In many ways, this was our first public appearance as a group and I believe we represented ourselves and WomenNC proudly. The event gave us an opportunity to introduce our topics and also participate in a relaxed group panel discussion with our moderator, Eleanor Smeal. She is highly regarded among gender advocates in the United States and abroad as a pioneering feminist, a gifted orator and an inspiring presence. She has twice been the President of the National Organization for Women and remains active as a lobbyist in D.C. It was invigorating to share the stage with her and listen to her thoughts on the way forward for true gender equality.
We were asked to comment on a wide range of topics in addition to fielding questions from an inquisitive audience. My favourite question was asked by Ms. Smeal. She inquired as to how our experiences thus far and future experiences at CSW were likely to affect our futures. All answered with poise; many Fellows commenting on how this experience has caused them to look inwards, galvanizing their passion for women's rights. Personally, I spoke as to how I realized that being an advocate for gender equality and human rights can always be a core activity of my life--it need not be mutually exclusive to pursuing a career in finance, or law, or public health.
One thing that impressed me during the event was the feedback I received after exiting the panel discussion. For one, I was able to connect in person with lovely women from NCWU, the organization with whom I have partnered. Secondly, I was approached many times by audience members who wanted to express to me how important they felt it was that I, a man, was also on stage speaking about the importance of women's rights. One woman told me about her son, who recently decided to major in Women and Gender Studies at Appalachian State University. Specifically, she recounted how it was reaffirming for her to know that young men everywhere are getting involved in these issues.
These experiences have reaffirmed for the thousandth time my interest in making the most of my experience at CSW in just a few short weeks. Speaking with audience members affirmed the importance of strong networking during the conference. The diversity present at our event also reminded me of how multifaceted the women's rights movement is. In order to maximize my time at CSW, I will spend some time looking into other Fellows' topics in greater detail. I think it is important we have some understanding of a wide range of issues so that we are more comfortable entering panels and discussions on topics in which we have not specialized.
All in all, I'm feeling reaffirmed and ready to tackle final preparations during the next few weeks.