Line Stories: Experiencing UN Bureaucracy In Real Time
Monday, day 1, was day one of the Commission of the Status of Women meeting that is taking place in New York. I remember reading a blog post from my colleague Katerina Fialova, written a couple of years ago, talking about women from all over the world queuing in the UN headquarters building, and how it would be interesting to do a gender analysis of the line. I didn't imagine that I would have the opportunity to do so while lining up for eight hours the first days of the conference. Yes, you read well: eight hours.
I tried to be optimist and take advantage of this opportunity to talk to the women that were near me in the line. There was a lot of solidarity, all of us were ready to keep one another's places for grabbing coffee or a sandwich or going to the bathroom. I met a couple of women from the US, who were ministers from the Scientific Church, and they told me about their religion and their experiences as priests (apparently they don't have to fight for a place as women, since it's quite open). As I was talking to them another woman from the US approached us. She was a catholic priest and invited us to sign a petition to urge Catholic Church priests to ordain women.
In my line there were some people from Latin America. I started talking to a woman from Puerto Rico, member of a network of African descendents. When I told her that I was from APC she said that their email address was from one of our members, Institute for Global Communications. Then I told her about the work that we're doing with gender and ICT, and she told me about these media awards that they did in Puerto Rico some years ago, “The golden pig awards”. They were given to sexist media and they got a lot of attention. Some young women from her organisation (Feministas en Marcha), she told me, wanted to do this again, and new media and ICTs could be incorporated.
I also talked to a woman from Hounduras that was doing voluntary work for a local organisation called COFEMUN (www.cofemun.org). She was a journalist and told me about training they did on health and reproductive health issues and how they dealt with violence in the context last year's coup. I also talked to someone from India, working for ActionAid. She told me the work that they were doing with HIV-AIDS issues in Africa, from a policy perspective (how development programmes are not taking into account women needs , especially the way they are experiencing VAW, when designing aid programmes). I also talked to them about the work we're doing (how we're training women in FTXs, how we're tackling VAW online, how we're looking at sexuality issues and ICTs) and they showed lots of interest and said: “I don't know why we're not doing this”.
While all of us, hundreds of women, were lining I followed what was going on on the main panel by Twitter. It turns out that of five main speakers, four of them were men. “We can review the status of women at the UN right here, right now”, wrote my colleague Lalaine Viado.
At 5 o'clock some of my co-liners were about to cry. I had quite a bad experience with some women from Brazil. They were obsessed with their place in the line and women moving in and out of it. One told me: “That's what we women are doing so bad...we are our own worst enemy”. Another one of them touched my black wool sweater and told me: “some cultures are just not respectful”. I didn't get it 'til she told me that she was talking about black people. I just was too tired to say anything. I turned my back and stopped talking to them.
Even if I was exhausted after this whole day of just queuing, it was a good opportunity to see where we are standing (we have a lot of work to do with respect to positioning ICTs in this conference) and to learn a lot about the heterogeneous human beings that are clustered as NGOs.