Category Archives: 2019

Reflections on Day 2 UIMF Activities at CSW63

Michael Hinatsu at the UN compound

 On Monday, March 18, 2019, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), continued their activities related to the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), by obtaining UN grounds passes, touring the UN compound, participating in side events and parallel events, and meeting members of civil society from around the world.

In accordance with the agenda created by Aldon Trimble, members of the UIMF delegation met at 8:30am outside the UN ID and pass cards office they had identified the day before. It was important that we met this early, not only because many people would arrive later to do the same, but some of the students were not able to find rides in time and one delegation member, Noorani Barkat, had some issues that prolonged her check-in process. However, the receiving of grounds passes occurred without any major issues and by 9:30, our entire delegation made its way to the UN compound to take a group photo. During this, we were joined by two students and a faculty advisor from Asbury University in Kentucky, who, like us, were visiting the UN for the first time in order to weight the benefits of creating a program similar to UIMF’s, whereby students are given tasks to prepare to advocate for certain issues at the UN. Personally, it was interesting to meet them and hear their perspectives on the UN system and how they wanted to apply themselves as we had.

After taking group photos and entering the UN compound, we spent some time sight-seeing around the compound. Per Aldon Trimble’s schedule, we had roughly from 10:00am until 1:00pm to attend side events at the compound as desired, or to continue touring the UN compound’s attractions, which included a bookstore, gift shop, and a number of exhibits and information centers that gave information about the history of the UN, the role of the General Assembly and other organs, and details about the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. During this time, I was joined by Aldon Trimble, Viktoriia Bahrii, Rebecca Bindraban, Abdulrahman Alghanmi, and Noorani Barkat in attending a side event “Gender, Economic Policy and Women’s Human Rights: Tackling Discrimination to Strengthen Social Protection, Increase Access to Services and Transform Systems,” convened by the  UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice, and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of New Zealand, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, the International Labor Organization,  the Carter Center, and the International Association for Feminist Economics.

The side event was a panel discussion by Melissa Upreti, Expert,UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice; Radhika Balakrishnan, Faculty Director, CWGL and President elect, International Association for Feminist Economists; Bindu Armstrong, Senior Policy Analyst, New Zealand Ministry for Women; Shauna Olney, Chief, Gender Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch, Conditions of Work and Equality Department; and Karin Ryan, Senior Policy Adviser on Human Rights and Special Representative on Women and Girls, The Carter Center. Many topics were put forth by the panelists, including the role of making correct macroeconomic policy in gender equality, the role of international agreements and processes to address women’s rights issues and human rights violations, as well as actions being taken by the government of New Zealand, such as legislation about pay equity and violence against women. Additionally, the panelists spoke about the need for and work happening to create new international agreements about women’s issues regarding violence, workplace equality, equal pay, and societal views about equality. The panel was interesting for me personally, not only for further teaching me the complex issues surrounding empowering women, but also because each of the panelists expressed distaste with how the UN has not allowed women and others to watch and take part in the negotiations of the language of UN forum final documents.

Panelists of the side event at 10:00am

After this event, Noorani Barkat, Aldton Trimble, Abdulrahman Alghanmi and myself were able to take pictures in the General Assembly chamber. We attempted to attend other side events but the rooms were full, so we decided to continue sight-seeing. I then spoke with Aldon Trimble regarding the agenda, and we agreed to change our group lunch time from 1:00pm to 12:30pm, so that we could have more time to do a practice of our parallel event and not to be so rushed for attending other scheduled parallel events. After letting everyone know about the change, we all gathered at the cafeteria in the UN compound and practiced our parallel event. Then, at 1:30pm, we left, in order for those who wanted to eat outside of the UN compound to do so. These changes worked out very smoothly and allowed everyone to be on time to the parallel event at 2:30pm.

UIMF members practice their parallel event in the UN cafeteria.

From left: Aldon Trimble, Noorani Barkat, Abdulrahman Alghanmi, and Michael Hinatsu in the UN General Assembly Chamber

