Rachel Smith

I’d like to start by thanking NAWO, Serene Communications, and especially Zarin Hainsworth for this incredible opportunity and for making the trip to CSW62 possible, it was the best experience of my life and it’s difficult to put the impact it has had on me into words.

I learnt so much and had my eyes opened to the reality of so many issues that had never entered my mind before. For example: Did you know some cultures believe marrying a young girl will cure an older man of HIV/AIDs? Or that Queen Nzinga was a fearless and capable African queen who protected her lands and people from European colonisers? Or that there are people working tirelessly and persistently to ensure all women and girls have a better present, and future? I knew none of this prior to CSW62. I had a vague understanding that women were subject to consistent inequality, violence, and discrimination across the world, and that work was being done to help them, but meeting and listening to the voices and stories of women from all over the globe really brought home to me the scale and variety of issues that impact women. Another vital aspect was learning about all the positive ways people are helping improve the lives of women and girls, particularly in rural areas and through use of technology and the media, as this gives us hope for the future and enables us to contribute.

A key thing to take away from CSW62 is that women all over the world must stand together and support each other. Women in positions of power should not forget the many women still left behind, should tell their stories, lift them up, and help bring all women to the forefronts of all areas, and finally we might be able to achieve gender parity across the board. If there is one thing that the success of the #MeToo movement has shown us, it’s that no one is ever alone. We are connected, sisters, and by supporting each other we can make countless changes. I have also learnt that diversity in all areas is necessary, and it should be truthful and complete. Diversity is not diversity if only white straight women are being represented – there needs to be women of colour, women with disabilities, and LGBT+ women in the media and acting as role models because if the success of films like Hidden Figures and Black Panther can teach us anything, it’s how important seeing yourself represented is for how you perceive your self-worth and place in society. In the words of Geena Davis, ‘If she can’t see it, she can’t be it’.

The personal growth and development that I have experienced has given me skills and confidence that I was lacking before. My ability to open up a conversation, contribute constructively to discussion, and speak clearly to an audience has been improved massively over the course of CSW62, and I have achieved things I never thought would even be options for me – speaking at a side event for the United Nations!

I am eternally grateful for the entire experience, I fell in love with New York, and CSW62 has only reconfirmed my feminist ideals and helped me develop new ones. I fully intend to make as much change as I can, and after CSW62, I know there will always be people behind me.

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