By Christina Callahan ’12
Students in Associate Professor of Accounting Patricia Poli’s, Ph.D. “International Operations of Non-Profits” course had the service learning option of working with Montage Initiative, a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of women and widows in India. As part of their work with Montage, students Sharon Pedrosa ’13, Klevisa Kovaci ’14, and Enereida Ademi ’13 had the opportunity to visit the United Nations as part of the 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Through economic empowerment and peace building, Montage Initiative gives women in India the means to earn a sustainable living, improving lives of their families and communities, and eradicating extreme poverty. Montage was invited to the CSW because of their role in empowering women. Representatives from countries, non-profits, and various activist groups met at the conference to discuss what can be done to empower women around the world and the ability of women as key individuals in lifting themselves, their families, and communities out of poverty.
Klevisa Kovaci ’13 expressed the excitement she felt when visiting the United Nations. “Visiting the U.N. has always been my dream and to be there at a UN-sponsored conference was very unreal and exciting.” Kovaci continued, “There were flags surrounding us, and many different people speaking different languages – it was extraordinary to be around.” Kovaci, Ademi, and Pedrosa, all international studies majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, attended the Rural Women panel, featuring discussions of a variety of different issues including children, women’s rights and nuclear proliferation.
In addition to attending different panels at the CSW, students had the opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions. Pedrosa stated, “We all felt pretty legitimate sitting at a table of 30 United Nations country representatives.” Pedrosa envisions herself working there in the future and felt inspired by all of the young professionals present at the conferences.
Gabrielle Arens ’12, also an international studies major and intern for Montage Initiative, participated in the CSW conference as well. She said, “The conference itself was about the empowerment of women in other countries, but I felt empowered as a student well.” Arens continued, “I had a microphone next to me the entire time and we were all encouraged to voice our opinions.”
After the conference, students attended a screening of the film The War We Are Living, a film about the afro-Columbian war. Students felt connected to the women in the film not just because of the film itself but because many of the women were present to talk about the issues they faced. Ademi stated, “We always hear about them but we were actually able to see and talk to them.”
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