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Blog: Girls share their experiences at the CSW

Girls Delegation at the CSW.   Photo by Plan staff
Girls Delegation at the CSW. Photo by Plan staff
March 2, 2010

Plan has arranged for three young women from around the world to represent girls at the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The girls will help raise awareness for girls' issues worldwide, and will be engaged in a number of events throughout the CSW, held March 1-12.

The three girls will share their experiences at the CSW through regular blog posts.

Meet the three young women who will represent girls at the CSW


Hilary Clinton's speech on women's rights

March 16, 2010: Posted by Donnady, 16 and YUGA youth

Hey Guys! This is Nikki, Li Hua, Donnady, and Kirby. We just came back from Hilary Clinton’s speech on women’s right and gender equality. It was an inspirational, moving and informative speech that was empowering to all women. She emphasized that we should put our visions of gender equality into action and mentioned specific stories from around the world.

One example that she brought up was when she was in Africa and noticed that most of the work was being done by the women. She mentioned this to a man who then responded, “That doesn’t count.” But she replied saying that if all the women stopped working, their economy would collapse. This brought cheers around the whole room.

Her speech affected us all differently. Nikki’s favorite parts were the previous story and the quote “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” Kirby liked the quote “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.” Li Hua liked the story about a ten year old forced into marriage who fought for her right to divorce before she finally achieved it. Donnady liked the three most important issues that the US is tackling to achieve gender equality. These three were global health, food security and climate change-a step for out world’s progress.

Thanks YUGA for such a great opportunity!


Daily Beast Summit

March 16, 2010: Posted by Donnady, 16

The event at the Daily Beast with Katie Couric was my last event in New York. I felt a little nervous because I know that Queen Rania will be there and that our segment will come after hers. Kakenya* told me “you will shine” to which Yolanda* added “she will be good” and of course there was Helen* who kept saying “just look in my eyes when you are nervous.” But honestly, they are making me tense. The little nervousness grew bigger and bigger.

Then it was our turn. Katie Couric introduced us to the audience and when she introduced me, she asked me for a “hi 5”. The event seemed to turn informal and I felt a little more comfortable. She is nice. Our hands touched.

She started the question with Kakenya -- about her life, the harmful traditional practice in their country and how she was able to get education. Next questions were for Helen and her organization’s work on early marriage, then to Kathy Calvin. The last questions were for me, about my village and our system of education. My favourite question was whether I have a mentor who inspires me to speak up and be a leader. I told her it is my father. The audience clapped. I am happy that I was able to talk about my father, his work in the village and his membership with the Men Opposed to VAW Everywhere (MOVE). Katie Couric told me to relay her thanks to my father.

The last part of the segment was the reading of the Girlafesto with the other girls in the audience. Afterwards, some approached me, including Kakenya and Helen, and said “oh you were just silent but you have that powerful voice.” One woman also came up to me and told me “I hope to see you again, if not, thank you.” My three friends from Rhode Island (Nikki, Liwa and Kirby) said it was amazing. Hopefully, they are right.

Then it was my time to rest, to relax. Honestly, I cannot remember all the names of the persons I met at the event because all that was in my mind was “it is all over.” Thanks to all who helped me. Thanks to God.

Note: *Kakenya and Helen are the two other panellists. Helen is from UNFPA Ethiopia. Yolanda is from the UN Foundation.


A rewarding and inspiring experience

March 4, 2010: Posted by Saba, 17

Hi (extremely happy hi), hi (kind of sad hi)! What a week... has it really only been a week! It feels like a month has passed since I first stepped off that plane. Today was a pretty relaxed day, I didn’t have to get up before 8 but nonetheless I did. Why? Don’t ask. So I got ready and headed out to grab some breakfast for myself, and starbucks for Siham. The day was warm and going for a walk was definitely one of the things I wanted to do. Donnady, Amy and I went souvenir shopping, New York is a breath-taking city and I wanted to get some things for my family. I love souvenir shopping, actually just like shopping in general. We all had a great time, and on our way back we grabbed some buffet style lunch. Lunch was eaten in the hotel room, and then we all just relaxed and hung out with each other.

