Imagine a place where individuals, countries, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world come together with one focus in mind: the rights of women and girls. A place where gender equality leads the agenda, the empowerment of women and girls is a priority, and men and boys are supportive allies. A place where the halls at any one moment are filled with traditional African garb, colorful hijabs, and pantsuits on a mission. A place that is a hallmark of difference, but simultaneously a celebration of harmony as each player works together for gender equality and the empowerment of women. A place where being a woman or girl is revered and supported through hundreds of private conversations and influential speeches. This was the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York this past March, and the most memorable event I’ve had the honor of attending and sharing with my fellow American youth.
CSW is an annual gathering of UN agencies, member states, and civil society from every region of the world to discuss the advance of women’s empowerment and equality. This year’s theme, “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development,” drew on the recently adopted Global Goals and highlighted the various dimensions to the promotion of gender equality.
At this year’s CSW, I had the privilege of attending as a Public Delegate of the official U.S. Delegation. In a nutshell, each country is encouraged to send a delegation to each of these UN Commissions, such as the Commission on the Status of Women or the Commission on Social Development. Many do not have youth members of their delegations for various reasons, but I was incredibly proud to find out that we had not only one, but two youth serving as U.S. Public Delegates. This is not only symbolic for the young people in our country and all over the world, but valuable because it allows for an American youth perspective in all of CSW’s programming: official UN affairs, NGO side events, and country-level panels.
Hundreds of American youth tweeted at or with me during my time at CSW, exhibiting their thirst to be aware and involved so that they can make a difference for women and girls domestically and globally. It is so important to have our voice be heard in the conversation around gender equality because gender equality is not only one of our generation’s most pressing issues, but it requires the participation of youth and allies such as men and boys. By being inclusive to young people in the empowerment of women and girls dialogue, we are including the future, but also the present and a population ready and willing to make a difference.
I was honored to speak alongside girls from all over the U.S. at the Girls Learn International Panel on “Girls’ Empowerment and Sustainable Development: A Global Dialogue” at the U.S. Mission to the UN, and I was inspired and energized by this event. The room was filled to capacity with young women and girls under the age of 20, all passionate about promoting gender equality, expanding the network to include allies through programs such as the UN’s HeForShe, and claiming their rights. At the event, Ambassador Cathy Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, took a look at the room and smiled at the bright future that it promised for women and girls all over our world. Young people are not only interested in this issue,, but are truly passionate and out there on the ground and at the table working towards an equal future for all.
You can learn more about the outcomes of this year’s CSW here. And stay tuned for more updates from me soon!