Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Women speaking out and being heard

I can't believe we've already been at the U.N.'s annual Commission on the Status of Women for two days. There are so many languages, nationalities, viewpoints, and experiences to absorb from the diverse array of women and men gathered in New York City from all around the world and each day passes by so quickly. One of the most interesting experiences I have had so far occurred on Monday during the NGO orientation and consultation day at the Salvation Army.

This day was full of stimulating speakers, including former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, all of whom addressed the 2011 CSW priority theme of women's and girl's access to and participation in training, education, science, and technology. During the afternoon, we broke out into smaller groups to discuss this theme more specifically and formulate recommendations to be given to CSW to better implement and realize this theme. Each of the four groups then presented back to the hundreds of women (and some men) gathered at the Salvation Army building about the recommendations they had developed. The floor then opened up for "talk backs," which meant that women could come up and clarify points made or insert their own opinions related to the 2011 priority theme or other women's issues.

What was amazing about this experience was seeing a concept I had heard so much about in my classes in person. I took a course last semester titled "Feminism, Sexuality, and Human Rights," in which I learned about the ways in which feminists, LGBTQ activists, and sex workers had mobilized to broaden the U.N.'s inclusivity of key sexual and reproductive health and LGBTQ rights issues into human rights documents. I heard so many times about feminists fighting for certain words (i.e. abortion) to get into human rights documents, but it's incredible to be in a room full of women who are taking part in this very act. Women from all over the world stood up to clarify their points and bring up women's rights issues that matter to them. One young woman from Iraq spoke about how incredible it was to be a part of this important and exciting gathering. Another woman from the U.K. spoke about the importance of making domestic work a paid and validated aspect of the economy. While some conclusions were made about the recommendations CSW would receive, I felt that it was equally, if not more important for women to express and have their opinions validated since the voices of women are so often unheard and unappreciated.

This kind of forum for the exchange of ideas and clarifications really made me see the important role that civil society can and does play in shaping human rights' agendas and policies. I could not help but think of all the women not in the room, though, and what viewpoints they would bring to such a meeting. I recognize and appreciate the important role that NGO's play in advocating for the millions of women who will never be able to attend the Commission on the Status of Women, but wonder how these women can be better heard and validated in global discussions pertaining to women's rights. I will continue thinking about this as the week goes on, but I am honored to be a part of this incredible gathering and am aware of the privileges I possess in being able to present and participate here.

1 comment:

  1. Kimmie, what a good observation and analysis! You did a great job with your presentation yesterday. Your contribution to CSW 55 has a great value. You make me proud!