After Donnady went to go prepare for the boy-girl dialogue while Siham, Amy and I went sight seeing. We found our way to wonderful Time Square, and then to a place a have always wanted to go... CENTRAL PARK! Time Square left me with no words to say and I saw Amy looking at me wondering why I looked so shocked - I had to remind her that I don’t live in a city. We took many pictures; oh I almost forgot we went on a carousel ride! I know its for children... last time I checked I wasn’t a legal adult.

It was good to relax and walk through Central Park. I have always wanted to visit Central Park and I was so glad that I could finally experience this. Even though, I am sure it would look nice in the spring I loved it just like this. So now I am trying to rattle my brain for what I did next... ummmmm, oh yes! We went to the girl-boy dialogue where Donnady would be speaking on a panel. I love to watch my friends participate in events. The event was really interesting because I had never really gotten a boy’s view on girl’s rights and having gender equality.

After the event we headed back to the hotel. I love this hotel, I must say. It is so comfortable. All three of us talked and talked. I really am going to miss Donnady! :( We had the Plan evaluation to go to next. I pigged out on pizza and salad. I really liked how Plan takes into account everything that everyone has to say. I shared my opinions and then we left so we good get ready for bed.

All in all, as much as I love sight seeing nothing can compare to the whole UN Conference experience. Attending the CSW has been really rewarding and inspiring. I hope that in the future I will be able to attend and that hopefully changes will be made.

So I bid New York farewell! Goodbye UN Conference! Goodbye UN Plaza hotel! Goodbye Fifth Avenue, Lexington, Madison Avenue, and Broadway! Goodbye to all the amazing people that I had the honour of meeting! Try not to miss me too much!


Boy-Girl Dialogue

March 4, 2010: Posted by Donnady, 16

What a beautiful day! I am done with my three events yesterday but oh there’s another one -- the Boy-Girl Dialogue at the Church Center at 4:00 to 5:30pm. I took my shower and ate my breakfast. Then I joined Amy and Saba as they walked around to look for a souvenir shop. I requested them to stop at a restaurant where the food is close to what we eat in the Philippines hoping they would like it there. And they liked it! But we didn’t eat yet, we walked, walked and walked. Then we reached the Chrysler Building. Amy told us to get inside and also take pictures with the view of the building. Finally, we saw what we were looking for – the souvenir shop! Saba bought bags, key chain and stuff toy for her friends and family. Then we had only 10 minutes left and we need to go back to the hotel for Amy’s interview. We hurriedly bought food at the restaurant we saw earlier. I ate with Amy and Saba inside their room.

Then it’s preparation time for the Boy-Girl Dialogue. I went to the practice and met with the other youth panellists. There are two boys and another girl. I am from the Philippines, the other girl from the US, one boy from Korea and the other one from Africa. After the practice, we went to the venue to start the Dialogue.

We were six persons in front of the audience, including the two facilitators. Two minutes to start and I’m so excited. A Filipino man approached me and asked me if I am okay for a video coverage by the Filipino channel. Oh what can I say? Ahhmm, yeah, but a sudden nervousness hit me. I’ll be on TV.

The discussion went well with the participation of the audience. Well, after that, the TV network interviewed me and I missed to talk with that attractive guy in the panel. Anyway, I came there to attend the session and do a good job!


