Emerging Leaders at the United Nations

Back L-R: UN Tour Guide, Alexis Stephens, Hilda Cruz, Jo Thompson, Sarah Dwan, Andrea Haller, Cynthia Mulholland, Maria Pearson Front L-R: Jemima Welsh, Virgencita Alegado RSM, Dinah Mwenda, Sister Paula Anamani


Last month Cynthia Mulholland, a 2023/2024 Mercy Global Action Emerging Leader and Institute Communications Team member, participated in the second immersion of this year long program. Cynthia has shared her reflections on this life changing trip.


Our immersion in New York started with the nine fellows from nine different countries all reconnecting in person and catching up since our last immersion in Cambodia in August 2023.


After an opening ritual, in which we embraced the theme of ‘Empowering Women to Lead with Dignity’, we celebrated International Women’s Day with a lunch of Mercy Global Action leaders, mentors and supporters.  We also attended a presentation on ‘Gender Apartheid’ with guest speaker, Malala Yousafzai who shared with us how leaders must codify gender apartheid as a crime against humanity.


Speakers at the 2024 International Women’s Day event were Chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Co-Founder of Malala Fund Malala Yousafzai, CNN Reporter Jomana Karadsheh, Afghan Activist Nayera Kohistani, legal expert Penelope Andrews.


Over the next few days we had the privilege of attending various sessions at the United Nations (UN) as part of the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. One highlight out of many was a session entitled, ‘What Adolescent Girls Want:  Priorities and Solutions’. Presenters at the session included – UNICEF, the governments of the United Kingdom and Sierra Leone, We Are Purposeful and UN Women as well as girl and young women advocates from Mali, Peru, Dominican Republic, Nigeria and the USA. The session shone a spotlight on adolescent girls’ priorities for change and explored possible solutions that can accelerate protection and promotion of girls’ rights.  Click here to see the full presentation.


A common learning from the sessions I attended, was the hardships being faced by women and young girls around the world that include restricted access to education, living in poverty and oppression. I heard heart-wrenching personal accounts of women trying to live in a world that only shows hardship. At the same time, I also heard from many organisations and individuals that are trying to address these issues and create a more fair and just society in which everyone can thrive.  At the core of all of these is a focus on education. Time and time again it was mentioned that keeping girls in school is an essential component of building a better future.  However, we were reminded that achieving better outcomes for women is never just through one solution as there are many pieces to the puzzle.


Prof Azza Karam (Former UN Secretary General of Religions for Peace), Cynthia Mulholland (MELF Cohort 3), Anneke Kat (MELF Cohort 1)


In addition to our sessions at the UN, we also participated in MGA Emerging Leaders Fellowship (MELF) sessions that included an interfaith dialogue (by Prof Azza Karam and Anneke Kat); Mercy Ministry Focus on Haiti (Andi Healy); Ministry work of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (Sister Terri Bednarz ); interculturality and racism (Sister Ivette Diaz); and Mercy Global Action works on human rights, degradation of Earth, Water Justice Coalition and displacement of people (Sister Angela Reed, Izzy Salter and Cecilie Kern).


MELF Participants with  Sister Angela Reed (second from the left) and Cecile Kern (fifth from the left (at the Opening Ritual) of the New York Immersion.


When not attending presentations, we learned about America’s migrant history through a touching visit to Ellis Island. We were also provided with the opportunity to experience the daily life and culture of New York.


Once again, the MGA team comprising Sister Angela Reed, Colleen Swain, Jemima Welsh, Cecile Kern, Izzy Salter and Sister Paula Anamani (and Marietta Latonio who was unable to join us in New York) delivered a transformational and thought-provoking program that I’m sure will stay with each participant long after they return to their home country. It will enable each of us to be women who lead with dignity. I am truly grateful for the experiences and opportunities given to me as a participant of this life-changing program.


The program will conclude in July in Dublin, Ireland culminating in the presentation of each participant’s research project and a visit to the House of Mercy in Baggot Street.


MELF Cohort 3 Back L-R: Jo Thompson (UK), Sarah Dwan (New Zealand), Hilda Cruz (Mexico/USA), Alexis Stephens (Guyana), Sister Paula Anamani (Mentor – Samoa/New Zealand) Front L-R: Sister Virgencita Alegado (Philippines), Andrea Haller (USA), Sister Angela Reed (MELF Leader), Dinah Mwenda (Kenya), Maria Pearson (Argentina), Cynthia Mulholland (Australia).


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