Twenty-one young women representing eight countries and nine WFWPI leaders from four of the seven WFWPI regions gathered together in New York City for Women Federation for World Peace, International's first annual Young Women's Leadership Retreat. It was an honor to have WFWPI President, Prof. Yeon Ah Moon, participate in the entire retreat, which spanned from Friday night through Sunday night, and featured a packed schedule of lectures and activities. The group size was capped at thirty in order to foster an intimate setting in which participants could absorb the educational materials and connect to and empower one another to further the work and vision of WFWPI.
The retreat took place during the weekend between the two weeks of the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60). Many of the retreat participants had already been in the city for several days, participating in CSW60. A two-week annual event, CSW offers participants a rich, diverse array of events, in the UN as well as throughout the city, hosted by UN member states and NGOs.
The retreat opening dinner was held on Friday, March 18. After a brief introduction to the weekend by Mrs. Alexa Ward, International Vice President and Deputy Director of the UN Office for WFWPI, participants enjoyed a buffet-style dinner. Following the meal, each participant introduced herself to the group by sharing a bit about her background as well as one fun fact. After introductions, participants divided up into two groups, each bound for a house in Queens. For this trial year, two large houses were rented out through Airbnb.
Saturday morning participants ate breakfast in their houses in Queens and then returned to Manhattan for a day rich with education and empowerment. Dr. Padmini Murthy, a medical doctor who serves on the Executive Committee of NGO CSW NY, kicked-off the morning with a talk entitled, "Women as Advocates Rock the World." In her lecture, she gave many examples of women throughout history who have made significant impact through advocacy. The second speaker was Dr. Thomas Ward, Dean of the College of Public and International Affairs at the University of Bridgeport. He gave a clarifying overview of the history and founding of the United Nations. The third speaker, Mr. Donald Lee from the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), gave a talk on the importance of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the impact of such goals on the future of the world. Following this session, the group broke for lunch.
The afternoon talks began with a panel discussion, led by Dr. Amalle Daou, a medical doctor whose husband was the former Ambassador from Mali to the UN. She is the president of an NGO called Active Intervention for Mothers (AIM). She pulled together a panel of herself, Mrs. Mamie Thompson, an international educator, and Ms. Yiling Li, President of UCT International Culture Development Organization. The three engaged in a discussion entitled, "The Diplomatic Side of Life," and shared insights from their various diplomatic roles and experiences.
Following the panel was a session on advocacy by Ms. Majandra Acha, with the Women's Environment and Development Organization. Participants were given the advocacy manual, a publication by NGO CSW NY. The speaker guided participants through the most important and challenging aspects of advocacy. The final presentation, given by Mrs. Lynn Walsh, co-chair of the NGO Committee on the Family, was an anecdotal exploration of the speaker's journey to her current position within the UN. Following the final lecture, the MC, Ms. Teresa Ferrette, member of the Board of Directors of WFWP, USA, led the group in a short review of the day during which participants shared about lessons learned and key takeaways. Participants were then given a free evening to explore NYC and get to know one another.
On Sunday morning participants left bright and early to travel to Hyde Park, NY to visit the home and Presidential library of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. At the library, the group received an animated lecture on the role of FDR in the founding of the United Nations at the conclusion of World War II, from Mr. Jeffrey Urbin, Education Specialist. After a tour through the FDR museum, the group went to Eleanor Roosevelt's home at Val-Kill cottage, where they were able to take an intimate glance into her life as well as her role as the driving force behind the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while she served as chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
"As a woman who suffered a great deal of loss and hardships in her childhood, Eleanor Roosevelt made sure to prepare a better future: one in which basic human rights would be acknowledged and practiced in all nations."
- Jin hee Handschin, Participant
The retreat concluded with an intimate dinner in Tarrytown, New York. Mrs. Carolyn Handschin, International Vice President and Director of the UN Office, gave a presentation on the founders of WFWPI, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, and the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. Prof. Yeon Ah Moon, President of WFWPI, gave closing remarks and three participants offered testimonies on their experiences throughout the week and on their personal journeys to getting involved with WFWPI. The tone throughout the evening was one of passing the torch; of the older generation relaying the knowledge and skills they gained and offering support to the younger generation in taking up the mantle.
WFWPI's work promotes women's responsibility in the quest for world peace. This retreat was very inspiring and insightful. It has shown us that women can play a role in today's society.
- Yuru Wang, Participant from Austria
As the first Young Women Leader's Retreat concluded amongst hugs and phone number swaps, the group took time to reflect on the weekend. Mrs. Josephine Stewart from Canada shared, "Spending the weekend with an empowered group of women and learning about leadership on a global level and how to move forward with our goals/mission was enlightening." Ms. Yuru Wang from Austria commented, "Through this weekend I have been reminded once again how important we as young women are to the process of peace building." The staff of WFWPI hope the annual addition of this retreat will mark a new era of WFWPI, under Prof. Yeon Ah Moon's leadership, in which young leaders are nurtured and trained by the great women proceeding them.