Being white and male does not allow me to have too many opportunities to be a minority. So, as one of the select few males present for the consultation day of the 55th NGO Committee on the Status of Women, I basked in my minority status. Except I did not feel silenced, or marginalized. I never felt harassed or threatened by comments or jokes or stares. Nor did I feel undervalued for the volunteer work I was providing. My volunteer job of informing the attendees of the no-drinks-or-food-in-the-auditorium-please policy earned the same lunch as my female counterparts. Yet, if I was a woman in a “job-job”, perhaps my boxed lunch would have contained a half eaten sandwich and a stale cookie. “Women’s rights are human rights” is the motto that echoes though the speeches I heard. And I realized the implications are just as important for men, and the women in men’s lives like my mother my 3-year old niece and perhaps the daughter I may have one day. So, to be honest, I did not feel like I was in such a minority.
The 55th meeting of the CSW has the objective to bring and maintain equal rights and opportunities for women and to grow their empowerment and integration within the UN’s goals for peace and security. Is the 55th time a charm? With Michelle Bachelet (the former president of Chile and under secretary of the newly formed UN Women) in the driver’s seat many seem to think so. I felt a lot of energy from the consultation crowd who are excited about Bachelet’s stance on promoting a 5th Women’s World Conference, US’s ratification of CEDAW and her dedication to grassroots efforts. Ambassador Verveer said during the US Delgation’s to the 55th CSW briefing, “she gets it”. But in the breakout sessions I sensed there are many voices to be heard and there isn’t always a consensus. As I went through the rest of the consultation day and the first day of the parallel events, I felt the power of what an event like this means for those who are here, but more importantly, what it means for those who are not at this conference to speak of their silencing.