Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Day 4: More realizations
Journal 4: - CSW
I started off my day at a session on recharging our activism through art and I was in for a treat to say the least. The session began with Lois Herman from WUNRN showing slide after slide of images featuring abused and oppressed around the world, from female genital mutilation in Nigeria to child marriages in India. I was genuinely unsure what these images had to do with art and activism, but I remained silent. We were then addressed by a woman named Patty Melnice who “rescued” women in South Africa who had been victims of rape. Patty went on to claim she was “the voice of those who lost theirs”. She explained that she revealed to these women their value through her work. It was extremely disheartening to once again be at a panel in which the “white savior complex” was fully embraced.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who realized the presentation was truly messed up. The older white woman sitting next to me named Irene, turned to me immediately, when the first racialized images of oppressed “third world women” flashed by our screens and said, “This doesn’t seem right”. Later during the panel, Irene spoke up about her discomfort, which led me to express mine as well. As nerve racking as it was to condemn a panel in front of a full room of people, I was relieved to have spoken up; to have had a voice. So many times, injustices go unspoken and often times the voices of women of color go unheard. I thanked Irene for using her privilege to spark a much needed dialogue at the panel.
If there’s anything that has been stressed to me at the sessions I’ve attended since being at CSW, it’s the importance of local solutions and the power of local communities. The session I attended after on rural women and their role in sustainable development was the complete opposite of the previous and it restored hope in my heart. I was relieved to be greeted by a fully diverse panel, featuring rural women from all over the world who discussed they their ideas for sustainable development. Rural women don’t lack the strategies for addressing issues in their communities, they need connections. They need forums in which their voices can be heard, and CSW is the perfect place for that.
Despite an unfortunate panel at the beginning of my day, I was so grateful to learn so many things today and hear from such passionate women. There’s always something we can learn from someone else. There’s a certain power in different perspectives. Until next time!