Thursday, March 16, 2017
I began my day at the Salvation Army Auditorium, where human rights defenders from India, the Caribbean, and Columbia shared their stories at a panel hosted by MADRE. MADRE is a feminist, anti-colonialist human rights organization that sustains grassroots movements across the globe and supports their efforts to build community and stand up for their rights. The executive director, Yifat Susskind opened with a few remarks about the global climate, which is experiencing a surge in totalitarian and fascist rule. In the words of one of Susskind’s friends from Iraq in reference to the travel ban, “George Bush set my house on fire. Trump locked me inside.” However, the panel also emphasized that while the planet is experiencing an uptick in totalitarian, fascist violence, it is merely a continuation of the white supremacist patriarchal exploitation that underlies most of our power structures. Each panelist reiterated the importance of not only refusing to normalize the current state, but also to not concede that the level of human rights violations occurring a decade ago was acceptable. Instead, they say, leftists should normalize their vision for the future.
Then I participated in a panel on empowering women economically and politically, which was hosted by Girls Learn International. At this panel I shared the stage with amazing young women who have already taken the lead in their communities. Talking to these girls and hearing their stories was incredibly inspiring and I was compelled to do what I can to be the same light to others. Mentorship is crucial to sustaining movements, and I will commit to encouraging and supporting young women in any way that I can as I move forward.
After the panel, I attended most of the lunchtime training session hosted by the NGO CSW. This informative session brought members from countless NGOs together to learn about how to influence the UN deliberations at the conference. Some NGOs are at the UN in hopes of changing the language of the official conclusions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to further their agendas in their own countries. This is interesting in light of the realization that the proposed conclusions neglect to mention LBTQ rights. From what I learned at the session, it is possible to influence representatives by trying to schedule meetings with them, approaching them at side events, and more.
Next I attended a panel hosted by Cities for CEDAW to hear about the experiences of cities that have taken action to affirm the human rights of women. I learned that LA is on the verge of releasing its first official gender equity report and that the Mayor issued an executive order directing each city department to take measures to address women’s rights. The biggest challenge LA encountered was collaborating with the fire department to recruit more women to the department. The other main case study was that of New York, which has yet to pass CEDAW, though it has already passed more than 10 policies in pursuit of gender equity. Among the laws passed in the city are paid sick leave, paid family leave, and paid safe days off (days taken off to cope with domestic violence). It also raised the minimum wage to $15 as part of their Level the Paying Field initiative to close the 11 percent gap among New Yorkers. I am hopeful now that CEDAW provides an excellent framework for legislators that can lead to progressive, feminist agendas at the local level.