March 18, 2023
by Mylie Critchlow
Being at the United Nations has been an overall unimaginable experience. With so many different cultures and backgrounds on every corner, I never know who I might have the chance of meeting. Whether it was the kind, Ethiopian woman in the elevator or the bold, Australian woman in the CSE (comprehensive sexuality education) event, it’s been a thrilling experience. I have felt so much love for the many people here to fight for what they believe in.
I was especially impressed with an event about the importance of protecting the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). Not only was this event very well organized and presented, the attendees had a major impact on what I learned. One student from Colorado spoke about how many women are being oppressed in rural countries by religions that force them to wear head scarves and other similar practices. Immediately after this comment was made, a woman from Turkey raised her hand. She shared how she had been oppressed far more by those who were forcing secular practices on her when she wanted to wear a headscarf. She was told that as an educator in her community and a human rights activist, she should not wear something that represents oppression and poverty. While there are many countries that allow religion to oppress women, that does not mean that religion is the problem. The problem is in the lack of liberty for those people to choose what religion they participate in, leave it if desired, and practice it how they want.
People discriminate against her because they think she is supporting the toxic patriarchy when in truth, she supports both women and freedom of belief and religion. Many told her that her headscarf was not appropriate to be used in academia when in reality, practicing religion while in academia is a great example of how traditional religion does not mean gender-biased oppression. She was told that supporting religious freedom was infringing on human rights. The truth is, however, you can support both human rights and religion.
This is one of many, many stories that I heard while at the UN. There are so many good people out there fighting on both sides of the coin. The trick is to find where the truth is in it all. Most people have good reason for feeling the way that they do, but that does not mean they have the truth. Truth is one of the most valuable assets anyone can bring to the table, but it means nothing to someone if you can’t present it to them with love and understanding. In the meetings where the participants shared their thoughts and beliefs while including love and understanding for the others in the room, hearts were softened to new ideas. When participants spent most of their time trying to shove their ideas down the others throats with hate and demeaning words, the meeting only ended with anger and frustration. Being at the United Nations really taught me the importance of having the liberty to stand for what you believe in, and fueled a lot of fire and compassion for everyone in the fight.
Mylie is a student at Brigham Young University – Idaho and attending the Commission on the Status of Women with United Families International.