I have learnt an amazing amount from CSW and all the events that I attended. The first event I went to really stood out to me as something I hadn’t previously considered. It was about women and security, in particular the role of women in the military. It was fascinating to hear from women who had first-hand experience in the military. A woman who is currently the advisor to NATO made the point that women are lawyers and doctors, but also terrorists so why can they not be in the army? Many men believe women are biologically unable to do the same job, but NAWO Youth Delegate Alysha Bodman revealed how women can do the exact same job to the same standards under the same conditions as men. Rachel, a woman from the British Army highlighted the need of women to talk to women and civilians, as this is crucial for gaining information and ensuring the safety of citizens. She also mentioned the need to make the military situation safer and more appealing for women; currently women in the military sector are on the receiving ends of discrimination and violence from their male counterparts. This event opened my eyes to a whole new issue and made me realise the importance of women in the military sector. Another event that particularly affected me was an event chaired by Gavin Shuker about prostitution. There were seven survivors of prostitution present to talk and share their stories, all of whom had been forced into the horrendous industry by either their economic situation or exploitation. It was amazing to hear from a German ex prostitute as prostitution is legal in Germany, something which I had previously considered to be a fairly positive idea in the past. However she explained that making it legal made it no safer for the prostitutes and that she was unable to find any help. The Nordic Model was brought up several times as the best model to fight against prostitution, which supports the prostitute and criminalises the buyer. A member of the audience brought up the idea of the right to sell yourself versus the right not to be bought, but one of the speakers answered this by saying how when you’re a prostitute, you have no say on what happens to your body. This event was so powerful and I was so overwhelmed by the strength of these women who had been through horrific ordeals and it actually brought me to tears.
The event I spoke at was about redefining feminism, and I gave a speech about redefining feminism in light of the SDGs. On the panel was Hannah Gissane from YWCA Australia, Ziphozihle Justina from the Mutale Foundation, Noemi Grutter the Swiss Youth Delegate, Miranda Saul a NAWO Youth Delegate and Imen from WAGGGs Pakistan. Hannah spoke about the definition of leadership and how confidence prevents young girls from being leaders. Ziphozihle gave an African perspective on redefining feminism and the different cultural beliefs of superiority. Noemi spoker about instead of redefining feminism, redefining feminism’s aims. She focused on social media and the objectification of women, and the fact that sexual harassment has become far too normalised by society. Miranda focused on intersectionality, in particular trans-women and it was really interesting to break down the blanket feminism and see how some women are worse off than others due to their race or religion etc. Imen highlighted the fact that in Tunisia, feminism is a dangerous word and is portrayed in a completely distorted light. It was incredible to hear from her as I take my freedom of speech for granted; I can be a feminist without fear of harm but in many countries people do not have this liberty. The floor then opened up for questions, and one of the main debates was whether feminism needed rebranding. Many people, including Labour MP Jess Phillips, believed that we shouldn’t change the definition or brand of feminism to interest men. However others believed that feminism is everyone’s problem and thus we need the whole world behind it. Personally I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the word feminism, but we need to remove the disconnect between the word and the meaning to ensure everyone understands what feminism is really about.
Coming away from CSW, I have learnt a great deal, not only about the issues we face, but also the role I can play. Giving my speech and participating in discussions really heightened my confidence and made me realise that despite my young age and fairly limited expertise, people will listen to me and I can get my voice heard. I met some amazing people over the course of the week, who made me feel extremely encouraged and also overwhelmed at the things they have experienced and achieved. I now feel more empowered than ever and CSW has opened my eyes to the things we can, and will achieve.
CSW spurred on a new motivation to start on my action plan, and this was to raise awareness about feminism in my community. I want to get feminism more into the curriculum at my school and at the boys’ school next door. I think it is so important to educate boys as well as girls about sexism because a large proportion of young people do not realise it is still a problem. Many of the events I attended at CSW focused on sexuality and having learnt so much about this particular area I have decided to make it the theme of my action plan. Boys and girls need to be taught about sex, porn, prostitution and sexual violence as it is currently not talked about enough. I would like to raise money for charities campaigning to end violence towards women and get both of the schools involved.
By Maya Wilson