By Alvaina Daniels, Ecumenical Women’s Communication Intern

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

I saw a raised hand this Tuesday afternoon.  It was that of young woman no more than 25 years of age.  Her hand was raised for a good 25 minutes.  By the time the last question was called for, her hand was overlooked for someone “more experienced”.  We were at the US Mission debriefing of the Commission on the Status of Women.  There had to be no more than five young people, including one male counterpart.  I was the only young woman of color as far as I could see.  Only one young person was chosen to speak.  I felt no encouragement to even raise my hand to ask my question.  It was only when one of the panelists, who also was a woman of color, addressed an issue close to my heart that I felt for the first time in that space, in the mission of my country, that what I had to say mattered, to someone at least.

This is my first experience at CSW.  When I was an intern for the WCC, we were making plans for this event and the several months Ecumenical Women spent preparing for this event, I prepared not going.  But the Lord made a way as He always does and I have been blessed to have this opportunity to share this wonderful time with all my colleagues to which we have long prepared for.  Although my experience has been that wonderful, at the same time it has also been weighed with a very heavy burden on my heart and I can no longer remain silent on this matter.  As a young woman, moreover a young woman of color, my experience this past week has been disheartening and unsatisfying.

I cannot and will not speak for the youth voice at CSW. They are not voiceless; in fact no one is and I refuse to be a representative for anyone.  I can only say of what I have seen and experienced and hope that it will allow space for the other youth to speak if they are concerned with this same matter.  There is a intergenerational gap between us and little has been done to correct it.  It is not enough to bring a youth delegation; you must do more and give them the space to speak.  We all must.  I sense a cycle of alienation continuing amongst us that is discouraging and this was the only way I felt my voice could be heard.  We want to learn from you.  There is no doubt about that.  We are hear to learn from the older generation not only because of your wisdom and experience, but because we will carry your torch. But to be honest, we carry it today.  However, I feel that the older generation has forgotten that and more importantly that you can also learn from us.

I do not care about your age.  One thing I have learned is that you are never too old to learn.  I have had the opportunity to speak to several older delegates who have come to learn from me about new technology.  I cannot even begin to express to you how much joy that brought me.  That someone from another generation who has experience so much more, wanted to speak with me and learn from me, even if it was the smallest thing.   I sensed in my presentation today that many of you were alienated by this new technology.  This was not my intention.  My hope was that you learn that this technology though foreign and new can be beneficial in reaching the world, but also the younger generation.  This is how we communicate in 2011!  It does not take the place of friendship or relationship, but allows us to connect on other levels.

I have been fortunate to have several women in my time here to look up to most notably Ms. Elizabeth Lee and Ms. Christine Mangale.  But I would like to especially mention Mrs. Mia Adjali, who has taken the time to sit with me, talk with me, and listen to me.  We have recognized how much we have in common. I have learned so much from her in the past several months and I can only hope that I have been as much of an influence on her as she has meant to me.

There was a time in your lives that you were the up and comers.  When you were brand new and small fish in a big pond.  I hope all you can remember that because the younger generation is now experiencing that from you.  I have rarely felt like an intern at the CCUN and to be truthful this is the second time.  There is a cycle of alienation being continued and it needs to stop.  Again we are here to learn from you.  We are willing to do the hard work, put in the time; that is why we are here and I hope that you can see that.  I am asking and praying that you will give us the space to speak because one day you will not be here and who then will carry your hopes and your work into the future.   Mary was only a child when she was called to her duty.  David was but a young man, when he was called before the Philistine.  Christ was a young man when he fulfilled the Word of God.  Do not forget that the Lord said “your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17).  I feel the Lord tugging at my heart and giving me the strength to raise my hand.  My question is:  “Do you have the wisdom and grace to call on it?”