Prince Discusses Gender Violence

Photo by Joseph Boyle

Dr. Joan Prince, Vice Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Alternate Representative to the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations, gave a presentation on gender-based violence across the globe on Oct. 22, emphasizing the human rights violations women face (human trafficking, child brides, genital mutilation) and the ways to solve them.

Organized by UWM’s Center for International Education, the presentation is called Combating Violence Against Women and Girls: A Global Perspective. Its mission, according to the information given, was to shed some light on some of the issues women around the world face, as well as to give an update on the progress being made in terms of combating them.

“The goal is to highlight international concern and its substance to the world,” said Nicole Palasz, the Program Coordinator of the Institute of World Affairs. “One goal is for this to be an entry point to engaging people about the issue.”

According to the information sheet provided by the CIE, Dr. Prince was appointed UWM’s Vice Chancellor in 2000. She was also nominated by the president as the Alternative Representative to the 67th General Assembly to the United Nations in 2012. From this post, Prince served as a representative to the United Nations and various other groups, such as UNICEF, and working toward the resolution of various global problems.

When Dr. Prince began her presentation, she cited her experiences sharing ideas with various activists and world leaders, such as Gloria Steinem, Angela Merkel, Mary Robinson and UWM’s own Golda Meir. Prince said that all of these women (Steinem in particular) have “raised the awareness of women in this country,” and that they all shared the goal of eliminating gender-based discrimination that perpetuates violence.

Prince cited use and abuse of power on the part of males as a major contributor to the problem, saying “it’s a power thing.”

The event was attended by around 30 people – mostly professors, TAs, and activists involved in this issue. Moreover, the majority of attendees seemed to be familiar with Prince and her work. Although one of the goals of these events is to get students involved, there were no students in attendance.

“We often get a mix of people,” said Palasz. “Our programs are open to the campus community as well as the broader community.”

Dr. Douglas Savage introduced Prince and highlighted upcoming events related to this one, including the screening of a documentary about human trafficking entitled Not My Life, and a lecture with Grace Akallo, founder and Executive Director of the United Africans for Women and Children Rights. Savage emphasized that while Prince’s speech talked about the problem of gender violence around the world, the problem is closer to home than some may think.

“You don’t need to look over the ocean to see examples of this crisis,” said Savage during his introduction. “You can find it across the street, unfortunately.” This was supported by Palasz, who said there has been local news about trafficking.

Prince cited examples of how the problem of gender violence appears in the United States, and how it affects the populace. “You never know what could happen in your family,” she said. She further described how violence against women brings up the issues of healthcare and legal costs, and how we need to give a monetary designation to the problem.

Prince also said that America faces parts of this issue that many people might not think could ever make it here. She claimed that genital mutilation does indeed occur in the United States due to the customs imported by various immigrants and that many girls who go missing are turning up at foreign embassies, having been trafficked and forced into slavery.

Despite this, Prince was quick to point out that one’s culture does little to explain this. “I don’t use that as an excuse,” she said. “There is a lot that is not culturally-based.”

There were several statistics that Prince brought up during her speech. There are apparently 64 million child brides worldwide, 2.9 million victims of forced labor, 140 million females who have suffered genital mutilation, and 66 million girls out of school. “That’s criminal,” Prince said of the latter fact. “It weakens the family.”

Prince also pointed out that abuse of power can take the form of isolation, control, deprivation of freedom, or any number of things; Prince offered the example of one girl who was separated from the world and not permitted to use the telephone.

In order to combat the growing problem of violence against women, Prince went over some of the necessary steps to do so. These steps included giving the right to equal and full access to the opportunities men have, giving the right to an education, condemnation of all forms of violence, the elimination of practices such as child brides and honor killing, and creating safe spaces for women, both private and public.

Prince also had some choice words during the post-presentation Q-and-A session. She cited the United Nations as an important presence in matters like this. “If there were not any United Nations, these kinds of discussions would not take place in any organized manner,” she said. “You can’t think in isolation. You can’t create in isolation. You can’t innovate in isolation.”

This sentiment was seconded by Palasz. “We hope more people become more educated and involved,” she said. “It’s meaningful if it’s the first step.”