There we are. Just about two months ago Jessa Cruz, Maria Chiara Messetti and myself were complete strangers. This past week we spent much of our time at the United Nations monitoring the CEDAW conference. CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is an international treaty which was created in 1979 with the intent of helping females in developed and developing nations access their rights as women. Every four years, the countries that ratified this treaty come before the CEDAW Committee for review in order to report on how well their country is progressing in implementing the treaty. It was our job to monitor a few specific countries up for review this year.

My experience at the United Nations these past few weeks has been extremely insightful. The most surprising part of my experience was that so many countries still don’t have a stable infrastructure. This means that there is often a lack of accurate statistics available. When you don’t have reliable statistics available for things like maternal mortality rates, the incidence of rape, and the number of trafficked women within your borders, it becomes quite hard to set solid goals for your country because there is no benchmark statistic available either. Another thing that I learned at CEDAW was that many countries are doing their best to implement procedures or policies to help protect and support women in their countries but cannot because of their governmental system. When your governmental system allows for the states, or individual provinces to have more individual power than the federal government as a whole, you run into problems.

Even though we as interns didn’t get the chance to ask any questions during the review process, we did at several points have the opportunity to speak to the delegates afterwards. Switzerland, during their review mentioned an organization recently created to disseminate information to women on the incidence or sexual abuse of minors. I found it very interesting that this same organization coordinates with a local law enforcement agency to prosecute offenders of these laws supporting young women. So, after the meeting was adjourned I spoke briefly to a delegate from Switzerland to congratulate her country on this organization that they created. I believe that when someone does something great, especially for others, then they should be reminded of that effort. This way, you reinforce the significance of that action and increase the likelihood that they will act again in a similar fashion!

Joe Stella – World Youth Alliance, United States

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