This year was the sixty first session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Apart from everything else, CSW61 created a space (the youth forum) for young people to engage with issues related to women and girls. It is here that conversations related to identities, role of young people (men, women, girls, boys and LGBTQI++) in changing the world were happening. This two-day event was held just before CSW61 and it witnessed 770 young people, women and men coming together to amplify their voice, views and advocacy efforts in the implementation of Agenda 2030.
This year, I got the opportunity of being a part of such a space. My fellow youth participants brought with them new ideas, thoughts, leadership which set the ball rolling for the main CSW event. The involvement of young people in such events was also viewed as an opportunity to invest in their leadership and to ensure that the efforts which started in the 20th century towards empowering women and girls is sustained. All of us were committed towards our presentation, sharing our personal journeys and sharing our contributions towards the draft resolution document of the CSW61. The idea was to contribute to the larger narrative.
It was a thrilling moment for me to be sharing a platform with young men and women from across the world who had come together to discuss agendas related to gender equality. The youth forum was a safe space for everyone to discuss openly about challenges & opportunities around women’s rights in their local contexts and also in the global context.
For the last ten years, I have been coordinating and facilitating trainings and conducting workshops on gender issues with various stakeholders. I also come from a community which is deeply patriarchal and promotes a culture of masculinity. I have had my own personal journey where my perceptions about gender and gender based violence has been redefined. During my time at the youth forum at CSW, I was constantly trying to take back the discussion and connect it to the reality back in Haryana, my state.
In Haryana, girls and women are socialised to follow. They are not taught about leadership or decision making. For me, being in a space where young girls and women were present in the capacity of leaders, made me realise the goal we have to strive for. This was reaffirmed by the resolve of the forum that sustainable development goals cannot be achieved if we do not invest in building up young women’s leadership capacity.
The second area of focus was economic empowerment and it was acknowledged during the forum that without a focus on economic empowerment we cannot build a pathway towards young women’s leadership. I had said this during the forum also and I repeat myself here. It is not enough to say that women are working, so they are economically empowered. For a woman to be empowered, she should also be able to earn at the same level as a man. She should also have the right to spend her own money the way she wants. Also, it is crucial to understand that we cannot achieve gender equality without men playing a part.
Further, my engagement at the forum, made me realise that the moment we have a man working towards gender equality, he is granted this special status. However, it is important for us to realise that gender is a spectrum and under the structure of patriarchy, even men are oppressed. The fight for gender equality is a fight for human rights and we need more and more men to be a part of this.