Thursday, April 15, 2010

Practicum Wrap-Up Discussion

I have now had some time to think over the Practicum, my experiences at the CSW, and what I have learned. Most important to note are the difficulties faced engaging in women's rights dialogues across cultures and geographic locations. Differences in economics, social practices and more make it difficult to find consensus on what is practical, desirable, or even possible. Despite all of these challenges, activists from around the world still come together to share experiences, exchange ideas, advocate for their concerns, and find sites of compromise. It is far from a perfect system, but it seems better than not coming together to discuss. In addition to noting the challenges faced discussing women's rights, I also was able to see how women's NGOs strategically came to the table not only to overcome the aforementioned challenges, but also to advocate for issue of particular concern. Much emphasis was placed on providing context so that persons coming from other backgrounds could understand the issue and be a part of the discussion. This is not to say that all NGOs were successful, or even that all were willing to concede to the advocacy concerns of other NGOs, but what did happen was framing of discussions in such a way as to allow individuals who might be protective of their organizations concern to be able to at least see how other activists viewed and addressed a different, similar, or even the same issue.

The opportunity to see activists from around the world discussing, debating, and at times aggressively arguing about women's rights impacted how I view the work of the UN and the role of NGOs in the UN. There were certain things that were confirmed after seeing the real world practice of NGO and UN advocacy, but there were also many unexpected observations. Seeing how advocacy and debate about women's rights occurs in practice definitely illuminates my reading, and promises to enlighten my future research.