Sunday, March 16, 2014

CSW Reflections from an Advocacy Rooky

It is Sunday evening in New York - the first week of CSW has come to a close, and many NGO prepresentatives from around the world have gone back home. Including Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel from WO=MEN member Rutgers WPF, who shares here with us how he looks back now on that first week:

I really need to write down my thoughts and reflections, cause I’m afraid I will loose it if I don’t start to download and share it soon. To free some space on my hard drive and to inform you on what’s going on inside of me.

The danger of a conference like CSW is in both focussing and in not focussing your attention and time. Let me try to explain.

If you DO focus for example on attending side events, but you don’t follow up with advocating key influencers and decision makers, change ain’t gonna happen. On the other hand, if you DO focus on tackling the opposition or your own delegation you might end up frustrated by the dirty politics, the way the UN system works and the seemingly unwillingness from the delegation to listen to you. And quite frankly, you don’t want to listen to yourself either, because you sound sour and miss the passion and moving stories from the side events you didn’t go to.

But the other side of the coin is not a rose garden either. If you DON’T focus, you will either get lost in the side events circus, or you collapse from exhaustion in trying to keep up with everything and running from Church Centre to DHL Auditorium or from Salvation Army to Armenian Convention Centre and back to General Assembly.

The challenge is in striking the right balance in getting yourself inspired, engaged and informed, through listening to all the women & a few men from all over the world. Coming from grass roots levels working with marginalized people to increase their access, knowledge and agency in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, to experts with 50 years of experience in working for UN Agencies or being Heads of States. And then from this state of being inspired, engaged and informed, you can optimally engage yourself into hard core advocacy, lobbying your government delegation & permanent missions with thematic fact sheets, moving personal stories and detailed language input suggestions.

But unfortunately, we don’t live in an advocacy paradise. And advocates are also just humans. With rights, Human Rights, not women’s rights. Why make this distinction all the time? But let’s not go there now, that’s another discussion topic altogether.

To conclude, I’d just like to quote the words spoken by Marcio from Brazil, a man growing up in a setting of domestic violence, who’s slowly coming to terms with his past and is choosing to redefine stereotypical notions of masculinity – Because he wants to be a caring father for his son and a caring, responsible and loving husband to his wife:

The rain doesn’t come all at once. Ping, Ping, Ping. But drop after drop it will move into a strong river.*

Step by step, this Advocacy Rooky will learn how to become a powerful advocate for gender equality and human rights.

Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel, Advocacy Officer ASK & MenCare+, Rutgers WPF

See the short film clip @ or a version with Marcio’s detailed story @