Two UWinnipeg students have returned from presenting at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (NGO CSW) in New York City, NY. Breanne Lavallee-Heckert and Katrina Leclerc are both in the human rights degree program at UWinnipeg’s Global College. They were joined by 10 other UWinnipeg students* who also attended. All the students networked with leaders from around the world including Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister for the Status of Women, Anju Dhillon and the Canada’s Minister for Northern and Indigenous Affairs, Dr. Carolyn Bennett.
This year’s priority theme was Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. Leclerc and Lavallee-Heckert both participated in a panel called Youth Speak Out on Sustainable Peacebuilding Tools sharing their knowledge and ideas.
“While acknowledging the value of having youth only spaces — such as youth councils or boards— in order for the role of youth to move beyond tokenism, existing governance and decision making structures must recognize youth as equals in their governance and decision making processes,” shared Lavallee-Heckert. “Nevertheless, given the experience that I had, I think that progress is being made towards recognizing youth as agents of change.”
Leclerc’s experience was similar, “Through the programming, such as Girl Ambassadors for Peace, we can clearly see that youth are at the heart of our communities and have great potential to bring change,” expressed Leclerc. “I think it is essential to involve youth in every process of peacebuilding in order to develop sustainable peace in our communities.”
Human rights lawyer, UWinnipeg’s Director of the Institute for International Women’s Rights and professor at UWinnipeg, Marilou McPhedran accompanied the students. McPhedran noted, “Global governance is not something one learns from a book. In our human rights program at Global College, we integrate experiential learning with theory. Study trips to the UN happen during high level sessions when thousands of women arrive from all over the world to focus on “lived rights” and students get to see firsthand the complexity and compromise that are staples of international work. As well, UWinnipeg students are trained as rapporteurs before they go so they can bring value-added supports to the international NGOs that need extra staff for their events. This is meaningful “real” work that builds skills and relationships that often lead to opportunities for students long after they’ve e returned from the UN.”
Lavallee-Heckert currently is a member of Plan International’s Global Youth Advisory Panel and the Chair of Plan Canada’s Youth Advisory Council. As an organization, Plan International is committed to improving the lives of children and youth. She is her final year of a four year BA with a major in human rights and a minor in political science. In September she plans to attend McGill’s Faculty of Law.
Leclerc is a Research and Advocacy Intern at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) who is responsible for the communication with GNWP partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. Leclerc is graduating this year from a double major in Human Rights & Global Studies and Conflict Resolution Studies. She plans to do her MA in Peace and Conflict Studies with the joint program between UWinnipeg and the University of Manitoba beginning this fall.
The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), supports the work of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and UN Women. NGO CSW/NY is an untiring advocate with Member States for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls across the globe in support of the work of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and UN Women.
*The list of students that attended (in alphabetical order) :
Breanne Lavallee-Heckert, Katrina Leclerc,Micaela Crighton, David Fanhbulleh, Alexandria Kazmerik, Kristopher Kurus, Jamileh Naso, Patricia Nosal, Noelle Sagher, Mackenzie Van Den Berg, Shayne Wong and Madison Zienkiewicz.