By Joshua James
Right now I’m sitting on a retro brown chair in the basement of the UN building, waiting for an event to end. Originally I sat down to finish a blog or two, but got a little distracted.
The first distraction came when a woman from Mozambique passed by.
“Are you getting Internet?” she asked.
I nodded, “Yep.”
She set her bag on the vinyl brown couch next to me and pulled out a tiny, tiny laptop. She sat down and leaned towards me, holding the laptop over my lap. “The wireless is not working,” she said.
This story had the perfect beginnings. The opportunity to build a great bridge over ethnic divides, to help a stranger in need.
I took the computer and began making my best effort to fix it. I was pretty sure from the start that my noble effort would end in disappointment, but I tried to be as confident in me as she was.
After finding the one option I thought could be the problem (and it wasn’t), I explored her desktop as if I knew exactly what I was doing (of course I didn’t). After a few minutes I finally admitted I couldn’t help.
“I will take it to the embassy,” she told me.
During my lackluster search for the fix we started some small talk, the same kind that starts almost every conversation here: “What organization are you with?”
In Mozambique, she started a radio show that discusses women rights and equality (makes sure to check it out). She’s a social entrepreneur! I thought that was cool too.
I told her about UFI and we exchanged information (the official UN farewell).
After my conversation with my friend from Mozambique, I found Marcia to my side, also struggling with her wireless. Again, I feigned my computer skills. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), I found no solutions. The only help I could give was finding Dell’s customer service number (which wasn’t easy by the way).
I went back to blogging.
Moments later, two jolly African women started laughing near by (how could I not give them my attention?). Conversation ensued and soon laughter filled the hall.
After the usual questions I found out that they were from Benin. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t either. It’s a small country in Western Africa wedged between Nigeria, Niger, and Togo. They were both elected officials in their country and were sent to CSW to represent the women of Benin.
At the end our delightful conversation, you would never guess what happened. I told them about UFI and we exchanged information (surprise!). They liked what I had to say, but they wanted the information in French (their native language). I committed to write them a letter in French (I know, I’m crazy).
After goodbyes, I went back to blogging…for a little bit.
I was soon interrupted when a dignitary man sat next to me. He had just come from the conference room I was working next to so I had to ask him what was being said in there.
“There a lot problems happening to women,” he said, “but not too many to men.”
We laughed at the singularity of the experience (you know, being men at an international women’s conference).
As the conversation continued, I noticed a big, red “D” on his name tag (that means delegate or “don’t you wanna be my friend?”). Delegates are the people that negotiate the UN documents! We need them on our side.
Mr. Muhammed was his name. He came from Egypt, a fact that fascinated me. Thankfully, he was very willing to describe his country to me. Eventually I led the conversation to politics (I mean, we were at the UN). I asked him about his country’s position on the family, but an answer never seemed to come.
It wasn’t till a few minutes later that he told me, “I only deal with the money.” I laughed to think how excited I was to talk Egyptian politics when he was so adverse to them.
The topic went back to his country.
After telling me a little about Egypt’s rich, 6,000 year history, and my explanation of UFI, he said I should meet the head Egyptian delegate. He told me that she’s the one in charge and described her by comparing her to an ancient Egyptian king, “She is strong,” he said. Oh, and she’s 75 years old.
So now I’m waiting. Waiting to meet the delegate reminiscent of ancient monarchy. I’m excited, but I’m getting a bit tired. I’m waiting though because UFI and the cause of the family needs as many allies as possible, and Egypt would be a great one to have.
Till I meet her, cross your fingers for Egypt.