A blog by Dawn Marie Lemonds
“Some of the most productive time I have spent at CSW starts “IN THE QUEUE” or Line as Americans say. This is a perfect time to start engaging, sharing the story of why we are here, and developing new networks and contacts that further add to my experience and knowledge base.
This year, I met a delightful young women, Sephiny from Nigeria, who is a member of Business and Professional Women organization and has also started a Foundation called SmartSistas that educates girls, young women and widows in income generating activities. We met in the queue getting our pass and every single day she showed up at at least one of the activities I was at, which is astonishing given that there are 400 parallel events and over 250 side events that we can attend!
This sisterhood- the Big Tent- is an amazing gift and opportunity to really get a sense of the sisterhood that we share as humans, each with our own experience and each with our own story. While there were certainly many women here from many of the 193 member countries of the world, there was a frequently voiced recognition that a number of women and men could not get visas to be admitted into the USA and were not here.
Where was their voice? This is an issue that has occurred at other UN Agencies for events, but felt particularly hard this year given that the issue focused on Rural Women, who represent areas where 41% of the population lives.
A big “takeaway” for all of us the following – “We can’t leave anyone behind.” As humans, it is our responsibility that countries, services, opportunities, education, etc are available for all. The Sustainable Development Goals state the actions to make this is happen. As citizens and organizations we must advocate for inclusion of all, including the most marginalized people on the planet.
We also need to ensure that decisions for people MUST include the people being affected. As a society we need to create spaces for people to tell their own stories- and not persist in having men and women- particularly from privileged countries- be the only voices for them!
So- Sephiny told me her story and as an advocate for people she affects, and through her great happy spirit, helps us realise the truth of the situation of her country. In turn, she learned about Soroptimist International and our work, and we made connections and shared ideas! We both used our voice in engaging with others and made our “LINE TIME” at CSW a wonderful time of engaging with sisters from the world community!”