The 2:30 parallel event was hosted by Mrs. Wendy Jyang of Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce (Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C), an NGO that has also partnered many times with UIMF to co-sponsor with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences UIMF delegation’s oral and written statements at UN events. The event, titled “Recreating A Healthier Environment for Empowering Women and Girls,” was located at the Salvation Army Auditorium and sponsored by the Jieh Huey Social Welfare & Charity Foundation. Speakers included the sponsoring organization’s CEO, Ms. Hsin Chin Shih; Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, our faculty mentor, Lecturer, UVU, and former Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the USA and Canada; Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Chair, Women’s & Gender Studies, New Jersey City University; Pauline Tzuang, Charter President, Zonta Club of Taipei Cosmo 2016-2018, Member, Translation Committee, Zonta International; and Dr. Ali Mazzara, Director of Education Programs at the Office of Global Affairs, The State University of New York (SUNY). Ms. Shih spoke about how her organization involves youth and others to care for Taiwan’s increasing population of elderly people; Dr. Abdrisaev spoke about UVU’s student engaged learning model and how it empowers youth, especially women and girls and nontraditional students; Mrs. Ellis-Williams spoke about her upbringing as an example of how women can empower themselves and about issues still facing women and girls from achieving their potential; Mrs. Tzuang had lost her voice and had a colleague read her speech, which encouraged women to self-educate and ensure their governments allocate sufficient funds to social safety nets; and Mrs. Mazzara spoke about SUNY’s program that helps women successfully gain careers in the field of international relations.

UIMF members photograph panelists and participants at the 2:30pm parallel event.

After this parallel event, we went to the Church Center of the UN to inspect the room that we would be presenting our parallel event in, but there was an event going on in it, so we decided to end the day there. Overall, this day was beneficial for me, because I attended the side and parallel events with the intention of seeing how they were conducted, in order for me to prepare to host our parallel event the next day. As a result, I made my personal statement for the event more official sounding and academic in nature, as well as felt more comfortable with the moderating process. Also, I was exposed to the wide range of opinions and recommendations surrounding the advocacy of women’s rights and gained a new appreciation for not only the diversity of issues but how to address them meaningfully. I am now very prepared to host and contribute to the CSW63 priority theme through our parallel event tomorrow.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF member.


Ezra-Pugliano-Day 2 attending CSW63 activities


Hailee-Hodgson-Day 2 for UIMF members in New York


William Gum My day 2 at CSW63 in New York


Megan Davis-Student Engaged Learning Experience During Day 1 at the CSW63


Viktoriia-Bahrii-Day 2. Panel on Empowering Women and Girls


AbdulRahman ALGhanmi -The first day of my official participation at CSW63


Rebecca Bindraban -My first day of official activities at CSW63


Laila Mitchell-My introduction to CSW63 activities


Aldon Trimble UIMF at CSW63 Day 2 Participation in Side Event on Human Rights and Women


Hannah Bieker-UIMF Brings Awareness to Mountain Women at the UN 63rd Commission on the Status of Women


First day of UIMF at CSW63: preparations for official activities

Delegation members have lunch at the Grand Central

Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University, travelled to New York City to advocate for mountain women to be included in the final document of the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). This annual Commission is held under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and aims to address the issues, challenges, and successes of women globally. Women around the world face challenges to achieve all 17 goals of sustainable development, but women who live in remote mountain areas have been largely ignored, while they face harsher conditions than many other women. The UIMF has advocated for these women for over a decade and on March 19th, 2019 at 8:30am in the Church Center of the United Nations, they will hold a parallel event titled “Student Engaged Learning to Empower Mountain Women and Girls,” about UVU’s student engaged learning model, sustainable mountain development (using Utah as a model) and advocating for the inclusion of language about women living in mountain areas in the CSW63 final document, which makes recommendations for ECOSOC and the UN General Assembly for further action on international cooperation to bring equality to women globally.

Students began arriving in New York on Wednesday, March 13th with the rest arriving between Friday, March 15 and early morning on Sunday, Mach 17. Those who arrived before Sunday, while waiting for the rest of the delegation to arrive spent time sight-seeing and visiting family and friends. Those who arrived on Sunday morning then met with faculty mentor Dr. Abdrisaev at his hotel, located several blocks from the UN and left their luggage at his room to be free of it before the check-in-time for their Airbnb.  It gave them substantial time for a walk to discover New York City.  They first went to Café Olympia, located couple of blocks from the United Nations compound, for breakfast. Then from there, they walked two blocks to see the place where the UN ID office is located. It will be important for the delegation to arrive there earlier before its opening in order to be the first in line to get their passes to the UN compound and to participate at the CSW63 activities. Then they went to the UN Church Center for the United Nations across the UN headquarters, which is the place that they will host their parallel event. Later they walked near the entrance of the UN headquarters as well as Trump towers. At this point everyone went in different directions to discover the city as they wish and meet again at 12PM.

UIMF member at the entrance to the UN IDs office

 They met up with the rest of the delegation at Grand Central Station as previously scheduled at 12:00pm to travel as a group for an orientation tour over the sites related to our official activities at CSW63 and which our small group was able to make by ourselves earlier. The Grand Central Station was selected as a starting point because this is one of the main closest to the UN headquarters transportation hubs in New York to gather all members of the delegation who got accommodated elsewhere. We started a tour by having a lunch at the Grand Central Station. Then we walked towards the UN through a Lexington avenue entrance and we went through all those sites what we had in the morning because all the students were there. Then, the tour was over and students had the opportunity to travel around New York to sight-see.

