“What I have taken away from my CSW63 Experience” By: Darryl Zuend

My CSW63 experience has been empowering and life changing. As an IIWR-MB delegate, and a member of the CCYF who was enabled to attend due to the generosity of the NCWC, I was rapidly thrust into a life changing series of events that I had stumbled upon by chance. In 6 short days, my perspective on who I am and what I can do as an advocate and ally has changed me tremendously in three major ways.

Connection Building

              Coming into CSW 63 I knew two friends from my current Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. On the eave of leaving CSW63, I have not only made exciting new friendships with several delegate, but have established contacts with individuals whom I never would have had the chance to meet if I hadn’t come to CSW63. These include meetings with Member of Parliament Mariam Monsef, Senator Marilou McPhedran Member of Parliament Terry Duguid and numerous First Nations leaders including Phillip and Harold Gatensby, Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Research & Policy Lead Joanne Crawford from the Australian International Women’s Development Agency, and Team Leader  – Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Lisa Williams from OECD among many others.

              Not only does the opportunity to network with experts around the world facilitated by my attendance here at CSW63 enable me to connect to the field in a meaningful manner, it has awakened me to the real possibility that I can personally and individually get involved in a pertinent manner. For the first time in my life, I have been shown that I am capable and empowered to make meaningful change and I have been renewed in spirit and emboldened as a result.

Diverse Experience

              CSW63 has been my first and only foray into international collaboration on any scale. Though I have experienced great successes and suffered humbling mistakes, what I have learn’t from this great experience is that each and everyone of us is capable of helping. As diverse a place as the United Nations is, and as diverse as my take away experiences are, I find myself compelled to open up these spaces further.

              Most notably, as one of two male delegates from Canada to CSW63, I find myself surprised and even shocked that the involvement of men and boys in this morally imperative struggle for gender equality continues to be as minimal as it is. I strongly believe that the engagement of men and boys into this in advocacy efforts and educational experiences such as this one is imperative to truly transforming the biased conditions women face globally. If a nation such as Canada can only accumulate two men out of 40+ delegates between three CSOs, then how does this bode for nations that continue to struggle, even foundationally, on equality for all.

Opportunity to make a difference

              Being here, at CSW63 has fundamentally changed who I am. Not just for today, or this week, but for the rest of my life. I’ve now personally experienced what it is to make a difference, to speak out on important issues, to share my space with those around me in an honest and open way. I’ve for the first time in my life spoken with communities I’ve known little about, I’ve seen the courage of my fellow delegate as they share their most intimate stories in order to push our shared cause forward. I’ve been encouraged to participate and welcomed as an ally into this movement in such a way that it contrasts the way many of the women who’ve accepted me, have yet to be accepted by society.

              Simultaneously, I’ve seen how politics can intervene negatively to equality in the world. During my time here, I’ve heard multiple government representatives from around the world openly use regressive rhetoric, I’ve watched nations give updates on their progress while cherry picking information and ensuring there is minimal to no time to question them on these matters. I’ve also watched as good questions, challenging questions were asked of leadership, only to be evaded and or ignored.

These experiences collectively, have been personally transformative. Prior to CSW63 I was an ally, but I was not an activist, I was not a voice, and I was not actively participating in making a positive difference. Today, and from now on, I am.