We caught up Anna-Grace to learn more about the Commission which was held in New York from 11-22 March. Anna-Grace shares her experiences with us and offers great advice to students who are thinking of applying for the scholarship next year.
The forum provides an exciting opportunity to showcase the collective activism of various UN bodies, NGOs and governments from across the globe. Hearing such a diverse number of passionate and personal speeches affirmed both the diversity of women's experiences and the collective determination which binds them. From the speeches of the first female ministers to be elected in Afghanistan since the rule of the Taliban, to the young women of New Zealand such as the CEO of SheBoss who is demanding equal STEM education for girls, the number and types of challenges facing women are many.
As a Master of Digital Communication and Culture student writing on the use of technology to achieve better access for women in regional and rural areas through the use of Mixed Reality (AR/VR) labs.
I particularly enjoyed the VR experience I got to demo, a collaboration between UN Women and Google entitled ‘Courage to Question’.
The VR film not only helped me to connect with the raw emotions I know so many women must feel when speaking about the seemingly endless number of examples in which women continue to endure suffering and oppression, but it affirmed the importance of technology as a powerful tool for change. A tool which can build empathy, encourage new perspectives, and scale these messages to audiences internationally, including those women who could not be present at the Commission.
A lot of the work being done at the UN is tied up in policy debates stemming from disagreements over exactly which words should be used to communicate the rights of ‘women and girls’. I realised just how important and applicable the discourse analysis skills are that I spent so many years developing in my Government and International Relations and Cultural Studies undergraduate.
Words are powerful and the many stakeholders at CSW were well aware of just how much they stood to lose or gain politically based on the amendment of a single word or phrase. Understanding the history, origin, attached meanings and cultural context of language is essential for ensuring that the document doesn’t give governments too much wiggle room to justify actions or ideas which were not initially intended by the Commission.
If you are thinking about applying, then most definitely do - visiting the UN is a rare and rewarding experience. As part of the application you will need to write a policy proposal (which you will later draft in full for the scholarship) on how the Australian Government can achieve some of the goals it signs on to at the Commission. This is actually a very meaningful activity as, despite all the well-intentioned agreements, it can be really challenging for governments to understand how everything translates into tangible and feasible domestic policies that have significant positive impacts on the lives of women and girls. I would suggest reflecting on your own skills, passions, life and work experience so that you can make a recommendation in an area you already know a lot about and for which you genuinely want to advocate.
As the founder of a VR and gaming social impact start-up to assist people in remote and disadvantaged communities I am already always thinking a lot about how the digital divide impacts women living outside of metropolitan areas. It's an issue I’m actively working to change so the policy paper was another way to help me work toward realising my goal of more geographically equitable technological solutions.