As Sana Mostifa, softly took the microphone, she introduced herself with quiet brevity as “one of the lucky ones,” since she was living here, in the states. She went on to tell her story, how her father, who had always been outspoken in his political beliefs had suddenly disappeared, and how her family feared the worst and went into hiding, so they wouldn’t disappear too. She left for the U.S. on a school visa to get her masters degree, while her teen sister back in Syria hasn’t seen the inside of a school for three years. Sana Mostifa now has her masters degree and works on raising awareness of the struggles women in particular face in refugee situations.
Sana Mostifa was only one of the incredible people I met during my time at the United Nations for the Commission on the Status and Women. The Commission is the annual gathering of UN Women, and I was able to attend as a youth delegate for the Episcopal Church, and the only delegate from the Diocese of Oklahoma. This trip was in part sponsored by the UNA, who offered me a generous matching grant, and because of this, I was able to spend two whole weeks in New York City, soaking up the words of women and advocates from all over the world. The already diverse streets of NYC veritably sung with different languages on our daily commute, as we streamed into the UN Headquarters.
Every morning, bundled up in scarves and mittens, my mom and I would set out in the snow and spend the morning at either the general plenary sessions, where member states have a dialogue on the yearly revisions made to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Most days however, we attended side events on a plethora of different issues, and a few solutions. In the evenings, we would gather as a delegation to share stories and debrief, as well as share meals together.
While the member states are no doubt, extremely important and essential to the entire process of UNCSW, as a newcomer I was struck far more by the work that was already being done by NGO’s. The people who aren’t waiting on the go-for-it policy, or government money, but rather, are motivated by their belief that women should have the same fundamental rights as men. One man we heard speak, detailed how, everyday when he left in the morning he would make peace with his life, because he was convinced his work would be bombed, but every day he still went.
UNCSW was a life event I won’t forget and a formative experience for me. I learned more about the challenges women face, and the efforts being taken to stop them, it has left me with a craving for social justice, a pen, and a mind filled with ambitions and anxieties. I will continue to spread the message in Tulsa; just like the NGO’s at UNCSW, change starts at the grassroots level, and it is happening all around us.
Submitted by Emma Palmer
The UNA EO blog is a collective venture. The purpose of this blog is to highlight meaningful experiences had by Americans in Eastern Oklahoma as well as to promote diplomacy in our home state.