Friday, March 17, 2017

The U.S. and the need to resist anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-refugee policies

I stopped by the General Assembly hall first thing in the morning to observe one of the official meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women. This morning’s focus was the “empowerment of indigenous women.” A representative from Guatemala advocated for the full equality of indigenous women noting that indigenous women deserve more than simply one paragraph in the agreed conclusions of this year’s session. The chair of the CSW is Ambassador Patriota from Brazil who is a man, and I could not help but reflect on the irony of having an international conference on women’s human rights led by a man. Thankfully, he seems quite feminist thus far, though I would prefer to see women in these leadership positions. After sitting in on this official meeting, I walked to the United States Mission to the United Nations building to attend a special NGO briefing with Ambassador Nikki Haley. My co-fellow Cristy and I were actually the first two to enter the room, so we got great seats near the podium. It was a small room with capacity for about 50 people and we were not allowed to record the event. Ambassador Haley did not arrive and as I watched the news later, I realized this was because she was busy praising Trump’s Muslim ban. The chair of NGO CSW NY asked a question to the Deputy U.S. Representative of the Economic and Social Council Stefanie Amadeo who came in her place about the fact that people signed up for CSW could not enter the United States this year for this meeting for women’s human rights. She mentioned that we might move to Geneva if people are unable to attend because of travel bans. Amadeo responded to every question with a vague and brief response that provided basically no information, and so this meeting was incredibly frustrating. However, it was fascinating to observe.
Right before I asked my question, a woman asked Amadeo why the United States included organizations such as C-FAM that are openly anti-LBGTQ into the United States representation to the United Nations. She brought up the fact that transwomen are being killed and asked what the U.S. will do about it. An argument broke out because a representative from C-FAM was in the room and directly contradicted what the first speaker had said. I was the next person to ask a question and I said: “I’d like to reiterate that I hope the United States does something to address the murder of transwomen in this country. I am Lauren Frey and I am a university student at North Carolina State University and given that 1 in 4 college students is a victim or survivor of sexual assault and 1 in 3 adolescents in the United States is a victim or survivor of dating violence, and Ambassador Haley was appointed by a president who has encouraged sexual assault, how will the United States work with the United Nations to tackle violence against women and intimate partner violence in our own country? While I did not receive any satisfying answer, most people in the room clapped for my question, which felt extremely validating.

After this briefing, I walked to the Armenian Convention Center to attend a session on the impact of corporate power on economic empowerment for women. I loved the start of this panel when the moderator mentioned that this event was designed to debunk the myth that economic empowerment for women can happen through small policy changes rather than radical change of economic systems. The numbers of worldwide economic inequality and corporate power are astounding. The revenues of Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Wal-Mart are higher than the gross domestic product of 110 countries, as an example. The statistics vary by year but in the last few years, the number of people at the top with the same amount of wealth as half of the world has reduced from around 60 to fewer than 10. Global capitalism, the privatization of everything, and corporate control of governments cannot persist if we are to achieve economic equality for women. Labor rights movements must be protected, unions must be protected, and corporate power must be challenged. Ideas to address some of this issues that are in the works include a global strike and strengthening labor rights movements through collaborative partnerships. After this session, I attended an event on Cities for CEDAW. It was wonderful to hear about the experiences of Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and New York City in passing CEDAW at the local government. My work with WomenNC writing my research report as served as an example of a gender analysis that is an essential part of the CEDAW process. Local governments should pass an ordinance establishing the principles of CEDAW, create an oversight body, conduct gender analysis research on the status of women and oppressed identities in their area, and allocate funding to support any resulting initiatives. We will be presenting at local Durham governments when we return and I hope to see Durham city and county adopt CEDAW. We ended the day at the NGO CSW 45th birthday celebration, a fun but crowded event with a giant cake. I have been particularly interested to see how the international community views the United States especially since POTUS 45 took office. People at CSW are resisting U.S. policies. There is a movement to set out an empty chair at panels to represent women who were blocked by anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-refugee policies. And there is a call to end policies of xenophobia and authoritarianism. I proudly support the resistance against misogyny, patriarchy, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, corporate power, environmental destruction, ableism, and any other forms of oppression and harm against people and this earth.


  1. Love seeing this great picture of you at the podium following your powerful blog post! I wish Ambassador Haley had shown up herself to answer your excellent question but am glad you experienced your own power in simply asking such a great question. Well-done!

  2. What a productive day Lauren!!