The CSW59 conference was very influential. While there I was able to attend many meetings, the most informative and influential of which I would like to report on.
1) A New Framework for Gender Equality in Afghanistan. This event was hosted by Afghan Women, with members of the government among those on the panel. The detailed the situation of Afghan women, and how it has changed since September 11, 2001. Afterwards they offered to connect me to individuals that would have usable data for our database.
2) Protecting Women and Girls in Emergencies: Turkey’s Humanitarian Response. This event was incredibly informative and focused on the Turkish help of Syrian refugees. The presenters spoke Turkish and the event was translated, so I was unable to meet the presents; however, it was incredibly informative. I received reports on the Syrian refugee population in Turkey, including statistics specifically concerning women.
3) Unlocking multiple benefits for women and girls through sanitation and hygiene in the post-2015 era. This event was hosted by Singapore and Senegal, and I was able to meet the Ambassador of Singapore and a professor doing research in Asia about women’s menstrual hygiene. This perhaps was the most influential event for me on a personal level, because it opened my eyes to a serious, solvable problem. Although I knew some about it, I was unaware of the full extent of the problem. This event explained successful strategies and future strategies to improve menstrual hygiene conditions so that women and girls could receive education, work, and less-stereotyped as being unclean.
4) Recognizing Common Ground: Islam and Women’s Human Rights. This event was fantastic, and I was able to take many notes. It was attended by some wonderful scholars from Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, and Malaysia. I was able to meet Zainiah Anwar (Malaysia), Marwa Sharafeldin (Egypt), and Siti Ruhaini (Indonesia), and get contact information for Zainah Anwar and Siti Ruhaini. Both are influential in women’s rights and part of Musawah, an organization dedicated to reinterpreting Shariah law in a way that benefits women. Siti Ruhaini was willing to give an interview, but unable to do so before she left. She provided information so that we could communicate from abroad. Zainah Anwar was willing to answer specific questions if we could not find the information elsewhere.
Additionally, I met the minister stationed at the permanent mission to Rwanda. He has been helpful by providing me references to updated information concerning the status of women in his country.
I really enjoyed the opportunity of being a participant of CSW59. The experience was enlightening to say the least, and I feel has helped to inform me of issues that are manageable and correctable. I learned about diplomacy, about networking, about the complexity of international issues, and about different strategies that are both effective and ineffective. I would relish the opportunity to participate in another UN conference about women. Having attended one already, I would be able to be more effective in making connections and locating critical data, but more than that, it was incredibly enlightening as an attendee. I was made aware of many issues, but also many solutions and a great deal of progress. It is just as important to understand what has led to progress as it is to understand what was wrong in the first place.