One thing that I’ve noticed about this CSW is that there is a noticeable, and very welcome increase, in the number of young people participating. One of the UK civil society groups here is NAWO (www.nawo.org.uk) who do an amazing job coordinating the UK NGO delegation at the CSW both on site and before we arrive. Zarin Hainsworth of NAWO has been instrumental in getting a large number of young people from the UK to this CSW session. I took the opportunity to speak to two of them this morning, Ruby Goddard (RG) and Sorrel Macleod (SM), on their reflections of participating in the CSW as first timers. This is what they had to say.
Sorrel Macleod and Ruby Goddard
Q1. Why did you want to come to CSW?
RG: Zarin informed me about it through our school. I looked it up and saw what it was about and said ‘I’m in!
SM: I saw it was about women’s rights and thought I’m in!
Q2. What has stood out most to you about the CSW?
SM: Everyone’s dedication and passion on women’s rights. We had a little easy getting here [MM note: They paid for themselves to get here so not that easy] but others have faced big obstacles. It’s a privilege to just be here.
RG: What’s struck me most is how much I don’t know and how much work there still is to do. I’ve learnt a lot by being here and still have a lot to learn.It’s made me motivated to push the cause [SM interjects ‘Hell yeah!’]
Q3. What has been a challenge?
SM: It’s so full on. There is so much to go to. It’s good seeing something can be done [about women’s rights]
RG: It’s so broad an issue, there is no end to what needs and can be done. I’ve learnt that you need to find a section and focus on it.
Q4. So what did you focus on?
RG: Widows. I’ve found myself quite drawn to the issue of widows. Originally I thought this issue doesn’t concern me but when I looked into it it hadn’t received the attention it deserves. Now I’m quite passionate about widows and their rights.
SM: Trafficking. I’m very angry about how much trafficking is going on and how much I cared about it. There is so much of it going on and not just in third world countries but in the UK too.
RG: ‘Yes we heard yesterday about gangs in the UK and how many girls have been killed, raped or sold into prostitution in the UK’
Q5. What one thing will you take away with you from this CSW?
SM: The need to keep working and lobbying and asking the question, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ [ending violence against women]
RG: The need to raise awareness on the issue and tell others about the situation
SM: And what I can do about it
Q6. How will you share what you have learnt back home?
RG: We have a blog http://www.nawoyouth2013.blogspot.co.uk which we blog
SM: We will speak at the schools in our area. It needs to be coming from us rather than the teacher as we can relate to our peers
Q7. What would you say to the young people in the Church of England about participating in the CSW?
SM: Get involved, ask questions and come as it’s a good experience You have to make time for it. Don’t dismiss it thinking you don’t have time. It’s important. It’s good to see other young people here. Everyone has been so encouraging to us being here. People really appreciate our presence.
RG: If you get given the opportunity just do it! We need to get more young people here as there is not enough. Young people need to be engaged and actively involved. I got to see UN SG Ban Ki-moon and that was exciting and it highlighted to me how important this issue is. [SM interjects: Yeah she’s NOT stopped talking about it!]
Q8. What would you suggest to the Church of England about getting more young people involved in the CSW?
RG: We need the Church of England here as they have a vital role to play in ending violence against women and combine that with the expression of faith. It’s such an important issue.
SM: The Church of England has one of world’s biggest cases for being here with the message of ‘Love thy neighbour’. One of the things we have seen and heard here is that one of the main solutions is to involve religious leaders.
RG: The church is passionate and engaged and has a huge role to play both in relation to people who abuse and the survivors.
SM: There is a need to involve the Church of England young people because their voices are heard.
RG: We heard yesterday of a 16 year old girl who was sharing her family’s experience of child marriage. Her grandmother had been married at the age of 9, her mother had been married at the age of 16 and here she was at the CSW at 16 speaking out about ending child marriage. It was very powerful.
SM: We need more grassroots people here with experiences to share. It’s powerful.
My thanks to Ruby and Sorrel who gave their time this morning for this interview. My hope is their hope, that more young people engage, participate and learn more about the Commission on the Status of Women. They are not simply the next generation. It is our generation now. It is our world. We are all in this together.