As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Peter Gabriel’s song “Biko”. The lyrics describe my feelings about the UN CSW well: “You can blow out the candle, but you can’t blow out the fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind just blows them higher.” I love these words because they emphasize the importance of working together to combat injustice. Individual women can face enormous barriers, but when they share their stories with others, they share their passion and determination too. Everyone from our delegation has felt the emotional intensity of addressing the barriers that women face globally. These emotions can seem like a burden, but they connect us to the people we’ve met and to their causes. Even if society oppresses one woman (metaphorically blowing out the candle), other women can maintain her spirit and goals (keeping the fire going).
Today I was very moved by the speech of a lesbian activist from Uganda. The most striking thing about her was her response to the recent bill against homosexuality; rather than retreating in the face of possible imprisonment or death, she is working to increase the visibility of the LGBT rights movement in Uganda. When the government attempts to outlaw her identity, she asserts herself even more strongly. I have no idea what will happen to her, but her sharing of her story at the CSW (to an absolutely packed room of people, nonetheless) ignited a fire that reaches well beyond her own flame of resistance. This example is one of many. During every minute of this Commission, women are sharing their stories and lighting fires of solidarity. As important as institutional action is, this solidarity gives me hope where institutions fail.
Brede Eschliman, Diocese of Connecticut