What the UN Is Up To

Kathy Ireland Among Speakers Battling Exploitation

The United Nations does a lot more than what comes out of the UN Security Council, but much of it doesn’t make the news. While great powers are wrestling with problems in Afghanistan, and with the question of Iran’s nuclear (weapons or energy?) program, other organs of the United Nations are constantly at work in various ways to make the world better for women and children.

This year’s UN Day at Santa Barbara City College highlighted the efforts of specific individuals in regard to, as the title of the day’s event indicated, “Empowering Women and Children Globally.” High-powered speakers on hand for the day included Catherine Dishion (president of UN Association-USA, Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties Chapters), Tim Phan (UCSB student), Eve Blossom (founder of Lulan Artisans), Anna DiStefano (Fielding Graduate University professor of education), Jane Roberts (cofounder of 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund), and local philanthropist, model, author, and mom Kathy Ireland.

Ireland, one of the first speakers, brought a presence to the stage that left no question as to her success in Hollywood and, more importantly, her success as a humanitarian. She highlighted the more than 27 million slaves being traded on the global market, most of them women and children. She encouraged people to be “alert, discerning, and ask questions.” While acknowledging the heavy work load on their own shoulders, Ireland emphasized the inspiration and promise in the current generation of 15- to 25-year-olds in America.

Phan is a member of this generation. A UCSB student and Model UN club member, he began by thanking his mother and reminding the crowd to thank their own mothers for bringing them into this world. Phan acknowledged the distance the world is from meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 for the year 2015, but did note that the status of women and children has improved in the past decade. Most hopeful, perhaps, was Phan’s comment on funding for UN programs, that “this organization is not just a resource [money] based organization; we need people to work for change.”

Eve Blossom, a champion of “disruptive entrepreneurialism” and founder of Lulan Artisans, told the story of her journey from being an architect of buildings to becoming an architect of social change. After a long visit to Southeast Asia, Blossom began to look at migration trends, sex trafficking, and wage and gender issues. She became intent on bringing a holistic approach to her dreams of empowering women, remaining environmentally sustainable, and starting a textile business. Her successful company continues to take a chunk of the textile market while at the same time being a catalyst for positive change.

DiStefano and Roberts talked about implementing local knowledge and wisdom for the social mobility of women in much of the developing world. They stressed the need for mutual capacity-building and loosely coupled small networks that work cooperatively for change.

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