Delegation members at the entrance to the UN compound

 It provided us the opportunity to walk around different famous places and take many photos. At the same time, we all agreed to meet on Monday morning at 8:30 AM to get our UN passes and follow our approved agenda which will require in addition to hosting a parallel event on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 to attend several side and parallel events and visit Permanent Mission of several countries accredited to the United Nations. some panels at the UN. Overall, we are very excited to for being here in New York and full of energy to attend the events tomorrow.

William Gum and Abdulrahman Alghanmi, UIMF members




Michael Hinatsu-Reflections on Day One Activities in New York City for CSW63


Viktoriia Bahrii-Day 0-1. Getting to know New York before participation at CSW63


Megan Davis-First Day in New York City for the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women


Ezra Pugliano Day 1 Arriving to New York City to Advocate at CSW63


Rebecca Bindraban Observations on day one in New York City before CSW63


2018 Issue of the Youth and the Mountains Journal

The 2018 issue of the Youth and the Mountains Journal continues the established tradition of promoting the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations in the state of Utah. The journal highlights Utah Valley University’s student engagement model and provides a forum for student undergraduate research along with advocating and developing student academic scholarship. This journal seeks to engage students across the campus, including both non-traditional and traditional ones. 2018 marks the 6th edition of the Youth and the Mountains Journal, and my second year as editor in chief, which has been an honor.

Youth and the Mountains Journal provides a unique and increased perspective on SMD in mountainous regions worldwide. When the editorial board was putting this journal together, our team took careful time to examine the content, and to make sure it was internationally inclusive. It was important for us to include both diverse discourse regarding SMD and local and international issues related to it.

For a second time, the journal includes copies of official documents of the ECOSOC and U.S. Congress, highlighting UVUs student engaged learning model and the Utah International Mountain Forum contribution to SMD advocacy.

The journal includes research topics and reflective papers from students from Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and the United States. The topics are wide ranging, and include sustainable development topics in Utah, along with sustainable development issues and goals in countries such as Israel and Romania. Additionally, the 2018 issue of the journal covers Sustainable Development Goals and highlights specifically mountain targets. Specifically, topics such as expanding digital capabilities for society and educational purposes in Nepal, ensuring the availably of water and the sustainable management of water in Yemen, and the empowerment of women and gender equality. The journal also addresses other issues such as sustainable tourism and humanitarianism in Utah, and touches on theoretical approaches to domestic and foreign policy for mountain countries as well.

Mountain issues are human issues, and deserve to be highlighted as such. Therefore, the expansion of knowledge towards mountain issues and sustainability is centripetal to the improvement of human existence in higher places.

Rebecca Bindraban, Editor-in-Chief of the journal 


2018 Issue of the Youth and the Mountains journal





UIMF Participates in Days for Girls Service Project

(L to R) UIMF Members Hazim Alshanbari and Mark Driggs at UVU’s Days for Girls Service Project

On Tuesday March 12, 2019, Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) a student led coalition of clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) that advocates sustainable mountain development (SMD), had the opportunity to participate in a Days for Girls service project held at UVU in conjunction with UVU’s Women Success Center. Days for Girls is an international non-profit dedicated to providing feminine hygiene kits to women across the world who lack these basic necessities. Participation in this initiative, allowed UIMF to be part of an event that is important for its efforts to advocate for the cause of mountain women, girls and families not only in the State of Utah, but also during the sessions of the Commission on the Status of women in New York. In addition, President of Days for Girls Celeste Mergens contributed to the activities of UIMF both in Utah and at the United Nations: she was a keynote speaker during the fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference, hosted by UIMF in October 7-9, 2015. UIMF members Hazim Alshanbari, Viktoriia Bahri, its adviser, Baktybek Abdrisaev and I contributed to this service project by assisting in preparing feminine hygiene kits for distribution.

UVU students help assemble feminine hygiene kits for Days for Girls

UIMF’s participation illustrated three vital points: 1) UIMF continues to identify ways to support various student and campus organizations; 2) UIMF maintains a staunch commitment to service; and 3) UIMF recognizes and supports a diverse set of initiatives. Seeing UIMF members work with local community members and UVU students who are not involved with UIMF was a reminder of the importance of collaboration within and without UIMF. Effective SMD requires a whole of society approach. It is cross disciplinary by nature, due to the many facets of SMD. UIMF continues to exemplify such an approach to SMD, by contributing to different endeavors across UVU’s campus as was done with the Days for Girls service project. UIMF is determined to continuously engage students across UVU and throughout our local community. Such engagement provides ample opportunity to connect with a diverse set of students, expanding our network and capabilities, through recruitment of students with a wide array of skills, perspectives and backgrounds. In addition to diversity, service must be at the core of any SMD initiative. This is understood by UIMF which is why our members stand ready to support service initiatives as best we can. I am grateful to be a part of a diverse organization committed to service and SMD, and I am confident that UIMF will continue to seek out service opportunities in the coming weeks, months and years.

