Holistic view of UNCSW-61 by Prof. Dr. Ainun Afroza
The United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women (UNCSW) invites representatives from all over the world, in March of every year, to the UN Headquarters, New York. This year the 61st session took place from March 13 to 24. More than 3,900 civil society representatives from 138 countries participated in this great event. Voice of Women for Peace (VOW), Canada, also sent around 20 women representatives. These enthusiastic and passionate women travelled to NY and actively engaged themselves in a variety of events. I have been one of this magnificent people for the last three years.
This year the weather in New York was not very friendly. However, we never failed to attend the breakfast meetings at 7:30 am in Manhattan, though we were staying in different far off places. We attended sessions either inside the UN-HQ or at outside venues. We chose the sessions according to our own preferences and sometimes guided by our team leaders, Janis Alton or Marilou McPhedran. This year we had a good number of representatives from the Indigenous communities of Manitoba.
There was a special session by our 18-year-young member, Kasha, who impressed the audience by showing her film on global citizenship. We interacted with people from all backgrounds, colours, cultures and places of the world. There were fantastic and informative sessions on water, climate, economy, gender-based violence, women’s empowerment, legal issues, health, media, education and other relevant issues that influence and shape women’s lives. The movie on child marriage, Daughter, brought tears to our eyes. We women lived these two weeks in harmony, shared our food and lodging, spent time together, and survived on the minimum, forgetting our personal comfort.
Reflecting back, I feel the joy of collecting a great resource in my piggy bank: the resource of connecting with people. This connection with women from different backgrounds provided me with new perspectives, ones which I value as a great treasure. I also had something in common to discuss with everyone I have spoken to. It was like unity in diversity. I am sure there is something in each woman which is common with another.
However, I was quite upset when I attended the sessions on Indigenous populations of different countries. I realized that they have been passing through difficult times for decades. I felt very uncomfortable hearing their stories. In poorer nations people are in distress and the women live subhuman lives, but it is more heartening when women in affluent societies also have the same pains. I was upset knowing the miseries of their lives. I reflected back at night and discussed with friends the practical initiatives we can make to change the lives of Indigenous women in Canada. I believe no one should be left behind in a prosperous society, no one should be deprived of his/her basic rights. Everyone should live up to their full potential and get as much as they deserve.
As a physician and educator, my heart aches for those under-served communities. Before doing anything else, I wish to do something for our Indigenous population. I want to do some research, communicate with the policy makers, and go into the field to help the Indigenous population of Canada, to provide what help I can with the resources I have: my own knowledge, skills, warmth, and heart full of love.