Loretto at the UN: Supporting Girls and Women

By Beth Blissman

Loretto Community was well represented at the 2017 International Day of the Girl. This year’s Loretto at the UN team includes, from left, Beth Blissman, U.N. representative, Emma Patton, social media intern and Loretto Volunteer Mary Louise Pabello.
(Photo by Sheila Smith RSCJ)

When I arrived at the United Nations office a year ago, the first meeting Sally Dunne took me to was the Working Group on Girls (WGG). I joined WGG’s Mission Advocacy Committee and began to visit the offices where diplomats work. These are called missions, oddly enough. We would share our priorities from WGG and talk with staff members from various countries about how our priorities connected with their top issues. It was an exciting and enlightening process, and it was an honor to be invited to co-chair this committee in 2017-18 with Eileen Reilly SSND and prepare for the March 2017 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

In addition to lobbying ambassadors and sponsoring events at the annual CSW conferences, the WGG also monitors how countries work to improve the lives of girls via the voluntary national reviews that happen each summer at an annual High-Level Political Forum. Of the 44 countries that presented in 2017, very few mentioned the rights of girls as an area of progress. On a brighter note, one project we tackled this summer was a collaboration with some high school interns with Temple of Understanding, an interfaith organization, to create an interactive map of the missions located all around the New York City borough of Manhattan. It’s a great tool for visual learners, and saves us having to look up the addresses of the missions each time we visit.

Finally, members of the WGG cooperate to host an annual girls speak out event as part of the International Day of the Girl (IDG), which takes place each year on Oct. 11. For the IDG this fall, we collaborated with Sheila Smith RSCJ to co-host a side event focused on the importance of girls’ education. Entitled Hope and Resilience: Quality Education and Gender Equality, Integrating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 5, the event welcomed more than 40 people to a conference room at the Church Center for the United Nations. Three panelists, a girl leader from Canada, a youth activist from South Africa and an adult motivational speaker from Uganda, spoke from their experiences about the need for quality education for girls and how it is essential for the achievement of gender equality. Each panelist shared her struggles and offered concrete suggestions to furthering the achievement of SDGs 4 and 5, which relate to education and gender, respectively. Videos of each of the speakers taken by Loretto Volunteer Mary Louise Pabello can be viewed on the Loretto at the UN Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/LorettoUN/.

The International Day of the Girl panelists for the side event Hope and Resilience: Quality Education and Gender Equality, are, from left, Betty Ogiel Rubanga from Uganda, Thobeka Mnisi from South Africa and Audrey Meloche from Canada.
(Photo by Beth Blissman)

This past Oct. 11, Mary Louise and I attended the International Day of the Girl Speak Out. Co-hosted by the governments of Canada, Turkey, Peru and the WGG, the event provided a platform for girl activists from around the world to share the work that they are leading in their communities and to hear meaningful feedback from U.N. member states, agencies and hundreds of girl advocates looking to support their initiatives. For anyone interested in viewing the girls’ Speak Out event, it can be found at the following link: http://dayofthegirlsummit.org/.

Our next steps? As we prepare to welcome more than 70 high school students and teachers/chaperones to New York City for the spring 2018 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), we’ll also be working with WGG to try to bring together female U.N. Ambassadors with our teenage girl advocates to discuss leadership, policy and pathways to help girls be independent, safe and empowered. Keep your eyes open for more about CSW62 in a future issue of Interchange!

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