My story of going to the UN and meeting Marie Claudine


Photo of Shiloh Sophia by Jonathan Lewis

I wandered through the sacred halls of the United Nations in awe. I am beyond tourist, I feel surrounded by sacrament. Like these halls are hallowed. I am here for the once yearly event when women and girls get brought front and center. CSW58 – The 58th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.
I didn’t come to the UN as a diplomat or delegate, I have come as an artist and a poet. A witness to herstory unfolding at the worldwide level.
At first I don’t know what is I am really doing here only that I was called to come despite my fears and that my name badge says that I am Covering CSW58, thanks to working with the Founder of WNN, Lys Anzia this year to flower into my journalist self. I met Lys last year at the UN, and have been under her wing all year trying to grow my journalist self. I love the idea of journalist, reporting on worldwide women’s issues but when it comes down to it I end up looking at everything from the eyes of an artist.
When I put the two pieces together, to ‘cover’ and to be an ‘artist’ and the status of women my role begins to take photoform from the inside out. It starts with this ache in my heart to ‘belong’ to the cause of making change, to be a part of the healing. I get it. I am here to witness the UN and the CSW happenings. Just like in Quantum Physics how what you witness is altered by your witnessing of it, I imagine the UN is altered by my observation of both her beauty and how hard her edges.
Thankfully, everything fascinates me, this is my view of life. Einstein says that there are two ways to view life, either as if everything is a miracle or nothing. Having chosen the everything is a miracle I find that just looking at the flags of our countries flying brings tears to my eyes. I am a sentimental activist who, regardless of the issues believes in the goodness held within these walls. There are conversations everywhere about the thing I care about in our world – the status of women.
I attend panels and listen to the hearts and souls of these speakers being poured out before us. I look around at how different the people in the side and parallel events seem to be than the ones in the official CSW58 events. Are there delegates over here too? Are they listening to the women who run the NGOs around the world. Or are the NGO sponsored events preaching to the choir into a room filled with other service based women. Are the policy makers here? At the end of most of the talks, the speakers are rushed, mostly it seems by those who need help themselves, and desire for collaboration around ’causes’. It feels very different over in the UN Chapel – where women are gathered together, and a token group of men, to discuss and educate on what women are facing ‘on the ground’ in the world.

Shiloh Sophia and Marie Claudine in the United Nations Chapel – Photo by Jonathan Lewis

I attended a panel in a topic I am very interested in, which is Empowerment of Women and Girls through Social Media – and I met Marie Claudine Mukamabano who is a survivor from the Rwandan Genocide. She agreed to talk to me and I share that with you above. Our conversation of course started with me asking her about how they heal the trauma of the orphans, how does it work and what is working and if they have art supplies. Of course I want to know – do these survivors have access to art supplies because in my world, art supplies equal access to healing. Our conversation continued for many days and continues now.
As I attend days of panels today on violence against women and other topics so near and dear to my heart, and our cause. I cannot NOT think about the art influence and how it applies to every single trauma based situation. So after interviewing Marie Claudine I invited her to come to our workshop in New York, and to my delight she came and spent the weekend painting with our sisterhood of the Red Thread, pictured here below.

New York Tabu Workshop – Photo by Jonathan Lewis

There are a million things I wish I would have done differently, like printed up fliers about revsionthe petition, Project Revision, or gotten signatures, asking the UN to change the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be gender inclusive. I did stand up in a panel on the worldwide status of women’s mental healthy, however and ask the speakers what they thought of the Declaration as it relates to women’s mental health. What do they think women feel like being called man or brother and how does that inform that woman’s vision of herself and her image. I asked them if they thought it was just a historical document, or if they actually thought it still mattered. I am still digesting their response, and may write about that another time.
Next year I will tie red threads on doors and wrists.  Each time I come I learn more and I am fascinated by everything, which makes it all so interesting. I am in love with everything United Nations, just being there is like being a part of the great weave of the universe as it moves and shifts and transforms itself into a safer place to be.
Cross your fingers with me that what needs to happen in 2015, will. I only know I am supposed to go back. I keep thinking of this as a research mission. Neither of my human rights mentors are here this time, they were with me last year, so I feel so strange wandering around in my straw cowgirl hat gawking at everything.  I just know I am a part of this great unfolding story, here at the United Nations, representing the Red Thread Nation, a tribe of creative beings.
One of the great gifts of my visit was of course, meeting my new friend, who feels like one of those lifelong friends, Marie Claudine. It feels like a miracle but this wonderful woman who is a survivor of the Genocide in Rwanda and I connected our Red Threads, and rumor has it she is going to come out here to see us and even teach a livestream with me, so stay tuned on that front. She wants to teach on, you guessed it, forgiveness.
Shiloh Sophia