Learning Across Generations

March 31, 2015| Sabrina Stein, UNA Women

Talking to fellow young women is easy. We have lived through similar experiences, we share common cultural references. There is a sense of camaraderie that arises immediately when you meet a young woman at a place like CSW, when you know that a shared passion for gender equality and women’s rights brought you to this common place at this common time. After two weeks at CSW, I have met wonderful young women that I will stay in touch with. We will continue to share experiences and talk about our common passion, and discuss the challenges we face as young women in today’s world.

Talking across generations is not so easy. Talking to older women that have been driving the women’s rights agenda for decades, fighting the good fight for gender equality, and are still at it as passionate as ever is difficult. When I meet women like this, I am intimidated and I am nervous. I feel like I have to be the most intelligent version of myself, which often results in me being the silliest version of myself. Talking to young girls who are living through situations that I experienced some time ago is difficult. It is difficult to find the balance between being a friend, being a mentor, and being a grown-up. I often feel like my voice does not carry the necessary authority for them to take me seriously nor am I young enough for them to talk with me as if I were one of their peers.

It is because of this that I could not wait to be a part of the intergenerational dialogue that was organized at CSW. This was a formal designated space for us women of different generations to come together and share our experiences, discuss the challenges we face, and think of ways to move forward. This was a space for us to be equals and feel equal, making all of our voices loud enough and strong enough for everyone to hear. Looking at the experience in retrospect, the intergenerational dialogue was all of this and so much more. To hear women that drove the agenda leading up to Beijing in 1995 say that they could only accomplish so much and it is now in the hands of us, the next generation of women leaders to make the Beijing Declaration a reality, was inspiring. To be in a room where a 16 year old girl feels comfortable enough to take the floor in front of UN leaders and women leaders from all over the world and demand that the voice of young girls be heard in all decision-making spaces gives me hope. To be able to raise my voice and explain how there aren’t enough forums for young women to bring their concerns to the table and have others around the room, both younger and older, agree with me is empowering.

The intergenerational dialogue was exactly what I hoped my experience at CSW as a UNA-USA delegate would be, the opportunity to be part of a broader dialogue about women, by women, and sharing experiences across generations and learning from each other. To accomplish gender equality by 2030, women of all generations will need to work together. Gender equality by 2030 is not easy, but working with women of all generations to make this a reality is.