Mark Driggs, Vice President of Outreach, UIMF

Rotaractor informs Orem Rotary about preparations for CSW63

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 Orem Rotary reports on past activities, comments on current activities, and plans for the future

            On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, I was invited to attend a lunch hosted by the Orem Rotary Club. The Orem Rotary Club was established on November 10, 1975 by Darrell F. Robinette.  Orem Rotary members are very eager to support students at Utah Valley University through their own branch, the UVU Rotaract Club. I was there to introduce myself to the Orem Rotary members as one of the UVU Rotaract club members  and to inform them about my incoming visit to the UN 63rd Session of the Commission of the Status of Women on March 19, 2019 in New York. I will be the first Rotaractor to speak at the level of the UN. I brought the draft of the  statement I will present at the UN for their review and revision suggestions. I also brought copies of the written statement, which our delegation was able to submit and being approved as an official UN document, to the lunch as information for the Orem Rotary Club members.  This was an important opportunity for me to report what I was planning to do during the trip to UN, which Orem Rotary members co-sponsored financially.

Upon my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by the Orem Rotary Club members. I had previously been acquainted with a couple members of the club including Clark Merkley, the President Elect of the Orem Rotary Club and DJ Smith while we were at the Rotary President Elect Training Seminar (PETS) February 15 and 16. We were able to work together during some of the exercises at PETS and established a warm relationship.

Hannah Bieker giving her book to Clark Merkley at the Orem Rotary Lunch

Attending this lunch further solidified the special bond I have with the amazing people in Rotary. Having the opportunity to learn from service oriented individuals is an indulgence few my age will ever experience. Members in the audience listened to my short presentation and asked questions regarding my upcoming UN trip in general, my recently published book, and some of my personal background and history.

One of the items of business at the lunch was for Orem Rotary club members to raise money to provide dictionaries for children in local elementary schools. As a college student, times when I have extra cash on hand is few and far between. But, I did have two copies of my recently published book Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor: The Making of an American on hand. My book details my grandparents lives from being born into a world at war and my grandfather’s journey of escaping the conflict in Jerusalem following WWII, leaving home at 15 and traveling the world. As well as my grandmother who escaped East Berlin following the Soviet takeover of Eastern Germany and leaving home at 16 where she met my grandfather years later on a ship in a New York harbor, and reaching their goal of obtaining American citizenship together.   I brought it to explain to the members of the Orem Rotary club how I was able to be involved in the activities to help women and girls in the communities throughout the State of Utah thanks to my ancestors, who came to the U.S. from mountainous countries like Germany and Armenia. So, I was happy that members of the Orem Rotary auctioned the two copies for twenty dollars each, totalling forty dollars that were then donated to the children’s dictionary fund. After that, it was my special honor and pleasure to sign the books for the members who purchased them. Also, I presented one book with my signature to Mr. Clark Merkley for his leadership in working together with UVU and his support for me.

Hannah Bieker signs a copy of her book for Orem Rotary Club member, DJ Smith

I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend my afternoon with the Orem Rotary Club members. They have placed their trust in me that I will do well in representing Rotaract at the United Nations and it is an honor to hold that responsibility. I can not wait until I get to report back to Orem Rotary about my presentation.

 Hannah Bieker, a student at UVU, member of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU as well as UVU Rotaract club

Panel Discussion “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” on International Women’s Day

On Friday, March 8, 2019, the Utah Valley University (UVU) Office of Engaged Learning hosted a panel discussion titled “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” as part of the United Nations International Women’s Day celebration. Moderated by Ms. Annie Davis, former Fox News reporter and current managing director of communications for Salt Lake City, the panel discussion featured Ms. Chris Redgrave, Senior Vice President of Zions Bank and host of “Speaking on Business” KSL radio program;

Ms. Antonella Packard, State Director for Utah Councils of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Ms. Ann Watasaki, Big Ocean Women, Chair; and Ms. Brylee Bromley, newly-elected UVU Student Body Chief of Staff.

