Reflections on the UN Commission on the Status of Women: Empowering Young Australians to Engage in International Diplomacy 

By Kaylee Neil, Menzies Foundation Fellow for the UN Commission on the Status of Women

In March 2024, I was supported by the Menzies Foundation to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City as part of my fellowship with Global Voices.

I was initially unsure of what to expect from CSW68. I wondered: As a young woman and aspiring activist, will my voice be heard among the seasoned activists and policymakers in attendance? Will I contribute meaningfully to discussions on bilateral and multilateral issues?

On delegation, I was fortunate enough to participate in many events alongside the official agenda of CSW68, including high-level side events and civil society-coordinated meetings. I gained invaluable insights into the diverse experiences and perspectives of women and girls worldwide. From hearing firsthand accounts of the challenges faced by women in conflict-affected areas to learning about innovative solutions developed by grassroots organisations, I gained a deeper understanding of the intersectional nature of gender inequality and the importance of addressing its root causes.

I had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions during daily Australian Government Stakeholder Briefings and private meetings with key stakeholders, including Dr Felipe Paullier, Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs at the United Nations, and representatives from the Minderoo Foundation.

However, I was also struck by the need for more youth involvement in CSW68 in an official capacity, especially considering official meetings and negotiations are conducted behind closed doors. With innovative ideas and firsthand experiences, young people often bring fresh energy and a vital voice to discussions on gender equality and women’s empowerment. By neglecting to actively involve young people in decision-making processes, the international community risks failing to address the evolving needs of future generations. Empowering young people to participate in forums such as CSW68 ensures a more comprehensive approach to tackling gender disparities and fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to creating a more equitable world.

Attending CSW68 made me acutely aware of the obstacles and barriers that still exist to achieve gender justice globally. From entrenched patriarchal attitudes to a lack of adequate policies and resources, the road ahead is fraught with challenges. However, the energy, passion, and solidarity I witnessed at CSW68 filled me with hope and optimism for the future. As a young person, I feel a renewed sense of urgency and responsibility to take action in my community. The knowledge and inspiration I gained from CSW68 has only fuelled my determination to advocate for change.

The Global Voices Fellowship program has been a transformative professional experience that has enabled me to develop advocacy and storytelling skills. Throughout the last six months, I have strengthened my communication skills, cross-cultural competence and understanding of grassroots movements and civil society in driving social change. The fellowship has expanded my professional network and equipped me with the tools to make a positive impact in my community and beyond.

I want to express my deep gratitude to the Menzies Foundation and Global Voices for supporting me in attending CSW68. As a direct result of your generosity, there was one more young Australian who was able to gain valuable experience in international diplomacy. Your commitment to young people and investment in the next generation of Australian leaders is commendable and greatly appreciated. 

About Kaylee:  

Kaylee Neil was selected by Global Voices as the Menzies Foundation Fellow for the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68). Kaylee is a paralegal at a specialist Family Law firm in Brisbane and has volunteer experience with organisations such as the Australian Pro Bono Centre and Young Australians in International Affairs. Kaylee has always had a strong interest in international diplomacy and was previously selected to attend UN Youth Australia’s annual American Political Tour in 2020. 

In March 2024, Kaylee attended CSW68 in New York City, where she gained greater insight into the inner workings of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. As part of her fellowship, Kaylee will also produce a policy paper on how Australia can support women leaving violent relationships to achieve financial autonomy through accessible property settlements. Her paper will be published in the Global Voices journal later this year.

Connect with Kaylee on LinkedIn


Are you interested in attending an international delegation with Global Voices?

The Menzies Foundation is partnering with Global Voices once again to send one young Australian to attend the Y20 Youth Summit in Brazil later this year. The Y20 Youth Summit is a youth-led event bringing together young people from around the G20 to discuss and develop the Youth Communique, which is presented to the G20 leaders later in the year.

Applications are open until 31 March 2024.

Find out more and apply