Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fourth Night: Radcliffe Union of Students

Tonight, we will feature the Radcliffe Union of Students, Harvard's student group dedicated to women's rights.

RUS says about itself:
The Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) is a student group at Harvard University that strives to be a voice for women undergraduates and feminists of every gender. We are focused on women's issues on campus, and we seek to strengthen women's community and to improve the experiences of women undergraduates at Harvard.

RUS exists at the forefront of an array of student groups concerned with the wellbeing of women, operating as both as the predominant representative of women undergraduate voices and as a leader in feminist activism on campus.

Facts about women's rights:
  • Almost one billion people in the world are illiterate, 70% of whom are female. Those who cannot read or write will find it much more difficult to know their rights and how to protect them.

  • For every year beyond fourth grade that girls go to school, child deaths drop 10% and wages rise 20%.

  • Wars today affect civilians most, since they are civil wars, guerrilla actions and ethnic disputes over territory or government. 3 out of 4 fatalities of war are women and children.

  • 25% of women experience sexual abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 79 countries have no legislation against domestic violence.

  • Over the last decade, access to education has increased globally for girls at all levels. The number of girls per 100 boys has increased from 91 to 96 girls in elementary school and from 88 to 95 girls in secondary school.

  • Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

  • Worldwide, only about 24 percent of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female.

And children's rights:
  • 200,000 to 300,000 children are currently serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in armed conflicts.

  • Infant mortality in the world’s least developed countries has dropped by over 50% in the past 20 years.

Third Night: Environmental Action Committee

Tonight, we are featuring the Harvard College Environmental Action Committee.

  • The Harvard College Environmental Action Committee seeks to help achieve a sustainable world and protect the environment for its human and non-human inhabitants. To this end, the EAC aims to raise the consciousness of Harvard’s students to the effect of their own actions on the environment and to their status as stewards of this planet’s resources. We advocate specific changes at the campus, local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, we serve as a forum for discussion and a source of information on environmental issues. Finally, we seek to enrich our members through fun and fulfilling experiences.
Facts about the environment and human rights:
  • An estimated 25% of preventable illnesses worldwide can be attributed to poor environmental quality.
  • 3 of every 5 individuals in the United States of African-American or Latino background live in communities with 1 or more toxic waste sites.
  • 350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments say is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. We have already exceeded this limit: today we are at 388 ppm.
  • The International Red Cross predicts that there are currently more environmental refugees than refugees displaced because of war.
  • Countries will review past progress and plan for the future at the United Nations conference on climate change, which is currently being held.

Second Night: QSA

For the second night of Channukah, we will feature the Harvard College QSA (Queer Straight Alliance).

In recent news, read Friday's Crimson editorial about the need for more LGBTQ resources at Harvard.

Facts about queer life in America:
  • Over 12,500 LGBT service members have been discharged from the U.S. military since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was enacted in 1994.
  • Gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths. 30% of all completed youth suicides are related to the issue of sexual identity.
  • Recognition of same-sex marriage is prohibited under federal law. This denies same-sex couples 1,000 federal protections and responsibilities granted to heterosexual couples.
  • 45% of gay males and 20% of lesbians experience verbal harassment and/or physical violence during high school as a result of their sexual orientation
  • 83% of Americans believe that gay people should have equal rights in employment and public accommodations. This is up from just 56% in 1977.
  • In just the last two years, more openly LGBT government officials have been appointed than in the history of the United States.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Night: Harvard Students for Choice

For the first day of Channukah, we're featuring the Harvard Students for Choice, the Harvard pro-choice group.

  • "Students for Choice is concerned with the social, political, legal, and cultural issues surrounding reproductive rights and abortion. Our mission is global, but our emphasis is on Harvard and the surrounding community."

Facts about abortion in America:
  • Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the majority of pregnancies among Latina and African American women are unintended.
  • Almost 3/4 of voters believe that health insurance should cover the full cost of birth control. This would be an effective way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in America.
  • In the Netherlands, where teenage sexual activity is about the same as in the U.S., pregnancy rates are only one-ninth those of the United States because teens receive more education about sexuality and have more access to contraception and family planning services.
  • 55% of young women birth control users report that there has been a time when the cost of birth control has made it difficult to use consistently and correctly.
  • Each year, 20 million abortions take place in unsafe conditions and as a consequence, an estimated 80,000 women die.
Happy Channukah!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Festival of Rights

Starting tomorrow night, PJA will be running the Festival of Rights, a yearly celebration of student human rights organizations on Harvard's campus.

Each night of Channukah, we will feature a different human rights group in the PJA blog.

Look for the Festival of Rights posters near the Hillel dining hall, and watch out for news about the Human Rights Panel and Judaism and Activism discussions next week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

PJA at the Israel Fest!

This morning, PJA, along with Harvard Hillel and the Harvard Students for Israel, hosted the annual Israel Fest outside the Science Center. Over the course of the day, hundreds of students stopped by to enjoy free falafel and pita, listen to Israeli music, and learn about various Israel-related programs on campus.

PJA highlighted a number of progressive Israeli organizations, and collected dozens of "Prayers for Peace" to be delivered to the Kotel, the Western Wall, in a few weeks.

All in all, Israel Fest was a great success this year, as in the past!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

QSA Candlelight Vigil

This past Tuesday night, a group of around one hundred students, tutors, professors, and others in the community (including a number of PJA members!) gathered outside of Memorial Church.

Holding candles and huddling together against the wind, we listened to various members of LGBTQ/Allied community speak about solidarity, hope, and love. This Candlelight Vigil, intended to “commemorate, reflect, and inspire,” truly did demonstrate the strength of Harvard’s queer community.

Tuesday was the day after National Coming Out Day. It was also the twelfth anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was tortured and murdered in a brutal homophobic hate crime.

But this year’s vigil held special significance in light of the multiple suicides by gay boys in recent weeks: at least nine boys from age 13 to 19 have killed themselves because of bullying, in states ranging from New Jersey to Indiana to Massachusetts. These tragic suicides are a well-publicized indicator of a grim reality: the suicide rate for queer teenagers is four times the average for all teens.

Last night’s vigil was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The Harvard Glee Club sang, and various speakers shared their personal stories and offered their support and poetry. In between relighting the candles of those around us and hearing the inspirational words of queer leaders, the amount of love and support in the Harvard LGBTQ community was apparent.

The entire group left resolved to make changes happen now, not at some indefinite time in the future. Most importantly, the group left in the realization that we need not only come together in times of tragedy—we have plenty of joy and hope to share as well.