Wheels up! Off to ISTANBUL

ARRIVAL.

The context: AWID [Association for Women’s Rights in Development] is having it’s 12th International Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. 2012 theme : Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice. The forum will last for four days and rumor has it that 2,200 participants have been flying in from across the globe to attend. I am one of the forum attendees – part of a small combined team from EILEEN FISHER Inc. and the EILEEN FISHER COMMUNITY FOUNDATION.

Moment of the day: WAITING FOR THE ‘SHUTTLE’. After countless hours of flying (middle seat-little sleep) I followed an orange haired man holding a bright pink AWID sign stating ‘Bienvenue’ to a little curbside area outside the airport. I stood listening to this little group of feminist strangers (who all seemed to be professional networkers) chat about prostitution vs. sex workers, child slavery and human trafficking within seconds of meeting each other. Exhausted, I let the conversation rattle on in the back chatter.pitter.patter. – like rain falling somewhere out the window… As the chatter carried on, taking on this meta view of systemic social structures (prostitution as the oldest form of oppression etc.) all of these cute little FIAT cabs and vans (auto maker of choice?) were zooming in and out of the area. I began to notice plain clothed people helping each other – opening car doors, swiftly moving in a rhythm somehow very different than that of New York.

I know it has been a VERY short time for me to consider making this remark HOWEVER. I feel like I have seen SO many more MEN than WOMEN working. Men seem to stand outside shops and restaurants inviting customers inside… They have been the drivers, the hotel concierge, the housekeeping staff… I’m sure I’ll see enough women at this forum tomorrow but to me, it’s interesting and relates to….

The topics that I’ve been thinking about leading up to this event:

  • Economic vs Social ways of thinking and measuring (ex: GDP ‘Gross Domestic Product’ vs. GNH ‘Gross National Happiness’) SIDE NOTE: My mother says I’m a social scientist at heart and is putting together a syllabus for me to catch up the gaps in my education (she holds a PhD from Univ of Chicago in Sociology…)
  • What is WOMEN’s WORK and how is it VALUED in society? After a call with AWID’s Young Feminist Wire  I returned to thinking about questions like: why is work that is typically done by women not valued as highly as work typically done by men? Why do we have these gendered roles? Why don’t women get equal pay for equal work? Why do we want to put a price tag on everything including raising a family, keeping a home etc.?
  • How does this all relate to our education systems (within the United States and globally)? Does it make sense to spend so much time educating young people about abstract theories when everything is truly INTERCONNECTED? [That is a shaving off the iceberg of the questions around education.]
  • As I boarded the airplane yesterday, I heard an interview on CNN where someone mentioned that Obama was ‘going to have trouble with the men.’ What is the role for men in these issues? Yes, they are fathers, brothers, sons, uncles etc. but why do so many feel alienated or excluded – especially around words like feminism?

Then I STOP. Because that mind chatter.pitter.patter can go on and on and on. The reality is that I have taken another step; the wheels went up and I am so excited to have touched down in Istanbul – to have the opportunity to engage and interact with people (women and men) from around the world on systemic issues that affect us ALL.

“Your mind, this globe of awareness, is a starry universe. When you push off with your foot, a thousand new roads become clear.”

~Rumi 

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