Friday, October 9, 2015

Women's History Initiative in Brighton/Allston now figures in the University Archive and Special Collections at UMass Boston

Brenda Gael McSweeney, Board of Directors Member of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society - a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate, describes the background to this photo collage contributed to the University Archive and Special Collections at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

"This photo captures the Women's History Initiative that I launched with the Brighton Allston Historical Society when I came from India to live in Oak Square in 2003. The BAHS published fabulous accounts of men's contributions to our town's history; however one Member, Louise Bonar, had detected the phenomenon of 'Brighton's Forgotten Women'! So we undertook research and hosted events on Brighton's remarkable women. Here is Jennie Loitman Barron of Selkirk Road in Brighton in the 1950s. She became the first full-time female judge in Massachusetts. Her daughter Joy gave us this photo.

Also depicted below is our Women's History Initiatives team that shared the stories of Brighton's Women of Vision: best-selling novelists, a newspaper columnist, the de facto postmaster and numerous strong social activists across four centuries. At top right is Linda Mishkin who currently presides the BAHS, then Priscilla Biondi, Mary Rita Grady,  then me - Chair of the group, next is Peg Collins, the immediate past President receiving an award, and at bottom left, Nancy O'Hara.

Collage by Ali O'Hare
Other BAHS Board Members Ronni Komarow, Sharon Cayley and Ann Mulligan also presented last May at our multi-media show at the Congregational Church in Brighton Center. Earlier on we had created a Heritage Museum exhibit that ran for over a year, and a Women's Heritage Trail Guide and Bus Tour! Boston University's Women's Studies Program and the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis both supported these initiatives. Collage prepared by Ali O'Hare. Pictured clockwise from top left: Jennie Loitman Barron and colleagues, Linda Mishkin, Priscilla Biondi, CSJ Mary Rita Grady, Brenda Gael McSweeney, Peg Collins and Nancy O'Hara."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Announcement: UNESCO-Paris Renews our UNITWIN for 4 Years!

Delighted to report that news is just in that UNESCO, Paris has extended the Agreement governing our UNITWIN Network for Gender, Culture, & People-Centered Development until August 2019!

Ambassador Irène Rabenoro on behalf of UNESCO's Education Sector wrote that "In light of the very good results achieved by the above-mentioned Network, confirmed by the positive evaluation of the report on its activities, I am pleased to inform you that UNESCO agrees to renew the above-mentioned Agreement for an additional period of four years."

We wish to congratulate all Partners and Affiliates of the Network in India, West Africa, Greater Boston and beyond on their numerous innovative contributions, and look forward to exciting initiatives during the forthcoming chapter!

Dr. Carrie Preston & Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney 
on behalf of The UNESCO/UNITWIN based at the 
Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, Boston University

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Forthcoming: Carrie Preston's latest book, Learning to Kneel!

Preview of Coming Attractions: Forthcoming Volume, Learning to Kneel by Dr. Carrie Preston, Director of WGS and Co-Coordinator of our UNESCO/UNITWIN

Carrie has shared with us the following glimpse of her latest work:

"Learning to Kneel traces the lessons, collaborations, and translations that introduced Japanese noh drama to the twentieth-century artistic movement called modernism. Noh captivated famous Euro-American artists, including Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, Benjamin Britten, and Samuel Beckett. They collaborated with an international cast of artists who taught them about noh, often while directing, choreographing, or performing in their productions. Preston reintroduces to modernism figures like the Tokyo-born dancer and theater artist, Ito Michio, who performed with Pound in dance-poem recitals and in Yeats’s famous noh adaptation, At the Hawk’s Well. Ito took the play on an international tour that influenced Japanese modern and traditional performance.  

Traditional Noh Performer Furukawa Mitsuru, with whom Carrie studied in Tokyo  

Previous accounts of modernism and noh emphasize the errors in, for example, Pound’s noh translations or Yeats and Brecht’s exoticism and misunderstandings of the noh plays they adapted. Preston’s different approach stems from her experience taking lessons in noh performance technique with a professional actor in Tokyo. This “study abroad” encouraged her to reconsider widespread assumptions about error, misunderstanding, and success.