After briefly introducing themselves, the panelists described how they worked to think equal, build smart, and innovate for change. Ms. Packard first described her role as a business advisor/instructor at LULAC, where women and minorities come to seek advice on creating and financing their business ideas. In her position, Ms. Packard shared how she helps her clients take innovative and creative approaches to starting businesses, often with little or no money available to start. She also mentioned how LULAC’s Women’s Council aids women by providing scholarships, including for trade schools, as well as serves women and others regardless of their legal status. Ms. Watasaki then spoke about her NGO Big Ocean Women and how it takes an interfaith and global approach to empowering women by helping them realize their “innate and inherent gifts associated with womanhood” primarily through their roles in families as mothers. Ms. Redgrave then spoke about how she takes a private sector perspective in training female business owners to be successful in what is mostly a male-dominated sector, fighting for wage parity and focusing on empowering men as well as women. Ms. Bromley then spoke about her experiences working to empower new and graduating UVU students to prepare them for a proper education and to successfully enter the workforce.

The panelists then spoke on how recent societal changes related to diversity and equality can be helpful or hurtful to women and the work they do. Ms. Packard began by describing her experience starting out in her field and how even though she is a person of color, she felt more discrimination as a result of her gender than her ethnicity. She stated that new changes have led to more women-centered organizations and initiatives, such as TECHNOLOchicas, which helps mobilize women to join the tech industry. Ms. Redgrave then cited the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report which stated that gender equity won’t be reached for 217 years, as well as Gallup polls that reveal women in the United States rank the lowest among other developed nations regarding how safe its women feel. Ms. Redgrave stated that there is a long way to go and that the work must be sped up. Ms. Watasaki then stated that the influence of women, along with positions in companies, should be considered as well, saying that recent changes can motivate women to realize their innate gifts and influence others around them. Ms. Bromley then spoke on the importance of focusing on individuals, describing a survey she took which revealed that many women struggle with self-confidence and comparing themselves to others, and how recent changes can help women believe in themselves more and speak up on issues they face.

Speaking on what they thought were the most significant barriers to women’s leadership, Ms. Bromley began by stating that the most significant barrier was women not living up to or being afraid of their own potential. Ms. Redgrave then stated that along with gender parity not moving quickly enough, women need to have a higher sense of responsibility in taking charge of who they can become and what they can change. Ms. Watasaki stated that women are constrained by economic, political, social, and educational systems that are male-dominated and male-centered, so women must be creative and confident in their femaleness to effect change, but also that women cannot be elevated without also elevating men. Ms. Packard agreed, stating that women must advocate for themselves.

Next, the panelists discussed how they act as mentors and the role of mentorship. Ms. Redgrave stated that mentorship is critical, especially because women are underrepresented in STEM fields. She stated that women should not be pigeonholed into positions or roles because of gender expectations and that business should be structured around equality and mentorship. Ms. Packard then stated that both men and women should be seen as equals, both for mentoring and being mentored by others, but also specifically in wage equality, because women often choose to leave the workplace to tend to their families. Ms. Watasaki then addressed mentoring unpaid and unrecognized women through empowering them to be mentors in their own spheres of influence, and that there are many ways women can thus be influential. Ms. Bromley stated that along with becoming mentors themselves, women need to seek out mentorship.

Finally, the panelists discussed how to motivate more women to enter STEM fields. Ms. Bromley spoke about the importance for women to visualize themselves in such positions, while Ms. Packard spoke of the need for companies to be serious about hiring women and wisely investing money into making jobs look attractive and lucrative, as well as partnering with educational institutions to funnel women into STEM jobs while still supporting women’s desires to care for families. Ms. Redgrave then spoke on how social media is a part of the reason why women are not motivated to inter STEM fields, because for many women, they must feel perfectly ready before taking such risks, whereas men do not have the same proclivity, and social media makes them try too hard to be perfect. Ms. Watasaki brought a different perspective, citing Norwegian and Swedish studies that suggested that in places with greater gender equality, women choose not to enter STEM fields, and opined that women should not be forced to go into such fields, but be empowered to choose whatever occupation they desire.

The panelists then took questions from the audience. The first question dealt more with social media, with all panelists agreeing that social media is a two-edged sword and can be used both smartly to empower women and extend their influence, but can have negative effects on women’s confidence, work ethic, and desire to engage with others in meaningful ways. UIMF member Viktoriia Bahrii asked the panelists whether the role of femininity in the workplace was still relevant, given other feminist rhetoric that says otherwise. The panelists all agreed that women should not be afraid of embracing and showing their feminine qualities, which they defined as confidence, ingenuity, creativity, and diligence.

