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My name is Ashley Baldwin and I am an intern with Sally Dunne, the Loretto Representative at the United Nations, for the month of January. Originally from Port Washington, a small town on the North Shore of Long Island, New York, I am currently a sophomore studying Politics and English at Oberlin College in Ohio. Every January, Oberlin students – or “Obies,” as many like to call us – are given the month off from classes to pursue some sort of project, whether it is independent research, an intensive-Korean language class, backpacking in Peru, or taking an internship, like myself. My initial knowledge of the Loretto Community actually came out of a listing for the internship, posted by the Bonner Center for Service and Learning, which emphasizes and promotes the link between academic pursuits and community service, and is run by none other than Loretto Co-Member Beth Blissman. After a thorough perusal of the Loretto website, I found that many of the Loretto Community’s goals and values coincided with my own, which I find to be largely a product of my Unitarian Universalist background; Loretto’s push for social justice in a number of progressive and exciting ways is what prompted me to apply.
My internship grew out of a collaboration between the Loretto NGO office and the Feminist Task Force (FTF). Since a month is a small timeframe, my task is to lay the groundwork for their co-sponsored Women’s Tribunal on Gender and Climate Justice to be held right here in the United States. Previously, Co-Member Rosa Lizarde, who chairs the FTF within Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), has organized tribunals held in fifteen countries around the world where women were given platforms to speak about how they are affected by climate change-related issues, such as environmental degradation, poverty, and food insecurity, to name a few. Since a tribunal has yet to be held in the U.S., I have been doing the initial organizing for such an event, reaching out to activist and grassroots organizing groups that focus on the coal mining industry and its effects on local communities in the United States, as well as on the environment. Hopefully, my communications with these organizers will lead to one (or perhaps a few) women’s tribunal to be held in April or May – the two months leading up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, where the findings from this, as well as the fifteen other tribunals, will be presented.
Part of the organizing process includes a series of interviews to be conducted prior to the tribunal with members of groups we will be partnering with, mostly to collect information regarding the struggles of women affected by coal mining, as well as the coal industry’s role in poverty creation. I hope to conduct as many of these interviews as possible – and to compile them into background papers for the eventual tribunal – before my short time here is up.
So far, my internship really has been an eye-opener in the types of dialogue that occur at the international level, much of which – at least from my perspective – has been very encouraging. I look forward to continuing my exciting work, as well as learning more about the Loretto Community (preparations have already been made for a visioning retreat for our Loretto NGO office that I will be participating in!), for the rest of my time here, and am so glad I got the opportunity to work with such a wonderful supervisor and community!