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.


18th March - A day in the life of CSW!

Katie

7am Up early for breakfast at local cafe around the corner, before heading to the UN Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan hoping to beat the queues. So much for the ambitious plans to make it to the gym!

8.30am After passing through airport style security, it is time for the International NGO morning briefing in the UN. This is a chance to hear from the Director of UN Women and others about situations around the world, and themes emerging from CSW. There is an update on negotiations on the ‘Agreed Conclusions’ - that is the text that is the end result of CSW. The forum also provides an opportunity to raise questions, concerns and suggestions and how NGOs can work together.

9.15am From one briefing straight to another! This time its the UK NGO Alliance morning briefing. The group come together to discuss strategy, learning from previous days and upcoming events. Also a chance to catch up with familiar faces!

10-12am This is an opportunity to attend side events (held in the UN) or parallel events (held across the city) with expert and grassroots speakers, on a whole spectrum of topics. There are so many to choose from!

12-1pm Although events continue to run, by 12 in my mind it's lunchtime! New York is home to people from across the world - and the cuisine is exquisite! And over lunch, I get to catch up with other delegates and quiz them on aspects of the UN I am still learning about!

1-5pm More events in the UN and across the city, including rallies held on women's rights! I attend a mixture of both seeking to learn about the experiences and good practice of others. I’m particularly interested in how civil society can work more effectively to bring about change and attend a number of events on this. During this time, colleagues from selected organisations wait to be called to give oral statements to the General Discussion of Member States in the UN.

6-7pm Each day, the UK Government Equalities office hold briefings for parliamentarians and UK NGO Alliance at the UK Mission to the UN, on the 28th floor of a skyscraper with spectacular views of the sun setting behind the skyline. This is an opportunity to raise issues with the Government Equalities Office, and hear directly from them about their priorities, concerns and how we can work together to strengthen the agreed conclusions.

7-8pm UK NGO debriefing. Together we reflect on progress form the day, strategy and actions going forward.

8pm onwards: This is time to head out for dinner with new friends, type up notes from the day, and draft the occasional blog piece!

All work no play? Ok, the weekend did allow me a bit of time off to visit some of the city’s wonderful sights, including the One World Trade Centre, 9/11 Memorial, a boat trip and some cycling in central park!


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