Overall, this event was a relevant discussion on how women can be personally responsible for their own success, whether in being influential to their families and friends or in the workplace. It was especially relevant for myself given my colleagues’ and my preparations to attend the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), where we will be showcasing how nontraditional students, many of which are female, have acted as mentors and received mentorship from other students and faculty mentors to gain professional advancement and opportunities to meet and work with local, state, regional, national, and international leaders, as well as to engage in meaningful research projects and host events related to empowering women. The principles and calls for action discussed by the panelists also intersect with our goals for CSW63, namely to show how education and engaged learning can empower women and girls in mountain communities to effect change in their own families and communities.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF member


Leslie Sixtos-Cruz- 2019 International Women’s Day at UVU


Remembering Mountain Women – Danielle Butler

We are deeply saddened to report the loss of Danielle Butler who passed away on March 7, 2019 one day before the International Women’s Day. She was the last among those great cohort of Mountain Women who started to host the international Women of the Mountains conferences (WOMCs) at Utah Valley University in Utah in 2007. This was a remarkable group: The Honorary Chairperson Elena Bonner, a prominent human-rights activist and a widow of the Andrey Sakharov, Nobel laureate; Dr. Jane Pratt, executive director of the Mountain Institute, Washington, D.C.; the Honorable Judy Martz, governor of the State of Montana (2001-2005); the Honorable Olene Walker, governor of the State of Utah (2003-2005) and Dr. Danielle Butler. They pioneered the idea to host the Women of the Mountains conferences (WOMCs) in the State of Utah to advocate for the mountain communities, families, women and girls, who are very often forgotten and marginalized both at the national and international levels. It was also their effort to sustain the tradition, established by the Celebrating the Mountain Women conference 2002 in Thimphu, Bhutan under the umbrella of the United Nations International Year of Mountains. The first two WOMCs in 2007 and 2011 took place in March to commemorate also the International Women’s Days and it became a tradition for organizers then to present red roses to all women and girls in the audience.

(L to R) Governor of the State of Utah Olene Walker (2003-2005), Governor of the State of Montana Judi Martz (2001-2005) and Dr. Danielle Butler, Honorary Consul of the Kyrgyz Republic to the State of Utah during the First International Conference Women of the Mountains at Utah Valley University on March 8, 2007.

I remember Dr. Danielle Butler from the last WOMC conference in October 2015, when she spoke before the participants. Knowing her husband, Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU (1992-2016) and being inspired by his professionalism and learning from him a lot how to work effectively with diplomats and UN officials, I always was interested to know who his wife was. I was able to get to know her a little bit then. Dr. Danielle Butler was very fragile from the cancer but still strong and determined to contribute to the activities of the conference. She reminded me about her great ancestors, majority of whom were women who came more than a century and a half ago to the mountainous Great Basin area. Despite of harsh climate, lack of water and mountain terrain, they were able to transform it in one of the most prosperous states in the United States. As I understood, the main reason why UVU decided in 2007 to focus on gender issues from the entire SMD agenda and to host WOMCs, was the effort to demonstrate the role of communities, family values and women in sustainable development in Utah and among other mountain communities globally. And Dr. Danielle Butler was one of the examples of the Mountain Women, as a mother of seven children and more than forty grandchildren and very eager contributor to many activities locally and elsewhere including the WOMCs. She was recognized for her contribution to the advocacy of the mountain women and building close ties with the mountain communities in other parts of the world by the Honorary Degree from the International University of Kyrgyzstan.

During the 2015 conference, both Dr. Danielle Butler and her husband were happy to see how we, students, were able to be the hosts of the conference, and for the first time to do that on our own through the student engaged learning, when students learn new skills as a group through hands-on activities and faculty serve them as a mentor.

Dr. Danielle Butler left a great and visible legacy: UVU students now go regularly to the United Nations to advocate for the mountain women during the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women. 11 students will speak on March 19, 2019 at the Church Center of the United Nations how they empower mountain women and girls through student engaged learning. And they will dedicate their presentations to the memory of Dr. Danielle Butler.

It became a tradition now at the Utah Valley University every March 8th to celebrate the International Women’s Day. This year there were two major events at UVU: a panel “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,”  hosted by the UVU office of Global Engagement and the Conference Women of Mormondom,  hosted by the UVU Center for the Study of Ethics

Yanko Dzhukev, UIMF Liaison at MP and FAO-UN,  


Mountain Partnership about Danielle Butler





UIMF to Advocate for Mountain Women at CSW63

The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF)—a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU)—is preparing to contribute to the agenda of the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in March of 2019. This will be the third time that UIMF has participated in the Commission.  It participated for the first time during CSW61 in 2017 and for the second  time during CSW62 in 2018. This year’s delegation, comprised of eleven UVU students, most of whom are affiliated with UIMF, will host a parallel event titled “Student Engaged Learning to Empower Mountain Women and Girls,” in harmony with the priority theme of CSW63: social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

At the parallel event, this year’s delegation will focus on bringing global attention to women and girls in mountain communities, who are among the poorest and most vulnerable to climate, economic, and other challenges. The delegation will also focus on highlighting UVU’s successful student engaged learning model (SEL) as well as the State of Utah as a best model for sustainable mountain development (SMD). UVU SEL gives students opportunities for professional advancement by placing in them the primary responsibility of working together to solve problems, with faculty serving as mentors. UIMF, which is a core of the SEL model, has been the vehicle for many initiatives relating to SMD in the State of Utah, including the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference  (see and contributed to the agendas of a number of UN forums, such as the 2018 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development.

