Sunday our delegation attended the NGO CSW Consultation Day. It offers the opportunity to connect with other NGO participants and delegations, hear from speakers, be inspired by stories of successes in the movement to gender equality, and learn some of the areas in which there is still a long way to go.
One of the presenters indicated that in a recent conversation with a business-successful gentleman, he asked why she was interested in women's rights. It's the same question I've received from a number of people when I tell them that I am attending UNCSW.
The sad reality is that gender equality does not (yet) exist.
The good reality is that there in every place, many people are working to address this.
Yet, the challenge remains: gender inequality impacts every aspect of life. For women and girls, the intersectionality of challenges is staggering - and even more so for those living in rural contexts. The issues include socio-economic class, gender, geographic location, incidence of domestic violence, deprivation, education, political engagement, access to health care, etc. For those with disability or non-accepted sexual orientation, the challenges increase.
The statistics are astonishing, the disproportionality undeniable. And so we often wonder what we can do, to have a real impact. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka inspired us to work together to make the issues visible. Just one example was to recognise the 400 million women farm workers, who often endure terrible conditions. "They feed us, but we don't see them."
Another speaker shared her experience in post-secondary education, were a professor refused to acknowledge women in the class, instead referring to "non-men" in the room.
A film director highlighted that globally, 70% of those living below the poverty line are women; and that 2/3 of the world's illiterate adults are women.
We need to see these women, to acknowledge the systemic and systematic realities that prevent their full inclusion as contributing members of society. It's a simple matter of dignity and rights.
If we do not see them, however, if we choose to remain blind, this normalises the inequality - and that is not okay.
And so we gather. We gather to have our voices heard, to learn from one another, to lift one another up even as we ourselves are climbing. We gather to fight the normalisation of bad behaviour that would deny any child of God their status as beloved. We gather as a standard-setting space, to set new goals, because simply maintaining the status quo is not good enough.
And so we gather. We fight for equality. We choose to see the beautiful women and girls that are gifts of our creator; we celebrate what they offer to the world. And we will continue to gather, and fight, and support, and uphold: until that wonderful day when we see gender equality as the new normal.