After hearing about CSW in New York a couple of years ago I knew it was something that I desperately wanted to do. Throughout my whole school career I have been passionate about equality and human rights and in particular, as a young woman myself, gender equality. I see and hear every day the challenges that women face just for simply being women and I wanted to know and even contribute towards what is being done to combat this worldwide. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what I would learn and do when actually there; at the United Nations in New York. But before actually getting there it was important to make sure I had an understanding of CSW as this was something worlds away from myself and my peers, it’s not just a visit to New York, we needed to know the ins and outs of CSW and the UN, the history, key terminology and important people and ideas within the movement. It was interesting to find out how, from being at CSW, new language is developed and implemented, like that of ‘harmful traditional practices’ rather than just traditional ones, used to draw light on issues such as FGM and child marriage. As well as this, I have been a member of ‘FEMSOC’ our school’s feminist society, something vital in raising awareness of gender equality and encouraging as many people as possible to do whatever they can to support the feminist movement, so that being a feminist isn’t stigmatised or criticised and so that not only girls and women but boys and men are actively involved in this fight towards equality because it cannot be done without them. I strongly believe that in order for us to one day see a world in which all people are treated the same, we have to start with the little things; at school, home and in the workplace. In New York, you learnt something new every day, whether that be something small like not to sit next to the door in an event if you want to actually hear the speaker, or something eye opening and inspiring, like one story I was told about a 7 year old girl who was raped by her own uncle early in the morning and found running down the middle of the street with blood running down her legs by another young man, who took her in his arms and managed to eventually bring the uncle to justice in court.
During the week I heard so many personal, real-life stories of the people who were there at CSW and others who couldn’t be there due to not receiving VISAs. Hearing their experiences first hand really brought to light the issues that people are facing around the world. You think that you’ve heard it all, that you know the hardships faced by women, but hearing these first hand makes it so much more real and has truly inspired me to continue to fight for women and their rights globally and to do something to see a different future for myself and generations to come. Something brought up a few times during the week was that rather than just talking about the same things every year at CSW, something needs to be done to really create change. I believe that focus needs to be directed towards education, in keeping children (boys and girls) in schools worldwide, incorporating as an integral part of the teaching system, why gender equality is crucial, how to achieve it and to normalise the idea that boys and girls can be anything they want to in the future, they can wear what they choose, express their true emotions and not have to live afraid of the other sex. It is so much harder to change the already known and accepted views that people are used to so why not build a future through the use of education, a fundamental human right.
I have only scraped the surface here of the things I did, learnt and have been inspired to do at CSW as I can assure you that it was a truly life changing experience that I would do 100 times over and for that I would like to thank UN Women for accrediting me and Serene Communications and Zarin Hainsworth greatly for making my experience a possibility. This is certainly something that I want do not want to leave behind.