The Ursuline Chronicle

United Nations: The World’s Most Important Meeting

Carly Palkon, Senior Editor

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UN members from all over the world are in New York City to discuss global policy during the 73rd gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. Some topics that are on the table among the various committees include ocean preservation, the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases, and the prevention of war crimes. While debates surround these topics, there are discussions that are occurring closer to home.

On September 26th, Johnson and Johnson, in partnership with Women’s Leadership and Inclusion, presented Music of Change: Young Leaders Changing the World, a Lunch and Learn that spotlighted various activists from around the world and the change that they contributed to in their local communities.

The event began with a short speech from Mariela Shaker, a violin professor from Monmouth University, who survived the bombing of the University of Aleppo in 2013. Shaker describes her struggle with leaving her home country of Syria upon her acceptance to Monmouth. She recounts the hazardous journey to the airport, through various military checkpoints and the inspection of her violin case for bombs. She closed out her speech with a universal call to humanity through music; that through music, we can all connect to each other.

Following Shaker, Joannes Yimbesalu took the stage for a fireside conversation on his work as a public health and women’s advocate in his native Cameroon. He began his activism as a result of his childhood. After the death of his father, his mother was forced to move to the inner city, where Yimbesalu and his brothers sold mangoes and bananas to raise money for their school fees. After seeing his mother go through the social stigma of a young widow, including claims of witchcraft, Yimbesalu began to question why men were so cruel to women. Through his activism, Yimbesalu noted that men and boys often felt isolated because they feel that they have been left on the sidelines. Yimbesalu explains that many resources, including educational resources, were devoted solely to girls, when young boys often faced the same issues. When boys drop out at a greater rate than girls, the cycle of the submission of women continues. In order to promote gender equality, there needs to dialogue that includes both boys and girls in the provision of education and basic needs.

Following Yimbesalu, Mary Slessor Sanya, a Kenyan pediatric nurse and midwife, introduced the topic of maternity care in third world countries. In her home country of Kenya, one hospital will often have one or two nurses for forty-five babies in the newborn unit. Sanya explained the lack of options for healthcare in Kenya, including a high mortality rate due to poverty and a lack of education. In order to combat maternal mortality, Sanya advocates for kangaroo care, a form of embrace that places the baby close to the mother’s chest. It has been proven to increase bonding between mother and child, regulates the body temperature of the baby, and helps the baby gain weight. Despite a lack of medical technology, Sanya and other midwives are using ingenious methods to help support their local communities.

The last presenter was a woman named Dee Mphafi, a mobile health service provider in her native country of Lesotho. Mphafi joined the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in 2017. Shortly after, she discovered that she was HIV+. Her diagnosis lead her to become a devoted youth counselor to Lesotho women who are also HIV+. Through her status, she is able to bond with the girls and help them overcome the stigma of being HIV+. works to end HIV+ and AIDS stigma surrounding men and women.


One of the key takeaways that comes from this conference is that the current trend in the international aid community is to allow privately owned companies to help support their own international causes, particularly in the realm of education and healthcare. Not only do private companies typically have many more resources than traditional non-governmental organizations, they also have more control over where those resources are placed. As such, private organizations, when operating ethically, can help support effective change and administer aid that is productive and appropriate. While there needs to be transparency regarding private companies and the administration of aid to prevent corruption, private corporations are an efficient alternative to traditional non-governmental organizations, and should be utilized more.

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United Nations: The World’s Most Important Meeting