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The United Nations Works for Girls’ Rights

Posted on September 1, 2019, by Beth Blissman CoL

Loretto at the UN summer interns Anna Farber, left, from Oberlin College and Gracie Mannion, right, from Fordham University, flank U.N. Department of Global Communications staff liaiaon Felipe Quiepo.
Photo by Beth Blissman

The United Nations works through commissions, members of countries’ delegations, that join together on specific issues. For example, the Loretto Community is concerned with girls’ rights and women’s liberation, so we host a delegation each year to the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held in March. This particular commission has 45 members, meaning that 45 nation states all work together to produce an outcome document for that year. Their goal is the championing of rights and opportunities for women and girls. Countries take turns serving on these commissions, and it is a challenge to keep track of which countries come off and on the CSW. (https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/member-states)

Loretto’s Work with Nation States

Loretto’s work doing advocacy with these nation states begins long before March, however. This past summer, our staff, along with other members of the Working Group on Girls (WGG) (http://girlsrights.org/wp/) attended the annual U.N. High Level Political Forum (HLPF). The HLPF is the place where various member states update each other on their progress in achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) via Voluntary National Reviews. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals that serve as a strategic plan for humanity as we strive to achieve social and environmental justice by the year 2030. SDG 5, Gender Equality, is a particular favorite of the Working Group on Girls, although all the U.N. commissions and working groups advocate working on all of the SDGs simultaneously. (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300)

Our efforts this summer were to attend the Voluntary National Reviews given by the various countries now serving on the Commission on the Status of Women and to pay very close attention as the member state delegates described the progress they have made on the Sustainable Development Goals. We also paid very close attention to whether or not these countries even mentioned girls and the current challenges facing girls as distinct from women and/or boys. (Some examples of challenges include sanitation in school settings once girls begin to menstruate, early child marriage, female genital mutilation, femicide and access to appropriate health care for girls.)

Much Progress Made, but More Work for Girls’ Rights Needed

The data we have collected this summer will help the Working Group on Girls to write a statement regarding overall global progress on girls’ rights as we prepare for CSW64 in March 2020. We also will use that document, along with a set of talking points, as we train our WGG girl advocates (high-school aged girls from the New York City area) to accompany us on visits to  delegates of various countries this coming fall/winter. Loretto at the UN staff and volunteers will weave data from several of the Voluntary National Review presentations into the Loretto Learner’s Curriculum, the online asynchronous preparation materials that we share with teachers at the schools we will host for CSW64. Overall, we heard there has been much progress made since the Sustainable Development Goals were introduced in 2015, but much more work for girls’ rights needs to be achieved globally. 

The theme for CSW64 in 2020 will be Beijing+25, as it has been nearly 25 years since the fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995. Loretto was well-represented by Maureen McCormack, Marian McAvoy and Mary Peter Bruce in Beijing, and we’ll be doing our best this year to continue to use our voice as a member of civil society (i.e., non-state actors or non-profits) to advance the rights and opportunities for girls, women and all working to evolve into a peace-loving, ecologically-sustainable society.


Beth Blissman CoL

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