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The UN Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Since its inception 25 years ago, people from around the world have gathered to discuss the work being done to promote access to and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment. 
Since 2014, Regis Jesuit has sent a delegation of students to participate in this impactful opportunity. Normally, we send 12 juniors and seniors with chaperones to New York City in March to take part. Because of the virtual nature of this year’s event, 18 current students and four adults were able to participate. Dylan Aquino ’22, Alejandro Casillas ’22, William Lanoha ’22, Luke MacPhee ’22, Samuel Opferman ’22, Joshua Smith ’22, Matthew Tierney ’22, Taylor Cipra ’22, Akon Edwang ’21, Greta Leege ’22, Kathryn Loftus ’22, Jordan Miller ’21, Lily O'Shaughnessy ’22, Elsa Pater ’22, Gwyneth Theobald ’22, Nzana Thillot ’21. Victoria Tuffour ’22 and Rylie Ward ’21 were joined by faculty members Ginger Brown, John Johnson, Mary Muldoon, Chris Vela for this year’s event. Delegate Matthew Tierney ’22 shared his thoughts on the experience.

Learn more about RJ’s effort to gain Consultative Status with the United Nations

On Our Experience at CSW

By Matthew Tierney ’22

Going into the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), I was excited to see how the international perspectives on women’s issues might overlap with the issues we students are confronted within a high school setting. Despite the limitations placed on our group by coronavirus-related circumstances (we had to attend the presentations online), we walked away with a wealth of knowledge on international women’s issues and the struggle to eliminate them, as well as a greater sense of solidarity and appreciation for activists in several different countries.

While it was interesting learning about the unique problems women face around the world, like child marriage, the most powerful presentations were often those transcending geography. For instance, CSW forced us to confront head-on the gendered manifestations of digital violence regardless of location. Digital harassment, violence and exploitation are burgeoning issues, and multiple CSW presenters stressed the difficulty of enforcing laws online.

Many members of our group, myself included, also sat in on presentations that dealt with the intersection of women’s issues and labor. We learned from labor activists and researchers of the exacerbated exploitation that women, particularly those in the global south, face at the workplace. One such presentation focused on the working conditions fueling the fast fashion industry, one that, as high school students and Americans, we are often on the consuming end of. Fueled by a hyper-exploited workforce largely in southern countries like Bangladesh, this industry is a perfect example of this intersection of women’s and labor issues. I was struck by the poignancy of this convergence in the presenter’s description of the 2013 Dhaka Garment Factory collapse that occurred after a largely female workforce’s concerns over worker safety went ignored, resulting in an industrial disaster and loss of human life that dwarfs the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911.

Between presentations, our group held fruitful conversations about the issues that had been presented; specifically, we discussed how we could incorporate knowledge from the CSW into our own community at Regis Jesuit. On digital violence particularly, we felt that we could do more as a school combating it through education. We recognized that direct engagement with topics like sexual harassment that in past years might have been covered through the advisement program or assemblies had to be tabled given the circumstances of the pandemic. So, we brainstormed ways to strengthen education on issues of sexism at Regis Jesuit.

Beyond changes on the school level, as students, our crucial takeaway from this experience is the idea that we all have a responsibility to work towards a more just society when it comes to women. As a middle-class American, and, in my case, as a man, I am often sheltered from the worst symptoms of the global situation that I, in many ways, benefit from. At CSW, however, I was exposed, albeit in a detached, academic setting, to the struggles of women around the globe. I also encountered a multitude of wonderful and dedicated people committed to making things better. After we had attended the CSW virtual presentations, we had the privilege of meeting directly with the United States' U.N. Youth Observer, Dustin Liu. He encouraged us to “imagine the world you want.” 

The CSW made it powerfully clear that we all have a responsibility and the right to imagine a better world, and the responsibility for creating that world rests on all of us.

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