Students attend UN conference to discuss global status of women


Global perspective inspires local change.

This past week, a group of seven Washburn and Washburn Law students had the opportunity to attend the United Nations as delegates for the Commission on the Status of Women in New York City along with faculty Sharon Sullivan and Lindsey Moddlemog. Joined by 10,000 registrants of all ages from all over the world, the group got to be a part of a global meeting of people with a shared conviction to address women’s issues.

“I’ve wanted to go since my freshman year,” said junior Bayley Baker. “This just happened to be the year that it worked out for me to go. I was waiting for the opportunity to present itself, and when it did I was really excited, so I enrolled in the class with Dr. Sullivan.”

For the undergraduate students, this trip was a part of their WTE class with Sullivan. The students received funding from WTE in the amount of half of their total trip cost.

Students can attend most of the conference events for free. However, the delegate status allows people to attend side events and higher-level discussions and debates not open to everyone else. The way this is done is through non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, sponsoring attendees by giving them passes to these events. Sullivan recently became the president of the International Public Policy Institute, the NGO that sponsors Washburn students. One mission of the IPPI is to develop young world leaders in their global understanding.

“The first year that I brought students, the IPPI gave me a pass for one student,” said Sullivan. “Then the next year they said, ‘wow, your students are really smart,’ so they gave me a second student pass. The following year they gave me five passes. This year they said, ‘your students first; how many passes do you need?’ That says a lot about our students who have chosen to go.”

“It meant so much to me as someone who is really passionate about empowering women and girls.” said Baker, “I learned a lot of really valuable information that I can take back with me to campus and hopefully work towards creating a better campus climate for women and girls at Washburn. It meant so much to hear from so many different women from around the world; it gave me a new perspective.”

Within the conference, attendees can go to panels, observations and question and answer sessions. Some of the topics discussed were how to create an environment for empowering women and the effects of climate change on women across the world.

“Something I feel like I can take back to Washburn’s campus is how to create an environment to empower women and girls and give them the tools that they need to empower themselves and the women around them,” said Baker. “It made me look at my own problems as first-world problems. I was hearing about the lived experiences from women and girls who live in very different communities than my own, and it made me recognize my privilege and inspired me to want to help people and create a change starting at our own campus. People like you and me making small changes can be really impactful.”

In her years taking students to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Sullivan has seen the benefits that students receive from attending.

“I get such joy from taking students,” said Sullivan, “and I really try to stay out of their way. I love seeing them really go after it on their own; their energy and curiosity and desire to learn makes me so grateful to be able to offer them this opportunity. And I’m so grateful to Washburn and the WTE for supporting us; because that’s what makes students able to go.”

To hear more about this year’s trip to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City and how you can get involved in the future, the group will be presenting through the Gender Brown Bag series on April 11 at 12:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Room of Memorial Union. Additionally, you may contact Bayley Baker or Sharon Sullivan by email at [email protected] and [email protected].