Posted by: "Per Ardua Ad Astra" | November 30, 2010

First day at IWRAW

By Sarah-Mae Thomas

My First day at International Women’s Rights Action Watch was so truly amazing! I was woken up at 5am, by a call to prayer at a Muslim minaret just a few miles from my accommodation. The man was reciting songs from the Quran and did this as part of salat(prayer) five times a day. A couple of hours later,  I walked past coffee stalls just outside my  where vendors yelled out “teh tahrik, hanya 50 sen- tea only for 50 cents!”. The office is tucked away in a little witalah(district) called Bangsar.

It looks like nothing much from the outside but inside is an office full of feisty, passionate and inspirational women (and men). I had to read hundreds of pages on what the Global to Local program entails, the legal mechanisms involved and the administrative processes about how IWRAW, Malaysia, is really the face of global NGOs for the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW). I spoke to Audrey, who has been in the office for 7 years but went to UK to complete her law degree. The office is a whole rojak(malay salad) of staff. There are people from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, India and Nepal and they are all drawn to the work of IWRAW purely because it is such a constructive NGO to the CEDAW process. It is for this reason that IWRAW is one of the only NGOs which actually are allowed to sit in at the actual CEDAW committee sessions at the UN.  So from all across the world staff come to work here . They work on one of three areas. The office is divided into three departments IDEAS(the publication wing), ERR(the advocacy and litigation wing) and BCC( the grassroots wing). As I was reading through the copious of amount of texts and resources, I caught a glimpse of the founder of IWRAW, Shanthi Dairiam. Everyone has so much of respect to her. Some of the other directors are Ivy Josiah( a women’s rights activist) and Noor Farida, the ambassador to the Netherlands.

Today I will be attending a board meeting to discuss the Global to Local program in Geneva. Two staff will be leading the workshop at Palais Des Nations and I will be a rapporteur,  sitting in at the NGO lunchtime briefings with  CEDAW committee members, actual sessions and the global to Local program, reporting on the actual process. My supervisors are going to Penang and Bangladesh soon to conduct more regional training.I have so much to read through- for the staff here these legal mechanisms and human rights concepts are second nature but for me, it will require a a lot of reading*)

Watch this space for more updates and thanks once again for all your support*).

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