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Cynthia's Final Project & Reflections

After completing my final project on gender equality and child marriage, I harvested a solid, comprehensive understanding towards child marriage: its status quo, negative impacts, and potential solutions. Although child marriage is not a novel concept for me, I have never paid any close attention to child marriage before. Growing up in urban areas, I feel that child marriage is so distant from me that it solely means news articles illustrating sheer madness. Therefore, based on my own living experience, I made the naive assumption that child marriage must be a rare case in the world, and I also assumed that a few legislations could easily eliminate child marriage. However, on July 12th 2017, a UN meeting called “Guaranteeing Girls' Freedom to Live, Learn and Be Protected” proved me wrong. I discovered that 15 million girls suffer child marriage every year in the world; in Brazil, one third of the girls get married before 18 years old. Along with the information about the negative impacts of child marriage both on the girls and societies, I was astonished. I just noticed that such horrible events are still happening to girls like me all around the world right now. Thus, truly inspired by the meeting, Gloris and I decided to take action by employing child marriage as our main focus of the final project. Through analyzing the problem of child marriage, we wish to present potential solutions and ultimately raise awareness about child marriage, girls’ empowerment, and gender equality.

I also learned to consider issues in a holistic, critical perspective: we do not only investigate the potential solutions to eliminate child marriage, but also we researched the challenges hindering the success of eliminating child marriage. When I first attended some meetings at the UN, I used to be very impatient about the inefficient implementations of social actions. Due to my impatient disposition, I inclined to ignore all the obstacles people would encounter while implementing their solutions toward certain issues. However, after I attended more meetings and conducted my research on girls’ empowerment, I realized the harsh obstacles people have to overcome in order to implement effective strategies and ultimately solve the problems. Therefore, Gloris and I wish to illustrate that the problems are not only child marriage itself, but also the challenges behind eliminating child marriage. As an attempt to fundamentally solve the issues, people have to realize and tackle these underlying challenges as well.

During these two weeks of UN Internship, I am truly inspired to see how people from all around the world express their voices and take their actions through distinctive approaches. Before I came to UN, I thought everything that happens in the UN has to be about foreign policies. I was so excited to observe how each member states react to others’ economic, security, or political policies. On the contrary, since UN conducted the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals these past two weeks, the topics were indeed about genuinely social problems instead of political conversations. I was surprised that I eventually became more interested in the information presented by civil societies instead of state governments. From my perspective, most state governments seem a little disconnected from the social problems; the delegates often stated their national policies that are general, official, and ambiguous. On the other hand, leaders of small civil societies industriously struggle to achieve their goals because they have personal experiences with those social issues. I remember a lady from India illustrated the threats she received due to her identity as a feminist activist. She was so passionate and dedicated in her goals of fighting for women’s rights, and her experiences grant her enough knowledge and charisma to inspire everyone else. Before the internship, I thought I would be “determined” to study and work in the fields of foreign policy, tackling social problems from state governments’ perspectives. Now, I discovered that working at NGOs may be even more meaningful and effective, concerning my ultimate goal of helping others. I profoundly realized that work at NGOs allow people to follow their own ideologies and work hard to potentially change the world. On the other hand, as delegates from state governments, people must represent their countries’ ideologies and voices, instead of themselves’. Therefore, the internship provides me for a brand new perspective of examining the works of NGOs and governments; it might guide me to many new future opportunities that I have never considered before. I will take away all of these new perspectives that I acquired through the internship, which will lead me to become a more sophisticated and critical person.

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