By Allison Pfotze
This past week I have had the immense privilege of attending the Council on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN in New York (Cue the Frank Sinatra “New York New York”). The conference has been centered on women (duh), and girls; and with the 20-year check in since the famed Beijing CSW in 1995. This years conference was a critical step and assessment of where the world stands on its work with women.
The Beijing CSW gained its fame from the Millennium Goals, which were developed at the 1995 conference, goals that attempted to eliminate poverty in the coming millennium. These goals included:
1. Women and the Environment
2. Women in Power and Decision-Making
3. The Girl Child
4. Women and the Economy
5. Women and Poverty
6. Violence Against Women
7. Human Rights of Women
8. Education and Training of Women
9. Institutional Mechanisms of the Advancement of Women
10. Women and Health
11. Women and the Media
12. Media and Armed Conflict”
While a lot of progress has been achieved in the past twenty years, there remains a huge amount of change that still needs to happen. And that was the focus of this year’s conference, specifically the focus on GIRLS.
While other blogs and articles will talk about the events of the conference, the goals, attendees and the outcomes—which will be more certain after the conference, but really in September of this year—I am going to talk about my own experiences in New York this week.
As a member of the Advocates for Youth International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC) and the Girl Engagement Advisory Board (GEAB), I came to New York at the perfect time because I am nineteen and a female. Meaning that by the UN definition I am seen as a girl—and this year they are focusing on the actual voices and stories of real girls as they work out the details of the goals.
This week I have been lucky enough to attend working groups, general assembles, receptions and panels galore! And while I’ve enjoyed every moment of it all, I was also fortunate enough to be able to speak on panels and converse with some amazing international leaders. As a girl, I was in New York talking about my own personal experiences as an adolescent girl, and what I have seen, experienced and want to change for females and our experiences.
So, to set the stage, before the conference even began, I was able to speak on Capital Hill at a Congressional panel about SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) and the US’ responsibility to supply foreign aid to such efforts, while also working towards these efforts internally.
Then, on Friday, I spoke on a panel of girls as we told a working group filled with several ambassadors, delegates, USAID personal, NGOs galore and other amazing humans beings and representatives! I was able to share my own stories, to meet other girls and women and participate in a conversation about what my own demographic—in all its diversity and potential—needs. And wow! What a day, we worked to create and form ideas and ways to push forward on to the next phase of the goals, as they transition from Pre-2015 goals to Post-2015 goals.
On Saturday, I was able to participate in a Nike Foundation event with other girls from around the world, who came together to share our stories and feel united in our commonalities in our experiences and fight for girls, women and people everywhere. We bonded over the Girl Declaration and tied ribbons of the quotes from other girls around the world around our wrists, and went forward with the passion to change hearts and minds on these issues that we care so deeply about.
And while these experiences, people, events and education I have received in the past week have been beyond invaluable; I want more from this all. From our policy and leaders. I want us to step up to the challenge of implementation and go forward with the importance of girls and women in mind to push through legislation and policies, but not to just stop there. To keep on and on, pushing for greater equal opportunities and advances for girls, women and all people.
As Hilary Clinton said in 1995 in Beijing:
“Women’s rights are human rights.”
But I would like to expand that line to be:
“Female rights, regardless or age, identity, culture, nationality or any other category are human rights. Because we are valid and important too.”
So as many college students return back to their campuses from spring break, as high school seniors look at graduation, middle schoolers count down the days until freshman year and kids in primary school look up to their role models. Let us all stand up, speak up and ACT for girls’ rights, because it’s pushing the boundaries of too late already.