CSW68 Blog Post

My college spring break was like no other. While my peers went back home or traveled to another destination, I spent my time at the United Nations. When I found out that I was selected to attend the United Nations 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, I was overjoyed and began to count down the days until the sessions started. As soon as I walked through the metal detector to the United Nations, I was greeted by passionate delegates who were also grateful to be learning and speaking about women’s rights. Many of the delegates had traveled from other continents and countries to be in the same space as ambassadors from numerous countries.

My first event was with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Government of Egypt and was titled “OIC Celebration of the International Year of the Family 2024 Empowering Families for Sustainable Future: Best Practices in Upholding Women’s and Girls’ Human Rights.” In this session, I gained insight into the importance of the family unit in Egypt, as well as how family stability, and especially parental stability, has a positive impact on girls. Following the session, I researched caretaking in Egypt and learned more about the divide in unpaid care labor which women do as compared to men.

One of the most impactful events was with The Permanent Mission of the State of Israel, the Ministry for Social Protection and Advancement of the Status of Women, Women’s Spirit[1]Financial Independence for Women Victims of Violence, Devorah Forum, INSPIRE, American Muslim and Multifaith Women and was titled “Heroes of October 7th and Beyond Women as Agents of Change in Times of Conflict.” Gilan Erdad, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, shared that “As we sit here, there are Israeli hostages being defiled in Hamas terror tunnels.” Ambassador Erdad said that the October 7th attack has proven that rape and sexual violence crimes still commonly occur in today’s world, and 19 female hostages still remain in Gaza. One of these hostages, Naama Levy, participated in Hands of Peace, which recently merged with Seeds of Peace, an organization I participated in for two summers. Like Naama, I also was a participant in Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

During this session, one of the released hostages, Keren Munder, shared the horrors she experienced as she was held by Hamas in Gaza. Munder said, “Ten people in a small room, no sanitary conditions, only one sink.” She continued, “The women’s job in the room was first and foremost to be mothers, not only to our children but to all the children there because they did not have their mothers.” Munder shared that she is worried for the women younger than her who are still being held hostage. Anila Ali, a well-known Muslim leader, asked, “Are we not going to speak for these Israeli women because they are Jewish and Israeli?”

While I was unable to sit inside at this event due to capacity limitations, I met Ambassador Erdan after the event, and Ms. Ali gave me a hug. This action embodied the United Nation’s values of connection.

Another meaningful session with the European Union was titled, “Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.” Created in 2000, the Group works to combat gender violence across the world. One statistic which was said was that as many as 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence. Because each country and area has different demographics, viewing the specific local needs of communities to address this (and other) issues is critical.

As a UNA-USA Global Goals Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities), I recognize that women’s rights are directly tied to social determinants of health. This year, I have participated in numerous dialogue events at my university, as well as met with national and international leaders to discuss their views of conflicts and world politics. Through listening and recognizing the importance of advocacy and implementation of policies, I see a path to change.