by EW delegate reporter Ellen Clark-King

Monday morning started with us marching in the light of God and continued with us wandering slightly less certainly around the bowels of the UN as we all struggled to orient – or reorient – ourselves to this confusing building. Registering about 6,000 women was obviously proving the same headache as it did last year with the line snaking throughout the main entrance concourse.

Those of us who managed to find – and to squeeze into – the observer balcony of Conference Room B were treated to speeches by high level UN personnel (the President of ECOSOC, the Deputy Secretary General, among others) stating their support for gender equality and particularly the more equitable distribution of care-giving between women and men. Inequity in this area was seen as a particular and widespread example of the oppression of women, with the Deputy Secretary General calling it a form of violence against women.

The most memorable quote of the morning came from the Under Secretary for HIV/AIDS. He focused not only on the role of women in caring for those with HIV/AIDS but also on the risks that they run of being infected, especially in cultures where they are not allowed responsibility for their own sexual health and contraceptive choices. Applause greeted his statement that: “A woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life.”

So the day goes on. We greet, talk, laugh, share coffee and then focus in again on the reality of women’s vulnerability across the globe.