Noh pedagogy is devoted to preserving a repertory of plays transmitted for centuries from teacher to student in a hierarchical relationship – symbolized for Preston by the decorous and painful practice of kneeling before the teacher to bow, receive instruction, and practice chanting. After initially assuming noh lessons would feel humiliating, Preston found herself experiencing the value of and pleasure in submission to an authority and training regimen. Her tendency to emphasize innovation and subversion (which were of little use in noh lessons) had encouraged her to overlook the complex ranges of agency and empowerment regularly experienced by teachers and students.

Learning to Kneel is a book about journeys: noh’s journey across modernist stages and back to Japan; the international circulation of noh texts and tours of plays; the bodily techniques performers carry across national borders; the travel, even tourism, by which modernist artists encountered noh and – albeit in some limited way – its challenges to western ideas of agency; and Preston’s journey to Japan for noh lessons, where learning to kneel taught her new approaches to teaching and learning."

Below is an illustration of Preston performing a dance from the noh play Hagoromo.


UNESCO/UNITWIN joins in congratulating Carrie on this exciting and innovative work, notably on her forthcoming book which is now in production – thus to be in our hands by the new year! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mark your calendars: Upcoming event on Women in Politics in Indonesia on October 6, 2015

We're happy to announce that WGS (Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program) at BU will be joining GaIDI (Gender and International Development Initiatives) of the Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis in co-sponsoring a talk on The Role of Political Parties in Women's Political Representation in Indonesia. The talk will take place at WSRC on the Brandeis University campus at 1515 South Street in Waltham at 12:30pm on October 6. 

WSRC Visiting Scholar Siti "Nur" Nurjanah, who has been part of the GaIDI team will be joined by Guest Speaker Christopher Candland of Wellesley College. WSRC announced: 

"This talk will discuss how Indonesia’s ratification of CEDAW — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — has pressured its political parties to adopt a 30 percent quota for women in its electoral system. It will also examine how political parties circumvent the law and continue to establish a male-dominated political culture."

Meantime, see below concerning an award that Nur and her NGO A Voice for Women to Deepen Democracy won this year! More here. Nur is pictured second from right. 

Info and photo courtesy of Making All Voices Count

Please feel free to share this information with others who might be interested

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Breaking News: Raffi Freedman-Gurspan makes history – this time at the White House!

Photo courtesy Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan of our Boston University WGS community just made history as the first openly transgender official at the White House! Raffi took up her new senior post as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office on August 18th, following a stint in trans advocacy as Policy Advisor for the DC-based National Center for Transgender Equality’s Racial & Economic Justice Initiative. 

Raffi worked early in her career until mid-2011as Course and Research Assistant with Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney at BU/WGS (Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program) in the arena of Gender and International Development. Their collaborative effort on Irish Women Today: Perspectives from Galway to Dublin on Gender (In)Equality was published last December by the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender.

Raffi's primary interests over the years have included public policy making, minority and indigenous peoples' rights, and gender equality matters. We are thrilled that the work of the White House will now benefit from Raffi's talent and activism promoting gender equality and justice.

"Brava" Raffi, from WGS and the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Breaking News: Ronni Komarow of our Network receives Community Award!

There was great excitement in the Brighton/Allston community the evening of 17 June 2015 when Ronni Komarow was awarded the prestigious Unsung Heroes Award for her selfless commitment to the advancement of Brighton/Allston in a ceremony at Boston College. 

Ronni in accepting the award declared: 
"I certainly feel my fellow Board Members deserve the award too, and that whatever you put into things, you receive so much more in return! ..." 
Here, Ronni was referring to her fellow Board Members of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society (BAHS, a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate), and of the Friends of the Faneuil Branch Library. Ronni was later invited to become a member of Boston Creates, Mayor Walsh's new creative arts initiative. 

Participants at the festivities, and notably at the BAHS and Friends of Faneuil tables, were thrilled to be present at this festive occasion.  

