Sisters Sharing a Seat ( Mek Uself Small)

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By Karen Campbell, Vice-President, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (Canada)

As I was sitting in a packed room at the UN HQ, the session called “Step it UP together with Rural Women to End Hunger and Poverty was more than half way finished when a sister approached me and said she would like to sit in the chair. As I looked over the seat beside me was filled so I politely said to her “there are only two seats here;” she then said to me “we can share a seat” . So I moved over and shared my seat with a sister I did not know other than we shared a common interest promoting economic justice and gender transformative approaches to land rights. I was unable to concentrate on the presentation as I was examining what was transpiring on a more complex level.

When the session ended, I found out that Sarah was from France; and thus we began a conversation on solidarity and sisterhood and what that looked like in the simplest yet complex form.  Sarah needed a seat and as sisters, this need could be filled by sharing one.   A concept that is not wildly shared in North America due to issues of personal space and the proximity levels in which people are in contact with each other.  As I reflected on what transpired, I was reminded of my Jamaican roots where my mother would say “ mek uself small” simply-make yourself small so that everyone could fit in the car, mini bus or on the family couch. 

As I sat with Sarah, I moved over, made myself small so that a sister could fully participate in the session in a way that was uplifting and meaningful.  What I took away from this interaction is that, as sisters in the trade unionist movement, there will be times when we too will have to move over, put our own personal needs and comfort levels aside to advance the issues of our sisters who are looking for an opportunity to share a seat- physically or one of power, decision-making, and economic justice in the changing world of work within the sisterhood of trade unionist.

Sisterhood and Solidarity,

Karen Campbell

Vice-President, ETFO

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