YWCA Hamilton travels to the United Nations for global dialogue on gender equity
This March, YWCA Hamilton Senior Analyst Violetta Nikolskaya traveled to New York City to participate in the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. Established in 1946, the CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. YWCA Canada has sent annual delegations to the CSW over the last decade, and this year, Violetta was among the delegates. Here are some of her reflections.
It was an optimistically warm and sunny day in New York City when thousands of individuals from all across the globe descended upon the United Nations ground to attend hundreds of events hosted by, with or parallel to the 67th Commission of the Status of Women (CSW). The hybrid two-week long event would host over 11,000 delegates in a mixture of formal panel-led high-level dialogues and other more informal, conversational based discussions. Every passing hour is a feast for the mind and for the eyes, as delegates proudly wore exquisite articles of clothing expressing rich narratives about their unique history, geography, heritage and culture. My grey blazer, enrobing my collared dress shirt and blue and yellow bowtie, was embellished with pins of a trillium flower, a red maple leaf, and the YWCA’s three overlapping triangles. My outfit paled by comparison as I, humbly stood in awe and, helped the Ukrainian delegation take a group photo in front of a United Nations office.
Thirty years ago, I arrived in Canada as an infant refugee, in the arms of my brave, tireless mother. Now I serve an organization that supports newcomer families, builds and provides affordable housing, supports queer young adults, and determinedly fights to end violence against women and gender diverse persons, among so many other causes. I could not be prouder of where I work. And as I took the photo of the fearless Ukrainian women who travelled to attend the conference, I could not be more honoured to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Each CSW focuses on a priority theme that will tie together the statements presented by each member nation, the side events sponsored by member nations, and the parallel events facilitated by NGO civil society organizations. The theme of the 67th CSW was innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The conversations around this theme were complex; stretched and deepened by the nuances of how this theme addresses multiple forms of violence, care work in a changing global economy, gig economies, human trafficking, and many other issues.
It is hard not to be star struck by every panelist and every delegate you meet. I sat in the audience of a parallel event on the impact of digital gender-based violence on LGBTQIA people’s lives that featured fearless Trans and queers leaders from the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Ghana and the United Kingdom. I witnessed the power that comes from having Trans led organizations doing the important work of advocating for legal justice for survivors of violence. I heard about the insidious violence being exported from United Kingdom through the medium of social media. I learned about the grassroots movements growing in Ghana and Jamaica to protect LGBTQIA people’s lives. All of these lessons are invaluable to a global community under the same pandemic threat of gender-based violence, in a world deeply connected by social media platforms.
One prevalent message was echoed by every member nation: in the digital age, equal access to and use of the Internet is a critical enabler of sustainable and inclusive development. The digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between those that have access to modern information and communications technology (ICT), and those that don’t or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and internet connectivity. As the digital divide among and within countries continues to widen, it poses the threat of becoming the new face of gender inequity in the world. Digital access can empower women and girls and gender diverse people, help expand their sense of self in the world, increase civic engagement, provide new sources of global economic growth, and raise awareness of their rights. However, the digital divide is entrenched by factors such as misogyny, the pervasiveness of gender based violence, and continued barriers to girls and non-binary youth’s full participation in the digital world and STEM.
After seven days in New York, my feet landed back on Turtle Island’s soil with a renewed sense of urgency in addressing gender-based violence, a more concerned outlook on the issue of digital globalization, and a deep appreciation for the power that comes with the solidarity composed of women and gender-diverse persons who wish to dismantle the patriarchy in all its forms. If we are united in our cause, we will be able to eradicate gender-based violence in all its formed in our lifetime – but we must be united and we must act like our lives depend on it – because they do.