The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) participated at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) of the United Nation in New York on 20-23 March 2017. During CSW61, four UIMF leaders, UVU students and myself included, shared with participants and hosts of this major United Nations (UN) gender event their contribution to the gender and the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agendas of the United Nations in the State of Utah and North America.
Regan Warner, Christian Jensen, Tony Medina, and Munkhbat Batmunkh during CSW61 at the United Nations
The UIMF was represented at CSW61 by Tony Medina, outgoing President of UIMF, Christian Jensen, current President of UIMF, Regan Warner, Vice-President of Sustainable Mountain Development Club and Munkhbat Batmunkh, Vice President of UIMF. Each of them, like the majority of the UIMF members, are non-traditional students and combine education with the need to work full or part time jobs and take care of a family. At the same time, the UIMF members also contribute a lot of their time, energy, and passion to encourage local communities in Utah and North America to advocate for the mountain cause and help the mountain communities, women and families in particular in many developing nations worldwide who are overlooked and forgotten today by the international community.
As a major initiative, UVU has been hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences (WOMCs) since 2007. Since then, WOMCs have become major grass-roots forums in North America to promote gender and SMD agendas of the UN. Thanks to the UVU emphasis on student engaged learning, WOMCs provide the students a great opportunity to combine their education with hands-on activities at the level of the United Nations, while faculty provides them with guidance only when students need it. As another important contribution of student to the gender and SMD advocacy, students raised funds on local level to host WOMCs and any other initiatives to promote mountain cause.
Tony Medina was particularly proud to report that UIMF under his leadership hosted the fourth international Women of the Mountains Conference under the umbrella of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 7-9 of October 2015. The 2016 United Nations Secretary General’s Report on SMD featured UIMF for the first time and student contributions to the promotion of the mountain targets among the UN SDGs and SDG#5 on gender in particular. Christian Jensen and Munkhbat Batmunkh were part of the 2015 UIMF team, who achieved such a success.
As a next step in student engagement at the United Nations level, UIMF aimed to gain similar recognition from the CSW and UN Women as well. The students worked very hard to achieve such a goal.
This was the second visit for Tony Medina to the CSW and the first for the rest of the group. Our delegation was not able to be included in the official agenda of this UN forum, but Christian Jensen as the new UIMF President and Regan Warner as one of his deputies learned how to advance their goal during the next year’s visit. UIMF members have built strong partnership ties with several NGOs accredited under the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. For example, their registration for participation at CSW61 and recommendation to participants was provided by Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative at the United Nations of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), a NGO with Consultative Status under ECOSOC. Similarly, thanks to Mrs. Wendy Jyang, President of Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands and Development and Commerce, a NGO from Utah, Munkhbat Batmunkh on behalf of UIMF was able to make a presentation via Skype in an event hosted by her NGO for the CSW61 participants at the One UN Hotel on March 14, 2017. In addition, Mrs. Wendy Jyang and her colleagues presented to participants of the event a power point and brochure about UIMF activities in gender and SMD advocacy.
UIMF members also attended a parallel event hosted by several NGOs from Utah which allowed students to witness the importance of working together at the UN in order to promote mutual goals and interests and in particular the model of SMD in Utah as one of the most successful in the United States.
Regan Warner speaks to Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations, Mrs. Katalina Annamaria Bogyay.
During the visit, students also gained experience and knowledge about how it was important for them to strengthen their ties with Permanent Missions of several mountain countries at the United Nations. As a follow up for the previous visits of Permanent Representatives of those countries to Utah and UVU, Munkhbat Batmunkh contacted diplomatic missions and secured meetings as part of UIMF agenda. This provided for the UIMF a good basis for co-hosting side events with focus on promotion of mountain women and families for the next time. In addition, it was a wonderful opportunity for Regan Warner as well as her peers to learn how to hold negotiations and discussions with diplomats like the Permanent Representative (PR) of Hungary to the United Nations, Ambassador Katalin Bogyay and the PR of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, Ambassador Mirgul Moldoisaeva. It was a refreshing experience for the top women envoys from Hungary and Kyrgyzstan as well to have students as counterparts instead of a faculty member or university official.
The UVU delegation included also Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF Advisor and Dr. Cholpon Akmatalieva, UVU faculty, and contributor for the WOMCs since 2007. In addition, Meerim Abdrisaeva was included in the delegation as a high school student from the Utah County Academy of Sciences and a contributor to the Fourth International WOMC.
Kimberly Williamson speaks to Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, Mrs. Mirgul Moldoisaeva
While for some students it was the first visit ever to New York, the visit agenda included sightseeing and visiting some of the most prominent places in this city. They used that opportunity to also bring family members and enjoy time with them together in New York, which plays an important role for non-traditional students to be successful in their education.
As a preparation for the next year’s visit, UIMF members now plan also to gather NGOs from Utah and North America with consultative status under ECOSOC in order to discuss joint activities both at the CSW and at the UN in order to promote the gender and the SMD agendas.
As a representative of the UVU History and Political Science department and still a non-traditional student myself, I would like to highlight one more time the engaged learning approach at UVU, which puts students at the focus of the activities at the university and encourages them to learn through hands-on experiences which better prepares them for their professional careers and life. I have been involved in those activities since my time as a UVU student and I have continued to do that during the last four years by helping more UIMF members to be successfully involved in the gender and SMD advocacy in addition to taking care of their families and being able to get their education. I am confident that many of them will further make a difference not only in their own lives and professional careers but also in improving livelihoods of mountain communities, families and women around the world.
Kimberly Williamson, Administrative Support, History and Political Science Department, Utah Valley University
UIMF preparations for the participation at CSW61
Ms. Lakshmi Puri: Analysis of CSW61 and Agreed Conclusions
United Nations Mountain Partnership about UIMF at CSW61
Power point about UIMF participation at CSW61
Photos about UIMF participation at CSW61
STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS
Tony Medina: Promoting Mountain Women and Families at CSW61
Christian Jensen: My Story, Student Engagement and Work at the UN
Regan Warner: My experiential Learning at the 61st United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women
Munkhbat Batmunkh: Advocating Mountain Cause and Women From Mongolia, to Utah and to CSW61