Over the years, I’ve written a little bit about my work and what I do but have generally stayed away from going into too much detail. Not for any particular reason, but it can get difficult quite quickly and I kind of wanted this to be a safer, more relaxed space for me.
It’s always been difficult to answer ‘What do you do?’ with a simple ‘international advocacy’and have it actually mean something. I’ve been working with UN agencies for pretty much my entire career (not like I’ve been doing this for decades or anything- I realise how pretentious it all sounds) and I’ve done UN advocacy for nearly four years now. Those of you who know me fairly well, know that I have strong and complicated feelings/opinions about the UN; making my interactions with UN agencies rather fraught with caution, hyper-aware political lenses, and a heartening measure of ‘understanding bureaucracy’. I do believe that UN policies and advocacy at the UN has its value and meaning and place, no matter how frustrated and angry and disheartened I get with the entire process.
In December 2012, I wrote a little bit about how I co-chaired the Global Youth Forum. The resulting Declaration is one of the things I’m most proud of in my working life so far. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a pretty good attempt at articulating a vision of a more just and a more equitable world. It was an honour to be a part of that process and I feel that it’s one of those things that I’ll always fight for until we can improve on it, until we can make it better.
Just over a week and a bit ago, I was asked to speak at a UN High Level Event and I spent a couple of days agonising over the decision. It wasn’t just because of my mixed feelings about the UN (not at all, actually) but because I had questions around my own legitimacy (who am I to speak?), ownership (who do I speak for?), and some lingering discomfort with the fact that I don’t actually work for an organisation any more, so who would I be accountable to; who is my constituency; and other really important questions that I needed to ask myself.
My ambition was at war with my principles.
I spoke with old friends from the movement and with colleagues whose politics and principles I have far more faith in than I have in my own. I spoke to my mum about how she always said that my ambition was my worst quality. I stayed up all night worrying about betraying things I believed in and whether I ought to just do it because I wanted to rather than because of anything else. In the end, my reasons for why I accepted the invitation are almost irrelevant to everyone but me; but it was important that I think about it and consider it and make a decision on my own terms.
freaking out thinking about what to say and how to say it, obsessing over sentence construction and word placement. I’m nowhere near ready and I don’t actually have a speech or anything and I can’t remember the last time I was so terrified of something I had to do. I have a really long plane ride to work out what to say and hopefully, it’ll be somewhat sensible and mostly useful. And hopefully, by the end of it, I’ll still know I made the right decision.
If you have nothing better to do on Friday the 4th; I’ll be banging on about sexualities, autonomies, human rights, and development at some point between 0900 and 1030 am (New York time) on this link: http://webtv.un.org/
I’ll be the little Indian girl in the sari.