(Written Friday 15th March 2013)
As I sit here in the dark (we've just had a power cut) reflecting over the last few weeks and the previous four months of preparation, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride at what we have achieved.
Personally, I wasn't sure how I was going to cope with spending a whole 10 days talking about violence against women and girls. I was nervous and worried that I wouldn't know anything, that my confidence would leave me and I would spend the whole time panicking that no-one would listen to me. In reality, I don't think I have ever felt more confident and empowered to speak out, not just for myself but for the rights of millions of girls and young women all over the world.
As a delegation, I feel we showed that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from – if you pull together and work as a team then anything can happen. I have made some amazing friends in countries I'd barely even heard of, and I know that they will all take their experiences of CSW back to those countries where they will grow to become more incredible than they already are.
This evening marks the final day of CSW57. I have spent the day glued to Twitter and my emails, nervously waiting the outcome of the conference. After hours and hours of hitting refresh, I finally heard that the CSW Agreed Conclusions have been adopted!
Being able to share that moment straight away with my new friends in so many different time zones around the world was the most amazing feeling. After weeks of hard work, we can all say that we played a part in changing the lives of girls and young women all over the world.
You're probably wondering what this actually means – I'm getting excited over some global politics that probably won't actually make a difference on the ground, right?
Wrong. Over 130 UN member states have agreed to adopt the conclusions, which means that they should adhere to what the final document says. For example, if the document says legislation should be in place to tackle x, y and z, then member states should develop that legislation. If it says education should be provided, each country should work to deliver that education. And we, as members of civil society, should be holding our country to account and making sure that governments and officials are doing what they have agreed to do at the highest level.
And even if our governments don't do what they've said they will do, that doesn't mean we should let that stop us from doing what we all know is right. We can still encourage people to stop seeing VAWG as a taboo issue and to start talking about it – as soon as we realise that it's ok to talk about violence we will have started to make a difference.
I hope that, if you have learnt nothing from my blogs, you will at least take this away with you. We all have the right to have our voice heard. If we do not speak up, we do not exercise that right and so we do not have the right to complain. If we can speak up for others who cannot speak up for themselves, then we should do so. This doesn't need to be on a global scale. I'm not saying everyone should descend on the UN every year – for a start, I don't think Manhattan needs any more people.
I'm just saying that, in my opinion, if everyone speaks to one person about violence against women and girls, then one day people will begin to realise that it does happen in our own countries; it does happen to us; and ultimately, it's ok to talk about it. If more people start to talk about it, more people will start to realise that violence against women and girls shouldn't be normal, and it isn't ok. Maybe this is the first step to fully eradicating it. I hope so anyway.
I am reminded of that story we heard at the Teen Orientation day, all those weeks ago (has it really only been 12 days?):
"A dove and a coal mouse are sitting on the branch of a tree, watching the snow fall. The dove asks, “How much does a snowflake weigh?” The coal mouse answers, “Nothing more than nothing.” The two birds watch the snowflakes fall for some time more, until the moment a particular one settles on their branch, breaking their perch. As the dove flies away, it thinks to itself, “Maybe all that’s needed in the world for peace is one more voice.”"