Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh, How Far We've Come!

Monday evening was the WomenNC Fellow's presentation at the UNA-Wake meeting at Meredith College. As I drove to the event with my presentation manuscript printed and seated safely in my bag, I felt at ease. My tranquility was a striking contrast to the feeling I had three months ago, right before our rehearsal presentation event at the Woman's Club of Raleigh.

Instead of feeling nervous about how my research on sex trafficking would be received by my audience, as I felt in February, I felt excited to meet the guests of UNA-Wake and share with them my findings. The atmosphere in the reception room at Meredith was warm and welcoming. The room was abuzz as everyone sat down at long tables to chat while we ate a dinner provided for guests before the presentations.

Kristen kicked off the presentation with a great overview of the United Nations framework for addressing human rights issues related to the status of women. While listening to Kristen share her impressions of CSW and the UN, I began to reflect on my own experience at the conference.

At CSW, I was able to learn so much more about my research topic: sex trafficking. I was extremely lucky to meet the women leading the crusade against the various forms of exploitation that cause sex trafficking. I surveyed the different approaches NGOs take to combating sex trafficking, which, upon my return, has given me a great comprehension of the current dialogue on the best anti-sex trafficking policy.

I feel equipped to share my ideas with others, from curious citizens, to organizations interested in combatting sex trafficking. Thanks to CSW, I have gone from an informed researcher, to an innovative activist. I am excited to continue to share my thoughts on sex trafficking and its various policies as I continue working within the nonprofit sector.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Maintaining the link between local and global

It's hard to believe that nearly two months have passed since the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. I have thought about CSW frequently as I have prepared for upcoming presentations to the North Carolina community, which will focus on the insights I gained from convening with worldwide activists at the global level and through my attendance at multiple sessions regarding sexual and reproductive health. I am looking forward to sharing these findings with North Carolinians and emphasizing how important it is that student fellowship programs exist to support young women and men's attendance at such gatherings.

As I have mentioned before, when you're at CSW, the energy and motivation of the thousands of people gathered is palpable not only in daily sessions, but all over the city in the restaurants, shops, and sidewalks where attendees frequent. While I still feel that excitement and passion at an individual level through my community and academic work that is based in feminist thought and practice, I find it challenging to link my daily activities to happenings at the U.N. two months later. Maintaining the connection between local and global struggles is essential, but difficult in daily life, especially when most people are unaware of international meetings and documents like CSW and CEDAW. On the local level, there are few spaces in which local and global feminist and anti-racist activism may be discussed, analyzed, linked, and critiqued, which is why I believe it is challenging to consistently link local and global struggles.

This brings me to the question: What significance do bodies like the U.N. play in the daily lives of NGOs and activists who are providing the supervision and resources to address people's marginalization? I believe that organizations like WomenNC exist to make the linkage between local organizations and global human rights bodies constantly discernible and present, but it is still tough to remember the importance of international human rights bodies when you are working to address people's concerns on a daily basis. Because CSW only lasts for two weeks, how can those who attend in person or virtually maintain the excitement, enthusiasm, and connections once they return to their daily work and demands? What role does the U.N. play in the lives of grassroots activists and NGOs prior to and following international conferences and meetings? I don't have the answers to these questions, but have been pondering them more recently and will continue to think about them as I finish up my semester and study human rights in a different context abroad this summer.