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The 64th Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women will not be proceeding as planned this year because of “the current concerns regarding coronavirus disease (COVID-19).” All side events and parallel events were cancelled. We hope that the virus will be contained, and look forward to being able to be involved with the work for women around the world in future events.

The first time I went to New York City to attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) I had no idea what to expect. I had been trained, to be sure; I knew that there would be presentations both inside (side events) the U.N. complex and outside at other community buildings nearby (parallel events). I had been told there would be long days of sitting, listening, walking, discussing, meeting new people, and learning new things. I did know that people from all over the world who care about women’s issues would be gathering to share ideas, promote programs, network, and seek alliances. But what I could not know until I was there was the vastness of it all.

There are 193 member states in the United Nations. There are people in the meetings and presentations from all over the globe. Beautiful examples of traditional or religious dress from Africa, and the Middle East, comingle with power suits. People with every amount of pigmentation imaginable squeeze together into overcrowded conference rooms to hear reports of programs, results of studies and projects, calls to action for problems faced by many or few, or to hear stories of unimaginable horror and inspiring victory.

For every challenge brought forward, there are just as many ideas about how to help. Sometimes, there are things that are easily agreed upon as issues that need help. What are seen as problems and solutions are sometimes left up to interpretation. Ideas and ideologies are as varied as the wardrobes of the participants. While the physical colonialization of past eras has been judged as evil and tyrannical, ideological colonization is pushed by many powerful countries onto smaller, younger, and less-developed nations.

Something that I have loved each time I have gone to this international meeting was actually meeting individual people. There are parts of CSW that are above my level – official government representatives debating and developing an outcome document that is used for implementation of policies worldwide; but there other people like me, who are concerned with women’s issues, who work for non-profits or just want to work to help people in their sphere of influence that go to network and share their stories and find help on a more personal level. I love to meet them, to share the vision of Big Ocean Women, to be inspired by their commitment. I am thankful for the connections we have made with cottages, and I hope that we will continue to grow and work together with women all over the world who know they have power and value because they are women.

Amid the towering buildings of Manhattan, it is easy to feel small. Being small does not mean I am powerless. Every good work is begun by the power of one. Reaching out to my sisters from around the globe makes our power for good even greater, the world a little smaller, and our challenges much more manageable.