Hannah Sanderson, a 19-year-old leader from Girlguiding Lancashire North West County, has recently returned from the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference in New York.
Hannah was one of the 12 youth members selected by the World Association of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to represent them at this important commission.
We sat down with Hannah to find out more about her incredible experience.
So, what exactly is the Commission on the Status of Women and what does it involve?
The Commission on the Status of Women, or CSW for short, is the leading organisation which focuses on promoting gender equality and the advancement of women. Each year representatives from each of the UN member states and other important organisations come together to discuss, debate, and set out policies to promote the advancement of women.
As the largest organisation for girls, WAGGGS brings a diverse delegation of young women from all over the world to participate in CSW each year. It’s a unique opportunity to bring the voices of young women and girls to the table, advocate for our rights and engage directly with decision makers.
How and why did you get involved?
I’ve always been passionate about gender equality, so when applications opened I jumped at the chance! I was excited by the opportunity to speak out about these issues, and to connect with decision-makers to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
To say I was ecstatic when I found I was going to be a delegate is a huge understatement – I was over the moon that I’d been selected! After that, our training started straight away as we prepared for the conference.
What was the CSW conference like?
Arriving in New York and meeting the rest of the WAGGGS delegation was amazing, as we all instantly connected.
We hit the ground running with training, and developed skills in public speaking, interview technique and policy-making.
The first week of the conference looked at all of the different gender equality initiatives set up across the globe in the UN member states. From this, there was lots of discussion about the different issues that are currently affecting women and girls.
To give you an idea of the wide range of topics that were discussed, there were workshops and talks on; sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement, representation of women in the media, women in politics, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
The whole experience really opened my eyes to the huge scale of issues that girls and women continue to face. I found myself coming away from the workshops with more passion and drive than ever before to go out and make a change.
What did you do as a WAGGGS delegate?
As part of the WAGGGS delegation, we hosted two events about the WAGGGs body confidence and violence against girls initiatives. It was incredible to showcase the amazing work guiding does to empower girls and young women.
What was your favourite bit?
My favourite part was representing WAGGGS’ 10 million members and speaking directly to key government decision-makers to make the voices of young people heard, listened to and acted upon. Being able to have meaningful conversations with politicians and members of the civil service, about how we can empower girls and young women was incredible.
What did you learn at CSW?
I’ve come away from this experience with more knowledge, confidence and inspiration than I could ever have dreamed of. I’ve been empowered to find my voice and have gained a new found confidence. I’m not scared of speaking up anymore – I’m ready to carry on my CSW experience and advocate for women and girls everywhere to create the change we so desperately need to make gender inequality a thing of the past.