CEDAW Week: May 28-June 1-Weekend Thoughts by Jewelles Smith / 06.03.2012

I am exhausted and so overflowing with information that I am sure will take weeks, if not months, to digest. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have in attending this 6-week Institute on Women’s Human Rights. This past week our class more than doubled as we had women join us for an intense introduction to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We covered its principals, Optional Protocol, General Recommendations, and studied examples of how CEDAW is used in specific cases; I have gained so much insight into how I can use this Convention in connection with ICRPD and my own work in the area of Human Rights for women who live with disabilities.

We had such incredibly inspiring Speakers all week. I feel like my world has stretched out to all corners of the earth and that the possibilities for change are tangible. The world is a scary space of conservatism and backlash, yet despite this push against them, women are stronger than ever. Their determination is fuelled by their connections to their communities and the possibilities we see around every corner, in every square, on every march/walk and citizen eruption of protest. I am leaving this week rejuvenated and inspired.

Speakers this week included: Dr. Martha Morgan,  Alda Facio, Denisse Tamin Rosenfeld, MA, and of course, Angela Lytle, M.Ed.

After the first day of Workshops and Lectures, we gathered together for a short reception. Many members of the community and university came out, and I met Yin Brown, Program Officer of Advocacy and Alliances. We also gathered at the end of the week for a lovely meal and visit post-CEDAW week. I cannot state often enough what an incredible opportunity it is for so many women human rights activists from throughout the globe to gather and share our stories. The formal and informal discussions will lead, I am certain, to many long-term relationships and future collaborations in projects and activism.

During this entire week, we have all been aware of the struggles going on across this country for student rights, especially in Quebec. Further theactivism against the proposed Federal budget has been in the forefront as well. Knowing that the Canadian government is dismantling so much of what has made Canada a great example of Human Rights Equality is disheartening, however, the voices of dissent that have risen and joined forces keep hope alive. To those in the front and on the streets: Be Strong.To those in the political arena: Canadians are being mobilized and we will not stand for our country to fail to live up to its obligations.

“Forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”–bell hooks