Memorable Presence in New York For CATHII Participants – University at the UN

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It was a consensus that everyone loved their experience at the United Nations CSW67*. They consider it a memorable experience both in their lives and future careers. This is what emerged from the CATHII – University at the UN virtual debriefing held at the end of March.

Hearing the testimony of those invited to share their experience of various situations, such as a Ukrainian fighter and a Kurdish singer who was tortured and raped, greatly impacted the majority of the participants.

The same was true of several other speakers who came to share their experiences of achievements. According to Eva-Victoria, these “personal stories complement the facts and statistics well and increase the possibility of identification. It maked a bigger impression on us.”

Benefits in their daily lives

Already involved at the University of Montreal, Eva-Victoria intends to take advantage of the tips shared by the lecturer from St. Louis University in Washington, D.C., which enabled her to carry out a project to distribute sanitary products (Period Poverty) in several environments where women living in poverty are particularly deprived. This conference allowed Eva-Victoria to “bring this back to my environment in Montreal” and to count on recommendations to move forward.

For his part, Alexander noted his participation in a Middle East panel on reproductive and sexual rights in those countries, particularly Lebanon. “There were six or seven participants, from that country, out of ten on that panel. The exchanges were fruitful. It gave me a better understanding of the reality in my home country where there are 40% fewer children enrolled in school.”

Participating in the workshops and various side events at CSW67 made it much easier to build relationships. Juliette also enjoyed talking with people there. She also learned about different approaches in presentations such as the one used at New York University. “I became aware of the privilege of being a white woman living in a Western world and the diversity of situations for other women.”

Demystifying the aura of the United Nations

For Gabrielle, being in New York allowed her to “take away some of the idealism that surrounds the UN.” She was amazed at the destructive effects of pornography and this “hypersexualization of women in all types of media, movies and videos.” The lectures presented on this topic were revealing in many ways, including different approaches to countering this phenomenon. “They also illustrated the negative impact of the use of social media that have been created to serve other purposes than those intended,” added Eva-Victoria.

This experience at the UN has also revealed some of its limitations. For example, Bianca raisedthe lack of trust of international bodies towards organizations on the ground that fight against injustice and inequality with very little financial means and the problem of accountability. “How do we make the UN and international organizations accountable and put into place effective funding mechanisms?”

Among the many other comments made at the meeting was the surprise at seeing conservative organizations seeking legitimacy. “I didn’t expect to hear right-wing rhetoric at these meetings,” says Jill. While her experience in New York helped her demystify the structure and functioning of the UN, Jill also stresses the importance of “developing our own critical thinking skills.” “We can’t be naive. We need to see the underside of the representation of the groups present and know their orientations.”

Given the abundance of topics and the richness of the workshop content, Chairman expressed a desire to take the time to digest everything she learned there. This did not stop her from saying “it ignited something in me to further support my approach to defending people’s rights.”

A unique and enriching program

Admittedly, the technology-driven CSW67 theme was not the most obvious way to talk about human trafficking, all admitted to enriching their knowledge. The workshops and conferences organized in parallel had a lot to do with this. The issue of trafficking and the links to the restaurant and hospitality industry where conditions for people are not improving were discussed and found to be particularly troubling.

In relation to the CSW67 theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”, Eva-Victoria said she was shocked by “the gap with reality”. The presentation on technology, given by a Scottish woman, made people realize that access to technology and social networks is not available for all, even in Western countries, such as Scotland, where there are regions that have no access to the Internet.

The 2023 cohort’s attendance at the UN is the final stage of the CATHII – University at the UN Human Trafficking Training Program. Participants are required to complete evaluation and assessment elements to conclude their contribution.

In everyone’s mind, this CATHII – University at the UN program is very formative and deserves to be known. Some participants are already telling their fellow students about it and encouraging them to register for the next cohort. This is a good sign!

*CSW – Commission on the Status of Women