The Value of Young Women’s Participation at the United Nations

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The Value of Young Women’s Participation at the United Nations

By Devan Drabik
YWCA Greater Harrisburg

Devan Drabik
Devan Drabik

On March 10, the 58th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women launched into official meetings at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. As a young woman serving as a YWCA delegate, I came to the UN with three goals: to advocate for women’s rights on a global platform; to become a stronger ambassador for the YWCA movement; and to gain a global perspective of the inequalities facing women and girls around the world.

My journey began at the World YWCA’s Advocacy Institute, where I received valuable training on UN advocacy efforts and lobbying techniques. I was also given the unique opportunity to build solidarity with women from the YWCAs of Palestine, Japan, Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, Samoa, Great Britain, Mexico, Taiwan, and Switzerland. Although we came from different backgrounds, cultures and careers, all 70 delegates shared a common passion for gender equality.

The 58th session on the Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW58) priority theme — “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls” — offered the UN a chance to assess the MDGs’ progress and gave NGO delegates the opportunity to lobby for strategic framework in the Post-2015 agenda. With goals including achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering  women, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health (just to name a few), the UN has very little time until the 2015 deadline.  “Women’s rights have come a long way but there is still much to do and little time to do it in,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented.

CSW58 offered not only an incredible platform for the YWCA delegation team to advocate for the rights of women and girls; it also presented valuable mentorship opportunities. I was honored to serve on the World YWCA’s lobbying team for governmental side events, where I was mentored by a remarkable delegate from the YWCA Australia. In this role, I met with delegates from Afghanistan, El Salvador, Burundi, Zambia, and the United States to lobby for the dignity and rights of women and girls in relation to education, ending violence against women, economic opportunities, fulfillment of sexual reproductive health and rights, and ending child and forced marriages.

Additionally, I advocated for implementation of the World YWCA’s first priority: young women’s leadership. Young women are not only the leaders of tomorrow; we have an important role to play in shaping our world today. The Future Young Women Want document, created by the World YWCA, points out that “the experiences of young women are different from the experiences of young men, and women as a gender category; a ‘one size fits all approach’ undermines the efforts to effect change and recognition of diversity.” This valuable document was shared with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the days leading up to CSW58.

The Young Women’s Caucus offered young delegates the opportunity to raise our voices. Together we drafted an oral statement to be presented to the member states of CSW58, declaring “we (young women) are more than statistics — we are a valuable asset to the nations, a critical population group for achieving sustainable human development, but more importantly we are people whose human rights have to be at the core of any transformational agenda. Our voices must count in shaping the future of humanity.”

Over the last 10 days, I have lived this message and advocated for the rights of women, young women and girls around the world. I achieved my original goals and joined an incredible network of amazing women who dedicated their time and resources to ensure that gender equality and the priority themes of the World YWCA are put at the front of the Post-2015 Development agenda. I am honored to have been a part of this amazing group and look forward to bringing the valuable skills I learned at the UN to my local YWCA.

Devan Drabik is the Fundraising and Publications Manager at the YWCA Greater Harrisburg. Read her post on the World YWCA Women Leading Change blog: The Sexualisation of Women and Girls.