Webinar for IBVM/CJ Worldwide Network

On Saturday 17 February 2018 we will hold a webinar on the United Nations and our involvement as members of civil society. We welcome the collaboration of Institute of the  Blessed Virgin Mary and Congregation of Jesus.  Cecilia O’Dwyer ibvm and Cynthia Mathew CJ at the IBVM NGO Office, webinar 1New York will host a webinar to include all Asia and Australia and a second webinar for North and South America, Africa, Europe and Middle-East. 

What is it all about?  First of all we invite you to familiarize yourself with three basic documents: Know Your UN – Sustainable Development Goals – Our NGO at the United Nations.  Then think about the questions you would like to ask for clarification or for further information.  Send them to Cynthia CJ at cynthiamathewun@gmail.com. Could you send your questions before Friday 9 February 2018.

Time of Webinar:

Group A.  8.00 am Mauritius – 9.30 am. India/Nepal – 11.00 am. Vietnam – 12.00 Midday, Mongolia/Philippines – 1.00 pm. Korea / Timor Leste – 3.pm Sydney, Australia

Group B. 10.00 am. Chicago – 11.00 am. New York/Toronto/ Peru/Cuba – 1.00 pm. Argentina/Chile – 4.00 pm. UK / Ireland /Morocco/Ghana – 5.00 pm. Continental Europe  – 6.00 pm. Romania/South Africa/ Zambia/Zimbabwe – 7.00 pm. Kenya/ Tanzania – 8.00 pm Mauritius.

Duration of the Webinar: 1 hour.

Some countries have more than one time zone and are not mentioned here.

Do Join us!


Violence Against Girls

We remember girls during these 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.Say NO

We know that violence against girls is worldwide. It is perpetrated on every continent, in every social and economic class, and sanctioned to varying degrees by every form of government, every major religion, and every kind of communal or familial structure. There is no place of complete refuge for the girl child, only promises of stronger legal regimes and more robust non-governmental assistance. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) defines a child as: a “human being below the age of 18 years, unless under the law applicable to that child, majority is attained earlier.”  Forced and Child Marriages entrap young girls in relationships that deprive them of their basic human rights.   Female Genital Mutilation a widespread practice in parts of the world violates a series of well-established human rights principles. Sexual exploitation, trafficking, and prostitution present significant risks to the girl child’s mental and physical health. …”  While UNICEF’s initiative to stop child trafficking includes boys in addition to girls, we know that girls are at far greater risk for certain types of trafficking, including domestic labor and the sex trade.  In several countries, sexual harassment against the girls is prevalent both in the workplace and at of Activism against gender violence. school. Girls who are employed as domestic workers or as industrial laborers are vulnerable to sexual harassment and exploitation by their employers. Girls who attend school are often victimized by teachers or their peers. Crimes Committed in the Name of “Honor” are targeted at thousands of girl children around the world who are killed each year for committing or being capable of committing transgressions deemed to be dishonorable.  War’s most vulnerable victim is the girl child.  This long list of acts of violence against girls in not exhaustive. As  human family we should be ashamed of ourselves to let this happen to the most vulnerable among us.

The Summer Youth Assembly 2017

Aggy is an intern at the IBVM NGO at the United Nations. In this video, she answers questions on her experience attending the Summer Youth Assembly at the UN in New York.

We encourage Loreto Students, past or present, to consider how they would like to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

If you are interested in an internship at the IBVM NGO at the United Nations, feel free to send an email expressing your interest to ibvmunngo@gmail.com .

Additionally, keep an eye out for when the Winter Youth Assembly applications open up: http://www.youthassembly.nyc/2017-winter/



Intergenerational Dialogues on the SDGs

“Intergenerational Solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us” Pope Francis.


The Intergenerational Dialogues took place thanks to the Department of Public Information (DPI) at the United Nations, which ignited a spark between young and old in the quest towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Building a bridge between these two marginalised sectors of the population is key in empowering these representative voices. It is time to have these underestimated members of the community in real positions of power to enact change.


