Case Study: Sophie Durn

CSW60 was an experience that enabled me to learn not only about the people certain issues affect, but from the people themselves.

On the initial day of CSW60, I attended the Youth Forum in the United Nations, where we were introduced to 3 inspirational speakers who each spoke about their personal empowerments. One of the women, an acid attack survivor, specified “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”, a single quote that had a vast impact on many of us within the room.

On the first morning of CSW60, I found myself, purely by chance, at the “Developing a common feminist faith discourse to achieve Gender Equality” side event, where we were led through an action-based activity to interact with others without the use of words before discussing how gender equality is unable to be attained without gender justice. As an atheist who has been raised within a purely Christian household, this transformed my perception of the religious concepts of feminist theologies. The event that I spoke at was titled “Thinking beyond the possible: inspiring future female leaders” and was held by the Justina Mutale Foundation – a truly inspiration women who was African Women of the year as of 2012. The event was chaired by Rt Hon. Baroness Lindsay Northover (a Lord in the UK Parliament); I was able to get to know her more as the week progressed and have since been in contact with her in preparation for some future advice.  As well as this, Ben Howlett (MP for Bath on the Women and equalities committee), gave the Keynote address for the event and afterwards had a very positive attitude to my speech sharing it across all social media. The 1st Panel was opened by Mary Ehrsam, President of Global Youth Empowerment, Northeast Market and Operation Hope and followed by Sherry Dixon, Founder & CEO of Women on the Crossroads UK. Mary spoke about “The importance of Financial Well-being for women”, whilst Sherry discussed “The importance of mentoring women and girls for the betterment of communities worldwide”. My speech outlined “The Role of Young Women Leaders” and despite it being my first time giving a public speech, it went very well and resulted in people coming up to me throughout the week to discuss it and exchange details. After an in depth Q & A session, the 2nd Panel was introduced by Dr Yvonne Thompson, CBE who is the author of “7 traits of highly successful women on boards” and is also from the UK. She was followed by Elizabeth Ortiz who talked how we can “Unlock women’s leadership through education”, Ziphozihle Ntlanganiso who discussed “Raising Young Women’s voices for Leadership” and Nazzy Amin who highlighted “How diversity in Leadership is crucial to making the SDG’s a reality”. My action plan target is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life” all of which was reinforced by the individuals within my event, as well as those who attended the event.

On the Tuesday evening, I was privileged enough to attend the Ambassadors Reception in the UK Mission, where we learnt about the UK’s involvement with the United Nations and more specifically, the SDG’s. One of the most memorable moments at CSW happened at this event when I sat down to rest my foot and coincidently sat next to Tony Colman, an ex-MP who had also founded the popular firm Topshop. The Parliamentary Round Table was an awe-inspiring opportunity to interact with seven members of the UK Parliament in a way that would have been impossible without CSW. Throughout the discussion, we focused on “Consent within Sex Ed”, and how it is yet to be implemented after being requested by the majority of select committees, “Attitudes to women” with the Girl Guides #GirlsMatter campaign, and the “Campaign on FGM” where an international action is being planned. During the discussion regarding FGM, Baroness Northover spoke about a group of Somali girls in a school in Bristol who did well in GCSEs, but when a teacher treated them to go horse-riding it was discovered that 12 couldn’t due to having undergone FGM. As the tradition of FGM is often associated with other cultures, it was shocking to realise how close to home it has been happening, spurring many of us to consider how to take action.

I cannot fit nearly enough of my experiences in this report as I constantly met truly amazing people over the course of the week, all of which encouraged me to continue and left me more empowered than ever to make change in this world by helping those who are unable to help themselves. CSW has heightened my confidence, and allowed me to see that despite my age, I am able to contribute and have my voice heard. As a result of CSW, I am planning to implement a new scheme in Stroud High School called ‘Toilet Twinning’ where you raise £240 for a block of toilets in an underdeveloped country so that the girls are able to attend school, and in exchange you are given a framed photograph of their toilet to place in your toilet. In addition, I am continuing my action plan and working out steps to put in place so that it has the most impact.

By Sophie Durn | NAWO Youth Delegate