Social Media: join montage initiative on facebook follow montage initiative on twitter Share share montage initiative to friends
CSW 61 Event 3/13/17

March 13, 2017

CSW 61 Parallel Event
Written by Klevisa Kovaci

On its fifth anniversary of hosting Side and Parallel Events at the United Nations, Commission on the Status of Women, Montage Iniitiative celebrated the role of youth leadership in advancing gender equality by showcasing its student immersion trip to India. Youth speakers from the Student Advisory Board discussed how the inclusion of young people is imperative in issues of human rights, development, peace, and social justice. Musicians Carolee Rainey and son Gabriel kicked off the event with a musical performance of "Heads Together," setting the tone and inspiring the spirit of working towards common goals together. The singer and cello artist team demonstrated the effectiveness of incorporating and communicating through the arts.

At the Church Center, overlooking the United Nations Secretariat building, the first panelist, Ingrid Stellmacher of Le Menach foundation took the floor to present human rights abuses facing women worldwide -­ and the role that men often play as perpetrators, but also as agents of change in countering such acts. In the face of atrocities like acid attacks and honor killings of women, men interviewed in the Digital Diaries discussed the role of false concepts of “dignity” and “honor” in perpetuating the disempowerment of women. Such leaders spoke up against abuses and stood for the responsibility of fellow men to act for gender equality. The Digital Diaries featured Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Youseff who encouraged his daughter, and other women to “speak up!”; to demand their rights and hold themselves and those around them accountable for their equal treatment and basic human rights.

Next, Mitty Tohma from Women’s Federation for World Peace International, shared success stories of building schools to educate children in India. Indeed, the capacity and courage to speak up begins by empowering citizens with knowledge from a young age – through education. Indeed, the training and empowerment of young people can make the difference.

Switching gears, Montage Initiative captivated the audience with a brief video of its latest project – in which American youth from Fairfield University, accompanied by Montage Student Advisory Board members, travelled to India during a cultural immersion trip with the added element of human rights. The video gave the audience flash glimpses of the colors, sights, music, dance, exchange, and human bonds formed while in Delhi, Vrindavan, Jaipur and Agra – as the students met with Indian college students, danced with locals in villages surrounding Delhi, and performed community service for the widows at Ma Dham shelter.

To share this experience with the audience was panelist and student leader of the trip, Enerida Ademi, whose enthusiasm and appreciation for the bonds formed with the widows of Ma Dham Shelter, touched the audience. Enerida shared her insights into how this trip transformed her as well as many of the students of their trip in giving them insights and understanding into the many issues and commonalities of women all over India.

Of course, the inclusion of young men into issues of gender is certainly crucial in this process. Youth leader, Alvin Jerome, expressed the impediments that women face economically, and in societal attitudes in his home society in India. He emphasized the contribution of culture in perpetuating inequality and violence against women, and how to finally break away from such harmful culture.

Finally, the distinguished Dr. Meera Khanna of the Guild of Service organization brought together all the pieces of the event by illustrating the importance of youth exchange and cultural immersion in understanding global issues of gender and human rights, and in connecting across boundaries. While youth are often marginalized from decision making, they play a key role in the sustainability of organizations and in progressing causes. Young people, upon becoming educated, and learning from practical fieldwork in different settings, use their voice to speak out against injustices, make connections across cultures, communicate their knowledge and experience with others, and catalyze positive change for sustainable and inclusive communities where each can enjoy their rights.