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Archive for March, 2011

A Great Difference in My Life

This guest blog post was written by Fabiola, a 17 year old girl from Cameroon who flew (for the first time in her life!) to NY to participate in the 55th UN Commission on the Status of Women. Fabiola was part of a Plan led Girl Delegation which took part in high level panels, side events and caucuses. This post appears complete in its original format. you can read another girl-delegate blog here.

 

I am called Fabiola; I am 17 years old and first child out of three and the only girl. I come from Cameroon and from a rural area where girls faced a lot of problems when it comes to children’s participation. I was very happy and excited when I was chosen in our YETAM (Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media) project to represent my school, community, Plan and Cameroon as a whole in New York City to speak out during the 55th session of the UN conference on the Commission of the Status of women.  One thing I was scared when I was still in Cameroon was the plane because I always hear of plane crash and I was not courageous but when we had to enter the plane, I prayed very hard. When the plane was to take off my heart bit very fast like I met a masquerade and as the plane fly higher I felt better since I adapted to it. I had so many experiences in the plane because I always heard that there is a toilet in the plane but saw it physically. In all, it was a great experience travelling by plane.

We arrived in New York City on the 18th February 2011 at exactly 12noon. I could not imagine myself being in New York for 01 week with the snow and cold. When we took a car I felt a little better and safely we were in UN Millennium Plaza Hotel where we were lodged. We met with Kate Ezzes the Youth Engagement Manager from Plan USA at the Hotel and she facilitated our booking.  There were about seven different countries who were to come to US but we the delegation from Cameroon were the first to arrive New York. It was fun eating American food for the first time.

My experience in New York City was quite different from my real life because I got to learn and know so many things. I was the first girl who had to speak in the event out of 14 girls because their presentation was to start on Monday. My first presentation was not that easy because I was nervous but had courage and self esteem since I had experience presenting in other events at local and national levels in my country. However, this was my first time to participate in an event out of my country. I became excited at the end of my first presentation which took place on Sunday 20th. I gained self confidence because everyone was impressed with the way I presented and I also let the voice of young people especially girls to be heard. This gave me courage to take part in so many side events where I had to talk from my own experience on the participation of girls in ICTs (Information Communication and Technology), Science and Mathematics.  I met with girls from different parts of the world during the side events where I learnt many things on their perception of girls in ICTs, which was very different from mine. I got to know from the girls that there are different problems faced by girls in their society. I got to know their manner of approach. It was a great pleasure meeting with girls from around the world. 

I was happy taking part in different side events because it was through this opportunity that I had to meet with important personalities from different NGOs like Plan International, Unicef and Girls scouts at Unicef building. I never knew that, attending the United Nations conference was a great opportunity for me which has made a great difference in my life. I can better express myself in public with no fear. I will continue through our YETAM project to advocate on the right of girls and also encourage the participation of girls in ICTs, science and Mathematics in my school and my community. Through this conference, I got to know so many great people like the Canadian Minister, the development officer of the United Republic of Tanzania, Grace Mwangwa just to name a few. I think this conference has made a great difference in my life which I will live to remember.        

Fabiola

You can also see Fabiola speak on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/UNGEI#p/a/u/1/_zEfWX7RIOw

United We Stand

This rather angry blog post lambasting Plan’s use of pink and other hyper-feminine symbols was published recently in ‘This Magazine’ (Canada). I’ll say right off the bat in case someone is eagerly expecting a passionate defence: I won’t use this space to justify Plan’s marketing decisions. Actually I’m quite happy for people to engage in a healthy debate on marketing messages; especially those who intend to change social injustices through fundraising (see here for my blog on the ‘the girl store’). I would, however, like to use Wendy Glauser’s analysis to talk about an issue that goes to the very heart of the feminist movement:

Radical Feminism vs. Liberal Feminism.

Radical feminists believe that change will only come from completely dismantling the hegemonic patriarchal social system. This is epitomized by Audrey Lorde’s famous essay (1979): “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that…the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

Liberal feminists on the other hand are very happy to use the master’s tools against the master. They believe that you can subvert the system from within through political and legal reform. Catharine MacKinnon is a good example (2007): “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines what a human being is. In 1948, it told the world what a person, as a person, is entitled to. It has been fifty years. Are women human yet?…If women were human, would we have so little voice in public deliberations and in governments in the countries where we live? Would we be hidden behind veils and imprisoned in houses and stoned and shot for refusing? Would be beaten nearly to death, and to death, by men with whom we are close? Would we be sexually molested in our families? Would we be raped in genocide to terrorize and eject and destroy our ethnic communities, and raped again in that undeclared war that goes on every day in every country in the world in what is called peacetime? If women were human, would our violation be enjoyed by our violators? And if we were human, when these things happened, would virtually nothing be done about it?”

And so we hear this debate echoed everyday. For some of us the only way to affect real change is through a radical political movement (through, according to Glauser, ‘sabotage…mobilization…disruption’). For others the best way to really change lives is by using the only tools we have, the language of human rights or the color pink, to try and change hearts and minds. Both methods are needed and both can co-exist side by side.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. I would like, for at least 24 hours, to see all feminists stand together in solidarity and respect, compassion and friendship.

For if we won’t support each other then surely the master has already won.

Keshet Bachan

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