March 20th, 2018 at 8:30am, Utah Valley University (UVU) delegations hosted the parallel event “Education for Sustainable Development to Empower Rural and Mountain women” as part of the activities during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) at the Church Center of the United Nations (777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY, 10017). As part of the UVU program of engaged learning, the student delegation that participated in the United Nations (UN) trip put together the presentation to extend their message and highlight the importance of the UN target goals focused on Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) for mountain women. Using Utah as a model for SMD, students were able to share their research with other worldly individuals as well as other non-government organizations (NGO) giving the opportunity to learn first-hand how to communicate, network, and be a diplomat through engaged learning. We also learned that parallel events could be sponsored by any non-government organization. This time, our parallel event was co-sponsored by three NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN: The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), the Mountain Institute and the Utah-China Friendship Improvement Shared Hands and Development and Commerce (Utah-China F.I.S.H.& D.&C).
Due to the fact that we had 11 presenters in our parallel event, we decided to use the same script which was used a day before for the side event and ensured that as a result, our student team will have an opportunity to improve the performance and quality of presentations as well as deliver the same message from the UVU delegation to a different audience. Parallel events are usually hosted outside of the UN premises and could be attended by the public. At the beginning of the event Dr. Rusty Butler, focal point of the RANS to the ECOSOC had opening remarks greeting audience members and introducing me as a moderator of the event. Afterwards, I again introduced the same presenters as did the previous day even though the agenda of the parallel event that was printed on the flyer was a little bit different. We submitted the flyer of the poster a few months earlier when the final list of presenters was not yet identified. Amy Barnett replaced Dr. Lago, who at that time had another urgent meeting. Amy made a statement about benefits for students of new Associate Memberships of UVU under United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI). Moving forward, I Introduced Dr. Butler and Ms. Wendy Jyang to share their experiences of working with UVU students through student engaged learning to advocate for mountain women. Afterwards, the students demonstrated how their model works in practice by sharing with the audience examples of student engaged learning experiences. Derek Garfield, Vice-President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (www.utahimf.org) spoke on how UIMF advocates mountain women by hosting the International Women of the Mountains Conferences since 2007. Monica English discussed results of her research on sexuality in Utah as well as peace-making in North Ireland. Amy Cope spoke about working with local communities on tsunami preparedness in Indonesia. Carol Bejar presented her water project in Senegal and Hannah Barlow talked about Tarahumara mountain women in Mexico. The last presenter in our group was Albert Pooley, president and founder of the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association, who talked about the importance of restoring traditions of fatherhood among Native American tribes. Afterwards I introduced Matt Rands, President of UIMF once more, who presented to the audience the recommendations of the delegation to the CSW62 final document. Derek Garfield, VP of UIMF reports about UVU student engaged model during parallel event
As the moderator for the side and parallel event, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge of how to present myself and my colleagues in a professional and diplomatic way. Gaining confidence in our cause and providing a frame work for future endeavors that impacts mountain communities and women across the globe. Student engaged learning has provided the experience of such efforts to our entire student delegation and faculty members. I am so honored and proud to have the opportunity and the guidance made possible by the engaged learning program, as do faculty members and my very own peer group. Through participating in these UN events, my peers and I have had the pleasure and honor meeting likeminded individuals that have a passion for bettering the world with the shared knowledge of our organization.
Following the side event, UVU-UIMF student delegation, had the opportunity and honor to meet and speak briefly with the Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov at the Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the UN. Top envoy from Uzbekistan greeted us as old friends after his recent trip to Utah. We expressed our thanks to him for co-sponsoring a side event at CSW62.
That evening, we also had the honor of being invited to the Permanent Mission of Botswana to the UN by Ambassador Charles T. Ntwaagae. During that meeting, we discussed many issues addressing women’s status not only here, but mainly in Botswana. The CSW being the main vehicle for implementing woman’s empowerment, is the spear head for the change of gender equality in Botswana, providing the needed resources of wealth and knowledge to achieve the same progress the United States has had in the realm of gender equality. We learned that much like traditionalists in the United States, Botswana has groups of traditionalists that are patriarchal. These groups have subjected women to men throughout history, resulting in the issue of addressing strong stereotypes and attitudes. Correcting imbalances in Botswana resulting from prejudice and traditions has proved challenging but beneficial. The Ambassador Ntwaagae made the point that considering Botswana’s population is 2.2 million, 52% of that number is women. This makes Botswana’s position unique in that the country recognizes the importance of raising the station of women in society and its potential to not only improve the lives of its women and children, but the country in general. In recognizing this, Botswana’s judiciary and law enforcement are extremely effective and accountable towards gender related violence, resulting in more security and safety for women and girls. Through initiatives led by women’s groups, Botswana has propelled its growth and change with the help of the UNWomen and CSW and sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Due to UVU’s engaged learning program, we as students experienced what many other students do not. That being, hands on experience in the field and working with high level individuals to promote change under, not only UVU, but an organization as important as the UN. These interactions of engaged learning continue to provide its students with experience in their field well before they graduate and enter the job market. Thus, making students far more marketable and effective than they’d otherwise be. This aspect also affects the community in a great way and directly translates to the United Nations SDGs. The UIMF and its dedication to the advocacy of the mountain women and SMD, globally grows stronger and continues to be the focal point of our engaged learning process in the UIMF.
Dylan Genes, Vice President, Utah International Mountain Forum