UN Geneva: Bringing Women’s Federation into the Social Era

Natascha (left) acted as WFWP’s media liaison during the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

Natascha (left) acted as WFWP’s media liaison during the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

By Natascha Schellen

Thanks to Carolyn Handschin and the support of the Wonmo Pyeongae Scholarship Foundation, I had the opportunity to participate in the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva as a WFWP intern from June 18 to 29, 2018. 

In his final reflections as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke at the opening session of the HRC, saying “I am convinced that the human rights ideal has been the most constructive movement of ideas in our era – and among the most successful.” He added that since the dawn of the UN, many countries were able to achieve “sustained peace” and conflicts ended through respect and law.  

I would argue that a focus on human rights and respect for the law is not enough to bring peace to the world and put an end to all conflict, and this is where the ideals of WFWP are much needed. 

We must bring our revolutionary ideas to the High Commissioner and before the assembly of government and NGO representatives around the world, who all gather at this Human Rights Council in Geneva year after year. 

Special rapporteurs write their reports and resolutions are passed, but these bureaucratic moves are not always taken into account by the addressed nations. 

Clearly, different tactics need to be employed to reach these countries’ leaders. Embracing them with a mother’s heart and teaching them the value of true love in practice is what WFWP can bring to the table.

I think that WFWP needs to make its voice heard through bold written and oral statements prepared ahead of the sessions and organize more side events promoting our ideals. 

As an intern, I supported a WFWP side event on June 20 on the topic of peace on the Korean Peninsula, where a proposal was made for creating a meeting place for women from the north and south to work together for peace. The event was well attended, with more than 40 people present, but this proposal needs to be disseminated on a higher level.

Networking is an important part of WFWP’s work with the UN, as is media and public relations. When I was asked to be the media liason during my time as an intern, I discovered that WFWP in Geneva had no social media identity of its own. To get things going, I set up a Twitter account with the name of “WFWP UN Office Geneva”  and started tweeting daily about the Human Rights Council sessions I attended and, of course, about our own side event. Although I had very limited experience, to my surprise, I managed to get a couple of posts into the top trending tweets of the week on the topic of the HRC. 

My hope is that this social media activity will be continued by future interns so that it can help spread the news of WFWP’s involvement at the UN and to aid with networking with other organizations (a number of NGO business cards I received had their social media accounts included). Ideally, there should be someone to manage social media in Geneva fulltime, but in the meantime, it is a project the interns can continue.