Young Women & Leadership: Education, Opportunities, and Obstacles

March 9, 2015 - Armenian Convention Center, New York
At-the-UN/CSW-Conferences/CSW59-Parallel-Event-2015
By: Youngsoon Quinn

CSW59: WFWPI Parallel Event

Women's Federation for World Peace International hosted a CSW parallel event attended by over 200 participants including NGO representatives, WFWP members, and high school and middle school students. The young women panelists are aspiring and actively taking on roles to bring lasting peace into the lives of women and girls. The speakers were both enlightening and inspirational to the audience and give much a hope to the world. Ms. Heather Fraser-Harris, WFWPI UN Office, moderated the initial session, introduced the event sponsors and welcomed all participants, including high school and middle school students from the tri-state area. The sponsors were Montage Initiative, World Youth Alliance Foundation, WFWP USA and WFWP International. 

Ms. Sharon Pedrosa and Ms. Klevisa Kovaci, Montage Initiative, spoke about their organization, which focuses on giving women opportunities to earn a sustainable living for their families. Montage Initiative strives to eradicate poverty and build peace, by empowering women to be role models as well as great influencers of society. Ms. Pedrosa and Ms. Kovaci believe that all women, especially young women have great power to change the world for the better. Ms. Pedrosa added that all organizations that support and advocate for empowerment of women need to unite in solidarity to create a strong, lasting impact for women. Ms. Kiyomi Schmidt, WFWP USA, shared that WFWP empowers women with knowledge, dignity, and family education through workshops, service learning, and peace-building activities; to bring lasting harmony and peace to the lives of women and their families. Ms. Schmidt reported that there are 35 chapters across the U.S. whose members strive to live by the logic of love in order to be peacemakers and leaders in their families and communities. Ms. Schmidt also stated that barriers of the heart cannot be broken without autonomy, education and compassion. Ms. Weronika Janczuk, Director of Education, World Youth Alliance Foundation, co-sponsor and panelist of the CSW event, focused on developing curricula on human dignity as an alternative to sexual education programs. 
Ms. Nomnandi Bengu, Youth Educator and Chairwoman, WFWP Harlem, moderated the main panel, introduced the panelists and greeted participants. During the session, she led a "pair-share" so participants could converse with each other and share inspiration. 

Ms. Hannah Alexander is a nonprofit and social innovation consultant who has provided consultation and assistance to several organizations and campaigns such as Echoing Green, and UNESCO, Pacem in Maribus 32: Women, Youth, and the Sea, and has served as an Advisory Board member of Summit on the Summit, an Initiative. Through her experience as an intern for the WFWPI UN-Office, as well as other UN delegations, Ms. Alexander has developed programs, managed interns and volunteers, and been heavily involved with several campaigns. Ms. Alexander holds a B.A., magna cum laude, in Economics and International Relations from Mount Holyoke College. Ms. Alexander is also the founder and author of Beyond Service, a book project that promotes volunteerism and social entrepreneurship for the next generation. From her vast experiences and involvement in nonprofit organizations, Ms. Alexander discovered that the role of leadership requires one to be unaffected by anything, determined and resolved toward one's mission and vision, acting and responding with true love, and managing and evaluating oneself as well. Ms. Bengu reflected on Ms. Alexander's story and explained that it was a good example of how preparation plus opportunity equals success.

Ms. Christelle K. Ngama is a Congolese refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has lived in Bolton, United Kingdom for ten years. Ms. Ngama was born and raised in Goma, moved to Kenya, Tanzania and then settled in the United Kingdom in July 2004. Ms. Ngama is currently studying law at the University of Bolton. In December 2014, she launched a campaign called Congo Rises to raise awareness about the unjust war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 6 million have lost their lives and rape is used as a weapon of war. Ms. Ngama first learned of rape and how to prevent a rape situation, at the young age of nine years old. Ms. Ngama as well as many students in the Democratic Republic of Congo, desire peace and safety for all citizens, and are very determined to speak out for their home country; despite the dangers. Ms. Ngama believes in the power of women, and that when women speak out on issues that affect their communities, then change can happen. Women uniting around a common vision have the power to make change.

Ms. Roudabeh Jamshid Eini is from Tehran, Iran. At a young age, Ms. Eini volunteered at a hospital in her home country, and realized then that education is necessary in order to understand and alleviate society's problems. Ms. Eini's education has taken her from Payam Noor University in Iran where she received her B.A. degree in English Translation, to Sapienza University in Rome for a B.A. in Modern Languages, and a participant in the Model UN as a young person. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Global Development and Peace at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Ms. Eini was greatly encouraged and empowered by her mother, a strong, independent single woman, who said, "I will be happy in my life when I see that you are more successful than me. I tried to climb one hundred steps higher than the level of my mother, so you have to go at least one thousand steps higher than me." Ms. Eini's formula for great achievements includes hard work, taking opportunities that come, having the determination to succeed and learn from others, and having the support of loved ones, especially the love from one's mother. Ms. Eini told a powerful story of perseverance.

Ms. Weronika Janczuk, Director of Education, World Youth Alliance Foundation graduated from New York University with a self-designed degree in the Philosophy of the Human Person. She was drawn to and inspired by the World Youth Alliance Foundation's core tenet that every person, every woman has dignity. The human dignity programs that World Youth Alliance Foundation initiates are vital for youth as the programs instill healthy identity and worldview. Ms. Janczuk stated that recognizing intrinsic dignity and beauty is the key to empowering others. Ms. Janczuk also presented research evidence that showed how the proper sexual health of every woman and girl needs to be considered; as well as introducing right sex education, taught to children at the right time. She introduced the WYAF Fertility Education and Medical Management (FEMM) curriculum, which teaches women and girls about who they are and how to care for themselves. Ms. Janczuk suggests that all women and girls need to be taught about how their bodies work, including the effects of emotions and hormones.

Lively conversation among participants, and between speakers and participants demonstrated the power of the panelists' stories to impact the audience members.