As a Youth myself, I have seen first hand how age impacts one’s ability to be heard. Younger people are commonly underestimated, seen as naïve, unprofessional, over emotional, too idealistic or incapable. On the rare occasions that they are invited to partake in intergovernmental spaces, which are overly dominated by middle aged men, young people often make the comment that they feel more like tokens in these spaces, rather than valid contributors. After having attended the DPI Dialogues, it seems the aged generation have been exposed to the exact same treatment. This is why Intergenerational Dialogues are so important, as it gives unheard voices a platform and an opportunity to prove just how essential they are to Sustainable Development implementation.


The day began with an inspiring opening plenary, featuring a moving violin performance by from mental health advocate and student, Brianna Perez. She played the same violin Joseph Feingold, holocaust survivor, gifted to her.

We have posted a small clip of her performance on the IBVM Instagram.

This musical outlet helped Brianna overcome many of her problems, and has made her more passionate than ever to advocate for physical and mental wellness. Feingold, among many other NGO representatives, gave closing remarks on the necessity for intergenerational relationships for innovation and grassroots action.


6 important conversations were held simultaneously within the United Nations Headquarters in New York, discussing how intergenerational collaboration can be implemented into approaches to:

  1. Poverty
  2. Gender equality
  3. Shared responsibility for the planet
  4. Innovation
  5. Employment
  6. Physical and mental wellness

The day ran so that a registered attendee could only attend 2 out of the 6 dialogues, so I chose to partake in the meetings on Gender Equality and Shared Responsibility for the Planet.


The Gender Equality dialogue had a captivating panel, one being Cody Blattner, Youth Delegate and transgender college student. He brought a new perspective to the gender conversation by encouraging more education and representation of those LGBTQI individuals as part of the gender equality movement, on top of championing for female empowerment.


Blattner sensitively explained that the older generation are less familiar with the LGBTQI term and view it as a “new phenomenon”, thus contributing to their marginalisation. Continual intergenerational dialogues are key to inclusion and growth of both groups, which in turn moves the gender equality effort forward. One interesting idea from an audience contributor was to have the press partner with LGBTQI based NGOs to ensure wider dispersion of information on this under represented group. Another suggestion was to have 2 way mentoring relationships, where just as often as old teach young, we get the youth to educate the aged population in a respectful mentoring relationship.


Janice Peterson was another member of the gender equality panel, who talked about how real change is enacted at the grassroots level. Having worked in small African communities, Peterson has seen first hand how the bottom up approach, beginning with small local programs, has tremendous impact on policy changes and world wide development. Proactive community members are the ones who have broken through many barriers of gender inequality and poverty.


But in true dialogic fashion, the audience was able to speak up and put forward their own contributions, questions and ideas. One respondent put forward her own research on female representation in the media, and how this has hindered gender equality in a big way. The Media is a global story teller in a world that places story telling at the centre of culture. Gender depictions in TV, movies and advertisements are perpetuating gender based norms and leaving aged women out completely. This needs to change if we are to achieve gender equality, as humans are more likely to enact what they see represented in the media.


A young audience participator’s input was most memorable, as it sparked a room-wide applause. The young woman from a gender based NGO spoke up about the importance of interweaving our personal and professional lives in the fight for gender equality. The family is our first intergenerational environment, and should be taken advantage of as a safe space for young and old to engage in dialogues about inequality. Too often, activists leave their advocacy at work, and come home to a family that may still hold outdated beliefs on the rights of women. It is our job to be in a state of lifelong learning and teaching, where we can include the SDGs in our personal life as much as we do our professional life.


Sharing Responsibility for the Planet was the title of the second dialogue I attended. The name alone intrigued me, and seemed like an important topic for a young person who is expected to live in a world that is currently deteriorating.

This dialogue was far more interactive and free flowing than the Gender Equality one, where the moderator encouraged everyone to voice their “pledge” to the whole room. This pledge is referring to an individual’s practical plan of action or behavioural change that they promise to commit to, post DPI Intergenerational Dialogue.

A few pledges included no more plastic water bottles, composting, buying organic, discussing the SDGs in daily life and advocating on social media, going vegan, buying second hand clothing etc.

