Beyoncé was right; girls really do run the world! Not all of society really thinks this way, but at least the United Nations recognizes it.
I had the distinct honor in participating in the 61st year of Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) Conference at the United Nations. Myself and three other volunteers attended panels through the UN and a dozen of non-governmental organization (NGO) side events in a course of a two week period. Thanks to my amazing supervisor, I was able to attend two full days of the CSW conference, as well as a variety of evening panels throughout the two weeks.
A topic of conversation that struck me the most was this concept of equity versus equality. Equity and equality are two extremely different things. The definition of equality is treating everyone the same. Although that seems like the dream goal for gender rights, it truly isn’t. Equality does promote fairness but if everyone doesn’t start from the same place, the creation of this ideal standard is not actually equal. That’s why we need equity, which is giving extra support to make every person successful. The difference is not the end goal; the difference is the start goal. One of the workshops I attended was intersectionality. There were many individuals talking at this panel, one of them being a black transgender female. This woman fights for race, transgender, and women’s rights. It has not been easy for her and there have been very difficult times for her. Her actions and others in the panel were truly inspiring. People from all different faiths, genders, life experiences, etc. have all called others to act on fighting for what they believe is right: equity, not equality.
Another passion of mine is LGBTQ+ rights. I am a straight, hetero-normative woman. Through the inspiring individuals that I have met in this community, I have loved to bring to light this understanding of identity and marriage equality. I attended a panel sponsored by Canada called, “Successes and Barriers for LBT Women’s Economic Empowerment.” Two women in this particular panel stood out to me. Derricia Castillo-Salazer, a women from Belize who has a wife and a son of her own. She addressed the issue that even though she has been with her partner for many years, Belize doesn’t recognize her relationship. They are considered “roommates” instead of partners. She addresses the issue that men and boys should also be in the conversation of women’s and LGBTQ rights, which can help create the visibility of LBT women in Belize. The other woman was Chloe Schwenke, a Trans woman from the United States. “Trans individuals are not safe in the workplace, or any place for that matter,” she stated. She listed off the little statistics that she has because transgender community “doesn’t exist” in the eyes of our own country. Here are some facts Chloe did find:
· 68% of trans women have no authentic documentation
· 47% of trans women have faced sexual assault
· 29% of trans women live in poverty
· 15% of trans women are unemployed, which is three times the American Standard
· 30% of trans women are homeless
The last day of my UN adventure was watching Dukhtar, an independent movie. Taken place in a small Pakistani village, it shows of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter fleeing from their beloved home on the eve of a child marriage to a tribal leader in his late 50’s. It is the trip of their lives, in a matter of life and death. The mother-daughter duo meets many interesting people, including a traveler who at the end of the movie became a dear friend and fellow companion. What was incredibly special about the showing was the director was presenting the movie. Afia Nathaniel mentioned that she wanted to create an image of an actual refugee situation in Pakistan. While attending Columbia University for film, she was “being called back to [her] homeland”, where she worked a total of two years to film. This movie spoke to me on many levels. It demonstrated a mother’s love for her daughter at all costs. This mother would go to great lengths and even in immediate danger to save the life of her child. Her story touched individuals both in the story and watching the story. I didn’t know much about the difficult experiences of refugee families, especially women. Refugee women are incredibly resistant. They have higher levels of PTSD and often carry the anxiety and stress of their children as well. If you have never seen this movie, watch it. It is truly inspiring and takes you inside the lives of so many individuals who live in constant fear.
I didn’t realize how much of a dream it would be to attend an once-in-a-lifetime conference. I met so many individuals from all over the world STRIVING to make a difference in the lives of women. As a feminist, I recognize that the United States isn’t doing their part to bring an idea of gender equity into practice. However, attending this conference allowed me to get out of this independent thinking of “the problems of America” and see how the world is taking a stand on this issue. I am in awe of the amount of countries, both first world and third world, that have this similar issue. It may not be in the workplace that I was so used to hearing. It could be in the long travels to a foreign country to escape their war-torn country. It could be within their home country, trying to find a way to shatter the stereotype that only men need to be in their local government. It could be advocating as a colored transgender female just finding their voice.
I have learned so much during CSW61. It has been over a month since the conference and I am still in awe of the amount of knowledge I have learned. I cannot thank GSV, The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, the UN, and God enough for the incredible opportunity to be a part of this conference.
Written by Emily Mazzola
Washington Heights Community
Family Foster Care, 16-17