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On Speaking in the UN | Sophia Diane “Soda” C. Garcia (GS 2007, HS 2001, College 2015)

“Ma, I’m flying to New York again to speak at the UN”, this is what I told my mom on a Holy Wednesday when my candidature, endorsed by UN Women, to be one of the Keynote Speakers at the High-Level Commitments Event in preparation for the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Council 1325 at the UN Headquarters in New York City was approved by the Permanent Missions of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom to the UN; the President and member of the UN Security Council respectively. I was asked to share my valuable perspectives on championing young women’s participation in peace processes and what needs to be done to advance the agenda going forward based from my experience as the local coordinator in the Philippines of the Young Women+ for Peace and Leadership, a program of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, implemented in partnership with the Miriam College Center for Peace Education where I work as Project Officer.

This is the second time that I was given the opportunity to speak at the UN in NYC. The first time was in April 2018 where I was one of the panelists at a discussion on the Sustaining Peace Agenda. Almost a year after, I was back in NYC to be a speaker again, but this time as one of the keynote speakers at the ECOSOC Chamber, a bigger venue in the UN which means a bigger audience. Majority of the audience were high-level representatives from around 100 different countries since the event includes sharing their country’s commitments in translating into action the provisions of UNSCR1325. On top of that, the other Keynote Speaker is H.E. Elizabeth Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and recipient of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. I had mixed emotions. I was excited because I am again given the opportunity to share with the international community the YW+PL experience in the Philippines and the initiatives of CPE in empowering women and youth to meaningfully participate in all levels of decision-making processes in maintaining international, national and local peace and security. On the other hand, I was also nervous because the lineup of speakers included a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the President of the UN Security Council. I believe that speaking again at the UN meant bringing the voices of the people—women and youth who I have been working with to the international community and showing the world that we, the youth, have initiatives in creating a just and humane society. These kinds of opportunities remind us that, as global citizens, we can all contribute—whether big or small, in making the world a better place by turning the intangible, tangible.

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