Speaking out for gender equality in New York

Attending events, leading sessions on body confidence and making friends world wide, Olivia Hardacre shares her experiences from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York

Olivia Hardacre
27 April 2016

A voice for girls

Earlier this year I represented the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York.

Every year, the Commission brings countries together to discuss women's empowerment and equality and sets out what all countries will do to try and improve the situation for women and girls.

For two weeks every March, delegations from each country and thousands of representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) gather to try and ensure their views are represented on this important issue – and that's where WAGGGS comes in!

WAGGGS is one of the few organisations that speaks for a truly international group of people, with members in 146 countries. We also speak for girls not just women and, with 10 million of them across the world - we have a very powerful voice!

Meeting the other delegates

I was one of nine young women across the world representing WAGGGS at the Commission. We initially all 'met' online and got to know each other while undertaking online training sessions and webinars on topics such as speech writing.

When we finally all met in person at the Commission in New York, we instantly became really good friends and developed a strong bond.

The Commission lasted two weeks and we had lots of roles to fulfil in that time from attending events hosted by other countries and NGOs to asking questions and making sure our voices were heard.

Stop the Violence

I was directly involved in two events. The first was Prevention Education in Action: Voices Against Violence, which looked at the WAGGGS Stop the Violence campaign – currently run in 30 countries worldwide.

We ran the session as an interactive event and asked participants to create a 'wordle' of things they thought would help prevent violence against women and girls. Education and empowerment came top. We then invited a fellow delegate, Veronica, from Kenya to talk about the changes she has seen in her community.

Body confidence

The second event I was involved with was very close to my heart – 'Body confidence and self-esteem: unlocking girls' full potential'. I've been involved in the Free Being Me badge since it first launched in the UK and I know first-hand the difference it can make to girls and how they feel about themselves

I ran an activity on the Image Myth and another delegate and I performed several of the Body Talk role plays – to much laughter from the room! It was interesting, although concerning to see that the myths around body image exist everywhere, and everyone was familiar with the sort of situations we were representing.

Looking ahead

I learned a huge amount during the Commission and now have friends spread all over the world whom I know I can turn to for help and support. I have seen international politics in action and have a clearer understanding of a negotiation process. Most importantly – I know that I am responsible for sharing what I have learned so we can all work for a gender equal world together.

Go on your own international adventure

Have you ever dreamed of representing WAGGGS at the United Nations in New York? Now's your chance.


To attend you'll need to apply to be part of WAGGGS network of Advocacy Champions. The network will include 10 girls from around the world who will advocate for girls’ rights at local, national and international levels. You have until 4 November to sign up and need to be endorsed by the International Commissioner. Good luck!