Internationally minded conference hopes to benefit the impoverished

The Second International Women of the Mountains Conference works on helping women and children living on mountain-sides worldwide. Courtesy of Stock.xchange

Following a tradition set in 2007, the Second International Women of the Mountains Conference will be held on campus March 8-9.

The conference came about because of an initiative made during the United Nations-sponsored Bishkek Mountain Global Summit 2002, during which the summit noticed a need for global teamwork to help impoverished people inhabiting the world’s mountains.

In 2007, the conference drew 110 women leaders from around the world. They discussed wide-ranging problems that mountain dwellers face today.
For example, a research team discovered that most government bodies do not even account for indigenous peoples in their constitutions.

This year, international ambassadors, UN executives and other foreign dignitaries will come to discuss similar challenges for people of the mountains, especially women and children in developing nations.

As for why the conference focuses on women and children from mountain nations as opposed to impoverished people in general, Associate Vice President of the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy Rusty Butler, one of the conference’s organizers said, “Most of the impoverished people in the world come from mountain nations, countries like Bolivia, Napal and Afghanistan.”

There are a number of reasons for that. Take, for example, altitude. It impacts agricultural production and living conditions because of severe weather which makes it hard to survive. There are exceptions of course – such as Switzerland and Austria – but for the most part, mountainous regions are hard to live in.

“Women and children seem to take the brunt of problems, no matter where they are in the world,” Butler said. “Human trafficking, for example. Traffickers aren’t as interested in men as they are women and children.”

Lecturers and panelists will discuss some of the issues that particularly face women living in mountainous regions in developing countries. The keynote speaker, Afghan Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs Palwasha Kakar, will be the first of two days’ worth of events.

The conference will begin March 8 at 8 a.m. in LI 120. It is open to the public.