Empowering women in health: students participate in UN Commission

Seven Medicine students recently travelled to New York to attend the fifty-eighth United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

20 June 2014

Seven University of Notre Dame Australia Medicine students recently travelled to New York to attend and present papers at the fifty-eighth United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, demonstrating their commitment to global change, violence against women and gender inequity. 

The Commission focused on challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. The agreements reached during the Commission represent a milestone towards a transformative global development agenda that puts the empowerment of women and girls at its centre.

The students were accompanied by Professor Gabrielle Casper, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the School of Medicine Sydney.

“Attending the Commission was an invaluable experience for the students. It really opened their eyes to women’s health and gender equality as global issues as well as the challenges in reaching global agreements,” Professor Casper said.

“It was important for the students, who will be practicing doctors themselves in the near future, to see how progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has advanced in many areas but they remain unfinished and will continue to be relevant during their career.”

The Commission consisted of UN official meetings and high end round tables, government organised parallel events and Non-Government Organisation (NGO) side events. The Notre Dame students had the opportunity to attend UN official events and presented at parallel and side events. 

 “We attended the Opening Ceremony which was an official event and then spent most of our time in NGO side events, which gave us great insight into the challenges and achievements of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, what needs to be done in the future and the role that future doctors such as ourselves can play in that,” Hannah Kluckow, final year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery and Commission attendee said.

“Among the highlights were interacting with the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria because we met young female doctors who are working in hands-on roles in Nigerian communities and learnt a lot from listening to their experiences. The Association is an example of an NGO who don’t just talk to the talk – they’re taking real action in women’s health and are making real change and that is inspiring.”

In addition to a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery at Notre Dame, Hannah is also studying a Master of International Public Health and has previously completed a Bachelor of International Studies.

“I’ve always been interested in international relations but I have returned from this trip to the UN truly passionate about gender equality and in particular violence against women both in Australia and abroad,” Hannah said.

Hannah and her peers presented papers at the conference on topics including sustaining the Millennium Development Goals, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, perinatal care in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and women's health in rural Australia.

Hannah Guilfoyle: Tel (02) 8204 4141; hannah.guilfoyle@nd.edu.au