Group works to raise awareness of plight of rural women
By Alex Sajben, Dominican Volunteer
|The Dominican Leadership Conference invited Krystal McLeod and Lilly Barone, students from Saint John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, New York, to attend the Working Group on Girls sessions at the 56th UN Commission on the Status of Women.
The Commission on the Status of Women has come to the United Nations once again. During these two weeks, nations gather to speak of ways in which to improve the rights of women and girls around the world. The theme for this year’s commission, its 56th session, was the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, and current challenges. The many topics discussed included the importance of equal land rights for women, and the removing of impediments to markets for trade, as well as greater access to education. During this time, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, as well as the Working Group on Girls, in which the Dominican Leadership Conference has taken a very active role, have been lobbying the UN Member States to include provisions for the advancement of women and girls in the Commission’s Outcome Document.
The Working Group on Girls is comprised of more than 80 international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that focus on institutionalizing the rights of girls in the United Nations by promoting the human rights of the girl-child in all areas and stages of her life; by advancing the inclusion and the status of girls; and by assisting girls to develop their full potential as women. The Working Group on Girls tries to incorporate the perspective of girls under the age of 18 into the deliberations at the United Nations. The Dominican Leadership Conference has maintained an active presence in this group over the last year, and is currently working on the Taskforce to Prevent Violence Against Girls.
The Working Group on Girls wanted girls from around the world to participate in the UN advocacy process from Feb. 26 to March 2. The Dominican Leadership Conference contacted several area high schools extending an invitation to participate. We were fortunate to welcome two young women from Saint John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, New York: Krystal McLeod and Lilly Barone. They enthusiastically attended the Working Group on Girls Youth Orientation for the 56th Commission on the Status of Women. During this orientation and other sessions, the young women were exposed to a wide variety of issues affecting women and girls throughout the world: gender equality, harmful effects of forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and empowerment through entrepreneurship in rural economies.
Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and the current executive director of UN Women, and Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize-winner, provided educational lectures for the girls in attendance. There were also workshops given on social media, advocacy, and other topics. These events culminated in a reception at the Millennium Hotel for the youth delegates on Thursday, March 1.
Miss McLeod and Miss Barone also had the opportunity to let their voices be heard throughout the week by participating in the drafting of a document that served as the CSW 56 Girls Statement. This statement was read to the diplomats attending the Commission by a Girl Representative of the Working Group on Girls. In addition, I had the opportunity to moderate a Girls’ Caucus in which more than 40 girls from around the world made additions to the delegates’ outcome statement, which more accurately conveyed the needs of girls. This statement was sent to the missions of every country who participated in the commission.
Both Miss McLeod and Miss Barone expressed a desire to continue to raise awareness of the plight of rural girls and women in their own communities. They will make a presentation at Saint John the Baptist Diocesan High School to educate their fellow classmates and educators about the human rights abuses encountered by girls every day. After seeing the passion evoked in these two young women, as well as all of the international youth delegates at the Commission on the Status of Women, it is an encouraging statement for the empowerment of women everywhere.
For more information on the Working Group on Girls, visit www.girlsrights.org.
Margaret Mayce, OP (DLC/Amityville)
NGO in Special Consultative Status at the United Nations
Dominican Leadership Conference
211 East 43 St. Rm 704
New York, NY 10017