In March, three ALU student representatives participated in the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), celebrating Women’s History Month at UN Headquarters. ALU’s Garnett Achieng, Jerrylynn Kariuki, and Mardiya Siba Yahaya traveled to UN Headquarters in New York City to participate in this 3-week academic trip.
When they came face-to-face with the statistics, governmental initiatives, and intergovernmental organizations’ analysis of the status of women, Garnett, Jerrylynn, and Mardiya were surprised and devastated to learn the reality of global gender equality.
“…my biggest takeaway was that there is so much awareness that needs to be done on the interconnectedness of global challenges, as gender-inequality is embedded in different sectors in ways that we may not see at face value.”
The UNCSW is an annual event but to attend is an honor. The participants include government officials, NGO directors, start-up founders, students, and women from all walks of life, convening with the sole purpose of improving the lives of women worldwide. All of our students were in awe of the energy and the elevated levels of consultation, occurring at the conference.
Jerrylynn shared that…
“…the highlight of my experience was being in the UN General assembly, dubbed the Parliament for humanity where I attended an interactive panel discussion on women in power with more than 50% of the world’s female heads of state and governments. In my excitement, I forgot to take any pictures but the memory and lesson from that session shall be glued to my mind forever.”
During the UNCSW, the ‘Women of the World’ (WOW) Festival was an exciting event with notable women of colour, fighting to dismantle oppressive systems. They were all delighted to listen to Angela Davis, a notable feminist writer, speak on the relationship between arts and activism, highlighting the importance of women’s month and the role of creatives in promoting our narrative.
The UNSWC also presented a tremendous opportunity for participants to not only listen to the initiatives of different governments to advance the lives of women and the LGBTQ community, but also to question them on their policies and projects. It gave each of our ALU representatives a chance to truly engage with high-level government organizations and to question their policies.
This couldn’t have been a more amazing experience for Mardiya, an aspiring mediapreneur. She came face-to-face with the striking statistic that only 25% of women in the world participate in her field, media. She also realized how external factors often pushed women out of mainstream media, strengthening her resolve to succeed in this increasingly male-dominated industry.
The equality of women is one of the seven major ALU-identified challenges our continent is facing. Now, thanks to the participation of ALU’s delegation, intensely immersed in a geo-political conversation to elevate the status of women around the world, we at ALU have experts among us to help us as we form, develop, and arise to create new approaches and innovations to address this challenge.
ALU is now in an even greater position to support UNCSW and the ongoing development of initiatives to bring women’s right to the level of human rights. The more detail we learn about the problem and the current and/or failed initiatives attempted, our student innovators gain a more accurate perspective and can position new solutions to more directly impact the problems at hand.
Someone once jokingly said, “In March, every year, the UN is attacked by thousands of women”. This year, ALU sent three leaders to participate in these global discussions. Without a doubt, neither our students nor the UNCSW will be the same.