Last week was the 65th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and I had the privilege of serving as a Girl Delegate for Girl Scouts of the USA at the commission. According to UN Women, the CSW is “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
The Commission meets annually for two weeks, and representatives of UN Member States, Civil Society Organizations, and UN entities meet at UN Headquarters in New York (or over Zoom) to debate on the progress of gender equality globally.
The primary theme debated by high-level officials this year was “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
As a delegate for Girl Scouts of the USA, I wore many hats throughout the weeklong session and the months leading up to the commission. I moderated parallel events, facilitated conversation circles for girls, attended side and parallel events, and helped develop and facilitate a virtual girls space.
While attending parallel and side events and hearing high-level speakers discuss our world’s horrid current status, it is hard not to become discouraged at the current state of women’s rights locally, nationally, and globally. As a Girl Scout Delegate, most of my advocacy was focused on the rights of the girl-child. The event I moderated was on the topic of girl’s political participation.
It often feels as if the world’s current status is dreary and there is no hope for progress, but I left my week at CSW encouraged and relieved, knowing that our future is in pretty good hands.
Every year, Girl Scouts of the USA hosts a girl-led parallel event at NGO CSW. This year, I had the privilege of moderating our event entitled “The Right to Lead: A Conversation on Girls Leadership and Political Participation.”
At the event, we invited five girls from California, Maine, Washington, DC, South Africa, and the Philippines to share their experiences with gender equality and political participation. The stories these girls shared ranged from introducing a bill to end child marriage into their state legislature, creating a civic education toolkit for students, facilitating a global gender equality session for older girls, challenging the South African education system to ensure equal education for all, and lobbying for better education around nutrition of young women in the Philippines.
In my capacities as a Girl Delegate, I had the opportunity to facilitate two conversation circles on behalf of the Working Group on Girls. The first was a local conversion circle consisting of 8 girls from Western North Carolina. In this conversation, we had an inspiring conversation about what feminism and gender identity looks like for high-school-aged individuals and what their experience with leadership has looked like. Several girls highlighted the lack of opportunities they had to be a girl leader. When we widened the definition of leadership to include Drum Major, Section Leader in Band, Club Leadership, and other seemingly smaller roles, the girls were able to see themselves as leaders. All of the girls at this event shared a strong desire to impact the world through policy action – starting today.
At the global conversation circle, girls from all across the world – Global North and Global South – engaged in meaningful conversations around gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, feminist action for climate justice, technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist movements and leadership.
In my breakout room, we focused our conversation on feminist movements and leadership. We spent time comparing how feminism is perceived in our various countries and communities. Despite strong societal setbacks, the girls persevered – declaring themselves a feminist and creating programming to fight for gender equality in their community.
Additionally, I helped develop and facilitate the Virtual Girls Space, which provided a space for girl activists at CSW to debrief, learn new advocacy skills, and join in conversation with one another. In these small groups, unstructured conversations, girl delegates shared highlights from sessions they attended and expressed their hopes for the future.
While leading and participating in these girl-only spaces, I had the incredible opportunity to join in conversation with future policymakers, educators, engineers, and all-in-all changemakers.
It is easy in these, dare I say, ~unprecedented~ times to feel discouraged about the status of the country or even the world, but after joining in conversation with leading girl activists from around the world, I am confident that there are changemakers amongst us and with these girls in charge we will see positive change in the future.