NCME’s Desire Vincent Attends Launch of UN Women

In February, NCME’s student employee, UW-Madison senior Desire Vincent, was a delegate at the United Nations’ 55th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. Although Desire was not there as an NCME or public media representative, her experience was relevant to some amazing community engagement efforts in public media. ITVS has been doing some great work with their Women’s Empowerment screenings in 2010, and we know more great things are coming soon from them in this arena!

As Desire describes below, what she learned at this globally significant meeting reflects key aspects of successful community engagement efforts. Her realization that being invited to be heard and speaking up could give her a greater appreciation for her own life experience highlights the importance of listeningnot only as a listener, but also from the perspective of those being heard.

The ABC’s of UN Women | By: Desire Vincent

In February, I attended the 55th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, as a delegate with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. For minds that delight in the discussion of gender stratification and equity, the conference was inundated with opportunities to gain intimate insight into gender issues through workshops and events hosted by the UN, member states and NGOs. This year’s Commission was especially memorable because it was the launch of UN Women, the UN Security Council issued statements and made decisions for action on the political unrest in Libya, and the Commission’s theme was Women in Science and Technology.

In an attempt to capture my experience and its complexity, I give you…

The ABC’s of UN Women:

Always be engaged: The United Nations Secretary-General Campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, along with Google, hosted a workshop on How to Engage Audiences around Sexual Violence through Gaming. Sexual violence is never an issue easy to discuss, so I was in awe of the conversation that flowed in the room. Not only because UNiTE was employing a method to reach a younger generation, but also because the room was the most gender diverse I witnessed during the entire conference. It is important for men and women to be engaged in combating gender oppression, which is at times overlooked and bracketed as a woman’s issue. Habitual and consistent engagement with a variety of individuals–age, race, gender, etc.–is important for there to be social change.

Bring your experience to the table: Hearing the multitude of voices, languages, and experiences within the Commission group, it became increasingly important to me to appreciate my own story, and have an ear to listen and appreciate the story of others. The ways in which we succeed and fail are all points of learning that can only be truly known by sharing. UN Women has the exciting and difficult task of engaging the experiences of Women across the world in their individual states in its effort the help the UN climb towards its millennial goal.

Comprehensive progress is key to appreciate: I witnessed some tension in discussions about progress. I heard it said that “political institutions” operate 10-30 years behind “political movements.” Tension was most notable in the gap between older and younger participants. While all generations were focused on best practices to gain gender equity, many of my peers were equally as focused on how to redefine gender to be more than the male/female dichotomy. The idea of gender to be LGBT inclusive and not narrowly defined to particular roles is not new, but it was a noticeable point of tension between the generations.

The emergence of UN Women demonstrates the United Nation’s fervent commitment to the goal of increasing gender equality and empowering women. The ebbs and flows of the feminist movement have made UN Women a reality. To that end, UN Women should not be the point at which feminists stop fighting because of the formation of this political entity. Rather, it should be embraced as the platform from which NGOs  and member states can continue to share their local work in the international community with the opportunity for greater visibility and advocacy.

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