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    Reflections on the Youth Forum at CSW61 (2)

    By Emily Lavallee (cousin of Rozanne VanRie, AWC Antwerp)

    The entire Youth Forum of the Commission on the Status of Women was incredibly inspiring. However, some voices and quotes stood out to me. I will take the anecdotes and words of advice with me in all my endeavors.

    The Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, H.E. Amina Mohammed delivered a touching and powerful speech. Then, she spoke from her heart, and what she said was genuine and inspiring. She addressed each person listening and told them it does not matter what they were going to become, but the journey matters. She explained how we all have a journey and we must make the most of the path. She assured us that we all have very important skills and unique opportunities before us, and we must engage with them. Rather than feeling guilty for the opportunities I have been afforded, I must engage with these opportunities, and utilize the skills I have gained in order to promote my beliefs in gender equality.

    Several speakers noted the importance of including all genders in the fight for gender equality. These are some quick summaries of the most thought-provoking things I heard:

    Feminism should be a part of every aspect of society. It is not a stand-alone idea, but one that affects every part of our society.

    Gender is non-binary. A fight for women’s equality is a fight for all genders equality. The conversation should not be confined to one about men and women, because gender goes beyond those labels. Although those who spoke for the LGBTQI community were met with as much support as all the speakers were met with, the conversation throughout the conference remained gender binary. Even among the leaders of gender equality, there is room for improvement. We can all become more inclusive in our conversations about gender.

    SDG #5 is the center point for gender equality. The SDGs have real impacts.

    There are two steps in creating a gender equality. The first is changing hearts, minds and attitudes. The second is real action and policy change. Neither can be done without the other.

    Education and technology are two great equalizers.

    The idea of ‘leave no one behind’ speaks to why starting with youth is so important. It is easier to enable youth from the beginning of their lives than attempting to play catch up once they are already behind in their personal development.

    The speakers continuously empowered the audience by reminding them that they, the speakers, did not hold the power, but instead the audience was the most powerful group in the room.

    My favorite part of the conference was how it was based on “Young Women as an Economic Force”. Regardless of the gender binary status of the statement, I absolutely love how the conversation was had under the agreed assumption that involving women in the economy makes the economy more prosperous as a whole. I was in awe of those who spoke encouraging women’s entrepreneurship and leadership. Companies with a diverse gender profile are more successful than those with a less diverse gender profile. It was proven over and over again that involving women and marginalized genders in a company makes it more successful. I was not surprised at this fact; it makes sense that when a company alienates half the population they struggle in problem solving and general efficiency. However, I was incredibly empowered by the powerful people who went beyond the ethical reasons for gender equality and went into detail behind the facts of a gender equal workforce.

    I have never felt so personally valued before. I wondered if this is what men felt like all the time. I thought about myself as a vital asset to a company. What a wonderful thought! Self-importance can be dangerous, but in this case, it is so important for all people including marginalized genders to garner feelings of self-importance.

    In short, the Youth Forum of the UN Commission on the Status of Women was incredibly informative for me. It put my own condition in perspective and informed me of the condition of others. I cannot wait to continue my journey and bring feminism into every facet of my life.

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