Making these small changes, it was said, is more effective than advocating for extreme lifestyle changes, as they are more manageable, and if everyone gets involved, could make a big impact worldwide.

Moreover, we should begin celebrating those who are making a difference, rather than shaming those who aren’t. Instead of pointing out those who still use plastic water bottles or who aren’t recycling, we need to lift up the people who are putting in the effort to care for the environment. This will have a ripple effect, as human are inherently reward driven creatures. If more and more people are being recognised for environmental behaviours, others will follow, making “living sustainability” a more enticing and trendy movement.


The Intergenerational Dialogues on the SDGs was a vibrant, energetic and enlightening event, filled with diversity and creativity. I certainly learned a lot, but was grateful to have the opportunity to teach as well. The Dialogic model is definitely one that should be continued on in future United Nations events.


Overall, the day was a complete success, with many visitors feeling their views and ideas were heard and appreciated. Spirits were left high for many, as it was clear that many groups from all generations are working hard to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. This initial bridging of generations is just the beginning of a long lasting, collaborative, intergenerational relationship.

What is it like interning at the United Nations?

When you think of the United Nations, it is hard to conjure up a mental image of what exactly what goes on within those stone walls of the statuesque building on 1st avenue. No matter how much research I did on the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, no matter how many YouTube videos I watched on the internal happenings of the United Nations, nothing could have prepared me for the first week of my internship there.



My name is Agnes O’Dwyer, and I am Australian student interning for the IBVM NGO associated with the United Nations. This means that for the summer, I am granted access to many of the conferences and events held in and around the UN, as well as an opportunity to voice my own insights within interactive panels and meet with extremely influential people.

What an Opportunity-Sometimes I need to pinch myself!



It seemed the 13-hour flight from Sydney to New York allowed for my imagination to run a little wild with what to expect from this internship. I anxiously convinced myself I wasn’t qualified or esteemed enough to even be within the confines of the UN Building. But as soon as I touched down at Newark airport, I was practically thrown into one of the most hectic events held at the United Nations: The High Level Political Forum.


Although the name is less than catchy, the HLPF has been a whirlwind week and a half of passionate speakers from around the world, sharing eye opening stories of how their nation is achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as where their country is in need of help or improvement.


My role was to attend these fascinating conferences and side events, take notes, photos or videos and relay important points back to the IBVM team. I then took on extra communications work with the Major Groups and other Stakeholders sect of the HLPF, as this functioned as the platform for all NGOs into the United Nations system. I posted important points from each day’s proceedings on behalf of these major groups to enhance awareness. Important points varied from statistical data, innovative ideas, calls to action from civil society, empowering and hopeful quotes and reviews of progress.



The key takeaways from the HLPF were that the nations that integrated the SDGs into their policies were the nations that were progressing the most in gender equality, education and poverty elimination.

Moreover, the countries that encouraged the participation and input from youths in the creation and implementation of these policies were more likely to have a diverse, all inclusive plan of action that reaches the vulnerable groups in society.


A trending topic in this year’s HLPF was the necessity for measurable, quantifiable data from states as well as NGOs. It seems that many groups are being left behind, purely because they are not counted in the data, or that the system of measurement is not sufficient. This year marked a strong movement beyond just measuring income as an indicator of poverty. Instead, there is a drive towards a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which takes education, social inclusion, public health and much more as other modes measuring wealth or deprivation.

There has since been a big push towards the training and capacity building of young people in the field of data collection and analysis.


Education has, and always will be, a top priority world wide, but is often overlooked by those who have grown up in a society where it is an expectation that one completes high school at the very least. I realised during these extensive 2 weeks just how privileged I have been in my development.



I was educated within a Loreto Institution which taught me my rights as a woman, and about the work the United Nations have been doing over the decades to achieve world peace. This positive influence is vital to the perpetuation of the SDGs.


Being able to see how developing countries are struggling with issues of education, gender equality and poverty has been truly inspiring, and provides global hope that by 2030, the world will be a prosperous place to live.

Redefining Poverty at the HLPF

Today’s meeting gave powerful, new voices a platform to discuss their innovative and progressive ideas centred on the eradication of poverty.



