Children North East’s Campaigner Katie McSherry is in New York for 2019’s Commission on the Status of Women at the UN Headquarters.

We’ll be keeping this page updated with regular updates of what she’s getting up to, the people she meets and the issues that are raised.

NAWO Youth Programme

13th - 15th March - Young people in their own words

My highlight of two weeks at the UN so far? Getting to know the young women with the National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO) youth programme, who are set to change the world.

These 16 and 17 year olds from the UK are charismatic, engaged and authoritative. Linking their personal experiences to global issues, they cut through complexity and jargon. When they speak, rooms go silent.

They are here in New York, telling the UN, governments, businesses and NGOs what needs to change. Here they are in their own words.

Above: I took some time to chat to British teenagers Maddy and Smrami about their experiences at this year's Commission on the Status of Women. Check out the video for more...

Below: Some powerful quotes from Esther, Aroha and Alice:

“We were encouraged to choose topics that we connected to. For me I wanted to talk about confidence for girls. It’s something that I struggle with. But it’s something that can be built.

We need girls to know that they can lead, that they can set up and run companies and be successful. We don't talk to girls as if this were true and this affects what they believe they can do."

I am passionate about raising up other girls. I want to study politics and I want to empower younger women.

Esther, 16

“Over dinner one night with my parents, we got on to talking about modern slavery. I didn't know about it and I wanted to learn more. I did a lot of research and wanted to share my own view on it here at the UN.

 Sometimes young people are asked for their opinion about issues that might directly affect them, but we have reflections on other issues in the world too!

“To come to the UN for CSW as part of NAWO Youth, we had to apply and then we were interviewed. In our roles here, we also have responsibilities to contribute, so that we don’t just passively partake but shape the discussions.

“We each write our own talks and then speak on panels. We also report on the sessions we attend- taking notes and photographs to feedback to the group, and we each produce a report on our return to the UK.”

Alice, 17

Young people are not the future. We are the present. This isn’t an investment. This is now! We have the energy, ideas and drive today. And many of these issues just can’t wait.

"When a child speaks on an issue, people stand up and they listen. We bring a new perspective to the table. We do belong here. We deserve a space to speak. Otherwise decisions are being made about us our lives, our world, our future, without us.

What I'd say to other young people is, you have the right to be here, to be heard. Reflect on your experience and learn about that of others different to you. Use your voice and speak with confidence. Share your message. You have a unique perspective and something important to say.

Aroha, 17

Read my report: Young people are the leaders of TODAY, not tomorrow!

Tuesday 12th March

We made it! We managed to get tickets into the UN CSW Town Hall Meeting of Civil Society and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He’s the head of it all, so we didn't want to miss him.

We waited in anticipation. We had queued for some time to get into the conference room. I looked out across the room of mostly women, some in vibrant African prints, others in religious robes, people aged 17- 97 and wondered what we were about to hear. The answer, well It wasn't what I expected!

A magical thing happened

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director came to the stage - the room cheered and she welcomed us with her sincere warmth.

And then a magical thing happened sort of inspired by her presence; I don't know how it started but a small group in the audience, only five or so, started to sing together a song in a language I didn't recognise.

They’d barely finished and took a seat when another group stood up and began belting out their own song in their own language. And spontaneously another. And another.

Sometimes soft and sweet, or sometimes a chant. And another. Sometimes two at once, different songs in different parts of the room. Sometimes only a few voices. And then at one point almost all the room joined in.

Each song shared messages of hope, of peace, of justice and striving to create a better world. It's hard to convey just how moving that was. I was moved to tears.

Striking moment

The UN is the body that brings people across the world - of all walks of life - together to build a more peaceful, more just world. And in that moment our striving together felt so vivid, I could almost reach out and touch it.

And then the Secretary General arrived, spoke and listened as people from across the globe shared about the situations in their country and the issues most pressing. Poverty, widows, conflict zones, reconciliation processes,  detention centres,  women human rights defenders,  nurses, refugees, teachers, Buddhists... 

Amidst all of the issues in the world that demand attention, do you know the thing that struck me most?

In the end, it was one thing I heard in the middle of all those stories. It was that he insisted the audience were not to ask him questions for him to tell them answers, rather they were to tell him what they thought, critique and suggest. He was here to serve us.

The Commission on the Status of Women is the principle global intergovernmental organisation exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Read Katie’s introduction to the conference here