GEF: On Enactus

This semester has been a whirlwind of long days in class and even longer nights studying (and procrastinating while watching the Office), and on many occasions I felt as if I could nap for 3 days straight. However, Enactus has been an excellent source of energy and motivation throughout the entirety of this semester.

As the Project Hope Lead, I have had far more responsibility in the organization this year, and have been busy planning for the future of both Enactus and Project Hope. This semester, Enactus has been focusing on recruitment and marketing to the OU student body in order to reach all corners of the campus, and diversify our organization to include representatives from all backgrounds and majors. In doing so, we hope to gain insightful perspectives on each of our three projects.

In past years, Project Hope has partnered with No Boundaries International — a local anti-trafficking non-profit — to aid in the fight to end modern day slavery on both a local and a global level. In the past we have hosted art galas and anti-trafficking conferences to help raise money and awareness on the issue.

However, this semester I chose to steer the project in a different direction. As I continue to learn about the issue of human trafficking in our society, it has become increasingly apparent to me that the problem of human trafficking overlaps with many of societies other problems as well: Gender equality, equal access to education, and affordable health care, just to name a few.

For this reason, Project Hope will be taking more preventative actions to assist in ending human trafficking this year, and in the years to come.

It is no secret that the Oklahoma Public Education system is failing under our current state government official’s leadership; for that reason, Project Hope has chosen to partner with Educators from around the state to host a Facebook live event (and corresponding GoFundMe) to give teachers a state-wide platform to explain the many problems that they are facing due to state budget cuts to education, and to inform Oklahomans on how we can support them as they continue to pour into the lives of our children.

Although this does not appear at first glance to relate directly to modern day slavery, the two issues are far more connected than one would expect. We hope that by raising the standard of education that is provided in this state, we will also shield our youth from the threat of trafficking and enable them to learn more about the issue in a safe and productive environment.

In addition, Project Hope is also in the beginning stages of creating an educational curriculum about the issue of human trafficking that will incorporate perspectives on the issue from various fields. We hope to begin distributing this curriculum in the Fall of 2017.

UN Symposium

On Thursday, April 22nd, in celebration of the United Nation’s 70th Anniversary, the UN symposium was held in Zarrow Hall featuring an eye-opening lecture from Jennifer Foray, an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University. In her lecture, Dr. Foray discussed the many behind-the-scenes interactions between different people and organizations that directly affect our history. She specifically mentioned September 28, 1950 – the day on which Indonesia was accepted into the United Nations as an independent state. She explained that the Indonesian Flag raising ceremony outside of the UN headquarters in New York City was simply the finite result of years of Indonesian struggle against Dutch imperialism and the extremely complex process of decolonization in the East Indies.

Until December 27th of 1949, what we now know as Indonesia was recognized as the Dutch East Indies – “the crown of the Dutch empire.” It is a commonly-known fact that Indonesia is now a free and autonomous state; however, the long and violent process that lead to Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, and the United Nations’ (and a few especially influential delegates’) instrumental role in the process of decolonization are less well known. The process began during World War II; while Dutch officials (who were typically stationed in the Dutch East Indies) were away in London, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence to the world. Unsurprisingly, their declaration of sovereignty was not recognized by the Netherlands or, initially, the United Nations. This lack of recognition speaks to the massive inequality between states in that it displays the ubiquitous hierarchy between the Netherlands and the East Indies which allowed the Dutch to determine the status of the East Indies, thereby denying Indonesians the right to self-sovereignty.

Both Jeanne Mintz and Ambassador Sutan Sjahrir played instrumental roles in Indonesia’s journey to independence. Due to Dr. Mintz’s extensive knowledge of both the Netherlands and Indonesia, she was able to provide incredibly valuable insight that ultimately resulted in the UN decision to allow Indonesians to fight to obtain their independence. Despite its status as an “observer,” granted by the United Nations in 1947, Indonesia still had no voting power and was thus unable to determine its own fate when the larger UN powers determined that the situation in the East Indies was not threatening and closed the case. Again demonstrating the inequality of power between states on the global stage. Imperialist powers like the United States and the United Kingdom have relatively absolute power over smaller states and especially nations who are not recognized as sovereign. Since these Imperialist powers have such a huge amount of power, smaller states often have no say in international dealings.

Fortunately, in 1949, the United Nations realized that the Netherlands had repeatedly violated its cease-fire agreement with the East Indies which prompted the UN to reevaluate the situation in the East Indies and reconsider Indonesia’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands. After Indonesian delegates, specifically Ambassador Sutan Siaharir, presented their argument at UN Headquarters in New York City they were finally granted their independence. The fact that Indonesia was not able to declare its sovereignty from the Netherlands, despite the violent Dutch treatment of Indonesians and having created a stable government is further testament to the inequality of states; there are a few large and powerful states who hold the majority of global control. They are responsible for making many decisions of international importance, and play crucial roles behind-the-scenes of most global interactions even when their influence can’t be directly observed.

Indonesia was the first state to transition from colonial control into the United Nations. Since 1949 many other states have followed in the steps of Indonesia, and have gained active positions in the United Nations. However, even states who are active members of the United Nations do not have the same weight and influence as the larger, more powerful countries. I found Dr. Foray’s lecture to be extremely insightful into global politics as a whole, the United Nations and inequality between states. As Dr. Foray began to explain how the United Nations was involved in Indonesia’s journey to Independence I began to realize how much power the elite powers wield in comparison to smaller states who have a limited influence. I was also surprised by the “observer” status of states that aren’t recognized as sovereign by the United Nations. I feel that this system gives large nations a significant advantage over smaller, poorer states that could (and most likely already has) result in corruption. I certainly agree with Dr. Foray that the UN played a significant role in Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands, especially after hearing the extensiveness of UN involvement.

The Single Story


 

“The single story” is an idea that, until last week, I had never even taken the time to consider. I have always been a pretty open-minded person – I have never really taken issue with someone over their race, religion, socioeconomic class, etc. I’ve always been a proud adherent of the idea that all people are just that – People – and although each one of us is diverse and unique we are all, at the end of the day, human. However, after watching this video I came to the sudden realization that even though I have always been accepting of other people, I have also built up certain stereotypes and generalizations about people groups from around the world that have characterized them unjustly.

For example, I have always believed blindly that all people in the Middle-East practiced some form of Islam – which sounds completely absurd as I am writing it out. This generalization isn’t quite as extreme as some that I have heard tossed around in conversation such as, “all Muslims are terrorists”, but it is still a severe over-generalization that is by no means correct. It is impossible to categorize all people living in one region, especially one as massive as the Middle-East, for the simple reason that all people are so hugely unique and multifaceted that it is nearly impossible to make a good generalization about any people group with discrediting each individual’s diversity. however, growing up in the United States I have become so accustomed to western-centric thinking that it is difficult to see past the generalizations made by society about other parts of the world.

I guess what I’m saying is that, overcoming the “single-story” isn’t just going to happen.  Overcoming our deep seeded stereotypes and generalizations is going to have to be a conscious effort of trying to see the world from different perspectives and view people as more than middle class, or African American, or Muslim…you get the picture. Instead of focusing on our differences – although they are many – it is time that we take a look at how similar we are in despite of them.

~LK