Wednesday 20 March 2013

CSW57 Update: STOP The Tide

Tuesday 5th March 2013

(Or: how I got very angry at the EU)

This morning started bright and early as I got up, put on my green (for girls) tights, a skirt and my "Stop the Violence" kit, and headed to Starbucks for a last-minute run-through of the speech I was to be giving this morning.  

After a super-large cup of tea and the biggest slice of cinnamon bread I have EVER seen I headed across to the UN Church Center.  The butterflies were flapping away on overtime (blame the cake!) and I think I went to the toilet at least three times within the space of half an hour (sorry - toilet chat), but eventually it was 10.30am.  The room was full of people - not just in seats, but standing at the back and sitting on the floor as well!

This was a joint parallel event run by WAGGGS and Soroptimists International called “STOP The Tide: Tackling Adolescent Dating Violence”.  We started with a presentation by a lady from the US Government about her work tackling Trafficking, which was really interesting but I'm not sure I heard much of as I tried to ignore the butterflies, the number of people in the room, and the fact that I'd put my tights on backwards (don't ask!)

All too quickly, I heard my introduction - Fiona, one of WAGGGS' Youth Delegation Coordinators, was chairing the panel - and so I stood up and walked over to the microphone.  It wasn't until I got there that I realised I wasn't wearing my shoes.  Oh well, no turning back now.

Karaoke, UN-Style
As I started to speak, I realised the room had gone quietAs had the butterflies.  After a couple of seconds, the nerves had disappeared and I was starting to enjoy myself.  I knew what I was talking about and I recognised at least 10 of the people in the audience from the previous night's NGO reception.  I was aware of the reactions I was getting, particularly to a very un-childproof extract from 50 Shades of Grey, and they were exactly as I was expecting.  *phew*
I spoke about the issue of teen dating violence from a UK perspective, focussing on sexting and the impact of the media, particularly films, on creating stereotypes. I also spoke about why non-formal education is key to empowering girls and young women, giving examples of the work my Brownies did during our pilot of WAGGGS' Voices Against Violence syllabus. 
Signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships

After my speech, we ran an activity from the Voices syllabus, asking participants to look at a picture they had been given when they arrived and to decide whether it showed a sign of a healthy or unhealthy relationship.  We then heard about Soroptimist International's Live Your Dream campaign and the Take Back the Tech! campaign.  

The event was a massive success – I'm not sure how many people attended, but I was told afterwards that somewhere between 60 and 100 people were turned away because there was no space in the room.  I'm so glad I didn't know that beforehand! 

The biggest thing I was most nervous about on this trip was how I would respond if anyone asked me questions – I always worried that I would stutter and say something stupid. But that didn't happen, and I felt really confident speaking as part of the panel, so that was a huge confidence-boost!  I talked about my amazing Brownie unit so much, I'm sure everyone at the UN is sick of hearing about this small group of young girls in Edinburgh, but I don't care.  Those girls were absolutely the inspiration I needed to keep me going when things got tough.  They also gave me great examples of why non-formal education is ACE!

Some Gender/ Equality MEPs
After this event, I went to an EU NGO meeting with some MEPs and a discussion session with one of the EU Negotiators.  At the first meeting, my challenge was to sit directly opposite the Chair and stare at him until he looked at me, and then not break eye contact.  I'm not entirely sure why I decided this was a good strategy, but it definitely got me noticed, and when it came to question time, my hand was up and I got the first question in

The session with the negotiator was really interesting, although I started to get really frustrated because the EU only refers to "violence against women" and doesn't mention girls.  When I asked about this (obviously I got the first question in again!), I was told the EU wouldn't be discussing girls seperately to women because there were existing agreements in place that relate to girls.  And here began the anger!

Some more Equality MEPs
My final session of the day was an EU Side Event (these are events run by member states or the UN) in the UN Headquarters called “Comprehensive Strategies to tackle Domestic Violence”, where six EU ministers spoke. The session was really interesting, but I had noticed that the EU only talks about violence against women and doesn't mention girls at all. I also noticed that they didn't say anything about tackling the root causes of domestic violence, one of which is adolescent dating violence. So I stood up and asked them why. The response was that they only recognise male and female, and not woman/girl or man/boy. They ignored my question about teen dating violence, and we later found out that this was because the EU is doing nothing tackle this issue. I got very angry and spent the rest of the evening being really frustrated! 

Apparently, this is something I'm pretty passionate about!

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