Four young people from the UK participated at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women that took place in New York from 13-24 March 2017. The Commission (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. A functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it was established by Council resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The young people were invited to the conference via a member of the local LEAP community of practice. This professional also helped them fundraise for their trip and support them in the organsiation.
The first two days in New York was spent at the Youth Forum. The aim is to provide a platform for young people to give their opinions and thoughts on topics affecting them at CSW61. This was a great introduction into CSW but the group felt it did not truly represent the youth voice. Young people said:
"Although it seemed very youth orientated, the youth forum was very youth-less. The majority of the panel were adults and when they did try to include us, the activities seemed very childish things such as the ‘Mexican wave’ wave and ‘mannequin challenge’ which to me was quite offensive as it felt my ability and maturity was undermined."
Despite this challenge and initial fear, both members presented excellently. The impact of being able to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences at such an event as well as being heard was empowering to the whole group.
"I have realised that what I say does matter."
Each member of the group came away, not only inspired by those they met, but with renewed vigour to influence change. Each has ideas of how they, personally, will bring change and begin to work using the knowledge they gained whilst in New York.
"When I get back to the UK I will share the information and experiences of the young women I have had the privilege of speaking to whilst at the UN, in the hope of making a brighter future for others."
"It has left me feeling empowered to continue and develop the work I do in my local community and beyond; I now have a wealth of knowledge as to how Woman's rights are not being implemented across the world and an idea as to what I can do in the upcoming months to help support change for women!"
The LEAP project - co-funded by the European Union aims to develop evidence-based training for sexual violence specialist support services to promote participatory practice with children and young people affected by sexual violence and build capacity and sustainable professional support networks to promote participatory rights-based appraoches to supporting children and young people affected by sexual violence.