Tony Medina, during the statement of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during CSW60

It was an exciting and energetic beginning to the first day of the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. For me, it began in a two hour line to receive my security pass to the United Nations Headquarters.  It was very encouraging to see so many people, women in particular, from across the globe gathering for such an important international forum for the global community. Although I slightly late to the opening remarks, I was able to attend the statement made by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban KI-moon, who emphasized the progress and the great amount of work still remaining in the promotion of the new agenda “Planet 50-50 by 2030,” which is an initiative dedicated to bringing real equality to women no later than the year 2030.  Several other high-level UN dignitaries also spoke; however, I was very impressed and excited to hear from the UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN women in particular.


UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking at CSW60

During her speech, she was very adamant about the role of youth in promotion of gender equality and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  “We recognize the need to include and engage youth with greater seriousness and we have just launched our Youth and Gender Equality Strategy,” said Madam Mlambo-Ngcuka.  This is a very important message for the Utah International Mountain Forum to not only notice her words, but to engage in this important initiative for the global community.  Please find enclosed in the following link, her full statement:;

After the opening session, I participated in several other events in the CSW60 agenda. It was very thrilling to see some very familiar faces, including from the State of Utah. Some of whom were also participants in the 4th International Women of the Mountains Conference. In the next few days, I will be following this with accounts from the other events and sessions I attend here at the CSW60 in New York City, to continue the traditions of student engagement and contributions to the gender and SDGs of the United Nations. In continuing the traditions of  the Women of the Mountains Conference, my student engagement in gender advocacy has been made possible through the joint efforts of Dr. Rusty Butler, until recently-Associate Vice President of the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy; Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department at Utah Valley University; and Mrs. Wendy Jyang, Chairperson of the NGO Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development & Commerce.

Tony Medina, President, Utah International Mountain Forum




On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the second day of the CSW60, the weather has changed for the better in Manhattan; the sun actually broke through for the latter half of the afternoon. Experience also proved useful, as we were able to navigate the subway system without delay, or an unexpected trip to Queens. New York looks especially nice when it is sunny and dry, and you aren’t getting splashed taxi cabs.

This morning began with the friendly face of Wendy Jyang, President of Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce (UCFISHDC) who presented us with several options of side events or parallel sessions from CSW60. We decided to forgo side events at the UN headquarters and attended a parallel event at the Church Center of the United Nations across the street from the UN headquarters. The event was titled “The Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative, and was hosted by the NGO Vital Voices, AVON (the cosmetic company) and the International Organization for Migration.


(L to R): Wendy Jyang, Tony Medina, and Virginia Bennett, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy and Human Trafficking and Labor, US State Department

We decided to attend this particular event because Vital Voices was founded in 2003 by Hilary Clinton, and in 2007 representatives from the NGO were invited to attend the original Women of the Mountains Conference.


(L to R): Tony Medina; Cindy Dyer, Vice President on Human Rights, Vital Voices; and Wendy Jyang

Prior to the panel, we were able to listen to a statement about the foreign policy priorities of the United States regarding human trafficking globally from Virginia Bennett, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy and Human Trafficking and Labor. The panel focused on human trafficking and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and included Priti Patkar, Founder and Executive Secretary for Prerana; Khanim Rahim Latif, Director of ASUDA; Suamhirs Piraino Guzman, member of the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking; and was moderated by Cindy Dyer, Vice President on Human Rights for Vital Voices.

