I’m slowly recovering from Trust Women, a two-day women’s rights conference co-organised by Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Herald Tribune that brought together pioneers of women’s rights including Nobel laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Shirin Ebadi, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Lydia Cacho, Queen Noor of Jordan Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy among others.
I use the word ‘recovering’ because it was an emotional roller-coaster of anger, hope, frustration, despair, inspiration and sorrow that left me exasperated but nevertheless inspired.
This was not a ‘let’s celebrate womanhood’-conference. Not at all. It wasn’t the opposite either but it was serious and hands on and completely overwhelming. The situation for women in every corner of the world is advancing too slowly, most of the world’s crises are gender related from domestic violence to sexual harassment to child marriage to sex trafficking to female genital cutting to acid burning. The list goes on. And on top of that we are far from achieving the 30% female leadership that is the international goal.
While the White Saviour Industrial Complex was not entirely absent, for example a speech about slavery ended with an image of smiling Congolese children. (“They were just so adorable, I had to include them,” Mr. Bales of Free the Slaves, said), there was an equal balance of women and men who kept pointing out that it should never be a question of messianistic saving but an egalitarian, collaborative view. I think particularly here of Ann Cotton of Camfed who reminded us that poverty is a significant cause of gender inequality, and powerhouse Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian senate who reminded us that even in Europe there is a very long way to go.
The best thing about Trust Women is that it resulted in real, tangible commitments on Women’s Rights. As a rsult of the discussion the Trust Foundation has committed to groundbreaking research into the legality of prostitution and its effect on trafficking, to the creation of a crack team of pro bono lawyers dedicated to defending women in Arab Spring countries, to a call for major international banks to work with law enforcement agencies to identify financial transactions that may indicate traffickings. You can view the complete list of actions here.