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Updated: Thu, 07/18/2024 - 18:12

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UNITAR #SheLeads4Peace Summer School: An immersive WPS experience in Geneva

The opportunity to be a part of #SheLeads4Peace Summer School at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) came around when I was pursuing my master’s in public policy at McGill University, and working part-time as a Research Assistant for the Research Network on Women, Peace and Security (RNWPS).

The opportunity to be a part of #SheLeads4Peace Summer School at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) came around when I was pursuing my master’s in public policy at McGill University, and working part-time as a Research Assistant for the Research Network on Women, Peace and Security (RNWPS). The program was aimed at advancing leadership skills of young women, with an emphasis on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda. I’ve been involved with the social impact sector for over four years and have focussed on Human Development and the rights of women and children. At UN Women India, I was introduced to watershed UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, on the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls and their role in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. I considered this program as a perfect segue , post my masters to be a part of an immersive experience abroad which closely relates to my work experience and interests, allows me to build my leaderships skills and build connections with a wider network of global young women leaders.

 

The summer school covered a wide array of topics which centred around the role of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding and the need to increase their participation. We met with WPS practitioners, women leading program and policy initiatives such as, Principles for Peace Initiative at InterPeace, International Committee of the Red Cross , UN Women, UNITAR police programme, World Intellectual Property Organization, and women serving at country-specific missions to the UN. They shared insights into the work they do, including personal anecdotes about their career journey. Throughout the program, we were invited to explore our personal leadership styles which I found to be a very helpful exercise and great chance for peer learning. Here we first learnt about existing leadership styles and then delved into self-exploration workshops and discussions in smaller groups, through creative art-based workshops and share-back exercises. We were also given an opportunity share experiences of the challenges we face as women leaders and ask clarifying questions. The experience was supplemented with site visits to the Palais des Nations, International Red Cross, Red Crescent Museum, and discussions on our individual take-away from the experience. The final element of our coursework was a workshop where we were asked to chalk out a career plan for the next 6 months and specify our ultimate goal. Through this exercise, I was able to create a framework for myself and realize where I need to focus my time and energy. These plans were discussed within smaller groups, which accounted for time to ask for comments, suggestions and support on how to proceed on our individualised plans. What made the experience even more valuable was the engagement with the amazing cohort of young women leaders, who were awe- inspiring and motivating in their interactions and group discussions. There was honestly and vulnerability in the experiences that were shared which contributed to relationships that were built through the program.

 

Shifting gears here, I was delighted to have ticked some items off my travel bucket list. It helped to be in Geneva during the Swiss National Day, as the city was adorned in carnivals and fireworks. I got a taste of Geneva in the summer, and its unmatched beauty. I would highly recommend taking a dip on a hot summer day and the sunrise concert at Bains-de-Paquis, short hike to view the La Jonction (where the rivers Rhône and Arve join with each other), taking the ferry to commute to either side of Lake Geneva, picnic at the plage publique de Eaux-Vives, trying fondue and making the most of the Swiss Federal Railway system (SBB) to explore neighbouring cities and countries!

 

I have immense appreciation for our course instructors, who designed a program that allowed us to reflect on our leadership styles and motivated us to open up and familiarize with each other at a deeper, meaningful level. The relationships we developed have gone beyond the course duration and we frequently engage with each other. My deepest gratitude goes to the RNWPS and the vision of its directors, enabling young women to be a part of an immersive WPS program, which not only supports them, but also hones their skillset to take on leadership roles to make an impact.

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