Linda and Christine’s UNCSW Reflections
By Linda Evans-Dyer and Christine Schaefer
On behalf of Christine and myself, we were truly honoured to participate for our first time as members of VOW in the UN study group to the Commission on the Status of Women: Beijing +20 Platform in New York City for the 2nd week of March events. Our first event was the VOW Co-Sponsored Symposium on Women’s Rights to Dignity, Security and Justice at Fordham Law School where we were kindly directed by the panel to introduce ourselves to Janis and Joan from VOW. We were impressed by Janet Gerson’s words on Accountability and Opportunities for Civil Society while referring to the handmade quilts of deceased created after the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh. We were invited to form discussions groups to share our ideas on the questions: who is responsible? Are we implicated? What can citizens do to stop violators? Ideas from our group were excellent: moral imperative, early education, making noise and use of the social media. The panel listened to each group’s opinion and formed a summary that made us all feel we had contributed positively. Christine and I continued our discussion trying to connect the dots of this new language to us. Neither of us have studied Political Science, so much of the terminology and concepts were new to us. Certainly in our lives our paths have encountered violence against women, victims of hate, environmental concerns thus we are strongly motivated as well by worldwide conflicts and security issues at home, to be involved with the peace movement.
We both felt great admiration for all the hard work of organising this trip by Janis Alton and her team. We were impressed with Joan’s commitment and spirit. Both women deserve full credit for their efforts in completing the ethical imperative on Confronting Militarism with signatures of UN women at the conference. All women at our breakfast meetings were delightfully kind and insightful. Our meetings clarified for my friend and I which events to attend and we looked forward to hearing about those others had attended on the following morning. We felt very welcome at the Quaker House and were glad to hear of the trust that organization has built over the years in many countries worldwide. The NGO briefing every morning at the UN brought to our attention the process of the resolutions and new involvements by Youth Groups as well as answering any questions which could help NGOs accomplish their goals. It was always on a very polite and hopeful tone by Soon Young-Yoon and Bandana Rana. I personally found the Chapel at the Church Centre a calm and peaceful place to hear a panel from Womens Major Group with a speaker from WEDO (Women’s Environment and Development Org). The audience drawn to this topic were younger and included men.
Thanks to Valerie’s guidance, I learned my way around the UN, took note of the horrific photographs of Syrian prisoners, and attended the best event for me in the UN building, the side event on Ebola by the Mano River Union. Ministers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone spoke on the count down to zero of cases and the need for more aid for the Post Ebola Recovery. Being so current, this subject was full of emotion and sincerity in thanking all women on the front lines as well as cooperating governments and commending worldwide response to get this disease under control. This is what I hoped to hear because often people say to me that the UN is not working or getting anywhere. Thanks to our trip with VOW to the UN I have some explanations and statistics to prove otherwise!
There were many events of interest, I would have loved to attend such as Extremism, Femicide in Dominican Republic, Engaging Men as Agents of Change, Mental Illness, Women’s Empowerment and Leadership, Lawyer Without Borders, Documentary called Eggsploitation, and any events that would give me better insight to the plight of women from the Middle East, Asia, India as well as Africa. To see the beautiful dresses and hats of the African women and talk to the Brazilian who supplied all of us with pink whistles to send a message to stop rape, we were amongst an outstanding crowd and are ever thankful to VOW for this enrichment of our lives!