Coming to the conference at the age of fourteen, I really had no idea what to expect. This is the first international work I have ever done and my first trip to Asia. So when people ask “Is it what you expected?,” I have no real answer.
Working with the Feminist Majority Foundation was also a first for me, although my mother has worked with them before, and I think that working with the delegation and getting to know them was one of the points of the trip. It was wonderful working with a delegation of women of different ages (from 14 to 50) and nationalities (U.S., Kenya, and France).
Before the conference, my mother and I toured China for 22 days with a tour group, so when the delegation got here we were slightly more oriented than they were. The day before the NGO conference started, Jennifer, Colleen, Barbara and I went out to Huairou to “case the joint”, and we were overwhelmed. No one spoke enough English to tell us where we were, and the map was useless, but after wandering around we finally figured out where we were, and began to prepare for the week’s upcoming activities.
By the end of the first day, everyone was exhausted, drained, and dejected. But after a few more days, even in the rain, spirits lifted and things were actually happening. I only got to a few of the workshops, but the ones I went to were wonderful. There was open discussion, suggestions, and speakers as a lot of information was passed on to us.
The workshop which stands out most in my mind was the one my mother and I attended together on the African girl-child. Many of the facts they gave us were shocking. They gave us an example of a fifteen-year old girl’s daily schedule which began at 5 a.m. by preparing breakfast and her father’s lunch, taking care of siblings all day, and ending the day at 11 p.m. by cleaning up after dinner and massaging her father’s feet before he went to sleep. Even if you knew a problem already existed, there was surprising difference between her life and mine, and I feel that I really learned a lot from that.
I also felt that the NGO conference was wonderful for networking, and meeting women from all over the world. I know that I was overwhelmed by the number of women I met. By the end of the conference I was enjoying myself, and I am fairly sure that other people were too, although there were still many complaints. I was sad to see the NGO Forum end.
Overall, I was impressed by a number of things. First, at the number of women who came to the conference, and the power that we have. Second, by the amount of information given out to whoever cared to listen. And finally, the passion these women had about the issues discussed, and the emotion that made the whole event seem real and made me realize that I am more interested in feminism than I believed. I feel lucky to have been included in something of this importance and power.