WGG Girl Advocate, Christina was invited to speak on “Beijing + 20 and Partnerships” at the May membership meeting of the NGO CSW. The panel, moderated by Beth Adamson of the WGG included: Rosemary Lane: Senior Social Affairs officer at DESA, Focal Point on Aging, who discussed the importantance of hearing the voices of women of all ages, Julien Pellaux: representing UN Women’s new “He for She” campaign, who encouraged the involvement of men and boys working equally with girls and women for gender equity, and Christina who discussed the importance of girls’ participation and advocacy on issues central to girls’ everyday lives.
Christina shared the following with the attendees:
“At every single WGG meeting I attend, I am working with women of all ages – with different experiences and thought patterns. This sisterhood is so dear to me and I have benefitted immensely from the wisdom, support, and kindness all of these women have given me. We also discover commonalities and new perspectives. This enhances our organization and our initiatives because we are all putting our heads together to create solutions that are dynamic and work for everyone.
I applied to be a Girl Advocate because I wanted to learn more about the fight for gender equality – and to be able to feel like I was doing my small part for the cause. Not only were the rights of myself and girls around the world at the center of every discussion, but also I was encouraged to understand them and speak about my own experiences throughout girlhood. WGG showed me that I am the real expert on my own rights and therefore should be able to champion them. WGG supports girls by giving them a platform to advocate for themselves – not just at the United Nations but also in their everyday lives. If girls are empowered in one aspect of their lives, they are able to carry this attitude into other spaces.
Often young people, especially girls, can feel powerless and like they aren’t taken seriously because they haven’t even entered college yet, or maybe even high school. This is why it is so vital to work with girls under 18 – so they can strengthen their voices and build self-confidence. My work with WGG has not only expanded my understanding of the world and my potential as a girl – but has also given me the courage to enter any meeting, panel, or room and speak my mind.
For me, showing girls how to use their voices effectively and encouraging them to do so is the only way to sincerely partner with youth. Adults are integral to the success of youth, who may have ideas about how to change the world but may also feel that they don’t have the platform to implement them. Adults – you- can create this platform, simply by engaging youth in meaningful discussion and treating them like actual human beings – not just children.
However, I also think about the Fourth World Women’s Conference in Beijing when identifying potential for partnership. Even though I wasn’t born until the next year, this conference influences my life today as a girl and as I approach womanhood. Not just because my grandmother was there and tells me many stories of the strong, incredible women of courage she met. Because while her stories are great, “Beijing” was not just about what happened in 1995.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were not simply promises to achieve gender equality but also roadmaps for how we can make those promises a reality. They allow us, today, to have a central human rights-based agenda on the lives of females -that we can continue to add to – that I can to add to. My generation can honor the work of the women who attended Beijing, by making sure the goals are achieved – by making sure that gender equality is our reality. In order to do this, we must learn from you. We must learn how to be leaders from you. We need to close the gap between girls and women because we are all stronger when we stand together.
But we can’t talk about effective partnerships without discussing the key role that the other half of the population plays in women’s and girls’ rights – men and boys. This is an area where we still have a lot of work to do. Each year at the Commission on Status of Women I meet and listen to wonderful and inspiring women with infectious passion but little to no men. This is a problem. Feminism has commonly been misunderstood as a woman’s movement – a plan for women to upend men. Real feminism is the idea that men and women should work together as equal partners in every sector of society. In order to do this, we must reach an understanding, which can happen through dialogue and once again meaningful discussion.
At the Teen Orientation for CSW 57, I witnessed Michael Kaufman do just that. There is something so powerful about a man who exposes the ridiculous pressure we put on both sexes and how this leads to our culture of hyper sexualizing and exploiting women and girls. He holds men accountable for the violence they perpetrate but also tries to understand why a man would even hit a woman in the first place. He has insight and ideas that a female could never conjure up. I will never know what it is like to be a man – attempting to assert my masculinity and authority. But a boy will never know what it is like to be a girl who is abused, ignored, looked down upon, and violated. There is power in recognizing this – recognizing that we can no longer label gender equality as simply a woman’s issue.
Once again, the celebration of Beijing +20 allows for so much collaboration between men and women. Their roles in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action are different but necessary. We need men to be advocates for women – to instill in boys a culture of respect, not a culture of male-domination. Because it is only this way that we can create a world of shared, mutual respect between men and women and the only way we can uphold the true meaning of feminism.”