By Aruna Rao
We are just back from New York where Gender at Work held three very successful events at the 2015 CSW. What a ride! Along with the TMI Project, we organized a Women’s Rights Storytelling Collaboratory involving 12 incredible gender equality and women’s rights advocates from Ecuador, Jordan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, Paraguay, Nigeria and the USA. Through the process, they crafted powerful personal stories that they shared at three events during CSW. Spanning various themes related to gender equality, these stories combined honest, even stark truth telling with insight, humor and wisdom. They demonstrated the power of the personal story. Audiences responded with tears, cheers and an overwhelming sense of solidarity.
The winners of the End Gender Discrimination Now! Contest spoke about their projects at CSW 2015.
People commented on how refreshing it was to hear truth speaking through to power, no-UNese, just naked and real experiences. For our storytellers, it took a lot to go up there and share very personal experiences of abuse, name often-unnamed challenges and dilemmas, and open their hearts to strangers. The reception at the first event with a largely activist and NGO audience was incredible – there were few dry eyes in the room. Following that, at the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN – a session organized specifically by Ireen Dubel from Hivos – with a very different audience mostly of donors and bureaucrats - the reception, again, was very warm.
Kwezilomso Mbandazayo is a 28 year old Black, Queer Feminist thinker, activist and agitator. Among other places, she told her story at the Intergenerational Dialogue organized by UN Women.
We also participated in an Intergenerational Dialogue organized by UN Women where our story-tellers took centre-stage among panelists and gender experts from around the world.
Gender at Work held a session with the winners of the End Gender Discrimination Now contest that we sponsored at the end of 2013 in collaboration with the Association of Women’s Rights in Development, BRIDGE, and the FLACSO in Argentina. The winners were Kuña Pyrenda which challenged the political system in Paraguay, forming the first-ever women’s political movement in the country, based on socialist feminist principles; Freedom Traveller from Pakistan which launched a travel service supporting women in countries that limit their mobility; and Aiyoh Wat-Lah, a coalition of seven Malaysian human rights organizations that works to encourage higher standards of behavior from public figures and institutions in relation to gender and sexuality. Find out more about them here.
Hanadi Riyad is a development practitioner, a researcher, and a change facilitator in-the-making. Among other places, she told her story at the Dutch Embassy.
Gender at Work is accredited with ECOSOC, and this is a space where we plan to be more active in the future. In that context, I moderated the UN Women session on Financing for Gender Equality held at the CSW – which was unexpectedly inspiring for me because I saw more clearly the possibility of a new financing model for human rights – not just in theory but also in practice.