Senior adviser of the United Nations Foundation Gillian Sorensen addressed students and faculty on the issue of women’s rights and empowerment last Tuesday.
Sorensen told the audience that the United Nations was taking direct measures to fix the problem of women’s rights world-wide.
“If you’re talking about women’s rights, then you’re talking about the U.N.,” Sorensen said.
Women’s rights and empowerment have been a tough subject for the U.N. since the 1940s. During that time, there was rhetoric of equal opportunities for men and women. Sorensen noted that these principles were not immediately carried out.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the first global convention for women’s rights was held in Mexico City. The conference allowed the United Nations to make women aware that they were “not alone in their struggle,” and that a lot of support was to be offered, Sorensen said..
Still, problems exist today.
Sorensen said women are underrepresented in every country, including the United States. Most of the audience was surprised to hear that Afghanistan has 2 percent more women representing Congress than the United States has.
To change this, Sorensen recommended that more women speak out at peace conference tables, where female representation is most often lacking. She also said a woman’s voice is critical to change jurisdiction.
“With the use of law and human interest, it is possible to achieve equality,” Sorensen said. The current United Nations Democracy fund is pressing hard to include women in the peace process worldwide.
While she didn’t discuss the Iraq war and the value of women in Islamic countries, Sorensen did make it clear that she is not against war. But even within war, there is a dire need for communication amongst leaders.
“In complex situations, we have to use every instrument we have. Including diplomacy,” Sorensen said.
She said even as a superpower, countries like the United States will need to utilize the help of alliances to reach the ultimate goal – peace.
On an ending note, Sorensen was asked whether or not she thought there would be another woman secretary general for the United Nations in the future. She looked into the audience and said, “Maybe in ten or fifteen years, one of you in this room will be that secretary general.”
Kylee Messner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org