BY TANYA DARINGO
Post receiving what felt like the pass to heaven yesterday, today has the potential to be a great day. Myself and the rest of the CAL Delegation had to queue yesterday for close to four hours, some of it outside in the freezing temperatures, to get our UN Accreditation Tags.
A new day, and ready for whatever, so in typical New Yorker style I head down to the lobby, grab one of those unusually sized coffees and head on down to the first session on 44 East Street at the Chapel of UN Church Center.
After having been to the correct venue twice without realizing, I shuffle about in search of the perfect seating. The role of Women Human Rights Defenders and Feminist Organizations in Realizing Goal 16 is the discussion and having Sheena Magenya of CAL on the table meant that, we as African Lesbian woman are certainly not going to be on the “menu”. This was a statement shared by a woman sex worker living in the United States who said ‘If you’re not at the table then you’re likely to be on the menu’.
The session lasts a good hour and a half and ranges from topics on politics, safety, intersectionality, policies and the true definition of development to name a few. With audience of civil society desperate to really see the purpose of coming to CSW year in year out, what begins to become clear is the fact that; maybe CSW is NOT where change is made, nor is it where world leaders are willing to sacrifice individual interests for the greater good of counties. It is however the place where we as civil society groups can learn, network and potentially snatch that quick meeting with country leaders that would never happen especially on a Tuesday morning. The session ends with Sheena having drawn quite the crowd with her views on development and intersectionality.
The next event on the agenda involves dashing to the 6th floor of Church Centre for the SOGI caucus meeting – which involves a discussion on the updates of the status of SOGI language within the agreed conclusions. This discussion sheds light on the communication strategy that involves a Tweetathon on Thursday and Friday this week to raise awareness on the need to incorporate and essentially KEEP SOGI language within the final document. The meeting update makes reference to the inclusion of the word “Family” within the document however clarity is still needed with regards to the context of the use of the word.
Having to leave early to make our briefing session with Cynthia and the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) the team and I rush only to be welcomed by long queues to get into the UN Building and if that is not enough, a few delegates have to remove their belts to get through the military security.
Finally in, with no time to “snap a pic” we head up to the fourth floor staff cafeteria where the we participate in a discussion centered around conversations on experience, expectations and overall realizations that may have developed at CSW60. The briefing includes members from Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Nepal, Afghanistan and Africa in its diversity. What is interesting within this session is the realization that the space is not as safe as we would like to believe which is ironic considering all the checks and balances needed just to receive accreditation to the CSW space. The conversations also looked more into ideological safety and solidarity. “Who can we actually trust” is a common thread coupled with the occasional look over the shoulder to ensure the opposition is not listening in on the discussion. The session ends with talks of exchanging contacts to ensure we continue the conversation.
17:30 and the team and I make our way to The Roosevelt Hotel on 45th street after grabbing some much needed lunch. The Roosevelt Hotel is where a panel discussion on criminalization, women and HIV: Redefining the decriminalization agenda is taking place. Surrounded by familiar faces both within the panel and audience, the panel is facilitated in a very interactive manner which includes thought provoking questions by the facilitator in an attempt to fully engage the room. Sex workers share their lives and realities which are not spoken of within the various policies and frameworks we strive for, what is common within this space is the need for intersectionality within women spaces – “these are our issues, because we are women” testimonies on Canadian women wanting to feel “whole” and practical solutions being piloted in South Africa are also shared.
This marks the end of Tuesday the 15th at CSW… I wonder if security will be just as tight tomorrow…