Category Archives: United Nations CSW

Arrival to the Big Apple

To anyone planning to travel between Boston and New York, I highly recommend taking a bus.  I left from South Station and four short hours (the bus was equipped with wifi) and I arrived in the Big Apple.  I took a cab to my hotel where I met some of the other women participating in the Practicum.  A few of us walked over to the UN (about two blocks) and picked up our grounds passes.

Where the peacemakers take their dry cleaning.

Sculpture in front of the UN

I’ve been excited about this week for months, but I must say that having an official UN pass in my hand made my excitement grow exponentially.  The UN security is all international (naturally) and hearing some familiar and unfamiliar foreign accents, I can already tell that though this experience may temporarily satisfy my wanderlust, I will leave needing to use my passport in the near future.

This evening, over New York-style pizza, we each started to learn the names of the other 22 practicum participants.  We are a diverse group coming from all parts of the country with different academic backgrounds and interests.  The group is mix of undergraduate and graduate students, and I know there is a lot we can learn from each other.

Tomorrow we will have a day of orientation, but we began to discuss some of the ideas and themes of the week.  The United Nations has designated the priority theme of the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women as “Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.”  Our discussion tonight got me thinking about my experiences of science and technology and how these have influenced my direction, both academically and otherwise.

55th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women

As a sophomore in college, I was pre-med and had every intention of going to medical school.  With Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and Organic Chemistry on my schedule, I decided to round things out with French Literature. It seemed like a great idea until I sat through one class of French Literature — not my thing.  I quickly researched my other course options and decided that my best option was to pick up Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies (WAGS).  From the course description, I figured it would hold my interest more than my a close relationship with my French dictionary.

After running around campus to get my course change paperwork signed (and after my French professor lovingly slammed his door on me when I asked him to sign the form), I walked into Intro to WAGS five minutes late.  The desks were arranged in a circle and there was an index card on each desk.  What had I gotten myself into?  I was a science student and used to lecture halls with podiums where the professor poured his (yes, only his — I never had a female science professor) knowledge about hydrogen bonds or the Krebs cycle into our clueless minds.  The desks in WAGS were in a circle.I was the only science student in the course, and to be honest, I had never thought much about gender.

My first assignment was to think about gender.  For three days, we were required to keep journal about the ways that our lives involved or were affected by gender.  For example, I would write down that I went into the women’s bathroom or that I checked the “female” box on an application.  As I kept a list, I realized that the part of my life that made me most conscious of my gender was the science lab.

My academic life soon felt like two conflicting worlds.  But when your life is pulling you in two directions, you make it work until it works out.  Though I dearly loved the WAGS program at the first college I attended, I transferred to Loyola University Chicago to complete a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies.  This diverse academic background along with study abroad in India, Spain, and Morocco led to my current interest in global women’s health.  So here I am, in graduate school for Women’s Health (and thankful I didn’t have a love for French literature).

Click here to read “I’m Not in Lab to Wash Dishes,” the paper I wrote as a college sophomore.

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NY-bound

Tomorrow I will travel to New York to attend the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations.  I am very fortunate to be participating in the Practicum in Advocacy at the United Nations sponsored by Suffolk University’s Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and the National Women’s Studies Association, with assistance from Physicians for Human Rights.  The practicum, a week-long program that takes place during the Commission on the Status of Women, provides 23 students with the opportunity to observe how the UN works to address issues requiring multilateral engagement and coordinated action between governments and civil society groups.  (For a more detailed description of the practicum see my previous post or Suffolk University’s press release.)

I am looking forward to an intense week of learning and networking and am very excited to share my experiences.  In addition to blogging here, I will be posting updates on Twitter throughout the week, so please follow me: @m_pomerleau.  (You can also view my most recent updates on the right side of this page.)

As always, I welcome your comments and questions and thank you for reading.

Suffolk Graduate Student Heads to U.N. to Learn Advocacy Skills at Commission on the Status of Women Conference

BOSTON – Michelle Pomerleau, a student in the Master of Arts in Women’s Health program at Suffolk University, will gain experience in the art of advocacy as a delegate to the annual Commission on the Status of Women meetings to be held from Feb. 22-March 4, 2011 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Pomerleau is one of 23 women students chosen from across the nation to participate in the Practicum in Advocacy at the United Nations, a week-long program which offers an opportunity to observe how the UN works to address issues requiring multilateral engagement and coordinated action between governments and civil society groups.

This year, the Commission’s priority theme is “access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology”. They will also review last year’s theme that focused on “the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against girl children.”

Pomerleau’s temporary delegate status will allow her to attend official and non-government organization (NGO) sessions, and contribute to the official documentation of both official and NGO meetings.

The practicum on the Commission on the Status of Women is sponsored by the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University, Boston; the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the National Women’s Studies Association, with assistance from Physicians for Human Rights.

“We teach the women how important citizen engagement is,” said Laura Roskos, co-president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and activist-in-residence at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights.

The participants will learn how to network with NGOs, observe high-level negotiations, meet government officials and participate in turning specific proposals into documents that can be adopted by U.N. bodies.

Pomerleau must also create an advocacy project when she returns to the Suffolk University campus.

“This success empowers them to engage in successful civic campaigns on their campus and local communities,” noted Roskos, who with Connie Chow, Executive Director of Science Clubs for Girls, will serve as faculty for the 2011 practicum.

“As a women’s health advocate, I plan to use this opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding about global health while improving my advocacy skills and building international connections,” Pomerleau said.

This will be the fourth practicum at the Commission on the Status of Women. The CSW focuses on gender equality and the advancement of women, with the U.N. drawing representatives of governments to address the problems facing women around the world. This year more than 3,000 registered representatives from NGOs will lobby the delegates about current issues and work to put new ideas on the table. The NGOs engage in and host hundreds of events, such as performances and panel discussions directed at the local, national and international issues affecting women.

See Suffolk University’s press release here.