by Candice LeSueur
Attending the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 61) at the UN this past week was an unforgettable experience for me, as well as one I definitely had not expected.
Back in high school, I was lucky enough to travel to New York City with a group of students and toured the United Nations tower as part of our site-seeing. As I walked on those grounds and learned about the establishment of the UN, how it was created to become a means for countries to gather together and communicate peacefully after WWII, I fell in love. With all of it. I felt a certain reverence toward that building and everything it stood for.
Almost a decade later, I found myself being given the opportunity as a member of United Families International (UFI) to travel with the team to New York City for CSW 61. I felt almost giddy over the whole experience, but once I arrived, I quickly learned what happens inside the UN is not exactly what I had anticipated.
One of the very first people I met there was a charming young woman from Europe. She was so kind to me and open about her life and culture, and then our conversation led to the topic of why we were both there. She had come as a delegate for her country, and I explained that I was with an NGO to advocate for the family. Her demeanor suddenly became cold, and I knew she would not be a supporting delegate for our cause.
I sat in on events whose messages were alarming. The speakers expressed how mothers who raise their children at home are “oppressed.” They sought to “empower” women, encouraging them to “claim their sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR), and called on governments to make abortion available to everyone. Oh, and let’s not forget the push for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), which teaches that children also have the right to experience self-gratification through sexual pleasure…yes, it seems unreal. We are just scratching the surface here; the rest will be saved for another day.
Needless to say, I was in shock.
Those who send these messages believe in their mission and have every right to speak out for their views. However, this might cause others with differing opinions, or “more traditional values,” to feel they should not voice their beliefs to avoid hate and contention. This was how I felt anyway. Thankfully, one of the most important lessons I learned while at the UN is that it is also my right to speak out. We all have this right, and it is the fundamental basis for how the United Nations works.
Raising a voice for families is not a message of hatred. As part of my right to speak out, I am allowed to state that I believe a lot of the messages at the UN are destructive towards the family. The agendas that diminished motherhood, encouraged abortion and sexual experimentation for youth literally contribute to the disintegration of the family, a disaster that experts tells us nations just don’t have the capacity to survive.
Fortunately, there are many other groups in attendance at the UN who believe in the family and make their voices heard. Among my favorites I had the pleasure of listening to were organizations from Nigeria, Kenya, and various countries from Latin America. One inspiring NGO was a group of Latin American youth that eloquently spoke of the strength the family brings to society. A favorite moment of mine was when one of these panelists, a 20-year-old young man, stated that his greatest desire for his future is to become a father. I had so much admiration for these young advocates who understood their right to speak out for what they believe in.
Though our message to promote families at the UN was an unpopular one, the ultimate lesson I learned was the importance of still letting my voice count. We can all do this with boldness and with love, which are vital elements in our mission to defend the family. While everyone has the right to speak out for what he believes in, this does not mean that we are not allowed to do the same. Your voice counts, too.