Impressions on a first trip to the Commission on the Status of Women
A couple of years ago, when I was outlining some very first thoughts about working in the female genital cutting arena to a trusted friend, he said to me: “forget the UN, it’s like turning a tanker. You will be dead and gone by the time any difference is made”.
His thoughts stuck with me and, in a way, prejudiced me somewhat. We don’t have time to turn a tanker, change has got to happen within the next generation, otherwise it feels this window of opportunity will have been lost.
However, after a scant two days at this event, I can tell you that he was both wrong and right. He was wrong in the sense that, this tanker was steaming somewhere in the first place – so actually, we don’t need to turn it round, we just need a nudge on the tiller (do tankers have tillers?) to get a serious change in course.
He is right in the sense that the UN has endless codes and instruments and frameworks. These can assist change but in and of themselves do not make change happen. Two days in, my impression is that if you can have a very distinct, clear strategy, with obvious clear outcomes, this system is worth working in. But be prepared to be in it for the long haul!
I was at an event to discuss Peace and Security, as well as Violence Against Women. There was an opportunity to hold circle conversations about issues. I put my hand up and asked if anyone wanted to share examples of community change. We ended up as a group of 25 women, talking about what was working.