April 10, 2012
By Ingrid W.
Participating in my first Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations as a sophomore at St. Catharine Academy in the Bronx opened me up to a whole new world that I never knew existed.
Once I knew that girls were victims of sex trafficking and forced to work in brothels, I knew I had to do something to help them. If you are aware of something harmful that is happening to others and you don’t do anything to help, you’ve become part of the problem. I wanted to be part of the solution.
The CSW is an annual program within the United Nations entity UN Women. It gives young women the opportunity to voice their opinions about the inequalities that young women our age are facing around the world. We learn about diplomacy and how the United Nations influences its member states’ decisions, which are important because we have a better sense of how to convey our message of empowering women and girls to become a significant component of everyday life.
As a sophomore, I didn’t know what female genital mutilation or female infanticide meant. When my teacher suggested that I read Half the Skyby Nicholas Kristof, all of these terms made sense to me.
That year I attended my first CSW, which was dedicated to reviewing the Beijing Platform for Action, which came out of the 1995 World Conference on Women, and the 8 Millennium goals, to see how much progress had been made. In order to be properly prepared for the side events and official sessions that we would attend, my fellow classmates and I read the whole Beijing Platform, focusing especially on the section on the “girl child.” That section discussed many issues, including education and health care and how they would be improved internationally.
My experience at CSW the next year was mind blowing; I felt very motivated by the speakers at the orientation and by everyone’s high energy. The priority theme was STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and encouraging women, and especially young girls, to broaden their expectations for life in their respective countries. If societies encourage girls at a young age to become involved in science and math they would have more successful futures and be able to provide for their families.
This year’s CSW focused on rural women and girls, and we at St. Catharine Academy had the pleasure of hosting four young women from rural areas of Africa. Many of the conferences that we attended focused on the lack of healthcare and access to quality education for rural women and girls and how governments plan to fix the problem. One of the most interesting official conferences I attended was an interactive dialogue among youth of various countries, on how to get women and girls more involved in decision-making processes within their government and communities. Not many nation states were present for this session,which said a lot to me, that the opinions of young women are still not taken seriously.
In my three years participating in CSW, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in advocating for the rights of others. I plan on attending the Fifth World Conference on Women, proposed for 2015, because there needs to be a strong presence of youth so people know that this is important to us.
Previous generations might say that our generation is not making a difference. But we are, doing it in a way that was never possible before. Technology has provided us with the resources to connect with other young people on an international level. Soon enough there will be equality between women and men, and I want to be able to leave my foot print in the road that many have traveled to eradicate gender inequality and injustice.