Sunday 24 March 2013

CSW57 Update: International Womens' Day

Friday 8th March 2013

(Or: How I unexpectedly appeared live on US TV.  And still haven't found my hairbrush)

Last night, we had a proper snow storm, and by the time we woke up there was a blizzard! There was so much snow, it was covering the pavements faster than it was being swept up!  Half of our delegation had never seen snow before, so it was really exciting to see their reactions!
Snow in the Big Apple

Sameem Ali
In the morning I headed to my last UK NGO briefing, which was followed by an event called “Lessons Learned”. This was the event I had been most excited about attending as one of the speakers was Sameem Ali, a survivor of Forced Marriage. Before I went to CSW, I had read Sameem's book, Belonging, and we had spoken over the phone, so I was really looking forward to hearing her speak about her experiences. She has really inspired me, and while I was listening to her speak I began to form an idea of what I want to do following CSW.

After the event, I went to the UN for the last time, this time to visit the shop.  The UN has its own post office and UN stamps, so of course I had to send some postcards!

In the afternoon, four of us had won tickets to a preview of 10x10's Girl Rising, a series of 9 documentaries about 9 girls in developing countries who have overcome horrendous situations to get an education. This was held in the Nasdaq building at Times Square, which meant we had to leave the UN-bubble for the first time all week - that was a bit of a culture shock!  

When we arrived at the Nasdaq building, we were taken up to the screening room where the Producer introduced the film.  Before the opening credits had even finished, I was in floods of tears.  We watched the first three documentaries, and I could've stayed all afternoon if a lady with a radio-mic came to rush us "to the bells".  

We were all slightly perplexed about what she meant - bells!?  We followed her downstairs and were taken into what looked like a TV studio.  Yep, that's right - what we hadn't been told before the event was that, to celebrate International Womens' Day, we would be broadcast live across the USA on the Closing Bell Ceremony.  

A frantic attempt to fix my hair (I still haven't found my hairbrush!), and to make myself look slightly less like I'd fallen out of a washing basket, didn't make much difference, but it was too late.  Just before 4pm, we were invited on stage where we had to stand and wave at the cameras for what felt like an eternity.  I was vaguely aware of the music getting louder and louder as the countdown to 4pm started, but all I could think of was how flappy my upper arms are, and that the whole of the US was about to see them, live on Fox, ABC and CNN news.  Great!

Ringing in the Nasdaq Closing Bell
After the bells had rung and we were recovering from our shock (WHAT just happened?!), we went out to Times Square.  Not only had we been broadcast live on national TV, we were almost projected live across Times Square!!  You can see the photos and videos on the Nasdaq website

The final few hours of the afternoon were spent together in a delegation evaluation session, where we looked at our group objectives (we'd achieved about two thirds of them), what we would change/ keep the same in future years, how the week had gone, and our personal achievements.

I found it really difficult to pick one specific personal highlight. When I left for CSW I was worried I wouldn't know enough, would get really nervous and would let the team down. However, once I started speaking to people, I realised that I do know things, and I can speak about the issues and I don't sound like a complete idiot. I felt so confident during CSW (more than I think I've ever felt in my life) that I could stand up in-front of a room of people and that it didn't matter who they were; it didn't matter if they were listening or not – I had the confidence to say what was important to me and why, and to stand up for all of the girls and women who don't have that opportunity.

Dinner in a real American diner!
The end of the evaluation really marked the end of our time together as a delegation.  In the evening, we were taken on a minibus tour of New York, and then went for dinner in a proper American diner. We got back to the hotel really late at night (the minibus broke down halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge...) and had to start saying goodbye as people prepared to leave early the following morning.  


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