It is now 3 weeks since I returned home from New York, from the BPW International Leadership Summit and CSW57. This whole trip was an eye opener for me. To be part of such an event, to meet all of these wonderful BPW leaders around the world and all the activists at the United Nations. I must admit, I often found myself thinking how little I know and how long the journey we as young BPW members have ahead of us if we want to rise and learn more inside our organization locally and internationally.
I got to NYC on 27th of February and already on the next evening we had a Girls Night out with Young EPW girls! On my way there, I met BPW ladies at the lobby of our hotel and got them also to join me. So there we were, eating and laughing and getting to know each other already before all the official program.
The 5th Annual International BPW Leadership Summit was a great example of how we could and should get together, discuss the issues on our mind and share our best practices. As I am a newcomer at international BPW events (my first international event I participated was in Helsinki in 2011, Sorrento and Tallinn after that, next in Brussels on May 3rd), the Leadership Summit made me see understand that it is not “they there.. the international board and we here…locally in our country!” We are all the same, we just live in different parts of the world. I got e better understanding of what and how BPW works with the issues of women´s empowerment together with UN, but there is still much to learn.
After the Leadership Summit, I participated in NGO CSW Consultation Day on March 3rd. The issues that were discussed there were “Trafficking of Women and Girls, The Role of Men, Best Practices to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls and Training in Communications and Social Media.
The main underlying point from the NGO CSW Consultation Day day followed me to CSW57 where in different panels that I participated, speakers pointed out the fact that we as NGO´s, as women and as responsible people need to attach also men to the work we try to do. Children should be taught, starting from daycare, to respect our differences and learn to understand what is right and what is wrong. My job here is at least to raise my two little boys to respect all the people no matter what sex they are, whether are they old or young, Europeans or Asians etc.
I had the chance to participate in these following panels and conversations at the UN:
- Women´s economic empowerment as a tool for combating and eliminating violence against women – The main thought: Economic empowerment is the tool to access economic and financial resources. Entrepreneurship, training and support systems provide better self-esteem, sustainable income, financial independence and self-fulfillment and through all of that women standing up for themselves. Global problems need global collaboration and collaboration between NGO´s and governments.
- Situation in Mali – This panel was held in French and as I don´t speak it, it was a bit difficult for me to follow, but luckily I had Johanna from Germany with me and she translated for me the main points. The women’s situation in Mali and Congo is devastating. Women are raped on their way to buy food for their children or while they are away buying for their family, little girls are raped at their own homes. Genital mutilations, killings and so on. We were shown photos and videos… It didn´t need to be translated.. the whole room was shocked. It was sad to listen and to see how sick the world can be.
- Social Control – as a means of violence against women and girls. When traditional gender stereotypes become a straitjacket for young girls and boys. – If violence exists, some of the girls but also boys might not even understand that what they experience is not normal or isn’t acceptable. The way young girls might see themselves and each other when seeing all the fine models on the commercials or young boys to think that showing their masculinity physically against others is power and part of being a man. Babies are gendered from the moment they are born and this is what we adults do. Also at this panel was underlined the fact that men need to be involved in what we do and children need to be educated to separate the right from the wrong.
- Prevention of violence against women and girls. Conference room 2. This panel was a panel for official delegates, but myself and Brenda from Australia just walked in and sat down like we belonged there. I found my old school mate Liina Kanter, head of Gender Equality Department at Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, to be one of the speakers. We hadn´t met after year 1998 and now we shared our contact information in United Nations.. that was weird! 🙂 She brought up the fact that often women don´t even understand the role and importance of violence against women. This panel also brought up the issue of economic empowerment, the importance of education of women, for girls finally to say NO to the different level of tyranny they suffer from.
- On March 7th I attended our own BPW organized panel of Violence Against Women in the Workplace. I was glad to find it of interest to many women as the room was full of listeners, every continent was represented and people were sitting even on the floor as all the seats were taken! Great job!
Beside all of the official and serious events we also had a good time all together!
Dinners and receptions were wonderful! Thank you so much for all the organizers! I had lovely time with you! And oh… I LOVE NYC!!
I found myself being one of three or four young BPW members to participate. I understand that the whole trip to NY would have been very, very expensive and therefore I must thank BPW Finland and our wonderful Tuulikki to give me a good kick and make it possible for me to participate!
Thank you also for accepting me to be part of the D20 group! This was the event I will never forget and I wish I can share my experience with as many BPW members as possible here in Finland and also internationally!
With all the best,
BPW Finland, Member of National Board 2013-2015
Young BPW Finland Representative