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Girls’ Globe | Ignore the Voices That Say You Can’t. We Can.

Originally published on Girls’ Globe on 17 April 2015:

I was six years old and in Primary 2 when Hillary Clinton gave her famous speech on women’s rights being human rights in Beijing in 1995.

Almost 10 years later, I moved to rural China. I lived with an Eritrean girl from London, whose Dad worked for the United Nations in the Middle East. It was in China I became passionate about human rights. I was blown away by the strength of the Chinese women I met, the stories of women and conflict in Africa and challenges diaspora women and girls face in the United Kingdom. I wish I had known about the Beijing conference; I wish I had been taught about feminism and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at school.

I came home to study and learn more about human rights. I dreamed of a career that would take me to the UN one day.

In 2011 I graduated feeling a little defeated after struggling with stress, failing a UN Law class and being told by my Professor that I had no chance of the career I wanted so badly. I made a decision to prove him wrong.

I found work in India and Ethiopia. I worked with too many inspiring people to list. Last month I was invited, by one of the leading women’s rights figures in India, to give a speech at the UN on my work on human rights.

We need to involve more young women in international politics and in all decision-making.

Kara Photo 2As a YWCA delegate at CSW you meet others who share similar passions. There is an opportunity to lobby some of the world’s most influential people and learn first hand about issues facing women in other countries. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard young women describe this as a “life-changing” experience.

However, it’s not all rosy at CSW. At a cocktail reception with the UK Ambassador, I had the misfortune of someone saying to me “You need to learn more about the UN before you open your mouth.” In a meeting with the UK mission, I raised the issue of having young women and more diversity on the official delegation. I was told, “We’ve weighed up the pros and cons. It wasn’t the policy of the last Government, it’s certainly not the policy of this Government and good luck with the future Government.”

At an “intergenerational dialogue” event hosted by UN Women, out of all the speakers between 9.30am – 6pm only two were young women. The paintings that hang in the main UN corridor are of men because in over 77 years there has never been a woman Secretary General.

The daily UK Mission / NGO meetings are a good example of what needs to change.

  • There were more men than women of colour in those meetings.
  • There were more men than women with disabilities.
  • There were more men than transgender women.
  • There were more white, cisgender women from the South of England aged over 60 and 70 than anyone else in the room.
  • Voices from less privileged backgrounds were missing.

In order for real change to take place, and fast, we need to be proactive and hold our Kara Photo3governments accountable for making these spaces inclusive of all women. Given that the idea behind CSW is to empower and protect women and girls, I was disappointed to learn that so many are not a meaningful part of the decision-making process.

The good news is that World YWCA made history at CSW59. We held the first ever Young Women & Girls Forum in partnership with UN Women. Artwork from the day now features at UN Headquarters. A constant reminder of the future we want.

I am privileged to have had the opportunities I have had, but not all women are in the same position. I’d love to attend CSW with a truly diverse, intergenerational delegation from Scotland in future. Following youth engagement in our independence referendum, with a woman First Minister and gender-balanced Cabinet, there has never been a bigger appetite for a seat at the decision making table amongst young Scots.

Young women can and will change the face of international politics and development over the next 20 years, just as women before us did in Beijing in 1995.

My message to young women is to ignore the voices that say you can’t. We can. Women and girls can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do. I hope you’ll choose to join us. Together we can motivate those in power to actively engage younger and more diverse voices in all decision-making so that no person is left behind.

This is an excerpt from my speech at the Scottish Parliament on 1 April 2015. A big thank you to Engender for the opportunity.

She Let Go

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.  Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.  She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She didn’t search the scriptures.  She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.  She didn’t journal about it.  She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.  She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.  She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.  She just let go.

She didn’t analyse whether she should let go.  She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.  She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.  She didn’t call the prayer line.  She didn’t utter one word.  She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.  There was no applause or congratulations.  No one thanked her or praised her.  No one noticed a thing.  Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.  There was no struggle.  It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.  It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.  A small smile came over her face.  A light breeze blew through her.  And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

– Shafire Rose

YWCA | Visiting YWCA Korea

Originally posted on ywcascotland.org:

Earlier this month I had the exciting opportunity to visit another YWCA… over 5,000 miles away in South Korea. 

Together, YWCA Korea and YWCA Scotland form part of a dynamic network of women leading social and economic change in over 120 countries. Each YWCA is unique in the work that it does and the lives it impacts, but we all strive to do one thing; empower young women to achieve their potential.

Here are three highlights from my first World YWCA experience:

1. The food

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Oh, the food!
Korean cooking is some of the best I have tasted. Signature dishes include barbecued meat, Bibimbap (mixed rice) and ice cold buckwheat noodles. No meal is complete without a medley of small side dishes such as kimchi, lightly fried vegetables and pickled eggs. [Photo: the lunch I tucked into at one of YWCA Korea’s favourite local restaurants.]

2. Learning more about the history of Korea

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Having lived in China after high school and more recently in India, I have a keen interest in all things Asian. Korea has a fascinating but distressing history. Even today the country remains divided by war.

YWCA Korea is calling for 100 million signatures for the resolution of Japanese military sexual slavery.

Between 1930 to 1945, Japanese soldiers fighting the Pacific War forced thousands of women and girls into sexual slavery. Survivors were either killed or abandoned far from home. Japan refuses to accept responsibility for this widescale violence against women. Sign the petition to support YWCA Korea and the international community in its mission to restore the victims’ human rights and send a powerful message to those abusing women in armed conflicts today.

3. Meeting other YWCA Women

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[Left to right: YWCA Korea Intl. Affairs Manager Ji Hea, YWCA Scotland volunteer Kara, YWCA Seoul Secretay General Jeon Hyun Sook, YWCA India General Secretary Leila Passah & YWCA Korea Corporate Partnership Director Hyunjung Hong]

My first taster of what it feels like to be part of a global women’s movement left a lasting impression. I was warmly welcomed to Seoul by YWCA Korea & YWCA Seoul staff and met the National General Secretary of YWCA India too! As a member of YWCA, you can expect to find yourself adopted into a family of inspiring women who share the same passion for justice and human rights.

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YWCA Korea oversees 52 local YWCAs and over 80,000 members. Their current priorities range from anti-nuclear and peaceful unification campaigns to promoting youth leadership and alternatives to the current, intensive Korean education system.

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Next door to YWCA Korea HQ is YWCA Seoul – the biggest of all the Korean YWCAs. [Photo: a conference room that accommodates approx. 300 people. There’s also a canteen, swimming pool, exercise studios and mini theatre inside.]

Thank you to YWCA Korea and YWCA Seoul for such a memorable visit. For more information on World YWCA and for all the latest YWCA Scotland newsfollow us on Twitter or Facebook.