Akimbo at the UN, and Impressions from the First-Ever IWHC Staff Advocacy in Practice Training

Here at IWHC, we talk a lot about the importance of teaching others how to advocate for sexual and reproductive rights and health.

But as important as it is to teach others this valuable skill, it’s just as important for us to make sure that every single person in our own organization is exposed to these vital tools.

That’s why this past Monday and Tuesday we held the first ever IWHC Staff AiP training right here in our NYC headquarters! During the training, just like in past AiP’s, we discussed key international agreements and why they matter, advocacy strategies, and messaging around the themes of comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive rights and health. There was a lot of information for staff to absorb and consider, but we also did some exercises and role plays to helps us think through various aspects of the work.

Akimbo contributors Lori Adelman and Audacia Ray at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women:   

I personally was grateful to be able to attend the training, which until now I had helped provide support for, but never attended in full. I found it to be extremely useful for gaining a better understanding of the work of my colleague in International Policy (IP). I was fascinated by the intricate details of the UN infrastructure, and floored to find out that, althought the UN technically operates on consensus, countries often participate in negotiations via blocks, or groups of aligned countries. I was also pleased to spend time with my co-workers in such a setting, and felt it brought all of us a bit closer. Below, I’ve shared some of my colleague’s impressions as well.

Audacia Ray, Program Officer for Online Communications and Campaigns, said the following about her experience:

“Having provided support for the AiP trainings and meetings at the UN during the last couple of years at IWHC, it was really interesting to get a deeper perspective on how advocacy at the UN functions. Though the UN seems like a very large, very bureaucratic entity with many agencies and acronyms, most of the advocacy for our issues actually happens one-on-one and is very much about building relationships and knowledge.”

Kelly Castagnaro, Director of the IWHC Communications Program, said: “It was fascinating to learn about the different UN agreements related to women and how they can be used by advocates to forge change on the national level.  The UN is a big place and while governments have busy schedules and many agendas, advocating with government delegates on how they can support the health and rights of women and girls is within our reach.  In this type of advocacy, a thorough knowledge of relevant precedent language is essential, as are excellent communications skills.  At the end of the training, I felt that I had learned a lot but still had much to learn, particularly related to how UN agencies operate and carry forth the content of these agreements with national governments.  Mostly, I left with tremendous respect for and admiration of the many talented advocates around the world who spend countless days and nights at the UN on behalf of women and girls.”

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