By Eileen Burns SNDdeN; Executive Director, Notre Dame Education Center, Lawrence, MA,2 US. When you take a tour at the United Nations, they explain to you that you are no longer in any country but are standing in international territory owned by all of the nations. It struck me forcefully how needed the UN is to have a spot-on earth dedicated to conversations, to dialogue leading to actions in the pursuit of peace. The 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women was held in New York from March 13th to the 24th and about 8,000 delegates came from across the planet to participate. The theme was “Women in the Changing World of Work.” We are so blessed to be an accredited non-governmental organization at the UN, and Sr. Grace Amarachi Ezeonu is representing us well. I was able to attend plenary sessions in the General Assembly hall as well as multiple parallel events sponsored by many countries and side events sponsored by civil society organizations.  It was a great gift for me to attend and I encourage others among us to consider participating next year.

There is a place                                               Ideas and actions tried were shared

That defies boundaries                                 Many faiths, no faith, women gathered

Where all are invited                                     The Spirit moves within

To show their face                                           The dreams that were dared


Women gathered at the UN                            How long, O God, how long?

Coming from near and far                              Till strong women, weak women, all women

To focus on gender equality                           Are valued and cherished

And ask how and when                                   For who they are as they sing their song



Gabriell Pascarella and Nahnsejay Mouwon are both Student Nurses at the Seton Hall University-College of Nursing, South Orange, NJ, USA.                                                                             

3By Gabriell Pascarella: My experience attending the United Nations 61st Commission on the Status of Women was definitely one that I will never forget. We were greeted by the many waving flags representing countries from all over the world. Once inside the UN we viewed our first exhibit. There was a wall of accomplishments made by women. Its purpose was to show advancing women’s leadership and its importance. Along with this wall of accomplishments, were the photos of the many strong women around the world. After viewing this exhibit we were able to attend some separate side events.

The first side event we attended had to do with the effects that alcohol has on women both physically and emotionally. In this session, we listened as representatives from the country of Botswana talked about different ways in which they are combatting this problem. The speakers discussed the linkage between alcohol and violence, as well as the linkage between alcohol and HIV. Some of the statistics they shared were very eye opening. Most of those affected are young women. Attending this side event made it clear that there are many issues going on in the world that we need to bring more attention to.

The next side event that we attended was my favorite event of the day. The topic of this event was the importance that the role of family has in a woman’s life. We first heard from a speaker who focused on the relationship between a woman and her father. He spoke about how the media and certain celebrities cast a dark shadow over the father-daughter relationship, when in reality, there are statistics to show all of the benefits this relationship can provide in a woman’s life. At many points the speaker himself, as well as the audience, became emotional thinking of their own personal father-daughter relationships and its importance.

The next speaker at this event focused on the family unit, and how parents should teach4 their children, especially their daughters, about good character. She spoke about how in schools’ children are taught a wide variety of topics, but none of them include how to have good character. I believe this side event was one of the most important because it spoke about issues that many in the room could relate to. It also brought up the point that we need to enlist more men in the fight to women’s equality. Many of the points and recommendations they touched upon are things that I will bring back to my own family unit.

I am so honored to have taken part in this amazing experience. With such a strong interest in women’s healthcare it meant a lot to see some of the issues that women face all over the world. It gave me the determination to help combat many of these issues, and I will most definitely share my experience with the many women that I encounter.


 By Nahnsejay Mouwon: As a global intergovernmental body, the United Nations promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women; something that I truly admire. During the 61st Commission on the Status of Women, I learned more about the promotion of women’s rights, how to document and speak to the reality of women’s lives throughout the world. The idea of shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women is something that I believe worth global discussion, and at such, I feel honored to be part of such discussion.

5Thanks to the UN for giving hope to women and children around the world, helping them to gain courage to make the world a better place. This conference provided the right platform to talk directly to youth and women issues. As a person who is passionate about women rights and gender equality, I am determined to teach others what I learned from the conference. I have already started to speak about some of the major topics outlined during the conference. I believe that when women start to actively engage policy makers regarding gender equality, sexual violence and other women related topics, the world will become a much better place.




61st commissionOver 8,000 women from all walks of life and from different parts of world converged at the UN headquarters in New York from March 13-24 for the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The theme for the 2017 Commission was “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.”

In his opening remarks for the event, the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, thanked and welcomed all the women to the United Nations headquarters. He commended the women for raising their voices for women’s equality and dignity around the world, and reaffirmed his commitment to gender parity in the United Nations system. Below is an excerpt from Mr. Guterres’ welcome speech at the CSW61:

“In a male dominated world, the empowerment of women must be a key priority. Women already have what it takes to succeed. Empowerment is about breaking structural barriers. Men still dominate, even in countries that consider themselves progressive. Male chauvinism blocks women and that hurts everyone.

 We are all better off when we open doors of opportunity for women and girls; in boardrooms and classrooms, in military ranks and at peace talks, in all aspects of productive life.”



 SNDatUN Office had eight delegates to the CSW61. Read the Outcome document from the CSW161 here.

