“My First CSW Experience” by Jenny Lay

My name is Jenny Lay and I currently work as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Liaison Assistant at Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO). I participated in CSW63 as a delegate member of the IIWR-MB and as a panelist on their parallel event, Youth Speak Out: Canada’s Social Protection Systems. I am highly aware of the major teamwork it takes to attend the CSW and I would like to thank IIWR-MB and their members for the opportunity to participate and present my experiences on an international level and for all their support before and during the event. I literally could not have done this without you. I also would like to thank the other panelists for being so honest and strong, which helped me to have the courage needed to do the same. I especially would like to express my gratitude to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) and to my fellow colleagues who also attended as a member of the IIWR-MB delegation: Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Executive Director Kelvin Lynxleg, and Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, Manager of the MMIWG Liaison Unit. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I greatly appreciate all your efforts in supporting me to attend CSW63 and for all the work you do to empower and support Indigenous women and girls. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my First Nation, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, for  also providing me with support to be a part of this amazing opportunity. 

To attend this year’s Commission of the Status of Women has been very eye opening and humbling. I have never seen so many strong women come together to raise awareness on the issues they face in their home territories in regard to social protection systems. I applaud all the women who continue to fight for equality and to raise their voices, even after returning home. Every story I had the privilege of hearing has been so inspiring and motivating. It has further solidified my belief that when women stand together, we can accomplish great things. 

Sharing my personal story and receiving so much support has uplifted my spirit tremendously. Having my resilience recognized has been an amazing thing to experience. I hope to have more opportunities in the future to share my story in the hopes that I can spark and promote resilience and the will to succeed in other young people, especially in indigenous women and girls. 

My experience was amazing, to say the least. I was able to attend events that helped me to learn and grow and I was fortunate to meet people across the world who shared their personal stories so openly. One thing I am taking back home for reflection is the similar experiences.

I also had the chance to explore New York itself. What a stark difference in the lifestyle of people who live in NYC to that of my home territory! I have never seen people so condensed in one area, especially in Times Square. I found the choices in food to be both overwhelming and exciting. I had the opportunity to explore Central Park and Grand Central Station. 

Overall, this experience has been truly amazing and is something I will never forget.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experiences at the UN CSW63. 

Jenny Lay