by Jewelles Smith / 05.22.2012

What brought me here, to this program and what is my intent or aspiration from this training?

What is my intention in being here?

The Tanzku japanese wish ribbon is tied on a tree during the tanabata festival. One writes wishes on colourful strips of paper and then ties them to the tree. Today we each pondered the above questions, wrote them down and tied them to a artfully constructed tree in class. This will be a reminder to each of us what we are here for. I wrote: ”To develop my understanding of CEDAW and more human rights frameworks to use in my work. Create an opportunity to meet with other women doing human rights activism and work in the world. And to take a step forward in my career aspirations.”

Next we heard lecture by Alda Facio. Famed human right leader. It was inspiring to sit and listen to her speak of her work and give a breakdown of the recent history of human rights law. I admit I feel so honoured to be in the same room with such amazing women activists and leaders. learning the ways in which the human rights progress and emerge, and then they creative and new ways that activists work to protect these rights was part of the lecture today. I have a giant stack of papers to read and my brain is racing with thoughts on how all this knowledge applies to the work I am doing and have been doing and hope in the future to be a part of. Nuggets of information she offered to us. Such as her experience and thoughts on the topic of “equity” versus “equality”. Alda believes that the word “equity” is about justice, a concept that can be ambiguous and in human rights law it can be used against women. Equality is specific and related to the actual rights each person has. there has been concern by some groups that equality means “sameness” something that is not the goal of so many women. She referred me to an article that she wrote but I was unable to locate it on my USB key that is packed full of writings!

I admit I spent some time thinking on how I can use this knowledge in my goal to create a series of workshops to explain CEDAW and CRPD to women’s groups and then offer suggestions on ways to use these and other conventions to create a more equal and inclusive space/environment/community. How women here in Canada can use Canada’s position as a ratified country to fight at the grassroots level. I still have so much to learn and to think on regarding this.

I had a wonderful lunch with 3 other participants in the course. Such amazing women! Involved with their communities. With their permission, I would like to write a bio of each of them at some point.

In the afternoon we got to meet and listen to two amazing speakers, both of whom I am very well aware of in the Canadian context. Mary Eberts founder of LEAF. She spoke of early work in the 60s and the National Action Committee that lead to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Although the Royal Commission did defuse the explosive situation (read a lot of angry women sat back to wait and see), post commission the spirited activism of so many women lead to property rights, labour rights, and contract & banking rights. However, equality for indigenous women was not resolved, even as it is not to this day. We have only to look to the Opal inquiry in British Columbia. The energy in the 1970s and 1980s was formidable, however, women learned that if the government or big business did not want to change, the royal commissions recommendations and findings could not “make” them. The realization of this lead to the work that resulted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Next and in conjunction with Mary Eberts’ talk, Fiona Sampson shared her recent work in Kenya: “The 160 Girls Project”. I am familiar with Fiona through her work with DAWN-RAFH Canada, although heretofore I had not met her! What a treat it was to chat with her and we hope to have dinner soon and catch up on one another’s work! this project is in conjunction with her work with the equity effect. Next both women talked about LEAF and the work they have done and are doing. One very interesting conversation was regarding the lessons they have learned on representing the diversity of women’s experiences and needs. One groups experience can be vastly different than another’s.

Finally, Fiona drew some conclusions on the linkages between the missing and murdered women in Canada and the violated girls in Kenya. Because women were recognized as human beings with all the rights of human beings in 1993, the possibilities have opened up with regard to litigation. So many cases are possible to pursue because of these international laws.

I think I am going to spend many nights and days processing the important information I am learning. I feel that this blog is currently mostly a debriefing of the day. My hope is that as the days pass by, I will begin to have more insights into how I will use this knowledge and these women warrior’s experiences in the work I do with women with disabilities and single mothers. good night for now! must read!

“feminism is a global social and political movement that questions and fights against all forms of oppression, exploitation, and discrimination yet is also something that is carried within.” JASS Mesoamerican Feminist Debate