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UN women's commission a daunting and enlightening experience

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Reporting on my experience at the 60th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) at the United Nations has proven to be a most daunting, yet enlightening, experience.

This was my first experience of the both the UN and, though I have been a member of VOW for a few years, also the first time I had the privilege of meeting and working with so many passionate, gifted VOW women (I live in Nunavut).

Strong, passionate women past and present from many corners of the country have created and nurtured such an important, respected vehicle of social change we know as VOW. For this I am truly grateful.

I come to VOW with the heart, soul and mind of a community development worker, with great passion for studying, understanding, analyzing, evaluating social movements and actions directed at positive, progressive social change. I cannot help but reflect on my experience at the UN CSW within such a mind and soul space.

First, in a more pragmatic manner, I will list the key aspects of the UN CSW experience (VOW events, NGO events, unexpected events) that anyone considering attending may want to consider as very positive, enlightening experiences.

I learned and observed so much in terms of the interconnectedness of local, national, global efforts -- this re-enforced (perhaps even to the point of truism) the importance of our day-to-day efforts large and small. Quite energizing for someone who is so remote in the Arctic with few like-minded folks around.

In the realm of UN efforts, both events organized by Janis Alton were life-changing in terms of understanding this interconnectedness. In terms of energizing my ongoing efforts, they taught me not to neglect the importance of VOW's web of global interconnected relationships.

In terms of national actions and efforts, our meeting at the Permanent Mission to the UN (also organized by Janis) not only expanded my understanding of Canada's diplomatic efforts, but also reminded me why I was there as a VOW delegate: there are real, concrete, demands our organization is focused on and at this meeting they were presented by the gifted VOW leaders Janis Alton, Mary Lou McPhedran and Kasha Slavner.

Through attending various parallel UN CSW events as well as NGO events I became very aware of the following: our current Liberal government not only is admired and closely observed by many international organization and nations, the federal government also stepped up to the plate at this important eventto support and provide space for women and issues of concern to them. (I wish to mention also that our cabinet ministers were very approachable and willing to engage in conversation with me.)

I was able to attend presentations and workshops that provided me with concrete tools: NGO CSW consultation day advocacy training; as well as, the Yukon government's presentation on research data collection and analysis (Gender Inclusive and Diversity Analysis).

There were a few presentations regarding Indigenous Women's issues. It was so very obvious at each and every event that included Canadian Indigenous Women that these women are very much respected and admired by Indigenous and non-Indigenous women internationally. In fact, I would say that women around the world were somewhat more aware of the positive and strong efforts of Canadian Indigenous Women. This was particularly true in the realm of MMIW, which is not simply a Canadian issue -- I learned very quickly that it is a tragedy around the globe -- in particular, wherever there are extractive industries.

Back to my social movement and social change thoughts and perspective. A key aspect of planning any action would be to thoroughly understand the current political environment. VOW should be able, perhaps, to make significant progress in terms of our mission and mandate with the current Liberal government.

That being said, we may need to even more thoroughly and deeply understand the current socio-political environment and atmosphere so that we can be heard. Further, we may benefit from looking inward and re-evaluating how we may need to present or re-identify ourselves as the willing, able, knowledgeable allies we are, deserving of a respectful relationship with this new government and moving forward on the kind of change we wish to see as part of our mission at VOW.

After reviewing the DVD of the history of VOW upon returning from the UN CSW I could not help but think that, yes, as in the early days, this is a key time for VOW.

While at the UN there were several concrete incidents I offer below as examples that suggest to me how very important and positive this time is for us. We are at a key point in history in terms of possibilities and opportunities for significant progressive and positive change due to environment both at home and at the UN...the Global community is looking to Canada to be leaders.

There was a strong, accessible presence of several of our new government's cabinet. These ministers played a significant role in bringing many issues of importance to women to the forefront in their presentations, and forums supported that addressed issues of violence against women and also issues of importance to Indigenous women.

The issue of MMIW is global not just an issue in Canada. Global eyes are on our efforts through the newly announced federal government’s initiation of the MMIW inquiry.

As I overheard in many conversations from activists around the world -- there are many eyes on Canada and these eyes are from hopeful -- even envious -- hearts. All due to the new air of hope for positive change that is associated with our new government.

I attended a few parallel events that were either presented by Canadian Indigenous women and their organizations, or where Canadian Indigenous women were part of a presentation made by Indigenous women from around the world. Clearly -- and even explicitly -- marginalized women from around the world (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) consider Canadian Indigenous women to be leaders from to learn approaches for action in their own struggles. This respect, admiration for Canadian Indigenous women -- heir strength, resilience, knowledge -- came from women from almost all the continents.

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