As preparation for CSW63, since September 2018, UIMF has worked to do the following:

  • Wrote and submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) a statement outlining UIMF’s concerns that mountain women are neglected in global forums on sustainable development and calling for transparency and civil society involvement in the negotiations of those forums’ final documents. The statement, co-sponsored by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) and Utah-China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development & Commerce (Utah China F.I.S.H D&C), was published by ECOSOC as an official document on November 19, 2018.
  • Participated in online sessions with the NGO Commission that prepares the Zero Draft Document for CSW63, which Permanent Representatives of UN Member States affiliated with ECOSOC will use to create CSW63’s final document, and added language about mountain women, nontraditional students, engaged/experiential learning, and occupational gender equality
  • Reached out to the UN Secretary-General, ECOSOC President, and 46 UN Member States who presented Voluntary National Reviews at the 2018 HLPF, asking them to support our goals and requests reflected in our November 19, 2018 written statement.
  • Submitted a request and received approval to host a parallel event at CSW63.
  • Developed a special rubric for this year’s delegation to learn the UN system and fundamentals of SMD in the spring 2019 semester class “Globalization and SMD,” as well as made preparations through SEL for the visit to CSW63.

UIMF’s parallel event is currently scheduled at the second floor of the Church Center of the UN for Tuesday, March 19, at 8:30am, in New York City.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF member


UIMF’s 2019 CSW63 delegation:


UIMF Official Statement Published by ECOSOC


Copy of Letter Sent to UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres, ECOSOC President and 46 Permanent Missions


Letter of Acceptance for UIMF’s Parallel Event


Initial Draft for CSW63 Agreed Conclusions


Brochure of Parallel Event Agenda 


Video “Marcia Barlow: How to advocate at the United Nations”

Participating in Rural Day on the Hill at the Utah State Capitol

As the Vice President of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) and my goal as the director of domestic affairs to focus on rural parts of Utah I try to participate in as many events, discussions, and general opportunities that will help advance my knowledge in the aforementioned cause. ‘Rural Day on the Hill’ is a special event because it gathered on February 22, 2019 in Salt Lake City individuals who share the mindset of advancing and bolstering rural Utah into one central location, thus allowing for networking, and the sharing of ideas. The event was hosted by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The agenda included speakers such as Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, state representatives, and members of GOED. Such an event is rare because many whom are interested in rural affairs live in remote rural locations, thus making gathering difficult if not near impossible.

State Capitol Building on the morning of Rural Day on the Hill

             During the day, legislators, staff from federal elected officials’ offices, and other local leaders and experts gathered to have conversations and listen to lecture on the current state of rural Utah and also how rural Utah is declining in some areas (such as population loss) and how it is advancing in some areas (turning away from energy-based economies and towards telecommuting and tourism-based economies). This was particularly special to me as an individual that was raised in a rural community and now lives in an Urban community because much of the focus in both my academic and interpersonal communications has been heavily focused on the concerns and importance of urban Utah, and rarely ever rural Utah. I believe this is because many are wrongfully under the assumption that rural Utah does not play a significant role in the day-to-day lives of Utahns and other citizens in the Western side of the United States. It is because of this belief that I hope to host events in the upcoming future that directly pertain to growing urban Utah’s knowledge about the importance and sustainability of rural Utah.

During Rural Caucus, presenters discussed developments for river rafting as a means for economic development.

Lacee Meyer stands in front of Rural Day on the Hill signage in the rotunda at the Utah State Capitol.

             Discussion during the event was exciting, but what is more exciting is knowing that the advancement of rural Utah is starting coming to the forefront of legislation, and policy-making. In order for Utah to succeed, in order for urban Utah to succeed, rural Utah must also succeed. I hope that all Utahns alike can begin or continue to research and read about rural Utah. The better we are as a community of people, rather that sects, the more unstoppable our great state will be. In the near future I see Utah as being a state that many nationally and internationally will look to a frontrunner in creative, intelligent, and researched sustainable development.