Amy's Blog Post

March 4, 2010: Posted by Amy, 17

I’m tired, exhausted, and completely pooped.
Today has been absolutely crazy! Of course, it was the day of the big, scary, and intimidating BAN KI-MOON!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, well. We’ll come back to him in a sec.
This morning’s been filled with tension. I woke up, saw the sky, and the weather was absolutely horrible. Perhaps it was pathetic fallacy for my churning heart.
…. I used the word pathetic fallacy. My English teacher would’ve been proud.
When we got there at the UN building (the amazing Dreeni and I), we met with Roxanna and the other panelists. We waited until literally the LAST MINUTE to go in and I sat in the front seats gathering the stage thingy.
And then, dun dun dum, Ban Ki-Moon came in.
Okay, I’ll honest. I wasn’t able to get that great of a view of him and he looked pretty much exactly like his Wikipedia profile. No dirty secrets there. He spoke and then the Chinese and Norwegian ministers did their thing and talked. I tried my hardest to look at him and sending invisible telepathic waves of “PLEASE MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ME”. But, as I’ve said before, he was too far away from me and I can’t really distinguish his pupil from that far.
So. After like 40 minutes, the Secretary General and his Deputy (this very pretty lady) moved on with their busy lives and left. And all that remained was a panel of amazing women and…. me! I went up there, nervous and excited, and looked out into the sea of people.
If you ever get to speak at the General Assembly room… it’s a BIG room with lots of people…. Yeah. T^T
The moderator did throw a curveball at me and asked me something that I wasn’t prepared for… I THINK I’ve answered that question okay but I suppose everyone has her/his own opinions. I suppose it was a success but I wished I got to be asked a question. >.<
Afterwards, Siham, Saba and I hit the streets, grabbed the burger (don’t do this at home kids, it’s not healthy) and ate it back at the hotel. We were able to chill for a few moments. Siham told us that we have another interview coming. Well, we thought it wasn’t anything big so we went back to our rooms and watched some TV shows for really really really really really young children, like Dora the Explorer and Spongebob. (Don’t judge us! XP)
Well, afterwards, Siham brought us to the UN building and we were brought to this TV control room… We thought it was a radio thing and started to get nervous. Then a guy asked us to go down the hallway…

Yes, even 8 hours after that, I’m still in shock. WE’RE GOING TO BE ON TV! :D
So now I know all the tricks and customs of TV studio. If anyone wants to know, you know how to contact us. ;)
It’s going to be broadcasted on some channel that we’ve forgot but it will be online too 2 weeks later.
… We’ll get back to you on that. :D
Then we rushed like CRAZY to Donnady’s BIG event. (BIG meaning Because I am a Girl, not “giant” or “huge”, etc). We heard some Finnish minister talk, other people that I’ve forgotten… and then Donnady! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear her speak because I had to step out but Saba heard her.
Saba: She was absolutely amazing, and all that she said came from the heart. People were grasping on to her every word, proving that girls have the power and that their opinions matter. She is a powerful speaker!
YEAH. GO DONNADY! :D Well. Saba said it all.
Afterwards, we did some CRAZY quick interview with the Finnish media with the Finnish minister (so cool!) and other newspaper group interviewed me. (Sorry, forgot the name of that group… too many things for my brain to take in. T^T)
(Siham, the “apple” sign on your keyboard looks EXACTLY like hemoglobin.)
Back on topic, afterwards, we RUSHED back to the hotel and changed because we had to be there for Donnady’s third event, which was the UN Foundation reception. We’ve missed her first event, the UNICEF event but we’re sure she did awesome and kicked butt! Once again, she was totally amazing when she spoke and every single word she said has so much meaning and depth behind them!
Well, the reception was okay. Saba and I had a whole convo in French so right now, I’m feeling really pro in French. :D
Afterwards, I was interviewed by Emily for her PhD and, to be honest, that was my favourite interview, just because it was quite informal and it was just a casual conversation.
I went upstairs and phoned my mom, found out I’m on Ming Pao newspaper (>/////<) and catched up on news back in Toronto.
Now, I’m in Siham’s room, having typed this for like 20 minutes. I’ve got to go take a shower, eat my salad and SLEEP!
Before I go, I forgot to say this on Monday. I FOUND OUT I HAD A 2ND DEGREE CONNECTION TO PATRICK CHAN.
Signing out, this is Emi-kun! =)


Donnady's big day

March 3, 2010: Posted by Donnady, 16

This is my big day! I will be in three events, and as time approaches I feel more nervous and uncomfortable. What would they say if I make mistakes? I tell myself they are humans and so am I and there’s really nothing to be afraid of.

Here we go. In the afternoon, before the start of the Unicef session, they prepared lunch for the panellists. I feel so small because all of them are well-known. But the good thing is, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, one of the panellists, told me that among the panellists I have the powerful voice because I am closer to the topic of discussion. I was surprised! I was encouraged to do my best. I gained strength from her words.

So the session started and the first question was for me. I answered it based based on my understanding as a 16-year old. The best thing is I also had to say the last words. Oh, it was so terrific! After the session, some of the audience approached me and told me to keep it up! It was amazing! I did it! And oh, there are still two events to attend to.

At Plan’s side event Because I am a Girl where I am expected to speak on the impact of the financial crisis. As I was delivering my speech, the room was in deep silence. When I ended, they gave me a long and loud round of applause. I cried not because of the clap but because I felt I was able to unlock the voice of many girls in different parts of the world.

One more left... but this is the one which is very exciting. A short speech at the UN Foundation at the Millenium Hotel. Two minutes and I could sleep. So I did it. Maybe I did it well, but even if I didn’t, the important thing is it came from my heart. It is hard to express in words. I thought I could sleep after that. But the questions of the moderator at the Unicef panel is still in my head. It is as if he is still asking questions!


Day of the Girl

March 3, 2010: Posted by Saba, 17

Hey, hey!

I woke up and looked across from me, there was Donnady sleeping, and then I looked the other way and there was Amy. Then a sudden realization hit me…I was in New York! This morning I had my interview live with CHML radio in Hamilton. I had never been live on the radio before and I was seriously nervous. The phone was handed to me before I could even think of what my voice would sound like or more importantly…what I would say. I think I answered the questions pretty well; I talked about Day of the Girl and the problems that I thought girls faced. My family was really proud of me (as they should be).

We went to UNICEF for my “supposed” interview but we had mixed up our schedule and it was not today.  So we went to this café and I ended up having a not so yummy breakfast- warning oatmeal doesn’t taste good. Today was the big day for me because today was our event for Day of the Girl! I was super excited and could not wait to present. However, first we had to rehearse and practice and practice and inevitably…practice.

Mid speech Dreeni walked in to tell me that I had another interview with the Hamilton Spectator! I was shocked, I mean since when was I getting interviews? So I rushed over and luckily I really didn’t have time to hyperventilate. The interview went alright, I felt sort of like a celebrity today being interviewed and such. I learned a lot about interviewing today, only answer what you want to and remember your answer doesn’t always have to be what they want to hear. By the time I hung up the phone, I was filled with enough energy to go back to Siham’s room and kill the participatory activity this time. Anyways, we got pizza for lunch!!! Yes!!

I have to say that I love event time and presentations…maybe it’s the actress kicking in or just the fact that we would be getting our message across to so many people. The event started of with the song “I am Super Girl” and it flew by. The monologues were my favourite part; we stood in a circle “making the world” and turned each time so the next girl could say her part. Hearing everyone’s opinions of why they want a Day for Girl’s was great and the audience was engaged. I am really happy because I think we got the message across and when the time came a lot of positive feedback was given. I greatly appreciated everyone’s feedback and people seemed to want to sign the petition. Of courses, we ended up taking lots of pictures on this awesome statue; I know for sure that these are the pictures that I am going to cherish for the rest of my life.

To celebrate we headed off for dinner. I could tell you what I had but then I’d probably make you hungry. So guess what I did next? Okay, think reception…the Canadian Reception! I’d never been to one of these kinds of receptions so we all got ready and headed off. The reception was in the UN building so it was really close. I love the UN building, there is so much in it and it’s extraordinary- filled with art and sculptures of all kinds. When entering the reception I finally got to meet the Canadian Minister on the Commission on the Status of Women for Canada. She was really nice and we got to take a picture with her. What I found odd at the reception was that Amy and I were the only girls there. I met a couple of people and they all had some message to share. I think that’s what it so great about these receptions is that you can mingle and meet all kinds of people!

On our way out, I looked around just to make sure that I was actually still in New York and I had not just walked out of a fantasy. The life I have here seems unreal and I love every minute of it. Maybe it’s because I am not used to this kind of city with lots of tall buildings and where so many opportunities are available. Being here has giving me lots of chances to think which is perfect because when we got back after the reception I had to partake in a research study. The atmosphere for this was not as demanding, and I felt really comfortable answering her questions. I am getting used to this whole interview process, and who knows maybe this will one day come in handy!

I do not take anything that has happened to me here for granted, even as I sit here and blog. I have a voice and whether you want it or not I am going to use it.
Tomorrow looks likes it is filled with a lot of awesome events- I will be watching my friends rock on!


Seeing the UN in action

March 1, 2010: Posted by Amy, 17 

The UN opening session. A girls-only workshop. A tour around the Big Apple to top it off. And a press interview! What else can a girl ask for?

And that is exactly how I felt the whole day. Today offered me an amazing chance to see the UN in action! Yes, there is a lot of jargon I don’t understand but I pride myself in knowing and getting a couple of jokes here and there. The opening session really opened up an opportunity for me to see how the people at the UN level see the problems in gender inequality and the problems girls are facing today. I definitely can’t wait to come back!

Facing the UN building, high on the 11th floor of the Church Centre, I attend the girls-only workshop. This workshop was, in a word, absolutely fantastic! The girls at the workshop have drafted an official “Girls’ Statement” to present at the end of the UN session! Each one of us got to put our opinions and inputs into the document. The discussion also stirred up some issues girls are facing today and how we can solve them.

But in between, we got to tour around the Big Apple by foot! Yes, despite the wind, the cold, and the aching feet, we all got to see the amazing landmarks in New York. Madison Avenue, the Rockefeller Building, the Fifth Avenue, MOMA, and so much more! The city is, to sum up, absolutely amazing and I will definitely come back!

And of course, the amazing, fantastic, and absolutely thrilling press interview! So there I was, sitting at the workshop and listening attentive when a cautious Siham crept up to me… and told me that, she found out this twenty minutes earlier, I have an interview with a Mandarin Torontonian newspaper in ten minutes.

Well, THAT was unexpected! Was I nervous? Scared? Shocked? Yes, yes, and absolutely yes! But at the same time, excitement was bursting from my chest! Despite the initial trepidation, I was able to take control of myself and, if I do say so myself, rocked that interview by the end! And so, my first ever press interview! (And hopefully not the last!)

Wow, what a day! But I can’t wait for the next! What will tomorrow bring? I don’t know, but I will welcome it with open arms.

Plan representatives meet Canadian Status of Women Minister in New York City

February 28, 2010: Posted by Dreeni, Advisor, Programs and Advocacy, Plan Canada

Today, on the eve of the annual Commission on the Status of Women, Plan representatives met with the Honourable Helena Guergis, Minister of State (Status of Women) for Canada.

We presented the Minister with a copy of the 2009 Because I am a Girl report, Adding it up Girls in the Global Economy, as well as briefed her on Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign and their efforts to have September 22nd proclaimed as "Day of the Girl". Minister Guergis was further briefed on Plan’s two side events at CSW 54, Plan’s delegation of girls and their anticipated participation at various high level panels throughout the two weeks.

Minister Guergis received Plan warmly and looked forward to meeting the girls personally at the Canadian delegation’s reception on Tuesday evening.