I strongly believe that in a world where increasingly smart devices deliver rich data and communicate with each other to exchange information and knowledge, we have a powerful new way to unite people and drive solutions that will truly solve some of the biggest social and environmental issues around the globe.” Gabi Zedlmayer
March 18, 2018
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women student delegates gathered with SSND sisters in Wilton, Connecticut, to thank them for their hospitality and to share the highlights of their experience at the UN-CSW.
The sisters were curious about how each student was chosen to be a delegate as the process was left to the participating schools in each country. Lorena shared that in her school in Brazil, those who had excellent grades were invited to write an essay about their hopes for the experience. They were then quizzed about their knowledge of the United Nations. Their fluency in English was also a factor.
At a second participating Brazilian school, one of the selection criteria was a willingness to do research on the needs of rural women and girls - the theme of this year's UN-CSW. Based on this requirement, one of the selected student delegates visited a rural area outside the city where she lives. She asked students there to write her letters about their needs. She received fifty letters from rural students and brought these letters, translated into English, to share with the student delegation to the UN-CSW.
Reflecting on the Week
In their reflections on the week, several of the student delegates mentioned that they appreciated the time with their counterparts from around the world and are eager to return to their countries to share all that they have learned. "My highlight of the week was meeting tons of new friends from other SSND schools, as well as women from around the world supporting women's empowerment," said Charlotte, a delegate from the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland.
One of the more memorable experiences from the week at the United Nations, included attending the opening ceremony of the UN-CSW and hearing U.N. Secretary Antonio Guterres speak. "My personal highlight was hearing him (Secretary Guterres) say 'I am a feminist,'" shared Austrian delegate, Elisabeth.
The many speeches at the UN-CSW allowed the student delegation to hear first-hand from empowered women who had overcome obstacles to make a difference for other women. "Among other things, I heard this inspiring story of Amanda Nguyen, who is the founder and president of the NGO RISE," said Luiza, a student at Colégio Nossa Senhora das Dores in São Paulo, Brazil. "She is a rape survivor, and she realized that she didn’t have rights as a person who suffered abuse. She decided to rewrite the law and she did that."
Along with the highlights, the students also mentioned some of their surprises and disappointments. They were bewildered by the fact that, despite the frequent discussion of the importance of education, there are still 10 million girls around the world not in school. Another astonishing realization was in regards to human trafficking, another frequent topic at the U.N. It is estimated that 14.2 million people are trapped in forced labor, much of which is sex trafficking.
A briefing by the United States Mission to the U.N. exposed some of the gaps in U.S. foreign policy. Some of the student delegates expressed their disappointment that many who had hoped to attend the UN-CSW were not able to because of the U.S. travel ban.
"With so many countries attending, I was able to see that women have the same problems all over the world and though some of these problems have not been solved, it is nice to see that the first step has been met and that is to acknowledge we have problems and how to solve them," wrote Tracy Sales, a Mount Mary University student who shared her appreciation in a note to the sisters. "It was an eye opening experience, and I am very thankful to be able to hear the stories of these strong women that are not afraid to speak and make a change."
The evening of sharing ended with an opportunity for the sisters to enjoy candy and cookies that some delegates had brought from their corner of the world.