Something More Than Ordinary
The UN through the lens of a youth representative.
Over a year ago, I wrote an article for “Sustain” anticipating my internship with the Loreto United Nations office in New York.
Now, a year on, I reflect on the four months I spent in New York from November until March this year, leaving earlier than planned due to COVID-19. I remember waking up on chilly NYC mornings, catching the crowded subway each day from Brooklyn to Grand Central Station, and walking to my destination – either the IBVM/CJ UN NGO Office on Third Avenue or the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan.
As a youth representative, every single day looked different. Some days, my role was to represent young people within the IBVM and CJ network, particularly sharing stories about the experiences of young women and girls across our global network. On other days, I advocated for youth more broadly.
There was little youth representation at the UN on many issues. I aimed to challenge speakers, presenters, and decision-makers to consider the perspectives and experiences of young people, particularly in circumstances where young people are highly impacted or put at risk by policies and decisions.
On other days, my role was to engage young people within the United Nations and IBVM/CJ networks. This was my favourite aspect of the internship, having now made connections with other Mary Ward women from Kenya, India, the UK, and beyond.
Even though I returned home to Melbourne two months early due to the aggressive COVID-19 outbreak in NYC, I was able to continue my role as youth representative through Friday night online meetings with Cecilia O’Dwyer in Spain, Cynthia Mathew in India, and Janet Palafox in Sydney, hosting webinars with young panelists from all over the globe, and even jumping on a Financing for Development Zoom call at 3:20 in the morning!
The Mary Ward family extends globally, beyond the familiar ‘Loreto’ we know in Australia. It was truly an honour to represent such a vibrant, passionate, and diverse network at a place like the United Nations, and, especially, to represent the tens of thousands of young people connected to Mary Ward.
The IBVM/CJ UN office provides an opportunity to take the stories and experiences of women in the smallest communities in India to the global stage, to help advocate for a better and more equal world for women and girls.
This year the United Nations commemorates its 75th anniversary. The UN is prioritising ways for every global citizen to engage, sharing concerns, challenges, and hopes for the UN.
COVID-19 demonstrates exactly why global collaboration and connection is essential, and why the role of the UN in uniting countries against a deadly virus that affects every human being is critical. If not the UN, who could do this? I encourage everyone connected to the Loreto community to share your hopes for the United Nations here: https://un75.online/.
Author: Francesca Torcasio Barberis
Feature Image: Francesca Torcasio Barberis at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City