I attended an event on March 2, 2015 at the New America office in Washington D.C. called Asia’s Unsung Female Leaders. This event was conducted under New America’s Breadwinning-Caregiving program. This event was scheduled with the release of the e-book, “It’s Not Ok”, that the panelists helped in creating. This book discusses first hand stories of the oppression that women face in these Asian countries. The panelists were Zin Mar Aung (Co-founder, RAINFALL, Winner of International Women of Courage Award in 2012, and Co-founder, Yangon School of Political Science), Catherine Antoine (Director and Managing Editor, Radio Free Asia Online, and Executive Producer, “It’s Not Ok”), Binh T. Nguyen, MD (Director, Human Rights For Vietnam PAC, Former chair, Virginia Asian Advisory Board, and Director, Virginia Foundation for the Humanity and Public Policies), and the Moderator: Elizabeth Weingarten Associate Director, Global Gender Parity Initiative.
The discussion started after a brief video describing what the book is about. The focus of the panelists was to engage the audience in telling the truth about how women are treated in the Asian countries and how we can help. Women are not seen as natural leaders in many of these cultures and therefore are tossed aside. Many times education stops at the end of high school for girls, and they are not given the opportunity of higher education like their male counterparts. More times than not women are burdened as the sole caregiver for the family and therefore this limits their ability to get and maintain jobs. Ads in newspapers for jobs that women can apply for have the age, height, and look the woman must have in order to apply. Women are often hired in mid-management to make it seem like there is equality. This is not the case because these women have no authority to make decisions and are used as tools by men to manipulate policies or to ensure that corruption will not be exploited because women are docile in the workforce and have no power to speak up in these communist regimes.
Women in these countries are now realizing that it is up to them to change their destiny. They have more resources than their parents such as, phones and Internet access which in turn has the ability to encourage these young activists. The support of the United States with pressure on certain governments or helping individual activists has given strength to women activists because they know that the international community is not abandoning them, which in turn gives them courage to keep going.
This event was eye-opening and showed me how there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women have equal rights throughout the world. I think this was a great talk and the video of the discussion is on their website and I highly recommend checking it out.
The New America Foundation is an organization in Washington DC, clearly doing big things; I attended an event there this afternoon, at what seemed like a conversation between old friends (later revealing they ARE old friends). Peter Bergen, a British-American journalist, interviewed Phillip Mudd, who worked in the CIA, and then a liaison for the White House during 9/11.
The event began with Mudd simply introducing himself and how he began his career. Mudd is a graduate from UVA, in English surprisingly enough. He had been turned down several times for a teaching career, and drove up to the CIA gates when he was aware they were hiring. Mudd worked his way up quickly and specialized in South East Asia in intelligence. He began working on Iraq in 1999 and was still involved and a leader during the September 11th attacks. Mudd says he didn’t know how, but as soon as he became aware of the attacks, he knew the world in that moment, changed forever. Throughout his deep involved testimonial of the time, Mudd repeats the phrase “let me blunt” very often. He was honest and even though he has no regrets, he says the time was very emotionally trying. He talks about how the CIA perfected in those years, the art of taking down individual leaders before more could develop. An interesting comment he made revolved around that “art” he mentions. Mudd believes that drug and human traffickers could also be taken down in this manor, claiming the Government isn’t doing enough. Mudd went on to talk about how much the hunt for Bin Ladan weighed on him. He speaks openly about how even though we were killing of these awful men, they still had families, and children whom would never see them again. Mudd also brought up a claim that really weighed with me my metro ride home. He says he believes the CIA has gone into a business of man hunting, and has left its espionage roots. (Mudd is no longer working for the CIA- and is an investment banker in DC). He spoke candidly saying this needs to change, and this is a root problem in not only America, but a lot of Intelligence Agencies across the world.
“Al Qaeda is a movement… not a group” Mudd said. This was something I had not just not been aware of, but didn’t even understand. (even after countless views of Zero Dark Thirty) During this presentation, my knowledge of Al Qaeda grew exponentially. He explained Al Qaeda “cells” and other brief knowledge of the movement in a language not only I could understand, but really enjoyed and found fascinating. That quote really stuck with me as well, changing a lot of my preconceived notions about Al Qaeda.
The talk ended with a question and answer session. There were questions from why isn’t he married, to other organizations America should be worried about. A man praised him on being one of the few CIA officers to acknowledge the pain and suffering children of Al Qaeda leaders have faced. Mudd was no longer part of the CIA during the final capture of Bin Laden, he remarks that he was upset with America and the praise his death recieved. While necessary he says, it was still a death. I really respected this outlook and thought about how much morality this must take….especially for a man so much on the inside.