This distinguished panel discussed GBV issues from across the globe, and I was very interested in what Ms. Latif had to say, as she is a Iraqi native from Kurdistan and reported on the horrible situation facing women and girls who are in the hands of ISIS. It attracted my immediate attention, as I have spent a considerable amount of time in those areas during my service in northern Iraq. Furthermore, Mr. Guzman shared his experiences in dealing with men, both victims and perpetrators, of GBV and human trafficking. During the Q&A session, we were able to ask a question to Mr. Guzman and share the story of Sean Reyes, Attorney General for the State of Utah, and Timothy Ballard, Founder and CEO of Operation Underground, who were panelists at the Women of the Mountains Conference, and their experiences in Columbia investigating the trafficking of local girls.

tony8(L to R): Vital Voices Presenter, Khanim Rahim Latif, Director of ASUDA, Kurdistan, Iraq and Tony Medina

The event allowed me to utilize and hone my previously acquired skills in protocol, networking, and interacting with audiences. Although the large audience was dominated by so many active and diverse women, I was given special attention as one of the few men in the audience who was promoting gender advocacy. The panel later mentioned that the male involvement of men like Mr. Guzman and me is an important sign in resolving the most urgent challenges in GBV issues.


Sight-seeing in New York after CSW60 Sessions

Following the panel, we were given a much needed break to explore all the things that Manhattan has to offer. This included a trip to Times Square and the attractions nearby. This is my wife and I’s first visit to New York and it is exciting to see many of the famous landmarks and attractions that are here. I look forward to the discussions tomorrow, and will keep you posted.

Tony Medina, President, Utah International Mountain Forum





The sunshine and cloudless sky on our third day in New York allowed us to walk a great distance in the city and appreciate the beauty and design of many of the city’s sights. On our way towards the UN headquarters, we took a short detour through the Grand Central Station mall and market. With a wide variety of products, foods, and rare cheeses and spices, our stomachs growled.


Tony Medina at the entrance to the United Nations Headquarters

We began the day by being introduced to many VIPs and delegates in the hallways of the United Nations headquarters, including Mr. Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the Global Pulse in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. He was very excited to hear of a student’s attendance at the CSW60, and discussed the role of social media in our activities in an area promoting gender and SDGs.

Next, we met representatives from the LDS Charities in the hallways of the UN. David Colten and his wife Julie shared with us some background into their work and involvement in the inter-faith dialogue and discussions at the CSW60. Needless to say, it was very interesting to discover the numerous Utah representatives present at the CSW60 throughout the whole day.

After lunch, we arrived at the Church of the Covenant which is located two blocks from the UN headquarters at 310 E. 42nd street, where Clay Olsen who contributed to the 4th Women of the Mountains Conference at UVU, was to make a presentation of the topic of the danger and the pervasiveness of pornography across the world. Here, we faced a dilemma to remain for the viewing of Mr. Olsen’s presentation or attend another important and interesting event.


During the Panel Hosted by NGO Days for Girls

This session was hosted by the UVU’s good friend Celeste Mergens, CEO and Founder of Days for Girls International (DFGI), a globally well knownNGO focused on providing sustainable feminine hygiene products to girls and women across the world. When we entered the room and caught Celeste’s attention, she greeted us like old friends and thanked us for coming. The panel was held in the Hardin room in the Church Center of the United Nations, the same room as the day prior with the event hosted by Vital Voices. We were barely able to find seats as the room was tightly packed by so many delegates and women from across the world.


The Days for Girls standard hygiene kit!whats-in-a-kit/c623

The panel, titled “Breaking Cycles of Poverty: Sustainable Menstrual Hygiene Management Models,” consisted of, Dr.Ugodi Ohajuruka the board member from Nigeria; Chris Mutalya, the DFGI Ugandan board member and only male panelist; Severina Lemahokti, Kenyan director for DFGI; Shylla Rahman, new member of DGFI from Bangladesh; and Deborah “Debbie” Young, the Utah Director for DFGI. We heard several personal stories from audience members who had the highest praises and thanks for Celeste and her group’s effort. And, it was incredibly moving to hear from so many women of whom DFGI have positively impacted across the globe, including here in the United States. Before the session was dismissed, our friend Wendy Jyang and her friends presented Celeste with a beautiful painting to say thank you for her efforts and commitment to helping so many girls and women with such an important issue.

All in all, it was a revealing experience to see how so many institutions and individuals from Utah have added their voices to the policies and agenda of the United Nations on gender. My next report will conclude our experiences during the CSW60, taking into account that this was our first attendance to the Commission on the Status of Women which was only funded for four-days. We hope that in the future our students will be able to attend the session in its entirety.

