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Empowering women: we can do it!

The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) sent a number of delegates to the UN's 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This blog will be reporting on their experience all this week.

It was my second time attending UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). For the second time, I was one of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) delegates. However, this time was different. I was one of the panelists too. It was my first time to speak at a UN's parallel event.

The room was packed with people who came to attend our event Building Young Women’s Political Empowerment: An International Intergenerational Dialogue. The chairs were not enough chairs and people had to stand. Frankly, I was frightened. The setting was very different for me as a speaker. The audience was full of people from different parts of the world. My fears were mainly about whether my audience would relate to my experience as a feminist activist or not.

"I want to see women political leaders in all over the world. However, what concerns me more is whether those women in leading positions are going to defend women's rights," I said. "Will they be replications of the existing system of patriarchy and hierarchy?"

I was scared. The only thought that came to my mind and danced at the rhythm of my heartbeats was: I should not have unveiled by revolting radical spirit. For a second, I stared at my audience. They were mainly women. They were smiling and nodding their heads. My fears vanished as I realized that I was not the only radical feminist in the room. The room was packed with feminist warriors.

From that moment onwards, I gained back my confidence.

It was an intergenerational dialogue, between us (the panelists) and Betty Reardon and Cora Weiss. Betty Reardon is the founder and director of the Peace Education Center. Cora Weiss is the president of the Hague Appeal for Peace. Thanks to Marilou McPhedran, UN Human Rights Fellow for the Geneva Office on UNFPA, who chaired that panel in an incredible way.

Attending official meetings at CSW is a good experience, but the real inspiring experience is in the events in which you meet committed people working together for women's rights. We might not know each other, but we know that we are working for the same goal -- gender equality and peace.

I could go on forever talking about the event we had. It was great to listen to other VOW members from the different provinces. We shared our peace camp experience with the audience. Since the goals are the same (gender equality and peace) it makes sense to share experiences and skills and bring the peace camp idea to different places. Women in other parts of the world can adopt the peace camp idea, or any other tactic that we have, and tailor it according to the needs of the place where they are.

I want to end with what Cora said. She commented on my introduction when I said that we need women leaders who care about women's rights, not ones who enforce the system of patriarchy. She said that women must "not climb the ladders of testosterone." Perhaps decades ago, the struggle was to have women in leading political positions. The struggle now has changed. We have women who are leaders, but we don't have enough women political leaders who care about gender equality and women’s rights. It is crucial to empower ourselves and other women to be feminist leaders.

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