Westfield High School Sophomore Isabella Gelfand prepared and actively participated for the third consecutive year at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). She was selected as one of 10 delegates to the UN CSW on behalf of the Working Group on Girls, a coalition of 80 international organizations which advocates for the rights of girls worldwide. Previously, Isabella was one of 20 delegates selected nationwide on behalf of Girls Learn International, a non-profit organization that supports universal education for girls which has its roots in the Westfield Public Schools.
The major theme of this spring’s CSW was: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. Isabella had the exceptional experience of sometimes leading, as well as participating in, various meetings and roundtable discussions. She co-moderated a panel discussion on girls’ rights and made presentations to various Missions to the United Nations on the issue of Child Marriage.
“I feel that there are so many girl issues that go unnoticed,” stated Isabella, “and establishing a more equal playing field can improve these issues in the world.
“It’s been proven that there is a positive ripple effect in the economy when women and girls are empowered.”
Additionally, Isabella acted as a panelist along with Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, during the celebration in Manhattan of the 10th anniversary of Girls Learn International (GLI). Westfield High School Chapter Leader, Melanie Nettler and Roosevelt Intermediate School Chapter Leader, Deanna Hanchuk, along with chapter members from throughout the country spoke about achievements of their GLI Chapters over the past 10 years. First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, spoke about the importance of youth activism. Honored guests included Lisa Alter, a former Westfield Board of Education member, and her two daughters, Jordana and Arielle, GLI co-founders.
As a result of Isabella’s leadership role and activism in GLI, she was named the recipient of this year’s Marc Wesley Hardy Human Rights Award, named for a former WHS student who was active in human rights and who lost his life in a car accident in 1990. The award is given annually by his family to a young person for outstanding commitment to human rights. Isabella currently serves as the vice president/treasurer of the WHS chapter and a member of the New York/New Jersey Regional GLI Junior Board.
Responding to the recent kidnapping in Nigeria of hundreds of school girls, Isabella said, “It’s not as shocking as a lot of people think. Women and girls are targeted all the time. This has received national attention because of the grand scale, but there also needs to be attention on a smaller scale.
“I am pleased that it is receiving attention, but more steps need to be taken in Nigeria. How much do they care about getting their girls back?”