“We all have an origin story” By: Tyler Andrade

Like many in history who have came before us, we all wonder what the future has in store. We’ve been told our entire lives that we are capable of anything we set our minds to. Yet, we’ve also had warnings heed us to question the choices we make and to understand the impacts that opportunities can have. Opportunities like the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW#63) has on our development and understanding of global human rights. Unlike many, the unique experience to attend an International commission at the United Nations is both an honour and privilege. Like our superhero’s, whether that may look like a women in a cape, a political figure, an activist, a community member, our family, friends or a human rights defender—we all have an origin story.

Minister Maryam Monsef, one of the youngest ministers in Canadian politics once stood exactly where IIWR-MB youth delegates are today. In 2013, Minister Monsef travelled to New York as a young leader inspired to create a better world for future generations. As a young leader, she had received funding through a YWCA leadership opportunity to attend New York CSW #57. IIWR-MB youth global leaders alike all landed in this city last week to visit panel events and side events all in relation to a global discussion on women’s rights and to put an end to gender based violence worldwide.

As Minister Monsef shared, “CSW #57 was intense. The scariest part was getting my passes and learning the differences between side events and parallel events.”

Like her, we too felt this excitement and apprehension. After landing in New York and struggling to hail our Lyft driver, we found ourselves standing in the terminal with 2.5 hours before the UN Pass and ID office closed for the day. After checking in at our hotel on 51st, we now had less than 60 minutes to get changed and head to the UN grounds pass office to secure our grounds pass for the 63rd session on the status of women. This special document produced a blue rectangular pass that permits CSW#63 attendants onto the grounds of the UN. In short, this pass allows attendees onto the grounds of the United Nations and it “must be visible at all times while on UN grounds”.

With three minutes to spare, we presented our confirmation document and our Canadian passports and were ushered into our respective line-ups. After coordinating with the staff and having our pass photo’s taken by the UN pass and ID office, we headed back into the NYC city streets. It was a Saturday night in New York on the cusp of the largest gathering “on gender equality and women’s rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus, renew commitment and agree on better policy solutions.” (UNWomen.org).

I thought to myself, we still have a lot of work to do and it’s going to be a long week full of intense emotion, rushes of excitement and incredible energy. This is just the beginning in many ways for many of us. If we look to our predecessors, and strong female leaders—like Minister Monsef—anything is truly possible. I stood on the corner of first and forty-fifth staring up at the stoic and virtuous United Nations building and was reminded and inspired by why we we’re here—and why New York. We may be considered youth. But, we too are visionaries who inspire to affect positive change. We too are global citizens and leaders. And as Minister Monsef shared at yesterday’s circle of youth and Indigenous leaders at the Canadian Mission to the UN, “You are the most powerful generation to have ever lived.” And it’s our time to start believing and taking action too.