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PhD Student One of 20 Nationwide to be Chosen to Attend Prestigious U.N. Women’s Conference

Ayça Mazman has been accepted to a practicum where she will attend the Commission on the Status of Women conference at United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Date: 2/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Tom Robinette
Photos By: Tom Robinette

UC ingot   Ayça Mazman is no engineer, but she knows how to build a bridge. Her bridge isn’t the kind that spans any great divide; it connects two academic disciplines – philosophy and women’s studies.

Mazman is a doctoral student in philosophy and, through her own urging, the first student to participate in a recently established joint degree program with women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati. She’ll extend that intellectual bridge to the United Nations this month, as she attends meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Mazman is one of 20 women nationwide chosen to participate in the practicum, which allows participants to observe how the U.N. addresses issues with international cooperation. She will gain temporary delegate status, attend official and non-government organization (NGO) sessions, and contribute to the official documentation of both official and NGO meetings. The commission’s priority theme this year is “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”

“The commission has created interesting and very crucial documents, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women agreement, and it is a great honor to be a part of this creation process,” Mazman says.
Ayça Mazman will attend the Commission on the Status of Women conference at United Nations headquarters..

Mazman is interested in feminist political philosophy, and as a native of Turkey, especially Middle Eastern and Islamic feminism. She says these types of feminism aren’t often included in Western feminist political philosophy and she wants to know why they’re left out. She’s hoping her experience at the practicum will put her theoretical study into a real-world practical context.

“I want to see how people actually interact, how funds are distributed and how an organization like the U.N. helps empower women,” Mazman says. “I understand more about the theories than I understand about these practical implications.”

Mazman will learn about negotiation, networking and advocacy, and as part of the practicum, she is required to create an advocacy project when she returns to UC. She intends to give a talk on her experiences in the women’s studies department and attending the practicum to encourage other women to follow similar pursuits in their study. She also plans to incorporate into her thesis what she learns about the interaction among distinct international interests and how that translates to the local level.

“It will be helpful to understand how local and national interests are represented in these meetings and how international interests are not matching the local ones,” Mazman says. “Seeing that tension would also help me understand more about the tension between Western and Middle Eastern feminist thought.”

The practicum will be held Feb. 25 through March 3 and is sponsored by the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University, Boston; the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; and the National Women's Studies Association. The Commission on the Status of Women focuses on gender equality and the advancement of women, with the U.N. drawing representatives of governments to address the problems facing women around the world.

When finished with her studies at UC, Mazman will pursue a teaching and research job at the university level. She’s not done building bridges either. She hopes to find a position with a joint appointment between philosophy and women’s studies.

“I’m indebted to the women’s studies department for not only getting this practicum but also teaching me so many wonderful things,” Mazman says. “What I do in philosophy and women’s studies is drastically different, and I wouldn’t want to give up either. UC has given me the opportunity to be able to hold a position like that in the future.”

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