This semester for a research project, I researched family leave policy within the United States and compared it to family leave policy within other countries, most specifically Europe. In the United States, the federal family leave policy is FMLA, which is an unpaid family leave system that has relatively strict eligibility requirements that exclude many American employees. Many Americans are discouraged from taking family leave because it is unpaid and the majority of American families simply cannot afford to take unpaid time off from work. This unpaid policy also causes men and women to disproportionately partake in caregiving and parenting, because when a need for time off due to caregiving and bonding with a new child comes up, women most typically take leave, while men remain in the workforce and take on the breadwinner role. In Europe, however paid leave is mandated for 14 weeks uninterrupted. However many countries offer more generous policies, mothers in the UK get a year of maternity leave, 39 of which are paid. Italy offers 22 weeks all of which are paid at 80% earnings. As for paternity leave, it is not mandated, however most European countries offer it with up to 80% wage replacement. In European countries, both mothers and fathers take leave at nearly the same rates, and take significantly longer leaves than parents in the US. I believe the unpaid policy in America puts American families at a disadvantage because the policy deters American families from taking leave and fulfilling their caregiving and parenting needs. America should adopt a federal paid family leave system.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a kind of administrative relief from deportation which protects eligible immigrant youth from deportation. DACA provides protection for deportation and a work permit. DACA allows children that were brought to America during childhood the chance to live the American dream. DACA was put in place under the Obama administration, and now the Trump administration plans to end the program that have helped immigrant children reach success and truly be able to dream. The anti-immigrant rhetoric used by the Trump administration is dangerous and I believe it has started to deter many great people that are simply wishing for a better life from coming to America. I believe immigration and a multitude of perspectives, and experiences, and cultures are what makes America so great and prosperous. The anti-immigrant rhetoric is harmful and needs to stop so that America can continue to be great. For this reason, I believe that DACA needs to be fought for. It is wrong to send these young workers and students back to countries they do not know. America is their home, and they are Americans.
I attended GEF movie night where we watched Return to Cuba a film by David Fabrega. The movie tells the story of Barbara Ramos as she moves back to Cuba after living in Italy for 18 years. The film follows Barbara for three years and shows the journey she takes to readapt to Cuba. Barbara Ramos is an outspoken, eccentric, fun woman, and her journey is truly fun to watch. Barbara builds a home, partakes in various businesses, and most importantly spends time with her family friends. What struck me the most about the film is how people in Cuba have so little though they are so happy and vibrant. The Cuban economy is a planned economy where most industries are owned and operated by the government. The take home salary in Cuba is on average about $20 a month. The Cubans have very little and all of their belongings are outdated, almost as if they are living in 60’s or 70’s. Technology is minimal and they are not materialistic, due to this I believe Cubans hold their relationships more dear and truly care about their neighbors and always offer a helping hand. Cubans value their relationships and living life to the fullest above all else. I hope Americans can learn to adapt this piece of Cuban culture.
OU Cousins is a great organization that pairs international students studying abroad with students from the states. I took part in in OU Cousins my freshman year and while at first, I was reluctant, I truly grew to love the program. I built two very real friendships with my international students last year and was sad to see them leave and return to their home country. This semester I unfortunately was not able to be matched with an international student, however I still attended OU Cousins events and was able to interact and build friendships with any of the international students. I believe the best part of OU Cousins is the cultural exchange that occurs, through this program I have gained new perspectives and really opened my eyes to the world around me. I am thankful for OU Cousins and the experiences it has brought me.
I attended the Latin Americanist lunch that featured Dr. Michelle Morais as she introduced her new book, Poverty Reduction, Education, and the Global Diffusion of Conditional Cash Transfers. According to Dr. Morais the mainstream view of poverty is that it is a lack of income. Globally poverty is rampant, and as much as 80% of the world, over 3 billion people live on less than $10 a day. It is heartbreaking and though many countries have implemented policies to alleviate poverty, it prevails. One form of the war on poverty is conditional cash transfers. Conditional cash transfers are public programs that deliver cash directly to poor families provided that they perform a set of predefined activities that are expected to reduce their condition of poverty and their children’s. Conditional cash transfers work to end poverty in the short and long run. The largest conditional cash transfer in the world is Bolsa Familia and it is located in Brazil. It has served 14 million families or 47.1 million people. From 2004 to 2011, 22 million people were raised above the extreme poverty line. Families under Bolsa Familia receive a debit card in the name of the female head of the household and receive payments with a base of $25, and additional payments per child. In Colombia, the conditional cash transfer program is called Subsidios Condicionadas a la Asistencia Escolar. While in Brazil, eligibility is determined at the municipal level, in Colombia it is decided by the schools. Overall both programs have been successful at reducing poverty and are a vital piece of both Brazil and Colombia. With conservative politics on the rise, more have spoken out against the conditional cash transfer program and hope to end it. I pray this does not happen because it would be a disservice to poor families. Hopefully, a large conditional cash transfer program will make its way to the U.S.
This semester, I took Women and Gender Studies. This class was truly eye opening and made me think of my womanhood in an entirely new way. The most impactful thing I learned throughout this course was the ideal of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the “understanding of how women’s overlapping identities including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.” As a person who desires to travel the world and embrace cultures of all sorts, it is vital I understand intersectionality and the plights of women everywhere. While I am a feminist, and stand for everything feminism is, modern American feminism in my opinion does not do enough to address the plights of women around the world. Women from other countries, women of color, and women with differing gender identities and sexual orientations are often not included or thought of when discussing women’s issues. This is damaging in the sense that it causes division among women. Inclusion is everything when trying to better society’s view and treatment of women. In saying all of this, as I travel the world I plan to take note of how each culture and society treats their women. Additionally, I plan to do better and not simply think about bettering my own experience as a woman, but bettering the experiences of women everywhere. I strongly hold to the belief that unless the women’s movement is working to help and benefit all women, that no women are truly gaining anything.