Tony Medina, President, Utah International Mountain Forum






After my incredible experiences at the CSW60 in New York, all things must come to an end. Time has flown by this past week, and there are still many interesting and important events that continue until the end of session on March 24, 2016. Although our delegation will be unable to attend them, the need to recognize the sponsors of our trip remains. The contacts and relations we made in our short time in New York will be invaluable to furthering the engagement of students at Utah Valley University with both the United Nations and UNWomen, and we hope our experiences prove worthwhile in allowing students to attend the entire CSW events in the future.


Days for Girls panelists with UVU Delegation During CSW60

Over the past week, the recurring theme that has emerged is the need for collaboration between all of the different agencies, NGOs, and non-profits that are working on the same agendas and on gender equality in particular. As we learned throughout our time at CSW60, there are so many different groups who are so close to us geographically speaking, yet we had no idea. We were impressed to meet so many different groups from around the globe and Utah and Arizona that we had made contact with. Yet, what has shown to be a bridge between distant locations is the use of the internet, social media in particular. The ease of access and quickness of response make it a perfect platform for primary information sharing between continents and organizations.


Tony Medina and Social Media advertisements at CSW60

Even though the CSW60 was about the “status of women” across the world, it is vitally important to the conversation that men are actively and passionately involved in the gender agenda. While I was excited to represent UVU, it was clear that men in general were distinctly underrepresented at the commission. This should be a priority goal of ours as well, to engage more men into the conversation and action at UVU, in Utah, and the world at large to do our part in education and advocacy of our mothers, sisters, and friends across the globe. It was also exciting that during CSW60 a new strategic initiative to engage youth in gender advocacy was launched. I am sure that UIMF will contribute to its activities and agenda as we are already working in these areas, and can provide ideas and guidance for other groups as well.

Throughout the days we were in attendance, we were able to meet and make contact with so many organizations and people. Although it was a very exhausting, Wendy Jyang, member of our delegation, proved to be a wonderful advisor who has tremendous experience and contacts in these areas. She was able to expertly navigate both the people and the city to introduce us to so many people who want nothing more than to help better the world. Her passion to the cause of helping the needy people and families is vitally important, and she also makes a big difference in so many people’s lives. In the coming weeks, the tremendous task of staying in contact with those we met and establishing contact with those we were referred to will keep us very busy. So many of the people we were introduced to were incredibly excited to hear of students in attendance at the CSW60, and several were very interested in ways we could collaborate. It seems that there are many ways and avenues for our organization to grow in the near and distant future.


UVU delegation with NGO founder from Somalia

Furthermore, we also found it very important to mention and thank Dr. David Connelly, Department Chair, History and Political Science Department; and Kimberly Williamson, Administrative Assistant, History and Political Science Department at UVU for their support, guidance, and planning-assistance in our endeavors. Our team is recognized now by so many groups and people at CSW60, due in part to our great handouts, brochures, and our “signature” green stress-balls. We always have such a great and unwavering support from our department, many of our activities would not be possible without their help.


(L to R): Tony Medina presents UVU stress-ball to Mrs. Sally Shatila Kader, President, United Federation for Peacekeeping and Sustainable Development With Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev in Attendance.

The United Nations Headquarters is a very impressive sight to behold. During my time there, I was able to see many of the national gifts to the United Nations from different countries; some were very ornate and beautiful, others were simple yet contained powerful messages of peace and friendship. I was also able to see the displays of disarmament of nuclear and conventional weapons that are symbols of peace and democracy. The General Assembly renovated Hall was very impressive, and I was fortunate enough to have my picture taken at the podium where so many world leaders have spoken in years past. I will always look back on my experience and participation at the CSW60 with fond memories, and I look forward to attending future CSWs in the coming years.

Tony Medina, President, Utah International Mountain Forum





Additional Information about Women of the Mountains