Another day of excitement. After an early breakfast at the hotel, I rushed to the CCUN for the CSW62 orientation where we were briefed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations. Like me, most of the audience were first time participants at CSW.
I then took a cab and braving the New York traffic just made it on time to the next event at 4 W 43rd St where a very different experience awaited me. When I arrived, the Blue Room was getting filled with eager participants. The topic was a very challenging one – ‘Internet Generation as Pioneer: Rural Women’s Opportunities and Challenges.’ The speakers were from Taiwan, Canada, Nigeria and France. What we heard were huge eye openers. While Taiwan was using the Internet as a tool in rural areas to bridge the gap between rural and urban, the speaker from Canada regretfully said that even though Canada is a developed country, internet services had either not reached the rural areas or they were unaffordable. She was shocked when she saw advertisements in New York where cell phones and data plans were available for just $29 a month. She emphasised that in a digital economy, cell phones are important specially for those living at risk, but issues that rural women face are hidden and invisible making it difficult to advocate for them.
We had a lot of lessons to learn through the story of a rural Taiwanese girl named Shen-Xing-Ling. Before the internet age, she and her family had to be at the morning market at 4 am, then it was the evening market which continued till night. Most of her sleep was in the truck that carried the agriculture products. But when she had access to the internet, she started selling crops through email and was thrilled that buyers for her ‘pomelos’ were just a click away.
The Kenya speaker described our current age as Generation Z. The generation of Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media fixations for the youth. It is an age when a mother has to convince her child that ‘I didn’t download you. I gave birth to you.’ The representative from Nigeria spoke on the ‘Kids of the Past versus the Internet Generation.’ Today digital technology dominates their lives. The final speaker was from France who felt that the internet was a curse as it has become a medium for human trafficking. She had some spine chilling facts to share about internet advertisements that sell a girl child.
The session gave me heaps of insights into the different challenges faced by different countries in using the Internet.
We barely finished the session and then rushed to get a seat at our very own Soroptimist International event in the Aqua Room at 4 W 43rd St. It was such a delight to see fellow Soroptimists from all over the world with their colourful sashes and shining badges. The theme was ‘Solutions to address the multi-layered issues faced by rural women.’ SIWP, SIGBI, SIE, SIA gave the audience valuable insights into the challenges faced by rural women and their interventions to solve them.
A day well spent in the life of a blogger. There is much to learn, much to do and interactions such as these help pave the way.