Centre College Lincoln Scholar Anukriti Kunwar ’22 (Kathmandu, Nepal) was recently selected to represent Women LEAD Nepal at the Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) 63rd session at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, where she was a part of the Teaching Consent and Ending Sexual Assault at School and University panel.
The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body and a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
During the two-week session, representatives of UN member states, civil society organizations and UN entities gathered to discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and platform for action. This year’s theme was “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”
When Kunwar was a senior in high school, she joined Women LEAD Nepal, which is one of the first organizations in that country focusing on empowering adolescent girls to become changemakers in their schools, communities, nation and the world. She was also a member of their Young Women Political Leadership Institute in 2017, and as a graduate of their 8-month long program, she was able to apply to represent the organization at CSW63.
As part of the Teaching Consent and Ending Sexual Assault at School and University panel, Kunwar talked about her self-initiated project titled “Aawaaz: My Voice My Consent,” which discussed the importance of teaching children what consent means and making them aware of their body rights.
“The society I have been raised in is deeply rooted in patriarchal norms,” she explained. “Catcalling and sexual harassment are a very common phenomenon, so much so that the majority of the people believe it is normal and a way of life that should be ignored. The reason why I hold this topic dearly is because, as a fourth grader, I myself was a sufferer of unwanted touching on a public bus.
“To add to that, I have heard and witnessed plenty of anecdotes on unnecessary and unwanted approaches in public and private spaces from people I know,” she continued. “Consent is a topic that isn’t talked about among the majority of Nepal’s population, and thus, a lot of women and girls face harassment, without being able to properly identify that it’s harassment because it has been normalized for a long time. I felt it was necessary to initiate a project that would focus on educating school students of grades five to 12 about consent, body rights and how to be an active bystander in situations of sexual harassment.”
As an advocate for women’s rights and women empowerment, Kunwar said it was a dream to participate in the CSW63 session.
“Being a part of it not only gave me more insights on what policy-makers from all around the world are doing for uplifting the status of women parallel to their country’s politics and culture in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG-5) ‘gender equality’ but it also introduced me to the workings of UN and high-level discussion panels,” she added.
After Centre, Kunwar hopes to work in a foreign affairs department in Nepal. This conference gave her the opportunity to talk directly to the Deputy Ambassador of Nepal to the US and the Vice President of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and question them directly with the plans the Nepal government and CEDAW have in involving youth to reach SDG-5.
“I would like to thank the Lincoln Scholars Program for funding my travel to New York for CSW63,” she concluded. “Also, the support I got from my scholarship advisor, Robert Schalkoff, director of the Lincoln Scholars Program, throughout the process was really helpful as he guided me throughout to make a proper travel plan and make the right decisions. For me, I believe support like this really boosts your confidence in yourself and helps make opportunities more accessible and attainable.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
April 3, 2019