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Dialogues with Diplomats: Loretto at #CSW68

Posted on May 15, 2024, by Beth Blissman CoL

A group of high school students are pictured with an Irish diplomat at a coffee shop in New York during the 68th Commission on the Status of Women.
Fifteen student delegates from St. Mary’s Academy, Loretto Academy and Wahlert Catholic High School spent time with Lisa Carty, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, at a coffee shop near U.N. headquarters. Photo by Anne Evans

The results from our 28-member in-person Loretto/BVM Delegation to the 68th gathering of the United Nations (U.N.) Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW68) are in. It was another transformative experience that inspired girls to see themselves in the shoes of diplomats. As they reflected upon the experience, our students articulated what impressed them the most:

  • “The most surprising thing I realized at the CSW was how important it is to gather together to address issues surrounding discrimination against women and girls. Classes in school hardly address these issues, and it’s hard to accumulate different perspectives. That’s why I believe events like the CSW are so crucial — it helps inspire young teenagers to change the world.”
  • “The sense of community is the main thing that truly stuck with me. It can be so easy to feel hopeless about issues such as equality and climate change, but being surrounded by so many powerful women made me feel uplifted and like anything is possible. I loved being able to meet people from all around the world and hear so many perspectives. … I believe that learning is one of the best parts of life and this opportunity gave me access to learn so much more than I could have ever imagined. CSW changed my life for the better.”

The event was an invaluable opportunity to explore pathways to a better world at a time when women and girls globally are experiencing extreme poverty in greater numbers. Our students reported that it was empowering to join with more than 6,000 feminists of all genders who attended the conference in person and another 15,000 who attended virtually. Our Loretto/BVM delegation of 28 included three BVM Sisters and 15 high school participants from Loretto Academy, St. Mary’s Academy and Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque, Iowa. We joined U.N. officials and government representatives, topic experts, activists of all ages and other members of civil society organizations.

Together we explored reasons why women and girls currently experience increasing amounts of gender-based violence, lack of health care, domestic violence, food insecurity and inequality in their access to education. This year’s priority theme was “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.” We drew connections between sexualized violence and a lack of land access, work opportunities and financial literacy — and noted that women, including young girls, often shoulder the most responsibility for the care of their families.

Other highlights of CSW68 included:

  • Teen Orientation hosted by the Working Group on Girls on March 10, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School gymnasium on the upper east side.
  • Two different opportunities to meet with diplomats from both the U.S. and Ireland.
  • Our exciting mix-and-mingle evening event, where we played CSW68-themed bingo and got to know the other members of our in-person delegation.
  • Hearing from Loretto Co-member Alice Kitchen about the Cities for CEDAW movement, which is organized through the Women’s Intercultural Network.
  • Fourteen members of our delegation participated in an invitation-only Interfaith Dialogue hosted March 15 by the Taiwanese Buddhist organization Tzu Chi.
  • Several opportunities for informal dialogue and celebration at receptions, including an open house hosted by the Angel Band Project, an organization (based in St. Louis founded by two graduates of Nerinx Hall High School) that helps survivors of sexual assault heal through music therapy.

Here is our CSW68 Loretto/BVM Delegation report, where you can read, and watch, more about our two parallel events held in collaboration with the Kila Dada Initiative in Tanga, Tanzania, Loretto Academy and the Loretto Feminist Network — as well as more reflections on the experience from our students, sisters and lead educators. Our 2023-24 intern Leslie Baron summed up the importance of hosting this event for our student participants:

“For the Loretto Community, creating the framework to host high school students at annual CSW gatherings is investing in the future of leadership. These young women represent the next generation of decision-makers, change agents and trailblazers. By empowering them with knowledge, skills and exposure to global issues, the Loretto Community nurtures potential leaders who will drive positive transformation in society.”

Deep thanks to Communications staff for coverage on the Loretto Community’s social media channels, both during #CSW68 and the week of April 29. Finally, you may wish to read this overview of the event in the Global Sisters Report. Thank you all for your continuing prayerful support as we break barriers and pave the way for a brighter, more equitable future for all. Our student feedback made it clear that attending CSW is more than just a trip to New York — it’s a transformative experience that equips high school girls with the tools, knowledge and inspiration to become future leaders of the world. #CSW68 #EducateGirls2024


Beth Blissman CoL

Beth, a Loretto Co-member, is the Community’s UN NGO representative.
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