Highlight from previous issue (2012):

At a special event during the recent UN Commission on Social Development, Sister Kristin Hokanson spoke about the global impact of our ground-breaking Photovoltaic Project in Congo and Nigeria.  Principal and founder of Notre Dame Virtual School (NDVS), Kristin highlighted NDVS’ special educational projects which link Notre Dame Schools in support of the Photovoltaic Project. Through technology, NDVS students around the world are analyzing electrical graphs coming out of project sites in Congo and Nigeria, studying about Solar Power and water purification systems, and using E-languages to connect with each other. Truly the Power of the Sun is shining everywhere!

Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN

“The experience made me realize how an idea to build solar-powered energy can unite a community to achieve life-sustaining goals. At the United Nations I observed NGOs striving to create a world in which all live with dignity and respect. A key to the eradication of poverty is using our technology network where we can communicate in ways never thought possible. It is through all types of technology that we are creating a better world, and what better place to share this experience than the United Nations.”

Update:  In 2013, the 10th anniversary of the Power of the Sun Project, the Sisters of Notre Dame embarked on a campaign to raise another $1 million to establish additional full sites in Congo and provide supplementary equipment and materials to multiple sites in Nigeria.



Amarachi Grace Ezeonu 1By Amarachi Ezeonu, SNDdeN

A few of the activities of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations include the following roles: policy advocacy, information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, joint operational projects, providing technical expertise, and collaborating with UN agencies, programs and funds. NGOs fulfill these roles individually or by networking with other like-minded groups to form committees and sub-committees on different issues such as Anti-Trafficking of Persons, Working Group on Girls, Financing for Development, Education, Social Development, Poverty Eradication, and various others. NGOs enrich the capability of the UN through providing their field experience and insights to various networks and during UN sessions and associations.

Statements (oral or written) by NGOs at UN sessions are often considered credible and valued because of their expertise and contact with people at the grassroots. According to ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31:

“Written statements relevant to the work of the Council may be submitted by organizations in general consultative status and special status on subjects in which these organizations have a special competence. Such statements shall be circulated by the Secretary General of the United Nations to the members of the council …”

meetingThough most NGOs work with people at the grassroots, however, their presence at the UN is invaluable because this affords them the leverage to also influence policy formulation at global, regional and national levels on some of the issues which directly or indirectly impact on the lives of people these organizations work with. NGOs may not be able to directly challenge member states of the UN who have not lived up to their commitments to the conventions and treaties they have signed and ratified, but these countries are often very aware that the NGOs are watching. Therefore, this monitoring compels them to strive to honor their commitments.

For more information, go to:


Highlight from previous issue (2012):

In 2000 the United Nations agreed on eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to address the needs of the world’s poorest by 2015. While efforts to achieve the original MDGs continue, the UN has launched a global conversation to determine steps after 2015. An Inter-Governmental Working Group is preparing Sustainable Development Goals, and a High Level Panel of twenty-six members of government, civil society and the private sector is working on a Post-2015 Development Agenda. Beyond2015, a coalition of 400+ organizations, is also addressing this issue. UN Agencies are leading nine thematic consultations and more than fifty national discussions. Countries participating in consultations include Brazil, Peru, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa; plans are in place to add more countries to the list. For an overview of the entire Post-2015 process, go to (in English, French, and Spanish).

An opportunity to participate in a collaborative effort between the United Nations and civil society: The World We Want Campaign invites people around the world to share their visions for the post-2015 world. Materials are accessible in multiple languages. Go to and click on your language.


Day of the GirlOctober 11 will mark the third UN International Day of the Girl. Some of our schools are already preparing. “To help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives and providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential” is the aim of young women at Notre Dame Academy, Toledo, Ohio. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is providing leadership to a project which will not only fulfill requirements for a culminating project for the IB Diploma, but it will “raise awareness of the hardships girls around the world face solely based on their gender”.

NDA Toledo OH studentsTwo young women, with the support of their IB director, Ms. Angela Joseph, recognize that many girls living in poverty lack basic necessities, among them feminine materials and care. This situation results in girls’ inability to attend school on a regular basis. Carra Gibson and Isabel Abu-Absi are planning a multi-media education segment for the Day of the Girl, in their words, “to spread awareness about these issues and not only inform NDA girls about the needs that are commonly present, but to engage them and finally, empower them to do something about it”. Carra and Isabel are in touch with Sr. Jeannette Pierre-Louis, SND de Namur. Sister works at Notre Dame Family Center in Les Cayes, Haiti, to provide rudimentary education, health services, and job training skills to women and children. NDA will assist with funds for feminine care products and in the process get to know local culture and members of the local youth center, along with their volunteers.


Mary Jo Toll

You may remember the very significant women’s conference in Beijing in 1995. Three Sisters of Notre Dame were present for this historic meeting which produced the Beijing Platform for Action. The BPfA has been a powerful agenda for women’s empowerment since 1995. It treats such areas as poverty, education, health, violence, armed conflict, power and decision-making, human rights, environment, media, advancement of women, and the girl child. Sisters who attended this international movement are Mary Sujita Kallupurakkathu, Mary Sudha Varghese, and Kathryn Feeley.

Beijing 1995

Regional gatherings to renew political energy and social mobilization twenty years later will focus on the following issues:

  1. Overview and analysis of achievements and challenges since 1995
  2. Progress in the implementation of the critical areas of concern of the Platform for Action with emphasis on the years since 2009
  3. Data and statistics
  4. Emerging priorities

Information on regional gatherings:

African region (Addis Ababa)

Europe and North American region (Geneva)

Latin America and the Caribbean region (Santiago)

Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok)

Western Asian region (venue to be announced)

The outcomes of these regional review processes will feed into the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015.



Human Development Report 2014 English web_banner_fr_0In July the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published the 2014 Human Development Report. “It explains that vulnerability threatens human development and, unless it is systematically addressed, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable.”

Free downloads of the 2014 Report, plus materials on the Report’s indices and regional implications, are available at (English, French, Spanish)


trafficking2Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in the year 2000. It has been allowed in Amsterdam since the 1600s. There are about 8,000 women in prostitution in the city. Young women are especially vulnerable because they are often groomed by pimps who force them into selling their bodies when they are 18. Amsterdam’s mayor is taking stock of the laws legalizing prostitution which were supposed to alleviate human trafficking of women. Instead of lessening abuse of women, legalizing of prostitution has increased it. Saying that “the situation is so grave that we have to act”, the mayor maintains that the first priority is to keep young women from being pushed into prostitution, and the second is to help those who wish to leave prostitution.

Dutch officials are now studying the ‘Nordic Model’ – a set of laws that penalizes the demand for commercial sex while decriminalizing individuals who are prostituted. This model is based on an approach first adopted in Sweden in 1999, followed later by Norway and Iceland. The Nordic Model has two main goals: curb the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking and promote equality between men and women. The European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee has approved a report that recommends the adoption of the ‘Nordic Model’ of anti-prostitution laws. The UK, South Korea, Ireland, Denmark, Latvia, and France have taken first steps toward the Nordic Model.


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