Day One of the High Level Political Forum at the United Nations touched on how The Sustainable Development Goals take an inclusive, multidimensional approach to poverty that has never been seen in an UN agenda before.

Desperate times call for ground-breaking measures…


Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is the proposed new measurement of poverty, world wide. Wealth is redefined as amount of education, health care, social inclusiveness, violence, deprivation an individual receives, as well as monetary measures of income. This new mode of measuring trends is the radical change the world needs in order to really fulfil the objective of “leaving no one behind”.


With Columbia being one of the first nations to implement MPI into governmental policy, they spoke fondly of the improvements their country has experienced since they have been able to monitor and deeply understand the nature of their poverty crisis, and the drivers for their poverty. MPI allowed for Columbia to make informed decisions on the designation of resources and the detection of dangerous trends.


This more refined data is essential to the overall wellbeing of vulnerable peoples, specifically children. UNICEF spoke about the necessity for this generation of children in need to be prioritised if we aim for the eradication of poverty for the next generation. The reward for investing in today’s children far outweighs the initial cost of investment.


Ultimately this conference shone light on the importance of REDEFINING POVERTY.


Much of aging population are deprived of social inclusion, some middle class families are deprived of decent education, many women are deprived of employment opportunities, some rural residents are deprived of clean water. These are all forms of poverty, unrelated to income.


Much like the SDGs themselves, this new approach to poverty is inclusive, interconnected and multifaceted. We are excited to see a brand new methodology, as change is the key to progress.

How can we combat social exclusion?

The authors behind the “Report on the World Social Situation 2016” answer the public’s questions based on the theme of leaving no one behind: the imperative of inclusion development.


Using the Facebook platform to encourage an online, global dialogue, the authors responded to questions for a full hour on the importance of tackling the issue of social exclusion of vulnerable people.


Here a few standout Q&As:

What are some concreate governmental changes that can be implemented to combat gender based exclusion?

-       Changing norms and the status quo is complicated

-       Empowerment of women should not advocate gender stereotypes eg. increase women’s cash transfer for caregiving. Instead, social transfer schemes should incentivise men to partake in caregiving too.

-       Work with civil society to enjoy the rights to health care eg. building adequate sanitation facilities in schools, or conducting awareness campaigns


Discuss the relation between social exclusion and childhood development, and the role of early intervention.

-       Disadvantages in education, health, employment, income etc is the symptom of the exclusion of these groups

-       Childhood development breaks the cycle of poverty by empowering them to contribute to economic growth.

-       Disadvantage and social exclusion begins between birth and age 3


Social exclusion is the result of “bad governance”

-       Governments play a major in addressing attitudes that perpetuate social exclusion.


Discrimination is the root cause of social exclusion. What can be done?

-       Adopting human rights legislation, with a follow up.

-       Civil society defend grass root society- modify school curriculum to change attitudes to diversity.

-       Human rights commission, criminal justice court and UNDP can play a role in ending exclusion.


Millions of vulnerable children are missing from population data. How can we help end this social exclusion?

-       Addressing the data gap is a key challenge

-       These individuals uncounted and invisible to statistic are most vulnerable

-       Institutions play an important role- census enumeration

-       Improve birth registration


Economic Exclusion

-       Everyone must have access to health care, sustainable education and employment

-       Not all employment and labour helps people escape poverty. An informal economy reinforces poverty.

-       Promote entrepreneurship among youth is essential

-       Macroeconomic policies should not be focused only on inflation control, but should contribute to economic growth.


There is a lack of intersectionality in the decision making process. For example, there is a vibrant movement towards organic produce which overpowers the more pressing issue of food desserts in the US. How can we get those voices from vulnerable populations to take part in the decision making process?

-       DESA is a platform for consensus building among international community

-       Institutions and norms that promote inclusion and empowerment are influenced by civil society, NGOs, trade unions and individuals living in poverty with a voice in the public sphere


How does civil society hold governments accountable?

