Winter 2014 Youth Assembly Day One

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    Well, after the crisis that was New York weather this morning, I finally made it to the UN for my first day at the UN Youth Assembly. As Project Director Patrick Sciarratta joked, “The weather waited for the Super Bowl, but unfortunately it has no time for the UN.” Before I go any further, I would like to thank everyone involved in FAWCO who have given me this opportunity. It is truly amazing. Whenever I walk through the gates of the United Nations I still feel as if I shouldn’t be allowed in. Surely a university student of 21 is a tad out of place. 

    Founded about 12 years ago, the Youth Assembly at the United Nations is designed to create a dialogue between youth groups from around the world, UN staff and members, the private sector, and civil society. At the last Youth Assembly, 1100 youth leaders attended. This is clearly a pretty big deal and one that I think is important if we are shooting for a future that doesn’t include many of today’s ailments.

    Back to the day. It was fantastic. I could really end it there. It was an entire room of people, roughly my age, not just representing an NGO like I am, but also their nations and themselves. The day was broken into a morning and an afternoon session. The first session was fairly introductory. We were welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm by those running the event. They explained to us why it was important that we were here and set the tone for today and tomorrow. To summarize, we are here because it is crucial for the voice of young people to be heard. We will one day inherit this world, whether we are ready for it or not, and it is therefore important that we are part of the decision making and hopefully progress that is still to come.

    The afternoon session was a series of presentations and panel discussions. These presenters and panelists, who were also unsurprisingly young, introduced themselves and explained the paths they took to get here, like Zeenat Rahman, Secretary John Kerry’s special Adviser for Global Youth issues (like I said, this is a big deal). Rahman stressed how important youth issues are becoming to governance. Two years ago, her post didn’t even exist. Now, both Kerry and the President do their best to consult with youth leaders wherever they travel.

    However, the presenter that was the highlight of my experience today was Debbie Sterling.  Sterling is the founder and CEO of Goldie Blox, a company that started with a passionate dream. Sterling’s story began when she was an engineering student at Stanford. She noticed that she was one of the only women in her class and was therefore often ignored and ostracized. She and her friend discussed why this would be and soon came to the conclusion that, from a very young age, girls are strictly exposed to toys that reinforce gender roles like tea sets, princesses, and even ironing boards. So, Sterling decided to create a company called Goldie Blox that produced toys designed to interest girls in engineering. Though starting small, Goldie Blox is now sold in every Toys R’ Us in the United States, they are the number one children’s toy for girls on Amazon, and they even had a Super Bowl ad this year. It is ideas like these that are going to help address the issues of inequality for the years to come.

    As is the norm in these sorts of panels at the UN, presentations and panels were followed by questions and comments. Those in the audience who raised their hands asked really thought provoking question, making it all the more intimidating when I had a question of my own… which remains unasked. What particularly impressed me was that gender equality was one of the first issues raised by the delegates during this period. One of the representatives, a guy no less, pointed out that gender equality, representation, and the eradication of sex-based discrimination must be central to the youth agenda.

    Anyways, this was only the first day. I’ll be checking back in periodically to update everyone on what is happening on my end. Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the role of the private sector and the social ventures of tomorrow’s leaders.  You can also watch the event live at



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