I attended the Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe event with guest Richard Heinisch. With the current political climate, I thought this event seemed interesting and I believe that now more than ever we must be fully aware of the world we live in and our leaders. Richard Heinisch started his presentation with the fact that populism is rapidly spreading across Europe and even the U.S. after Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. Heinisch categorized the populist movement as having a blatant disregard for minorities, commonly making radical statements, being Eurocentric nativist, and making people call into question the principles of a democracy. Heinisch also asserted that the populist movement plays upon people’s fears to their advantage and loathe globalization. Altogether, what I received from Heinisch’s argument is that the populist movement is very problematic. The racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric that populist leaders use and the party adheres to are dangerous and disgusting. Populism is not inclusive, it is very exclusive, and simply hateful. I deeply fear the rise of populism and I hope that people everywhere will realize that the ideals this party bases itself upon are wrong and very harmful. As human beings, we should love and accept our neighbors and celebrate diversity and differences.
I attended the Arabic Talent Show again this semester. I enjoyed it so much in the fall semester and was very excited to go again! I know little to nothing about Arab culture, the Middle East, or the Arabic language, however the culture fascinates me. I hope to continue to learn more throughout my time at OU. The first act was Aziz belly dancing and I loved how lively and fun it was. The dancers were very talented and did an excellent job energizing the crowd at the beginning of the show. “The new roommate” video was very comical and since I do not speak Arabic in any shape or form, the subtitles were much appreciated. The skit was about several students who studied Arabic welcoming their new roommate who was from the Middle East. The skit displayed them showing her the OU way of life and getting her accustomed to America. While it’s common to think of myself and other American students being introduced to a new culture when we study abroad, it is not often that we experience someone else having to be introduced to American culture. I found this amusing and sympathized with international students in that moment. I also very much enjoyed a poem a girl recited. She spoke it in Arabic and English, and it was wonderful to listen to her beautifully speaking Arabic and then finding out the poems meaning when she recited it for the second time. I enjoyed the talent show and have so much admiration for the students that took part in it. The Arabic Flagship Program seems so great and I hope to get involved.
The Journey to Europe: Perspectives on the refugee crisis truly changed my perspective and touched my heart. The event began with a screening of the documentary 4.1 miles. The film shows the refugee crisis firsthand from the perspective of Greek civilians who have taken it upon themselves to go to sea every hour in order to save an influx of 200 refugees from drowning and ultimately death. The film was heartbreaking as you see people struggling for their lives, families being torn apart, and children dying. Not everyone is able to be saved though the rescuers put forth their best, and it’s devastating to watch these people in pure agony as they desperately try to flee from the war. 4.1 Miles truly humanized the refugee crisis for me. While I’ve heard about it countless times on the news and see the disturbing images online, my privileged life and living within the “American bubble” has prevented me from giving it much thought. After viewing this, my perspective changed. I began to realize how helpless these people are and it angered me that a country with as many resources as the U.S. is not providing much support. Following the screening, Dr. Smith, Dr. Raymond, and graduate student Stefanie Neumeier discussed their perspectives on the crisis. Dr. Smith spoke on how it is the European Union’s humanitarian and moral obligation to help refugees, just as it ours as citizens. He asserted that the uprising populist movement plays on fear and portrays refugees as dangerous. In reality, they are essentially harmless and facing some on the worst situations in the world and in need of aid. Dr. Raymond discussed how the top hosts of refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, and Jordan, some of the world’s poorest countries that do not have the resources to take on the mass amounts of refugees. Dr. Raymond stated that the burden is not being shared equally. I find this very unfair and saddening. Next, Stefanie Neumeier discussed the false perceptions of refugees. In Germany, refugees are no more criminal than Germans, and the real threat comes from hate crimes against the refugees by members of the far right. I learned so much from this event and since it has been placed upon my heart to help the refugee crisis in any way I can. I’m currently looking into going to Germany to hopefully work or volunteer within a refugee camp. I hope to attend more events like this and am thankful for my new perspective.
I attended the non-traditional study abroad session on Global Engagement Day. While the majority of students study abroad in Western Europe, the students presenting at this session traveled to places outside the norm, such as Tanzania, Uganda, Cambodia, Ecuador, and Israel. It was very intriguing to hear about the student’s experiences in these places that I know so little about. The students talked about how much they loved and embraced the cultures of these countries that were so different from their own. I found it the most interesting that almost all students presenting had done some sort of internship during their time. Felicia discussed how she able to give back to the people of Uganda by taking part in a water sanitation project, and Tanner discussed his work in Cambodia at a startup company. Hearing their excitement and passion for the projects they were able to work on was very encouraging to me. I hope when I study abroad that I am able to take part in an internship or public service project as well! I am also very interested in going to Tanzania, so I enjoyed hearing about Holly’s time with her host family and her adventures in Tanzania. I believe living with a host family is a great way to truly learn as much about the country, and have the best experience possible. Altogether the non-traditional study abroad session was a great motivator. I too wish to travel and study outside Western Europe and the usual places people choose, however the unknown is frightening and fills me with doubt. After this session and hearing the students’ great experiences, I am confident that I can travel to the places I’ve always dreamed.