In March of 2018, 2019 and 2020, I was honored to be a Delegate to The United Nations for the Commission on The Status of Women (CSW).
My recommendation was submitted by Soroptimist International (SI), a worldwide women’s organization I have been a part of for over 35 years. SI has over 100,000 members in 120 countries.
CSW brought 10,000 women from around the world to New York to learn about the challenges and progress of women everywhere and make recommendations to the UN.
I’ve always been a firm believer that we learn from the environment we grow up in. We know what we see around us but often know little about the many challenges in the world that are much more severe than ours. This was an opportunity to learn from amazing women from all walks of life who have first-hand knowledge of these issues while working together to develop solutions.
Below are some of my many take-a-ways from this amazing experience.
The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals apply to all countries and cover a broad range of social and economic development issues. These include poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment, and social justice.
Some of the many sessions I participated in included Terrorism, Human Trafficking, Child Marriage, Water, and Technology. While it was difficult to hear many of the tragedies that take place in the world, it was also a great experience to be a part of helping to make things better.
I was amazed to learn the problem technology causes for rural parts of the world. Many financial resources that are available to rural areas have to be applied for online and these people have no access to a computer or the internet and do not know how to use them.
I was in a session presented by Malaysia which has made amazing progress on this problem. The country has set up over 1,000 free internet stations country-wide with training. This provides access to online high school education and college education and many women have been taught how to set up their own web-based businesses to sell their products online.
The definition of Terrorism may not be what most of us think it is. Violence against Women is considered terrorism. The poor accept help from terrorists because they need food for their family – in return their sons are doing things with and for the Terrorists. By eliminating poverty, we eliminate the need for this exchange.
Human Trafficking happens to girls, women, boys, and men all over the world and is big business. Traffickers offer hope of a better life to those who really need it. And some parents sell their own children to get food for the others. But also, sometimes a child goes willingly because she is told she will earn money to provide for her family. One girl spoke of how she worked from 4:00 in the morning to midnight every day and if everything was not done exactly right she was beaten and raped. The money never went to her family.
Another girl said if she serviced less than 10 men a day, she was not allowed to eat. She began to feel this was the life she would have to have for the rest of her life and learned to hate any kind of affection.
One session I sat it on was put on by a US organization called Lawyers Without Borders. I learned that Human Trafficking is often mistaken for smuggling. This is a problem because if they are mistaken for smugglers, the victims are then considered criminals and are persecuted. Their presentation was very engaging and educational and makes it easy to understand, participate in and learn about how to spot the signs of Human Trafficking and what to do about it. They have conducted training in different parts of the world of over 150 magistrates on human trafficking. They do this all pro-bono.
Forced child marriage is a huge problem in the world today starting as young as age eight. 150 million girls will be married against their will by 2030. Poor families often marry off their daughters as a way for them to be fed. The girls don’t understand what early marriage really means. They think it is for someone to take care of them and buy them clothes and jewelry, etc. Early forced marriage of children negatively affects their physical and emotional health, makes them more susceptible to violence and once married, education is often not an option.
All people have the human right to have safe drinking water and for hygiene and sanitation. Hundreds of thousands of children are dying today due to water-related issues and even hospitals have lack of safe water to provide patient care. Farmers in rural areas suffer the most. In some areas, rainfall is their main water source. Climate change is affecting their water supply.
40% of world people are affected by water scarcity today. The need for water over the next few years will increase greatly and is growing at a rapid pace. Competition for water could turn violent and therefore cause even more human suffering.
In Jordan, the demand for water grew by 300% in the past 5 years making it the 3rd most water scarce country in the world. Water in their part of the world is at its breaking point. A profound statement I heard is: “Those who have control of water have control of life”.
It was apparent that education is a key to improving the condition of women and girls worldwide. Lack of education keeps them from being able to protect themselves and their families.
When you see and hear how poor conditions are for so many people around the world, it helps us appreciate what we have and the opportunities we have to be free and live a happy and empowered life.
What was so amazing is that I saw no political agendas and only experienced thousands of smart, amazing women from all walks of life coming together to share best practices, improve the lives of women and girls everywhere and find ways to make the world a better place.
Although I have traveled the world, not only was this an absolutely eye-opening and amazing experience, I would consider it a milestone in my life. If I am asked to participate again, I will jump at the chance.