To begin with I would like to thank NAWO for accrediting me and Serene Communications for organising it all, and making such an unforgettable trip to CSW62 possible. I am truly grateful to everyone who supported me through this process. My time at CSW was brimming with new information which I couldn’t possibly include in one testimonial so in this I will write about the most valuable experiences and lessons I took away from my time there.
I attended an event by Medical Women’s International about women doctors achieving gender equality/empowerment in a rural setting. The event was very interesting and one panellist covered the issue of cervical cancer within rural areas. Despite cervical cancer being one of the only cancers that we know the cause of – the HPV virus – along with effective preventative methods (e.g. HPV vaccine) having been devised for it, one woman still dies from cervical cancer every two minutes. This is due to a lack of information and thus awareness in some rural areas of the world. This, I felt, fed into a larger theme at CSW of how we can begin to raise awareness around issues such as sexual health e.g. through the use of social media. This really opened my eyes to the need for accurate and comprehensive information about sexual health for women.
CSW also revealed to me, on many occasions, the existence and nature of harmful traditional practices and help to close the emotional and cultural distance I felt with these topics. This included such practices as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child and forced marriage. The most shocking case that we heard at a side event regarding prostitution was of a young girl from South Africa who committed suicide after being raped and forced into a marriage by her uncle to one of his friends for eight cows. This really put forced marriage into perspective for me. Through child marriage we learnt of child widows, and the on-going struggle they face in not being recognised in the outcome document and often being unheard of in the public sphere.
The final aspect of the event which I really enjoyed was learning about the subtleties of language employed by the UN to ensure their outcomes are robust and watertight. This year in particular was the debate between the use of “women from rural areas” over “rural women”. Compelling arguments were made for both, and whilst listening to these debates I was made to consider the implications of language in a way I never had before.
Again I would like to thank everyone who enabled me to play a part in CSW62 as my time there has inspired me to help spread the message of gender equality. I look forward to what my future brings as a result of my time spent at CSW, but more importantly to our future as a global society in achieving gender equality.