs to drill for oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea?
    2. What is the real value of leaving the Artic unmarred by drilling? Are those billions of barrels oil worth more to us than the environment – bears, whales, and other species?
  • Michelle Obama in Siem Reap Cambodia: Let Girls Learn!

    Globally, 62 million girls are not in school. Think about the wasted potential. 

    Today U.S. first lady Michelle Obama is in Siem Reap, Cambodia to highlight a new global women's education initiative called, "Let Girls Learn."

    The American First Lady spoke at a Peace Corps training event in the city of Siem Reap, home to Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex. 

    A key part of “Let Girls Learn” is to encourage and support community-led solutions to reduce barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing their education. Obama - working with the Peace Corps – is support community-generated and community-led girls’ education projects worldwide.

    As girls grow older the fight to get an education becomes even harder. Families must be willing to pay school fees. Girls are too often forced to marry.

    Michelle Obama’s visit to Cambodia is the first time a First Lady of the United States has visited the Southeast Asian country (President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to travel to Cambodia when he visited to attend a summit of Asian leaders in 2012).

    Today, Michelle Obama thanked the Peace Corps volunteers for the work that they are doing to educate and empower girls in Cambodia.  She called the volunteers the "living, breathing" embodiment of what her program, "Let Girls Learn," is all about.

    Cambodia is one of 11 countries the Obama administration has targeted for the "Let Girls Learn" initiative. The other countries are: Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda.

    Discussion starters:

    1. How might the First Lady’s work with “Let Girls Learn” impact international relations?
    2. Is the “Let Girls Learn” a proper focus of the US Peace Corps?
  • US State Department Honors 10 with the International Women of Courage Award

    It is all too often asked, “what can one person possibly do to make a difference?” To help answer that question we need to look no further than to Ms. May Sabe Phyu. May Sabe Phyu is courageously leading efforts to end discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities in Burma.

    May Sabe Phyu’s determination in the face of great adversity, substantial political opposition, widely held rigid views about women’s roles, and much personal risk should inspire all of us to take a stand and know that we can make a difference if we do. May Sabe Phyu’s work in Burma has inspired collective action to push for government policy changes and realize women’s rights in Burma. Her determination in the face of adversity, political opposition, widely held rigid views about women’s roles, and personal risk has inspired collective action to push for government policy changes and realize women’s rights in Burma.

    May Sabe Phyu is the Director of the Gender Equality Network in Burma. The Gender Equality Network is a coalition of more than 90 organizations collaborating to advocate for women’s rights. Violence against girls and women undermines not only the safety, dignity, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of nations.

    Phyu also co-founded the Kachin Peace Network and Kachin Women Peace Network to prioritize the needs of ethnic minority women in Kachin State. Her efforts to address gender-based violence and promote women’s involvement in the peace process have led to numerous personal legal charges, harassment, and threats.

    For her courageous work, the United States Department of State Deputy Secretary Higginbottom will honor May Sabe Phyu with the 2015 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award on 5 March 2015.

    Along with nine other extraordinary women from countries around the world, First Lady Michelle Obama will join Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and the awardees as a special guest at the afternoon ceremony at the U.S. Department of State.

    The United States Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around our global village who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.

    This year’s recipients reflect women’s roles as agents of change and leaders in many of the crises and challenges facing the world today, from countering violent extremism to promoting security and recovery from the Ebola Virus Disease. Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 86 women from more than 50 different countries.

    The 2015 awardees are:

    Captain Niloofar Rahmani, Afghan Air Force (Afghanistan)

    Ms. Nadia Sharmeen, journalist, women’s rights activist (Bangladesh)

    Ms. Rosa Julieta Montaño Salvatierra, Founder and Director, Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer (Bolivia)

    Ms. May Sabe Phyu, Director, Gender Equality Network (Burma)

    Ms. Béatrice Epaye, President, Fondation Voix du Coeur (Central African Republic)

    Ms. Marie Claire Tchecola, nurse, Ebola survivor and activist (Guinea)

    Ms. Sayaka Osakabe, Founder and Representative, Matahara Net (Japan)

    Ms. Arbana Xharra, Editor-in-Chief, Zeri (Kosovo)

    Ms. Tabassum Adnan, Founder, Khwendo Jirga (Pakistan)

    Ms. Majd Chourbaji, External Relations Director, Women Now for Development Centers (Syria)

    Full biographies are available here.

    Discussion starters

    1. Do these awards help shape politics and policy internationally and or domestically?
    2. What, if any, common characteristics do you see in the ten women honored this year? Is the US State Department making a specific policy statement?