Since I was fortunate enough to have received a handmade, traditional Raikhaing Burmese dress made by contributor Nwe Oo and her Weaving Through Change initiative, I had to wear it to her birthday celebration, especially since we planned to introduce 50 Women, Book One to the Burmese community. They were quite supportive, mainly because many of the issues Nwe details in her story are prevalent in Thailand, Bangladesh and Burma as the persecution of undocumented Burmese refugees continues. I wrote about Nwe before in a previous post prior to the publication of the book. She has quite the community of supporters!
I also met a woman making history- the first Burmese candidate for the Mrs. Universe title! Valerie is competing in Belarus soon and plans to wear the clothes of the different ethnic groups of Burma. She’s the statuesque one in the pink dress.
Jessica Buchleitner and Nwe Oo
With Valerie – Mrs. Universe contestant and first ever from Burma
50 Women, Book One in the women’s history month section at Books Inc.!
Jessica Buchleitner in traditional Burmese Rahaiking dress in front of Books Inc. – Berkeley, CA store with 50 Women, Book One
On March 20, Boona, Masha, Nwe and I spoke to a packed house at Books Inc.! Each of them hosted 10 minute discussions on the topics in their stories from 50 Women, Book One. Masha discussed her upbringing in the former Soviet Union, detailing the fall and its impact on Moldova at the time. She also answered questions about the Transnistria conflict and her shift in perspective after moving to the United States and starting the El Shadahi project.
Nwe was able to provide a detailed overview of the situation of undocumented refugees in Thailand. She explained her birth on the Bangladesh – Burma border and her work in Dhaka city as a journalist and advocate for the displaced while emphasizing the need to correct the citizenship issues of the Burmese refugees in Thailand. A refugee three times over, Nwe finally gained citizenship in the United States for the first time ever in her early 30s.
Boona read from her story a passage about the death of her son that I have detailed in this blog before since it is so utterly powerful. She also discussed her work with children in Vietnam during the Vietnam war and her 40 years of serving the homeless community in Berkeley, CA.
You can view the complete album from this event here.
Boona, Nwe and Masha at Books Inc.
After four years of attending the annual Commission on the Status of Women meetings at the United Nations, it was finally a long awaited honor to be able to present 50 Women, Book One there. I attended the conference with two contributors- Nwe Oo and Siobhan Neilland (Book Two). I will soon be publishing a debrief with all of the updated activity of member states towards the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for Action. Until then, some photos from the conference are available below or you can view the complete album here.
Jessica Buchleitner at United Nations General Assembly building
Jessica Buchleitner, Nwe Oo at the United Nations CSW59
WIN Board Officers – Nwe Oo, Lenka Belkova and Jessica Buchleitner
Speaking on panel about 50 Women, Book One with WNN at United Nations
United Nations CSW 59 panel
With enthusiasm 50 Women, Book One was adopted into a young readers book club at Books Inc. Contributor Pauline and I were invited to attend one of the meetings where she spoke about her contribution to the book and the hardships she endured growing up in Cameroon.
The last 9 months have been quite the journey with 50 Women, Book One out that I have managed to get a few photos of the contributors with the book. Of course these are only a handful as there are 30 women in this book. Perhaps one day I will have a photo of all of them together! More posts to come.
From left – Boona Cheema, Jessica Buchleitner, Nwe Oo, Masha Maslova
Masha Maslova signing 50 Women, Book One
Padma Shandas and Jessica Buchleitner
Nwe Oo with 50 Women, Book One
Jazz Vocalist Thuy Linh and Jessica Buchleitner
Jessica Buchleitner and Editor Nancee Adams- Taylor
Jessica and Pauline at Books Inc.
To see all photos, please visit the full album here.