I am always moved by what a group of motivated young people can accomplish in just a few short days.
Roughly a dozen young adults from various corners of the US were called together to observe, listen, discuss and contribute to the United Nation’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women. Each of us arrived with diverse perspectives and a different lens through which we view the world, as well as the issues at hand. What resulted in our time together was a mass of ideas, inspirations and challenges.
I observed what you might suspect. Though we are all called to a common goal of fighting for gender justice, the roads to that goal are long, divergent and winding. We heard impassioned and heartbreaking stories affecting women and girls all over the globe regarding violence, maternal & infant mortality, the fight for education, systemic hunger, poverty and disease. The list goes on and on. These issues are heavy and convoluted, not to mention mired in cultural and often religious traditions.
One of the panel discussions I attended (accidentally, I will admit) asked questions that especially resonated with me. Are we trying to change the world at large, or are we trying to change one person at a time? And how do we go about enacting change, either at an individual or a program level? Changing individuals can be accomplished through training, workshops and increasing the number of women willing to work in and through institutions. Changing perspectives on how to design and implement programs are the seedlings of cultural change.
What happens when we start chipping away at the gender gap? Access to resources as well as food production increases. Hunger, disease and infant mortality all decrease. The relationship between men and women becomes more mutual and respectful. Violence decreases. Human rights are valued.
During our time there, I heard a wonderful example of how powerful a movement can be. Picture yourself in a large auditorium filled with people in their seats. One individual gets up and starts dancing. People think to themselves, “What’s that crazy person doing dancing like that?” Then another person gets up to dance. Then another. And another. Soon the whole group is dancing, with the exception of a few individuals. Now, they are the crazy ones.
So why not start or join a movement? Or many movements? Let us begin reducing the gender gap by getting involved: as individuals, as groups, as cultures.
I ask you to engage this cohort to see what we learned and what actions we are planning to take now that we are home. I assure you, there are many. Ask what groups/programs we encountered; which ones are enacting change and which ones are not. This group of young adults all arrived with diverse perspectives. We left with even more, and I dare say that our lenses through which we see the world are a slightly different hue. I can say with absolute certainty, however, that we are all ready to dance.