Summit targets global threats to women

Summit targets global threats to women
November 25
00:00 2014
Photos by Chanel Davis Dr. Chere Gregory (right) with Amiya Alexander.

Girls who dare to seek an education face the threat of violence every day, Razia Jan told attendees last Thursday, Nov. 20 at a global health forum sponsored by Novant Heath.

Jan, whose efforts to educate girls in her native Afghanistan gained wide acclaim in 2012 when she was nominated as a CNN Hero, said she fears that the school she started in Deh’Subz, 30 miles outside of Kabul,  will be blown up by a hand grenade.

“Every day we have to be worried that water is not poisoned; so I check the water,” she said. “I’m so careful. I DSC_0006check their bags, not because these girls will bring something, but for something that someone may throw in their backpack and it explode.”

Jan, who has lived in the United States since the 1970s, started the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation to empower Afghan girls and young women through a community-based education. The organization’s crown jewel is the Zabuli Education Center, an all-girls K-12 school that opened in 2008.

The school provides free education to more than 400. Students range in age from four to 22. Zabuli also reaches into students’ villages, helping to educate women about birth control, hygiene and careers.

The school is not welcomed with open arms in a country and culture that has historically not made educating women and girls a priority. Women also lack basic freedoms, including control of their own bodies.

“Some of them are taking those (birth control) injections that prevent them from getting pregnant … they do that without their husbands knowledge because if the husband knows, she’s done,” Jan said.

The biannual Maya Angelou International Women’s Health Summit had “A Global Priority” as its theme this year. For two days – Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 – health professions, educations, social service providers and others heard a litany of presenters lay out health challengers that women across the world face.

Jan spoke during a more than two-hour-long block of presentations by women working to empower and improve the health of other women.

Estella Pyfrom also addressed the crowed of about 100.

After years of working with children in the Palm Beach County (Florida) School District, the 77-year-old said she was not ready to retire. She now dedicates her time to closing the digital divide.

“We got the kids and families involved with technology,” she said.

Pyfrom, a 2013 CNN Hero, is founder and CEO of Estella’s Brilliant Bus: A Class Act Learning Center. The roving computer lab and classroom visits low-income communities, offering residents training classes in everything from computer basics to GED prep.

Pyfrom has a special passion for teaching young girls about computer programming and robotics.

“We want to get across to the young girls that technology is not just for boys,” she said. “There are many ways that girls can get involved and make life better for them.”

Fifteen-year-old Amiya Alexander wowed the room with her energy as she spoke to the audience about her business, Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy.

A 2010 Black Enterprise Teenpreneur nominee, Amiya said she came up with the idea when she was 9 and dreamed of teaching the world how to dance in a pink bus, all while reducing obesity in children and helping her mother pay for college.

“I woke my mother up at 3 a.m to tell her that I need a pink bus,” Amiya recalled. “I ran back to my room and I sketched out a plan and everything I would need. On Christmas, (that) is what I received.”

She uses the bus to reach children in Detroit who lack the opportunity and funds to participate in dancing. The bus is a mobile studio equipped with mirrors, bars, a sound system and dance floors. Nutrition advice is also provided. Amiya distributes meal plans and workout routines for teenagers.

“I wanted to know how I could fix this problem so I made a list of menus with a registered dietitian,” she said. “We found a way to allow you to eat things that you enjoy, just in smaller portions.”

Novant Health opened its Maya Angelou Women’s Health & Wellness Center in Spring 2012 with the enthusiastic  consent of the author and poet, who lived in Winston-Salem for 30 years up until her death in May. The center’s goals is to aid women in living longer, healthier lives.

Dr. Chere Gregory, senior vice president of Women’s Services at Novant, said the summit’s global theme is an effort to redefine women’s health and broaden its definition.

“This explores socioeconomics, education, feeling empowered, self-image and perspective, and communities coming together to organize small resources to deal with big problems,” she said.

Gregory said Angelou would have been proud of the presenters and the summit’s push to create a universal sisterhood.

“We know that Dr. Angelou wanted us to understand the plight of women from around the world. Empowering women was so important to her,” Gregory said. “Teaching our audience about what girls and women go through around the world is critical so that people who are inspired to work with women and girls know where to start.”

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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