Africa, Asia, North America


The School Sisters of Notre Dame are active in a wide variety of ministries including education, health care, social outreach and pastoral ministry.


Notre Dame of Maryland University at the CSW

Sisters Eileen Reilly (standing) and Sharon Kanis (center) work with the students and faculty from Notre Dame of Maryland University to plan their week at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

Preparing for Week 2 at the CSW

Student Beth Hancock and Professors Susan Barber and Sister Sharon Kanis review options for Monday.

Students and faculty from Notre Dame of Maryland University gathered with the School Sisters of Notre Dame United Nations representative Sunday evening for updates about the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, including the progress and accomplishments of the first week and what issues and activities to expect during the second week of the CSW.

“You are going to be stepping into the middle of it,” said Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND, director of the SSND UN-NGO Office. “Usually for two weeks, the CSW discusses the theme for that year and works on writing a resolution for that theme. But this year, they are doing it differently.”

Because the main focus of the session is on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted 20 years ago at the Fourth World Conference of Women, a political declaration was written before the CSW started, and it was passed on March 9.

“Some people are really mad about that because usually at the CSW, you have the opportunity to put in your suggestions,” Sister Eileen said. “They are mad they had no input. The School Sisters of Notre Dame and other NGOs have people like me who are there all the time, so I was there when this was going on in January.”

Empowering Women and Girls

Sister Eileen Reilly reviews a map of the area around the United Nations as students Jussara Kramer, Megan Donegan and Mia Diamond listen.


When the first draft was released in January, Sister Eileen said, it contained the phrase “empowering women” 12 times; yet, not once that it say anything about empowering girls.

“That was unacceptable,” Sister Eileen said. “If you don’t start empowering girls, it is going to be too late for girls in some countries who are married off when they are young and never get to be a girl. It will be too late for girls who cannot go to school because it is not safe for them to walk to school. Girls have unique needs that women might not have.”

The Working Group on Girls, of which Sister Eileen is a member, organized an intensive campaign to broaden the language. They faxed all 45 representatives from all 45 countries who are members of the commission and then followed up with in-person meetings with more than 30 of those countries. Their work paid off, and when the final version was approved last week, it included seven mentions of girls.

“It’s a little thing, but when you are negotiating with the 193 countries that are members of the United Nations, language is important,” Sister Eileen said.

New issues

As the meeting continues this week, another matter has arisen regarding the working methods of the CSW. As those working methods are being revised, some countries want to write in a stipulation that requiring all countries to bring a girl to CSW meetings; however, there is no regulation requiring that the countries bring a woman to these meetings. That is one issue that will play out in the coming week, Sister Eileen said.

The SSND delegation from NDMU includes undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from Maryland, Virginia, Ghana and Brazil. They are Sister Sharon Kanis, SSND; Associate Professor Susan Barber; and students Elikem Yorm Kudjawu, Jussara Kramer, Beth Hancock, Samantha Dameron, Jennifer Ashwell, Mia Diamond, Megan Donegan and Barbara Newman.

During the first week of the CSW, the SSND delegation included students and staff from high schools in Baltimore and St. Louis.

Transforming the world through education