Day 2 of the Commission on the Status of Women was cancelled after the UN was shut down for a blizzard hitting New York. But that didn't stop the delegates keeping up the good work!
Today has given me an insight into the passion, the strength and the ingenuity of the women surrounding me at CSW. There was a blizzard that closed down the UN and all of the day's events were canelled. But not even damaging winds and snow could stop us - we kept on fighting; we havent stopped through years of patriarchy, a little snow wasn't going to stop us today. The International Womens Development Agency held their event on women's political leadership and economic empowerment entirely online. A session on religion and reproductive rights for women and girls was held at the UNFPA by a small group of women who dared brave the snow. And this evening I attended a session on violence against Indigenous women, held by the Canadian Mission to the UN.
The speakers were incredible, talking about the issues facing Indigenous women in the US and Canada, and the solutions they are working on.They spoke about the trauma that colonial oppression has inflicted on Indigenous women, and how that disempowerment makes us more succeptible to violence. They spoke about the lack of Indigenous female voices in governments. As Canadian Indigenous woman Francyne Joe said, "it is naive to think problems in Indigenous communities will be solved without Indigenous women."
"Until we put an end to the violence we will continue to wear the wounds that prevent us from moving forward." These words should be heeded, I will take them home because they are relevant to our Indigenous communities, and, I hope, the Australian Government listens to the wise words of Ms Joe - they may learn something.
What was just as incredible was the fact that so many people turned up; more than 100 people packed into the tiny room. It just goes to show our thirst to learn more, the energy that is filling the halls of CSW and the passion in the hearts of each of us, turning up in less than ideal conditions.
Something I have seen more than once in the past few days is that strong women and girls are the building blocks to change, and I'm witnessing that truth amongst the women I meet, the women I hear speak, the women whose stories have been told (and the ones who could not make this year's CSW because of their trouble getting visas), the women who pulled on an extra pair of socks this morning to brave the blizzard, and the two wonderful young women - Lauren and Harpreet - who have been standing alongside me since my feet left Australian soil.
We all have our fight to fight each day no matter how small. Today, I feel we collectively won agaisnt the blizzard.
Day 4 was a snow day - with a blizzard forecast and emergency warnings distributed, the UN and most of NYC shut down for the day. The blizzard turned out to just be heavy snow fall, so during the day the girls and I were able to catch up on our jetlag, and in the evening we attended a side event run by the Canadian government, which had been relocated from the UN building, to the Canadian permanent mission to the UN.
The learnings from the session was consistent with a remark made by Francyne Joe, one of the panellists: "A nation cannot exist without the hearts of their women". The panellists each spoke of devastating violence and discrimination statistics; to which Keira remarked a striking similarity to the experiences of Indigenous Australians. Additionally, the speakers also recounted various stories of resilience by the women in their communities. Cherrah Giles reminded the attendees that "[the] movement was founded with women meeting in their homes", and from such the endemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women was pushed to the forefront of the national agenda, reduced gendered violence statistics in one particular community by 60%, and to continue to repair colonialist damage, created land based healing initiatives. For me, this session stressed the importance of women collaborating to create change.
With thanks to the sponsors that made our young women reps' trip possible: