The SSND delegation attending the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women: Sister Arlene Flaherty, OP; Hayley Robinson; Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND; Laura Chapman; Sister Paulina Raymond, SSND; Sister Angela Ezugwu, SSND; Kathryn Roell; Shamae Amore; Tiyara Townsend; Irma Nayeli Rondin-Valle; Susan Taddey; Heather Thomas-Flores; Sister Joan Mukhwana, SSND; and Julie Tatlock.
Energy to take action
After a week immersed in the workings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Mount Mary University students who were part of the SSND delegation are returning to Milwaukee with clear goals and the energy to take action on issues facing women and girls around the world.
Hayley Robinson said that she was moved by the serious injustice that women face in the work place, even in the United States, where they still do not receive equal pay for doing the same job as a man.
"Over a lifetime, women are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars," she said.
Need for education
Sister Angela Ezugwu, SSND, said that the week emphasized to her how essential it is for women to have an education in order to be empowered and speak up for their rights.
"With education, they will be better prepared to take any position that men have,” Sister Angela said.
Yet, in many areas men still face the pressure of having to provide for their families, said Heather Thomas-Flores. They also could benefit from promoting gender equality.
"If there was equal pay and everybody worked together, the household income would be more and maybe men would have a little bit more time to relax or enrich their lives in other ways,” Heather said."
Improving access to healthcare
For other students, quality healthcare for mothers and their children was a concern. After recalling horrific stories she heard about physicians' negligence in parts of the Caribbean, Kathryn Roell said, "There is improvement across the board in infant mortality."
Improving maternal health as a Millennium Development Goal was the "least met" goal, said Laura Chapman, adding that 800 women die daily due to childbirth complications. In addition, 44 percent of the world's population is under age 25, and most of the deaths are teenage moms.
At the end of the week, the students shared their experiences with the SSNDs at Villa Notre Dame in Wilton, Conn. To explain the mission and progress of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), each student spoke with a small group of sisters and shared information about what the United Nations is doing to fulfill the eight MDGs. They also shared information about the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nation’s will promote and fulfill after the MDG deadline in 2015.
The students concluded the presentation by inviting the sisters to fill out the U.N. Global Survey for a Better World. With the survey, the students wanted to find out what the sisters consider the top six issues most urgent to creating a better life for everyone. The students found that they were most concerned about gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, better health care, quality education, affordable and nutritious food, and protection from crime and violence.
Tiyara Townsend summed up her experiences of the week by noting that what she has learned applies to more than one aspect of her life.
“I've learned what power I hold as a woman in my community and globally,” Tiyara said, “and what things I can do now with the knowledge that I have in order to improve the quality of the status of women and also to end discrimination for women and girls alike."
By Machan Bowman