In March 2021,  WWDA Youth Advisory Group (WYAG) member, Margherita Dall’Occo-Vaccaro represented the WWDA Youth Youth Network at the 2021 UN Women Generation Equality Forum. Reflecting on the forum, Margherita has written the following blog piece.

The UN Generation Equality Forum occurred during the weekend of the 29th of March, all through an online platform.The Forum was set up with online pavilions, different theatres for different panels, speeches and information sessions. Ultimately, the content of the forum was strong, with many talking about various different issues and a myriad of speakers from different places, with different backgrounds and specific insight on specific issues. However, in talking with friends, peers and in my own personal experience, accessibility seemed to be an afterthought – one which limited disabled women, feminine identifying and non binary folk.

The Forum had a series of halls with various panels, speakers and events lined up. When attending, I was able to participate in conversations about economic justice, climate justice and much more. There was a series of amazing women (some of which were even Australian!) which I was extremely thankful to hear speak. Sandra Creamer, Aboriginal activist spoke about the injustices of first nations women, particularly in the Australian economy.

A key theme of the forum was ‘Intersectionality’, which funnily enough, fell short at certain times. The series of panellists had a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, all of which were unique and led to target discussion on certain topics.

When asking questions about how disabled women would be impacted, all panellists were extremely eager to respond. The impact of war and disabled women in developing countries was highlighted, a view which is not often considered in the developed world. In attending and asking disability specific questions, I learnt about how disability impacts women all around the globe and what specific people are trying to do to better it. In this way, it was wonderful to see how disabled women are being considered in various situations.

However disabled women were largely underrepresented. Disabled women did not seem to be panelists or a topic of discussion unless asked. It was disappointing to constantly hear ‘intersectionality’ repeated, while speaking to some who had accessibility issues during the forum and never hearing disability be the topic of conversation.

In a world where zoom is used so often and enables people to work from home or be connected around the globe, this year’s conference was significantly more accessible than it would’ve been in person. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulties of having a forum online, but also how it enabled a larger number of people to be represented. In attending, there were live translations to a few select languages, meaning anyone who spoke those languages could attend. For those hard of hearing, International sign was used. In speaking to various women in attendance, it was established that International sign is not wholly accessible and not a well known sign language. Furthermore, I spoke with women who had difficulty accessing the sign up for the forum itself, as it was not written in a way which could be plainly understood or navigated.

Ultimately, the content of the forum was unique and extremely engaging, but as a whole, the forum failed in adequately representing disabled women and allowing them to be included in large scale conversations.