Saturday, March 3, 2012

Two Words: Instance II

Instance 2: How I stepped up

Part of WomenNC's mission is promoting the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW. When a group of us Fellows were invited to attend a panel discussion at the US Mission for the United Nations, we were presented with the opportunity to engage with Melanne Verveer, who is US Ambassador at large for Global Women's issues, among others.

I typically do not ask questions at sessions, unless I have one that is particularly pressing. Even in a classroom setting, I tend to address my questions after the fact because generally, any questions I have are answered by the end of the discussion or lecture. I realized, since Verveer has a personal connection to CEDAW, I decided to step up: I represented WomenNC, and I wanted to bring up the question of why the US hadn't ratified CEDAW, and I wanted to get my answer from the source.

After the discussion, the audience members were invited to ask the panelists our questions. I raised my hand, and and a microphone was passed my way. I'll admit: while I do a fair amount of public speaking, this felt out of my comfort zone. Still, I was here to step up - so I asked the question I'd rehearsed in my head.

I was called on, and I stood.

"I'm Anuja Acharya, and I'm a senior in political science at North Carolina State University. I have been working on and will present research relating to the political participation of women, and as part of my study, I have looked at CEDAW and its provisions relating to the political participation of women. My question is, why hasn't the US ratified CEDAW yet?"

And the room erupted with applause - so much so that I doubt anyone heard anything after "ratified."

Verveer explained the political difficulties of ratification - it's a complicated process, and it's not taking priority in the Senate. Several more questions were asked and addressed.

Afterwards, several audience members approached me and thanked me for bring up CEDAW. Really, though, my lesson here wasn't why CEDAW has been ignored or what Verveer could do about it - I had brought it to attention. That was my contribution. It might not be much, but I stepped up.

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