Friday, March 9, 2012

Opportunities to Speak Up

One of my favorite things about the conferences was the willingness on the part of the speakers and moderators to open the floor to additional voices. I'm sure many readers have experienced the conference phenomenon where the floor is opened to questions and the audience is treated to a lecture in the form of a question. It's awkward and frustrating for the speakers, because they are left to respond to someone else's speechifying. I assume this occurs because the "question"-asker feels her or his voice is not being heard, so they resort to guerilla tactics.

So, the moderators at the CSW instead gave everyone in the room a chance to say their piece. At the session on rural women's development in the US, Ghana and Haiti people were encouraged to stand and share their own stories. At a panel featuring women who had served elected office, the moderator began the Q&A time by asking women to raise their hands if they had voted in a local election, participated in a election as part of a campaign team, or run for office. Finally, she asked those who had held office to raise their hands, and then brought them up to tell their stories. It was a wonderful leveling of the field, and especially appropriate in a panel discussing democratic ideals.

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