-       Forming broad coalitions of various stakeholders- pluralistic approach

-       Internet and social media is an important tool- social mobilisation and public participation

The United Nations’ Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking

On Friday 23rd of June 2017, two representatives from the IBVM NGO the United Nations attended an informal interactive stakeholder hearing in New York, where speakers and in-room participates engaged in a dialogue centered on the practical steps which need to be taken to combat the issue of human trafficking.


It was both a moving and informative hearing, with a wide range of voices being heard and celebrated to ensure the formulation of the Plan of Action encapsulates the vast nature of this international issue.


Trafficking of persons is a gross human rights violation and a major barrier to sustainable development. This is why the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is paramount to this discussion. Targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 specifically touch on the the gender inequality and social insecurity that needs to be addressed if we are to move towards prevention.


An eye opening address from Withelma “T” Oritz Walker Pettigrew, a victim of sex-trafficking, spoke openly about the importance of having those who have endured such trauma to be a part of the system that helps other survivors into the recovery stage. Moreover, she honed in on the need for a change in focus. From now on, a SURVIVER CENTRED APPROACH is essential. Using resources to educate, empower and take legal action for victims of human trafficking is a far more-long term solution, and should be universalised to help prevent such atrocities from happening in the first place.


A key quote from the conference was from Kay Buck, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), where she said “this generation of survivors will be our last”. CAST advocates for ground-breaking policies and legislation that goes against the unfair misidentification of victims as criminals. CAST takes a holistic approach to support thousands of survivors, providing counselling, legal resources, housing, education, leadership training and mentorship.


It was reiterated countless times that the heinous crime of human trafficking occurs as a result of numerous social factors and pre-existing vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. These include gender inequality, lack of education and poverty.


The solution to these problems are vast and multifaceted, with the targets of the SDGs doing much to outline the practical steps that need to be taken. Other strategies touched on in the hearing include:

-       A world wide curriculum in every school about the risks of the trafficking industry

-       A change in legislation to a survivor centred approach- ending the penalisation of victims

-       Address the demand for cheap labour and commercialised sex- the business supply chain that exists today is fuelling this demand

-       Allocation of SIGNIFICANT resources, not just the minimum funding

-       Multidisciplinary approach to the prosecution of traffickers and the retraining of law enforcement.

-       Frame the outreach to the wider public that their donations to this cause is a “life saving mechanism”.

-       Empowerment of victims through therapy and legal action

-       Plan a review mechanism for the global plan, to assess progress

-       Having crisis management plans in place for potential natural disasters, as these types of events are directly linked to the increase in human trafficking incidences, due to the desperation it causes. In the wake of a natural catastrophe, an overwhelm at the situation leads law enforcement and authority figures to neglect those members who are at risk of trafficking. Prioritising vulnerable people to this industry in the wake of such disasters is a major preventative measure.


2015 and Beyond: Our Action Agenda

Mary-Eileen Donovan, Ann McGowan, Doryne Kirby, Gerry Graham, Cecilia O´Dwyer, Evanne Hunter.

Mary-Eileen Donovan, Ann McGowan, Doryne Kirby, Gerry Graham, Cecilia O´Dwyer, Evanne Hunter.

“We know the power of people to be agents of change, to change themselves and change their communities”. The inspiring opening session of the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference held at UN Headquarters, New York from 27 – 29 august 2014  opened the way for thematic round tables on Poverty Eradication and Fighting Inequalities, Sustainable Development, Human Rights and Climate Change, numerous workshops and side events. The three day event ended with an equally encouraging Closing Ceremony in which the NGO community present ratified the Conference Declaration. Our representatives joined the thousands of participants from around the world for the event.  Read their impressions in  Update September 2014. The Conference Declaration provides us with a civil society  contribution  as we approach the negotiations stage of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

The Commission on the Status of Women

commissionThe 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will be held at United Nations Headquarters, New York from  10 – 21 March 2014. It will consider the “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” as its priority theme. It will provide a critical opportunity for evaluating the current MDG framework from a gender perspective to better understand the achievements and challenges in implementing the MDGs for women and girls, accelerate the progress in achieving the MDGs and inform the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development framework and the 20 year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  Click here for Introduction to CSW.