Monday, March 11, 2019

CSW Day 2: Digital Spaces & Broader CEDAW Communitites

We started off today at Orientation Session where we learned about the difference between the NGO CSW Forum and CSW 63 which seek to, respectively, influence engagement and advocacy and create agreed conclusions by member states. Just like grassroot advocates and the U.N. operate in real life, the NGO CSW Forum and CSW 63 operated parallel to each other and complement each other well. Speakers during orientation session emphasized that we must perceive social protection systems not as a burden but as an investment in our society. Within education, a specific social protection system I am most familiar with, I truly have seen that when you invest in young people's academic as well as socio-emotional development - there are great gains for them and our communities.
Next, I participated in Building Safe and Empowering Digital Spaces for Women and Girls with Dr. Riemann which has been the most influential talk, session, and experience of my trip thus far. Due to my work developing a data platform for the military, research about women's participation in Uber, and mentorship of young people in computer science, I recognize both the limitations and power of technology in positively empowering citizens. During the session, the moderator and Vice Minister of Germany both stated that digital violence is a continuation of the violence in real life against women. Slovenia has made major strides in developing a new strategy plan that specifically cites cyber violence and cyber harassment against women as a problem. Additionally, the Secretary-General of Knesset was sitting next to me and shared that a young lawmaker passed a law, that penalized online sexual harassment for up to five years in prison. She emphasized that this legislation could make major strides in bringing awareness and legitimacy to cyber harassment as a crime. I was proud that my fellow seat neighbor made such great strides in advancing the rights of women in cyber space. Throughout this session, I strengthened my commitment in catalyzing greater equity of women in the realm of technology. The digital realm can be an empowering space for women, as demonstrated by the #MeTooMovement. However, when technology companies like Twitter and Facebook recognize the prevalence of cyber violence but refuse to apply human rights norms to the digital space or few countries have regulation against violence in cyberspace, the digital realm is currently maintaining the inferiority of women without intentional regulation or action by multi-lateral stakeholders. Like the Girls Rights in Society Sweden NGO described, digitalization can only be empowering when we get everyone on board - governments, tech companies, and civil society. I think about technology a lot, but, recently, I think about the ways it has perpetuated the gender and racial hierarchy of our physical world.
On a more positive note, we all presented our work today. Listening to Jada, Amelia, Kaitlyn, and Sara, I felt an immense sense of pride at our collective work in North Carolina. Until today, I couldn't see the bigger impact of our work so it was nice having other cities of CEDAW like San Francisco and Pittsburgh in the room, listening and supporting our work. I believe that we are stronger only when we lean into the communities we belong to. After today, I am looking forward into leaning into and being leaned on by the broader CEDAW community across the world.
I'd like to end today with a quick and dirty message: I LOVE NEW YORK CITY. I love that I can buy $4 pretzels, eat at a different diner every two blocks, walk incredibly fast, hail a cab across Times Square, and be in the  financial center of the world. More than those superficial facts, I feel like this city is a reflection of the person that I am - a curation of too much all at once but unapologetically so.

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