If you have never been to the United Nations building, let me paint
you a picture. It sits on the East River at the edge of Manhattan. From
the upper floors of the UN you can see the good ol’ American Pepsi
plant in Queens, but the real action at the UN doesn’t happen on the
The real decisions are made in the basement, where you can’t see the
light of day. The conference rooms buzz with languages from all over
the globe, and because it is an international space, smoking is
permitted. Official government delegates wrestle over which words
should flesh out the international documents that govern nations in a
tobacco haze that is as old as the building itself.
It’s a world unto itself, the conversations are cryptic; the
decisions are esoteric. Long debates are conducted over the addition or
deletion of a single word in one sentence in a 20-page document. Yet,
even at this level of international diplomacy, nothing is more
contentious than discussions about sex and women’s bodies except
perhaps discussions about human rights and young people.
It’s a challenge to understand the internal workings of the United
Nations, but if you can hang out there long enough, you’ll see some
exciting things happen. You might also meet some people like the group
of feminist advocates I met yesterday who represent at least 22
organizations from all over Latin America. I’m not a fan of reality
television, but I can assure you these are the kind of people you
wouldn’t want to be up against on Survivor, because if one person was
going to come off the island, it wouldn’t be any of them. They are
steely and determined, and they are united in their belief that
everybody has a right to live free of violence and discrimination, to
exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to the information
and services they need to be healthy.
These women and men are a force to be reckoned with it. Yesterday, they stood on an international stage and spoke with one voice on behalf of women and young people everywhere
who are not safe in their own homes, who cannot decide when and with
whom to have sex, who cannot exercise control over whether and when to
marry or have a baby.
These brave women and men reminded governments that 15 years ago 179 nations committed to
making the health and rights of women and young people central to
global family planning policies. They pointed out that we have yet to
keep these promises. With urgency and a recognition that people’s lives
hang in the balance, they demanded that governments do more to make a
just and healthy life a reality for people everywhere.
You can read the full statement here.
This post first appeared on Akimbo.