During the past two weeks the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) held its 57th session at the United Nations, where a series of workshops, conferences and side events took place. Once again, The Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (ATOP) Meaningful world organized a parallel event presenting a symposium on Empowering Women Around the Globe: Transforming Violence through Mind-Body-Eco-Spirit on 14 March, 2013 at the UN.
The symposium opened with an awe-inspiring musical meditation, including an original piece by MAYA, with Sato Moughalian on flute and John Hadfield on percussion. The Book of Goddesses, by Robert Paterson and the Armenian Asparani Dance inspired celebration and unification through its melding of rhythm and melodies. It created a beautiful calming quality grounding the audience with a sense of peace and healing. Leysa Cerswell assisted in opening the conference by presenting ATOP Meaningful world’s empowering outreach in communities around the world in the last twenty-two years. She then introduced the Chairperson, Founder & CEO of ATOP Meaningful world, Dr. Kalayjian, who gave her passionate welcoming remarks and reinforced that men and women are like the two wings of a bird, and if these two wings don’t fly harmoniously the human race will never prosper. At the panel discussion, Dr. Kalayjian raised awareness on issues that women encounter every day and what steps to take to empower each other and ourselves using mind-body-eco-spirit health. One of the messages we were left with, which was also a part of the fabric of the conference, was “Now more than ever, the cause of women is the cause of mankind.” Female empowerment equals empowering the world, and we can do that by taking a stand to make a difference in our own life first, and then making a difference in someone else’s life.
The speech that impressed the audience most was given by Sarah Thontwa, graduate student at Columbia University, is currently completing her studies in Economics and highly involved in International Affairs. Thontwa, a native of Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke of empowering women of Africa by identifying pressing issues of gender-based discrimination, property rights, labour rights, and civil liberties that are impacting the population. By showing slide presentation, she brought a poignant focus to poverty, the exploitation of women, and the manner in which they are being brainwashed by the cultural policies created by men. The overrepresentation of African women has evolved over time, with the average of women and girls with no access to education significantly higher than boys. She mentioned that in a population of over 70 million Congolese, 60% are women who live in the shadow of men with no entitlement to properties. They are punished for crimes they do not commit, while men receive honorable treatments, and also get discriminated at home and in the workplace. Thontwa advocated international pressure in seeking help to bring women’s issues to a bigger platform, with both macro and micro level policies to better the future for Congolese women. “Finding male allies to bring to the cause because there is a willingness in men to help with women empowerment” was a powerful concluding message that moved the audience in taking a similar stand as CEDAW ratification for the protection of women and girls around the globe.