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My Experience at The WEP Conference 2016: Making History... in Big Ways and Small!

An important factor to note in reflecting on my experience at WEP Conference is the fact that I am extremely introverted. Sometimes I find it difficult to be in social situations, and I suffer from sporadic episodes of anxiety, for no reason at all. When I was asked to attend the Conference my immediate reaction and response was to adamantly decline, then, later on, after some gentle persuasion, I agreed to go.

It wasn't that I didn't want to go, it is just that I was terrified about being surrounded by so many people. My aforementioned anxiety usually dictates what I do, but, in an attempt to overcome it, I try to challenge myself to do things which take me out of my comfort zone. I was also curious about why such a Conference was necessary in 2016!

So having agreed to attend the Conference I did, and I can confidently say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The unity of women, the immense support from each individual, was something insanely beautiful. The fact that women are under siege in so many aspects of their lives, and have managed to turn relentless prejudice into a positive political stand, is frankly extremely commendable. I for one was very proud to be a woman and even prouder to be there in a sea of women. It wasn't just that there were women there, but a diverse array of people from all walks of life, facing individual challenges every day, celebrating and just full of energy had come together to be a part of creating an equal future for everyone.

The Conference included an open mic session during which anyone, who wanted to, could go on stage and have their say. When it came to going on stage I didn't even consider volunteering. Though my Mum tried to encourage me to share something, I was firmly rooted in the idea that I just wanted to sit back and blend in. A woman in front of us overheard our conversation and joined in trying to convince me to get on stage. I smiled but continued to decline...I was steadfast. The woman then went on stage to speak, and as she encouraged women to bring someone with them next year - each one bring one, to my absolute horror, described the circumstances of my refusal to go on stage. Though I didn't know it when the woman went on stage, her decision to share my reluctance was one of the greatest kindnesses any stranger has ever bestowed on me. When she returned to her seat my Mum and I thanked her, and I thought that was the end of it.

But it was was just the beginning...After speaking to the woman who had relayed my story to the audience...Sandi Toksvig approached me and encouraged me to go on stage. Needless to say I was very