Ronni delivering her acceptance speech. Photo credit: Eric West

As the event's official program stated, Ronni was lauded for her energetic participation at the forefront of the campaign to keep the Faneuil Branch of the Boston Public Library open. She is an officer of the Board of Directors of the Brighton/Allston Historical Society and a member of its Women's History Initiatives Standing Committee. The nomination papers also cited her work at the Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center.

Below is the official citation of The State Senate, Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizing Ronni's contributions. Those of Mayor Marty Walsh, The House of Representatives of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and The Boston City Council, as well as the Award plaque, appear with a flickr set of photos from the event here

Members of the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network from the Boston area and around the globe join in congratulating Ronni. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'Small World' Connections at the Harvard Ed Portal!

In a program at the Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Allston, a neighborhood of Boston-Massachusetts, the students studied “famous” local people. Pictured below is Marisa in the fifth grade who was assigned to study Brenda McSweeney. Surprisingly, Marisa met up with Brenda at the Harvard Ed Portal opening of the Unbound Visual Arts Exhibition on Community! As part of the Boston Public Schools, GPA's Pilot status gives the school autonomy to offer innovative curricula and a school culture that supports high expectations and achievement.

At right is Marisa pictured here with Brenda and her photographs
of evolving women's roles in the community in West Africa

Marisa is working away at the exhibition's 'Connections' happening! She is connecting her passions to entries of like-minded participants. This activity was designed by Unbound Visual Arts (UVA) President Ruth Rieffanaugh. Also pictured is Marisa's aunt Marcie Laden who is on UVA's Board of Directors (Photo credit: Eric West)

It's possible that Marisa's assignment was inspired by a publication – in which Brenda is one of the Brighton residents featured – called Legendary Locals of Allston-Brighton by Linda Mishkin. Linda is now President of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, that like UVA is a UNESCO/UNITWIN Affiliate. More on the Legendary Locals volume here: 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Aminata Salamata Kiello's Paper on the Legacy of Enslavement in West Africa now published!

Aminata Salamata Kiello
UNESCO/UNITWIN at WGS/BU is delighted to announce a new publication in our Occasional Paper Series. The author is Aminata Salamata Kiello of Niamey-Niger and Ouagadougou-Burkina Faso who has prepared a paper entitled "The Legacy of Enslavement of Men and Women: Cases from West Africa". Aminata Kiello examines  the gendered impact of historical to modern-day slavery in several countries in West Africa, as well as its impact on the development of African societies. Her paper highlights the stigmas of modern-day slavery, particularly for women, who are subjugated both within the family structure and society at large, and who may be subject to a gender-specific form of slavery known as wahaya. Championing empowerment through education and cultural pride, Kiello argues that combatting the economic, social, and psychological determinants of slavery is key to West African development overall.

As Saniye Gulser Corat, Director of the Division for Gender Equality, UNESCO Paris, writes: "In West Africa, Kiello's case study about the influence of enslavement on modern slavery analyzes how women and men were impacted differently by describing the condition of “wahaya” women, who are stigmatized unofficial wives and slaves, and the brake the practice represents to African societies’ development."

Here is the link to the 'opens like a book' version of Aminata's Paper: 

The PDF version of the paper can be found at:

Both begin with the original French version authored by Aminata Salamata Kiello, and conclude with an English summary by Cassandra Fox.

Photos: Brenda Gael McSweeney

A First Publication in Our Network Collection in an African Language!

We're happy to announce that a first publication in Moore on women's empowerment in Burkina is available in our UNESCO/UNITWIN Network collection! An article on lightening African women's workloads and freeing up time for educational and lucrative activities has been translated from French into Moore by Adama Jacques Sibalo. Moore is an official language in Burkina Faso, and Adama has published a series of books in Moore since 2002. The article that he translated in June 2015 is "Burkina's Women Shape Progress" by Brenda Gael McSweeney and Scholastique Kompaoré (the French version called Les femmes du Burkina façonnent le progrès was translated from the English by Tshali Kabanga Charlie). The Moore translation was made possible thanks to Professor Emeritus John Hutchison of BU's African Studies Center and Coordinator of The African Language Materials Archive (ALMA) at Michigan State University. More on this story at:

Translator Adama Jacques Sibalo

Photo courtesy of Adama Jacques Sibalo