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LGW at the UN NGO Briefing for Women Empowerment

Conference on gender equality from an intern’s perspective

By Mikayla Seresinhe

The Legion of Good Will (LGW) was in attendance at the United Nations NGO briefing called #GIRLSRULE, set out to showcase young women leaders in the fields of technology, business, education and more. As an intern at the LGW, I had the pleasure of attending this conference. Since I started college, I have had the desire to help ignite positive change where I can and interning at this nonprofit organization has allowed me to do that. The LGW has taught me the importance of hard work and the need for service that is implemented with love and care.  By holding a General Consultative Status with the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the LGW has been able to share its best practices based on a successful model implemented across seven countries in the areas of education, social, economic, and sustainable development in various intergovernmental processes and conferences.

The women on the panel ignited me with a passion to want to do more and showed me that being a woman in this society should never be a fault, but rather a strength. The conference highlighted the struggle a woman may have, when shifting into the world of politics. Elana Leopold, a founding partner at Seneca Strategies, focuses her efforts on long-term strategic fundraising and political consulting for local and statewide campaigns. She spoke on the adversity some women will face in a workplace dominated by men. As a woman who hopes to one day enter into this world of politics, I realized I would most likely experience this bias first hand. This is a harsh reality as it’s a field dominated by men, but Elana stressed the importance of never giving into the frustration, but rather to always remember to fuel that frustration into passion. She made me realize the importance of failure and how every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow. The LGW has been promoting the advancement of women since 1950, for example with its Baby Citizen program, which is designed to help expecting mothers who are at social or economic risk and ensure maternal health, through workshops and baby essentials.

I learned of the urgent need for the education of girls across the world from Shabana Basij-Rasikh, the co-founder and president of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Afghan girls a rigorous education that promotes critical thinking, a sense of purpose and respect for self and others as she said “As we sit here, there are 130 million girls around the world who are not in school, so you want to end terrorism, end poverty and eradicate the health crisis, we need to send those 130 million girls to school, we need to make that our top priority. This is not something girls can do alone, we have to invite men and boys to this conversation.” I was inspired by the idea, that as women it's our duty to help push forth an agenda that promotes and celebrates our capabilities as fierce females. The LGW fully supports this initiative to provide education to those who truly need it, as it has implemented schools that innovate by combining the student’s intellectual education with ecumenical spirituality. These schools help protect children from the dangers of the streets which involves drugs and human trafficking. As a girl who has grown up in this society, I have struggled with insecurity and have fallen prey to the beauty standards put on by the media. Although I have found solace in the wisdom shared with me, from the strong women in my family and a theme that Mariama Camara touched on: the importance of self acceptance and self love. She is the founder of Mariama Fashion Production, a New York City sustainable fashion brand and the co-founder of There is no Limit Foundation. She stated “ Never give up on your dream and never let the opinions of others change who you are.” This is an idea that needs to be stressed to all girls and women of the world, who are battling their own struggles and inner demons. Women are often made to feel as though they are inferior to men, but what Mariama stressed is that our worth and value is only placed on how we see ourselves and that confidence is something that comes from within.

Laila Zemrani, founder and CEO of Fitnescity, a HealthTech company that aims at empowering people to learn more about their wellness, shared insights into what it’s like to be a woman in the world of tech, another field that is dominated by men. She said “It taught me something early on, the importance of taking risks, in order to change the odds you have to do something outside of the ordinary.” This really stood out to me as I believe what she says holds so much truth, it's important for women to know that it's okay to think outside the box and never let our voices or ideas be silenced. I was truly uplifted and inspired by the moving stories told by all five panelists. They evoked courage, strength and provided all women with the hope that a better future is just around the corner. The president of the LGW José de Paiva Netto states “ Charity, allied with Justice is the fuel to profound transformation. Its action is subtle, but effective. ”This is an important message for all young minds to hear, as the time to get engaged is now! It's our duty to be a driving force against any injustices that plague society and to stand up for a world where all human beings know their value and worth. The action of volunteering and getting involved can help one foster real change, not only in the world, but also in themselves.