The United Nations is no doubt a complex bureaucracy. I’ve worked and lived close by to the International Headquarters in Manhattan for almost 5 years. It has seemed mysterious and somehow inaccessible to me for that whole time. When in early February, a member of Enterprising and Professional Women of New York (EPW NY for short) asked me if I would become the Youth Representative for the organization to the UN, I thought that it would be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the functioning systems of the international body as well as to advocate for a cause that is close to my heart.
On my first day as the Youth Representative, I picked up my light blue security clearance badge and headed for a training for other Youth Representatives. The training was hosted and sponsored by Pax Romana, an organization with a lively young leadership group. It was both inspiring to learn about the potential impact that Youth Representatives can have, and reassuring to learn how many other young people were new to their posts. There is a new trend among NGOs and countries to introduce Youth Representatives at the UN, and I can’t help but feel that this is a recognition of the growing voice and influence that young people are building across the globe.
NGO Youth Representatives are able to attend events and sessions that are open to NGO representatives, and depending on the status of their organization, even write “interventions” or research and opinion articles. Learning to navigate through the thousands of events that affiliate groups throw, the database of UN Resolutions, and the halls of the UN is no easy feat. My mentor and fellow BPW UN Representative, Eva Richter, shared with me that she has been working with the UN for ten years, and feels like she is beginning to skim the surface now.
Highlights of my short experience so far include the introduction to the Commission on the Status of Women for NGOs, an ECOSOC memorial ceremony for the heroes of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and learning everything I possibly can about the impact of the UN’s work on women through multitudes of daily update emails.
I look forward to continuing to represent and share the mission and work of BPW with members of the Conference of NGOs at the UN as well as international delegates. It’s an honor to represent young BPWs and I hope to keep everyone updated with major events and news from here in New York.
Written by Jennifer Lishansky, Young BPW UN Representative and Young BPW Manhattan member