St. John’s Students Tour UN and Attend Annual Women’s Forum

Untied Nations tour group from St. John's
April 16, 2024

St. John’s University’s Vincentian mission and commitment to social justice were brought to light by a group of University students attending the 68th annual United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women at the organization’s Manhattan, NY, headquarters.

Students invited by Campus Ministry and the Vincentian Institute for Social Action (VISA) visited the UN on March 12 and heard debate on issues ranging from gender equality, female leadership, and gender poverty rates discussed by those in positions to impact change.

“Caring for and addressing women’s issues is caring for and addressing community, society, development, and government,” said Alexia Dolamakian ’19TCB, Assistant Director of Social Justice, VISA. 

The Commission on the Status of Women is among the UN’s most significant gatherings. Held annually over two weeks in March, its goal is to accelerate “the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.”

UN member countries, social organizations, and other entities, including nongovernmental organizations, and guests such as the St. John’s students, were invited to attend. Among the discussion topics were gaps in the implementation of UN policies, such as the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforces the value of gender equality.

Ariana Rojas, a sophomore Biology student at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who was among the St. John’s contingent, was surprised at the complexity of the debates. She was reassured that the gender issues she prioritizes are being extensively examined.

“Certain situations were addressed, and then everyone expanded on each other’s information,” Ariana said. “I left with a feeling of gratitude knowing that people are working together to make the world a better place.”

VISA strives to embed St. John’s Vincentian mission into students’ educational experiences. The UN visit enabled students to connect core social justice concepts to real-life experiences in an atmosphere that can facilitate change.

While at the UN, St. John’s students listened to topic discussions and attended a youth conference. Later, they attended floor debates in the General Assembly, the organization’s primary policymaking body. 

Among the dignitaries the students met was Halley Christine Yapi Bah, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Côte d'Ivoire to the United Nations and a member of the UN-Women Executive Board.

“Students learned how information was shared, exchanged, and used in drafting conclusions and resolutions, and saw how UN policy and international agreements were formed in real time,” Ms. Dolamakian said. “Collaboration in work that allows for justice, development, and human dignity, especially for the underrepresented, is what VISA hopes to curate for our students.”

Dayan Pita Garcia, an international student from Bucaramanga, Colombia who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing Management at The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, said the UN visit inspired her to reflect on social justice issues common to both Colombia and the United States.

“Having the opportunity to attend such a global event allowed me to gain a broader perspective on international topics related to women’s roles,” Dayan said. “I had the privilege of engaging with leading authors globally. It was truly a breathtaking experience.”