From Jennifer Lawrence to Aceh, Indonesia

The annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is an inspiring event that, in a perfect world, every single woman should attend.

Attending as a Canadian mediator and trainer, I was struck by how much is happening in the rest of the world that is unfamiliar to me in my privileged “first” world life.

It is an eye-opening, multi-national dialogue among women seeking to make their world and our world a better place.

I spoke at a “parallel” event to the actual Commission events. Sponsored by Mediators Beyond Borders International, our topic was “Peacebuilding Beyond 2017: Women as Agents of Change”.

Mediators Beyond Borders empowers women around the world including through an innovative dispute resolution training program. As moderator and MBBI CEO Prabha Sankaranarayan said in her opening, imagine a world where 1 out of every 3 women was a trained mediator.

Prabha noted that we live in a time of record, forced displacements. One in seven people alive today has been displaced— a shocking fact. Within the context of the impacts of climate change- which threatens lives and communities around the world- and the fact that most contemporary conflict is intro-national— it is critical to develop capacity for dispute resolution from top down and from bottom up.
“Peace agreements have a better chance of success when women in society are engaged in peace building”, she said.

Other fantastic speakers were Vicki Isler, whose extensive experience in environmental and international law and policy brought a keen focus to the underlying theme of all events at the UN’s CSW: women and sustainable development.

Raihal Fajri
, a graduate of the MBBI training institute program, spoke of her work in Aceh, an Indonesian province that has faced conflict for more than 30 years. Her talk reminded us all how long change takes—— and how persistent we must be in our efforts to bring about change.

My talk focused on the unique challenges facing women negotiators, and how we can turn those challenges into strengths. I spoke of Jennifer Lawrence’s poignant reminder we women can be inclined to jeopardize our own success out of fear of “not being liked”, and that, in her case, that led to negotiating for less money than her male counterparts, who apparently were not held back in asking for appropriate remuneration. This story resonates with women around the world.

At the same time, we have qualities that can lead to more successful and enduring outcomes—including a comfort with silence, inclusive dialogue, listening to the needs of others, and tolerance of high emotions. We need to perceive our bargaining power as being equivalent to that of men— and then we will be able to achieve true win-win solutions that endure and build better relationships.

It was a great honour for me to be included. My good friend and colleague, a great mediator herself, Mina Vaish of York Mediation, was the co-chair of the event and her commitment to the event and MBBI made it a standing-room only event.

And I had the pleasure of meeting other Canadian women who are committed to MBBI’s mission: Tricia Morris, Ruth Sirman and Suzanne Sherkin.

Thank you MBBI for this great opportunity. I will definitely be joining your organization and helping out in the future.