Lacee Meyer, Vice President of Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University



Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN, Ambassador Jan Kickert speaks at Utah Valley University

The Utah Valley University (UVU) Global Engagement Office hosted Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations, His Excellency Jan Kickert on February 19, 2019. His visit was met by excitement and engagement by both the UVU faculty and students.

Before his visit to UVU, Austrian diplomat had the opportunity to meet with members of the State Legislature and other lawmakers in the State of Utah. He also met with the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and took some time with his family to enjoy the world-famous Utah powder, visiting three of Utah’s most popular Ski Resorts.

Ambassador Jan Kickert speaks before UVU audience

The title of the presentation of Ambassador Jan Kickert before the UVU faculty and students was: “What foreign policy for a small country? The case of Austria”. . His primary topic was addressing the foreign policy concerns and issues that Austria is currently facing. He first gave the audience a brief history of Austria to provide context for their current international dialogue. He briefly spoke on the days of the Austrian Empire, the competition between itself and Prussia for the creation of a German state, the collapse of the empire after the First World War, the events of the Second World War, and its occupation by allied powers after the conflict. The neutrality agreement that Austria signed as part of their independence continues to guide their foreign policy today.

During the Cold War, as Ambassador Kickert stated, Austria became a bridge of sorts because of its neutrality. It was able to be a neutral meeting ground for the US and the Soviet Union and many other antagonistic groups because of it. Ambassador  mentioned that small nations must find their niche, and that Austria found its niche inbeing that meeting ground for others. The fact that one of the four Headquarters of the United Nations is based in the Austrian capital of Vienna, speaks to the country’s commitment to the United Nations and international diplomacy. The nation joined the UN same year that it gained its independence from the occupying Allied powers in 1955.

Of the concerns that Austria currently has, Mr. Kickert mentioned Nuclear Disarmament, the Safety of Citizens in War Zones, AI controlled weapons, and climate change. Many of the glaciers that are in the Austrian Alps are receding or gone altogether, and the tourist industry is also being threatened by lack of snowfall. He mentioned that a new industry called snow farming has started booming in Austria to help keep the ski resorts open and tourists coming into the country.

UVU students in the audience during the presentation of Ambassador Jan Kickert

As to the issue of nuclear disarmament, Austria is pushing for the complete disarmament of all nuclear weapons. Never a possessor of nuclear weapons themselves, they have been strong proponents of nuclear non-proliferation, but now are one of the nation’s wishing to see the complete elimination of all nuclear arsenals.

Along with the disarmament, Austria is working towards preventing the implementation of weapons that are controlled by AI intelligence, instead of by a human being. Ambassador cited his concerns about the decision to kill being made by a machine instead of a human, and both the humanitarian and moral implications that could carry with it. He also spoke briefly on trying to protect innocent civilians in war zones and limiting their risk in combat. This issue has become of particular concern for Austria with the recent conflicts and subsequent refugee crises in the Middle East.

Ambassador also discussed the topic of refugees and how politically divisive this has become in Austria. The rise of a strong conservative faction in the country is now a part of the government and made the decision to have Austria withdraw from the UN Global Compact on Migration. Many other nations including the United State have withdrawn from the compact. Mr. Kickert spoke on Austria’s long history of immigration and how the population has been sustained by immigration in the past.

Ambassador Jan Kickert entertained questions for the last several minutes of his presentation. One was on the question of how Brexit would affect Austria. His short answer was that while it definitely was a major blow to the European Union, Austria would not feel the effects as strongly as other nations would. While Austria is an export heavy country, it has few business ties with Great Britain, most of its trade going to Germany and the United States.

Presentation of gifts to Ambassador Jan Kickert

Some other questions were asked but soon the meeting was wrapped up, and some small gifts were presented from the University to Mr. Kickert, also granting him an honorary professorship at the University. He closed his remarks by commenting that he was impressed by the level of involvement of the students of UVU with UN and that he was grateful to have the opportunity to return to Utah after many years.

One can hope that this meeting is the beginning of a strong and cooperative partnership not only for UVU, but for the state of Utah with the country of Austria. Both areas are very mountainous, and the problems that our communities face are very similar. Hopefully, we can help one another find solutions and make the world a better place and continue on in Sustainable Mountain Development.

By Brandon Pedler, German Club President, Member UIMF


Video of the presentation  


UVU Review about the visit of Ambassador Jan Kicket to UVU 




Dirk Gum                           Taylon Thomas


Joel Frost           MacKenzie Williams


Mariah Todd                      Miles Gevas


Leslie Sixtos                        Jared Faux


Austin Meline                    Abeir Isawy


Cory-Levin                      Parker Dolton


Ahmed Alsharif     Hazim Alshanbari


Camille Hall       Samantha Tiburcio