21 March 2018

Young Adult Voices at the Commission on the Status of Women

On the invitation of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) initiative, Phoebe Warren, Political Science and History major at UNAI member institution McGill University, Canada, has shared the experience of The International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University (IRSAM) delegation to the sixty-second Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations Headquarters.

20 March 2018 - University students of international relations commonly learn about the principles and history of the United Nations and its functional commissions. While this background provides a strong basis for developing academic interests and exploring future careers, the opportunity to put theory into practice was recently given to eleven students from United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) member institution McGill University at the sixty-second Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University (IRSAM), which also holds consultative status as a non-governmental organization with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, sends an annual delegation to the CSW with the aim of gaining hands-on experience at the United Nations. Our delegation spent a full week in New York sitting in on official business meetings of the Commission, attending side-events, meeting with various Permanent Missions to the United Nations, and even attending some Security Council sessions.

This experience was first and foremost an opportunity to learn. My colleagues and I encountered experts in their respective fields with decades of experience in subjects ranging from rural women’s rights to land tenure and legal frameworks for combatting charges of witchcraft in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. It was eye-opening to be exposed to global perspectives on issues I have never encountered in my studies.

We also learned how CSW could provide us with tools to educate and advocate. In any given meeting, we were almost always the youngest attendees and we came to understand the necessity of incorporating youth perspectives on women’s human rights issues. During a panel on the influence of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on violence against women, we encouraged the panel of experts such as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences Dubravka Šimonovic to hold direct consultations with young people on the destructive power of ICTs. Ms. Šimonovic noted that such consultation has not yet been undertaken and would be considered in the future – an indication of the importance of engaging those in power to listen to young peoples’ lived experiences.

The limitless possibilities for networking were perhaps the most valuable moments of our time spent at the United Nations. Although the bustling corridors of the General Assembly are crowded and noisy, the equality of opportunity was evident – if you could stop someone in the hallway, you were welcome to ask any and all questions on your mind. We may be young and have much to learn, but we also have much to contribute; our voices helped make waves at the United Nations!