Tuesday, 28 March 2017

‘I am just one voice, but I am proud to have represented 10 million voices of WAGGGS members around the world’

I am just back from representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York and what a whirlwind of a two weeks it has been!

The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal body dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the United Nations. Each year the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) sends a delegation of young women to represent its 10 million members worldwide. This year there were 11 young women on the delegation from different countries including Chile, Argentina and Scotland, to name but a few.

Our adventure started on Friday 10th March when we all gathered at Girl Scouts of the USA Head Quarters on Fifth Avenue for our induction training. Throughout the day, we practiced elevator pitches of what we might say if we met a government official in a lift and how we should best communicate WAGGGS’ key messages to decision makers. As we would all have the chance to speak at various events over the next two weeks, we practiced taking part in a
panel discussion and also discussed what questions might arise from the audience during the Q & A section.

On Saturday and Sunday, we attended the CSW Youth Forum where we had the chance to listen to some amazing speakers, including Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations who told us that “Every one of us has a journey and that path is what you make of it – Even if you end up being a bread maker, please make sure you make the best god damn bread the world has ever seen.” We took part in various sessions including “Young Women
and Mental Health” and “The voices of young women in peace and security” as well as skills exchange labs on digital and political advocacy. I was part of the WAGGGS team running a session on the Free Being Me body confidence programme and some other members of the delegation also ran a session on WAGGGS’s Stop the Violence campaign.

The 61st Session of the Commission officially began on Monday 13 March 2017. Each year CSW has an official theme around which all events are based and this year the theme was “Women’s
Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.” Throughout the two weeks, we each had the chance to influence policy makers by meeting with our governments to lobby them on the important and unique issues facing girls and young women in today’s society. Women’s economic empowerment starts with girls and we wanted governments to understand that investing in girls is a primary means of increasing economic outcomes for them in later life.

During CSW, each member of the delegation had the chance to sit on
various panels at different events in conjunction with other non-governmental organisations to speak out on important issues such as empowering girls’ economic futures through education, eliminating all forms of violence against girls and young women and addressing discriminatory social norms and practices that inhibit girls and young women in society today.

During the second week of CSW, I had the opportunity to deliver a statement on behalf of WAGGGS at an interactive
expert panel on “Enhancing availability and use of data and gender statistics to support accelerated implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”. I talked about the importance of collecting data by age, gender and other categories so that progress for all girls is adequately captured. I also spoke about U-Report, a social messaging tool developed by UNICEF to enable anyone anywhere to speak out on the issues they care about.

At the end of the two weeks, the principal outcome of CSW is the Agreed Conclusions, which is a document that 
contains a set of concrete recommendations for action by governments and non-governmental organisations to advance gender equality. This document contains an assessment of progress, as well as the gaps and challenges facing girls and women. On St. Patrick’s Day I had the chance to attend a reception at the Irish Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Here I met with decision-makers from the Irish
government as well as officials from the Permanent Mission who were engaged in negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions and had the chance to share WAGGGS’s key messages and highlight the importance of governments recognising the unique perspectives of girls and young women and the barriers preventing gender equality.

Being part of this delegation has been an amazing opportunity for me to not only represent WAGGGS at a global level, but also to have a meaningful impact on global decision makers to ensure that the challenges facing girls and young women are taken into account. I have had the chance to develop my public speaking and critical thinking skills as well as connect with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around the

I am just one voice, but I am proud to have represented 10 million voices of WAGGGS members around the world.

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