We'll start seeing more lasting peace when women get more seats at the negotiating table.

Peace agreements last 35% longer when women are involved in the negotiating process. But too often, they're not.

For most of human history, war and peace have been decided at tables full of men. But as the world moves slowly but surely towards more gender equality, the contributions of women to the peace process are becoming more prevalent and more visible. Women have always played a big grassroots role in building peace; they've just largely been excluded from formal decision-making processes that have the power to create lasting change.

Such exclusion has a cost for humanity. According to research shared by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations, peace agreements in which women meaningfully participate are 35% more likely to last 15 years or more. And yet between 1990 and 2017, women made up only 2 percent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators, and 5 percent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.


That's a problem.

Women are effective peacemakers, but multiple barriers still keep them away from formal negotiating tables.

Jennifer Bradshaw, Program Officer for Women PeaceMakers at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego, says that safety and security are big obstacles for women working for peace. She told Upworthy:

"Given the countries and cultural contexts women peacebuilders are operating in, more times than not they are taking on greater security risks than their male counterparts. While this is the case, they are the ones who are not provided the security and protection they need to build peace. What is more, they are often the caretakers of dependents — and hold a greater level of responsibility to ensure their children and extended family are safe. Women peacebuilders have to make decisions around building peace, or taking on great personal risk to themselves and/or family, or even flee their country to seek refuge."

Another barrier stems from "traditional power structures where “big men” still dominate," says Bradshaw. "In such societies, women are viewed as second-class citizens and excluded from any areas of influence and power—and, even if they manage to enter these areas, views or concerns marked as 'feminine' are less likely to be taken seriously."

Women also struggle to get the funding and support they need to get to the table, Bradshaw adds:

"Even if all other obstacles are removed for women, at the end of the day, they still need support and resources to be physically present at the peace building table. Unfortunately, women do not have access to simple things such as funding to purchase plane tickets and lodging to be present at peace talks. Or visa regulations are preventing them from being present in countries where peace talks are occurring (e.g., Yemen peace talks being held in Sweden). These obstacles are keeping out vital voices and perspectives, and ensuring only a small subset of society, the elite, are present at peace talks."

Programs like Women PeaceMakers and Women Waging Peace provide support for women doing this important work.

The Kroc School at University of San Diego is deeply invested in women who are building peace locally and globally. Its Women PeaceMakers program, which is in its seventeenth year,  works with leading women peacemakers from around the world to collaborate on improving peace efforts. In 2016, the school became home to the Women Waging Peace network, and the two programs bring together over 1,000 women peacebuilders from 55 different countries to share insights and opportunities.

"We work alongside women who are countering violent extremism, protecting human rights, building transparency and rule of law within their governments, helping re-educate and reintegrate former militarized soldiers, negotiating local and global peace agreements, bringing vital perspective to traditional security and military operations and operating directly within the security sector," says Bradshaw.

"We work with these women to document their stories and insights, learn and share their lessons, connect them with each other to amplify their impact. Together we develop powerful new strategies to end violence and build peace on both local and global scale."

On International Women's Day March 8, four extraordinary women will share their peacemaking insights.

The Kroc school's Women PeaceMakers Fellowship supports the work of extraordinary women peacebuilders. The fellowship is a highly competitive program for women who have been working on the front lines of conflict for 10 to 20 years, and four are chosen each year from 100 to 150 applicants.

Four previous fellowship recipients are taking over the @WomenPeaceMaker Twitter account for International Women's Day, sharing their stories and experiences and lessons, and engage in conversations.

Bradshaw says the social media takeover is an effort to amplify the voices of women peacemakers doing extraordinary work most of us don't see: "These are voices that are often silenced, dismissed and ignored. This is despite the vitalness of their expert words, insights and knowledge on how to build more peaceful communities."

Here are the women taking over the @WomenPeaceMaker account:  

  • Wazhma Frogh (@FroghWazhma) of Afghanistan. She is the director of the Women & Peace Studies Organization, one of the few civil society organizations in Afghanistan that is working for women’s inclusion in security sector reform processes, with a particular focus on women in the police force.
  • Jane Anyongo (@nyasigoti) of Kenya. She is the founding director of the Polycom Development Project, based in Africa’s largest informal settlement, Kibera, and the founder of Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness.
  • Stella Sabiiti of Uganda. She is the founder of the Center for Conflict Resolution, an NGO addressing conflicts in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region. In 2012, she joined the AU’s Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD), strengthening African women’s voices to be heard in peace processes within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the AU’s Gender Architecture (AUGA).
  • Irene Santiago (@irenesantiago) of The Phillippines. She is Chair Emerita and CEO of the Mindanao Commission on Women, and convener of the national Mothers for Peace movement. She is well known internationally as a strong advocate of gender equality to transform society.

We can support women working for peace by amplifying their voices and sharing the contributions they make to build peace around the world. We can also find ways to work for peace in our own communities and countries.

"We all have the potential to be peacebuilders," says Bradshaw. "If you ask any of our women peacebuilders we work with, they believe they are average people. They are average people who made important decisions at key points. Anyone can do this. So when you see injustice, oppressions, violence — do not ignore it. Do not be complacent, do not shy away from having hard conversations — the time for this is over."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.