Saturday 23 March 2013

CSW57 Update: Voices Against Violence

Thursday 7th March 2013

(Or: How I spoke in a conference room full of people and then realised my flies were undone)

Today was a really special day for us as delegates, for WAGGGS and for the Stop the Violence campaign – today was the day we officially launched the Voices against Violence curriculum.
Emna speaking at our "Life Course" event
I headed to the UK NGO briefing while the rest of the group stayed at the hotel to do one final run-through of our dance for this afternoon's flash mob! When I got back, we split into two groups. One group stayed to make sure everything was ready for the curriculum launch while the other group went to an event where Emna (from Tunisia) was speaking about violence against girls in her country.

Emna's speech was wonderful – she talked about the different forms of violence that girls in her country face, and about the attitudes that girls have towards violence.  At the end of the speech, she got a standing ovation!  Andrea and I looked at each other and we both had tears pouring down our cheeks!  (You can read Emna's speech here!)  

WAGGGS Voices Against Violence Launch
 After the event, we all ran to the UN Headquarters for the Voices against Violence launch. We had special guest speakers – Mary Mc Phail, WAGGGS' Chief Executive, Kathleen Lynch, Irish Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People and Ahmed Alhindawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Hasiniaina, one of WAGGGS' Youth Delegates, also spoke about violence against girls and women in Madagascar and how her MO had piloted the curriculum.  The event was so popular we turned away over 100 people!  The room was so full that, again, there were people standing and sitting on the floor.  It was so full that I was very squashed in a corner of the room.  (I do wonder how much of this was strategically planned after my spectacular rage a couple of days previously!)

WAGGGS delegates demonstrating non-formal education
At the launch we also had a special performance by four WAGGGS delegates, showing what non-formal education on gender-based violence looks like.  At the end of the event, Michelle Bachelet came to speak about the curriculum and why non-formal education is so important to empower girls and young women. She also said that the Girl Guides are a force to be reckoned with (AND she was still wearing our wristband)!

Before she spoke, we were asked if anyone would like to talk about our experiences with the VAV syllabus.  Again, I stood up to speak about my wonderful Brownies and how fantastic they are.  As I stepped forward to the microphone, I realised Michelle was sitting at the front of the room.  I'd already committed, so had to follow through, but I started to realise something was wrong. I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY!  As I looked around the room, I was aware of hundreds of eyes staring at me.  And Michelle Bachelet.  All waiting for me to say something.  In true Rosy-style, I opened my mouth and hoped that whatever came out of it would resemble something vaguely sensible.  I could hear myself speaking, but I honestly couldn't tell you what I was saying.  Do you know what was going through my head?  "Ohmygod-I'm-talking-in-a-room-at-the-UN-and-Michelle-Bachelet-is-looking-at-me!!"  aaaaaaaand breathe...  As I stepped back from the microphone, I realised something else.  My flies had come undone.  And the whole room could see my pants.  At least they were pretty, I suppose...!
WAGGGS Voices Against Violence Launch

On a complete high from the amazing launch event, we all headed across the road to a hotel where we met a lot of potential funders. My lovely friend Claire from New Zealand spoke about her experiences with introducing the curriculum to her Pippins (five - seven year olds).  On the first day of our training, Claire had told us how she was terrified of public speaking, so it was brilliant to see her speak in front of all of those WAGGGS supporters - I was so so proud of her!

WAGGGS Voices Against Violence Launch Reception
Halfway through the event, as we were all busy eating the lovely cheese and salad the hotel had laid on for us (well, I ate the salad.  Damn lactose intolerance), we heard a voice saying “I am one in ten million... I am one in ten million... I am one in ten million...”  This was our cue – if we were going to embarrass ourselves at all during this trip, this was our time. 

As we all walked towards the front of the room saying “I am one in ten million”, hundreds of eyes turned to watch us and silence descended.  Suddenly, our music started and the dance we had been practicing all week began.  I'd spent the whole week trying to learn the moves from a post-it note, and despite being the shortest (I think), strategically hid myself at the back.  As it turned out, we were (mostly) in time with each other, I didn't fall over or punch myself (or anyone else) in the face, and our guests seemed to really enjoy it, so all-in-all, a success!  [There is a video, but I don't have a copy.  I'll try and find one for you!

After all of our guests had left, we headed across a couple of blocks the second young women's caucus.  There were about 30 young women at this second event, and we looked at the first draft of the Agreed Conclusions and recommended changes that we would like to see. This was a great opportunity to find out what other young women had been doing at CSW, and to speak about different forms of violence in our own countries. 

This was yet another opportunity to find out about "real life" situations that girls and young women face every single day.  I forget sometimes just how lucky I am to be a young woman in the UK, to be able to take contraception, to talk openly about sex (and to have it if I want), to choose who I will marry (or not - whatever we decide), to be able to work, to travel, to wear what I choose to wear...  This evening it really starting to sink in that millions of girls and young women are relying on us to make that difference happen, and what that difference could actually look like.  

I left the caucus that evening, excited and ready for whatever the final day at CSW would bring us.  And definitely not scared any more.  I can do anything.

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