I first entered the UN building when I was 11 with my mother who was speaking about “Surviving on the Edge of Conflict” on the first anniversary of 9/11. I remember only big corridors, Kofi Anan, vending machines with ice cream and crips which were all new to me. I was shy to smile at the camera and the general assembly room is still a vague recollection.
March 2013: Commission on the Status of Women 57:
Two years ago I entered again. This time with official documents inviting me to attend CSW57; in hopes of reaching a consensus on how to end violence against women and girls. I was a junior at Brown. I was looking for something to explore. Some sort of calling. Still shy in front of the camera I felt out of place. A young delegate walking those big corridors in my unapologetic Pakistan clothes. I was a fly in the wall for almost all the events, but from 8am-8pm every day I absorbed everything I could. I learnt about, and fell in love with the idea of making change as a woman. For the first time I was empowered to take ownership of my body, of my narrative and how to use it best as an agent of change. Those 2 weeks in NYC took a toll on my midterm grades, but were instrumental in bringing me closer to understanding the kind of work that drove me to an impassioned madness. It was, in a sense the beginning of my journey.
A year out of college, I am back in New York. It is much colder but the halls don’t feel as big, everything is a little less intimidating. I don’t have to get my picture, they have the badges ready for those who have been before. There are 1,100 registered NGO’s. The whole arena swarming with activists and artists and policymakers and lawyers. It is exciting, and frustrating. There is so much to learn still but this time I have the confidence; I know what I want to get out of these 2 weeks. The issues are no longer concepts but problems I have witnessed. I can speak of them first hand. That makes a difference. It means I am not a fly on the wall anymore, but an active participant. It means, this time around the opening session in the General Assembly is not a vague recollection. I am in the process of creating history, just like my mother in 2002, just like my grandmother at the first Beijing conference in 1995. This makes me feel so privileged and humbled all at the same - that I get to be here, and engage and then take that back and use it to learn even more.
As always, I will only speak of which I know best in the hope to share this experience with everyone.
A word about Lucky Llama
At my first CSW I was so nervous, my friend told me to take along this Lucky Llama he had gotten me from his travels in South America for good luck. I don't believe in totems, but this llama definitely became a fixture at the conference. He's back again this year - and will be posing at various locations so at the 2030 review of this session, he can claim to have witnessed change makers push to upset the status quo!