Read more: About CSW61

UN Secretary General’s Opening remarks for the CSW61;



11-16Through the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur NGO Office, interested persons are able to participate in major UN meetings. There is no fee to attend these UN sessions, but participants are responsible for their housing, food, and transportation while attending the meeting. Funds are available to assist Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Latin America and Africa. If you are interested in attending a major UN meeting in New York in 2017, contact Grace Amarachi Ezeonu as soon as possible at   You can also follow UN meetings by webcast at

  •  February 1 – 10, 2017: 56th Commission on Social Development (New York)
    Theme: “Strategies for the Eradication of Poverty to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
  •  March 13 – 24 March, 2017: 61st Commission on the Status of Women (New York) Theme: Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work
  • April 24th – May 5th: 16th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (New York)
    Theme: “Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peoples:
    Measures taken to implement the Declaration.”


Nancy Rodriguez.jpgBy Nancy Rodriguez, Pace University student sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to attend 60th Commission on the Status of Women: I had the chance to meet many incredible people and was immensely inspired. I will work to incorporate the important stories and lessons I gathered from this experience into my future activism, because I am truly passionate about women’s rights and social justice. I will continue to reach out and keep working with many of the people I connected with during these days. I hope to lend any possible help to organizations like yours and the wonderful people engaged in the fight for human rights.

Pam Stoner.jpgBy Pamela Stoner, SNDatUN delegate to 60th Commission on the Status of Women: The breadth and quality of the NGO Parallel Events held each day near the UN were quite impressive. I particularly enjoyed all the various events held not just to inform but to train participants for on-the-ground advocacy and activism. For the second year running, NGO/CSW held ‘Advocacy Training’ workshops for different global regions and in English and French, focusing on how the UN is structured, how it operates, and providing an outline/toolkit for advocating within that environment. KADEM in Turkey provided us with manual and roadmap on civil activism. Groups focused on using creative arts to help transform victims into survivors and narrative arts to carry stories forward to world-wide audiences – all tangible ideas for going forward to impact change.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, you can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy


aliuBy Priscilla Aliu SNDdeN: On my last day at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) I met Mme Matoti from Liberia. She did not go to school and can neither read nor write. She told me she came to CSW to be the voice for uneducated persons. She loves to speak for people who are like her because she feels she understands their plight in a way that only someone with that background can.


Without the ability to read or write or being in the four walls of a Matoti cropclassroom, Matoti has done remarkable things in her country. She opened an orphanage for children whose mothers died during the 1990’s war in Liberia. She built a school and a church near the orphanage to meet the children’s education and spiritual needs. She is also a skilled farmer and co-chair of a farmers’ co-operative organization she founded. She has proudly won the farmer’s trophy for her country. Quite extraordinary! Isn’t it so true of the saying that we are either maimed or made by our life’s experiences? In line with Intentional Creativity teaching, Mme Matoti has indeed transformed her personal story into a position of empowerment and healing.


By Rebeca Spires, SNDdeN:

I participated in two earlier sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN Spires cropheadquarters in New York. At this session I was pleased to see the presence of women in greater numbers and they were more active and articulate. There were increased opportunities for indigenous participants to speak in plenary sessions and for the first time there was an interactive dialog in a plenary session for indigenous peoples only. Government representatives were not allowed to attend this session so that the indigenous could freely voice their concerns and complaints brought up in other sessions but always rebutted by the states.

Unpfii15 cropAll too often indigenous peoples report harassment, discrimination, racism, criminalization, imprisonment, torture, and assassination. The Inuit and Sami reported violations of their rights by the Russian Federation and a debate ensued between the indigenous and the governmental representatives. The statement of the World Bank, represented by an Andean native person, was strongly contested by many participants which also provoked an intense debate. Other complaints are about education and health practices that do not attend to the peoples’ needs or violate their customs and cultures.

Indigenous peoples are not naïve or reticent but are very aware of and articulate about their rights and the multiple, sometimes subtle, ways they are violated. In government sessions there were insistence and urging for more indigenous voices to be heard. I perceive that indigenous participation has grown in quantity and quality in these 15 years, reflected by changing policies in UN structures and member nations. This gives great hope and engenders great appreciation for the valuable work of the UN in protecting peoples’ rights and equitable access to the world’s goods, while protecting and honoring Mother Earth and all her children – human and not.

View short videos of other Indigenous Forum participants:

Commission on the Status of Women: Passionate women (and men!) working together

KatieBlawie-167-WebBy Katie Blawie, SNDatUN intern and delegate to the 60th Commission on the Status of Women: I had a wonderful time attending the 60th session on the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) at UN Headquarters in New York City in March 2106. While I attended other commissions/conferences during my time as an intern with SNDatUN these past six months, nothing could compare to or prepare me for my experience at CSW. Seeing thousands of passionate women (and men!) working together from around the world was incredibly inspiring, humbling, and eye-opening. And I got to experience all of this with both my mom and my godmother by my side, which was truly special and something I will cherish for years to come.

I attended a couple of the government sessions, but found the NGO parallel events to be the most interesting. Because there were over 400 events to choose from, I was able to tailor my CSW experience to focus on the issues that mattered most to me. I went to events that covered topics including mental health, technology and cybercrime, engaging the private sector, and even a panel of brave North Korean female defectors.


Graphic: Katie Blawie

To anyone interested in attending CSW in the future, my advice would be to try to not plan too much and to just go with the flow. With so many people and so many different events going on in various locations all at once, it can feel a little overwhelming at times. So I just took it one day at a time, and went to the events I was interested in until I ran out of energy for the day. The Commission spans two weeks, so don’t wear yourself out too early!

I hope to be able to attend future sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, and am looking forward to seeing how both the Commission as well as the rights of women & girls evolve over time. All in all, I am very pleased with the outcome document of CSW60, and we must keep in mind that any progress is better than no progress at all.