From left: Sisters Angela Ezugwu, Paulina Raymond and Joan Mukhwana, SSND, attend a session at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
Tuesday, March 11
Sisters Paulina Raymond, of Micronesia; Angela Ezugwu, of Nigeria; and Joan Mukhwana, of Kenya, three members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame delegation attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this week, bring an international perspective to the group.
They have attended the assembly of member states and listened to several Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) representatives discuss about how they have helped advance women's and girls' rights and the challenges they still have to overcome.
The representative from the delegation of Finland, for instance, said his country is working to provide quality healthcare to infants and children, regardless of their families' socio-economic status. In addition, a representative from Morocco shared how her country is working to improve prenatal care for women and to reduce maternal mortality rates. Speakers from France, Nigeria, Mali, the Bahamas, Uganda, and Korea expressed similar thoughts.
The delegates also attended sessions on climate change and sustainability and the benefits of providing girls with training in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Efforts in Africa
"This is a good opportunity for me to be at the U.N., especially today … to listen to the different delegates from different countries present their achievements, challenges, and their hopes for the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)," said Sister Joan, a graduate student in creative writing at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee.
She heard reports from Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Lesotho, Uganda, and Ghana and said that she is glad that many of the countries are creating legislation to ensure gender equality and criminalize gender-based violence.
"I was glad that I listened to seven or eight countries from Africa,” said Sister Joan, who is a native of Kenya. "We need to make legislation that helps us push through this.”
Sister Joan intends to share her experiences and knowledge with the girls and boys she will teach when she returns to Kenya. In particular, she wants to teach them to believe in themselves.
"We need to stop promoting those things that divide us or keep women on the lower level,” Sister Joan said. “I'm convinced I need to talk to girls more and teach them to do their best, to follow their dreams."
Perspective from Micronesia
Sister Paulina, a native of Micronesia, said that the information from the delegates of the Asia-Pacific region resonated with her. Two points that were particularly clear were the need for gender equality and reinforcement of law. She also is interested in how climate change affects women and girls.
"It's very educational for me personally to learn those things that I never thought of,” Sister Paulina said. “I think going back home I will use this information about protecting women, especially for girls, and it will be very helpful and important."
By Machan Bowman