On 15 April, students and locals of all genders, races and ages, will join together in St Andrew’s infamous 601 to engage in the UNICEF on Campus fifth annual symposium event. Through the stress and chaos of planning such an event, the UNICEF on Campus team managed to tell me their hopes for the event, and what this means for the future of the charity at St Andrews.
Following the success of their Szentek x UNICEF event at the Vic, the charity aims to bring its focus back to the aims of the organisation, and raise awareness for underprivileged children everywhere. For one night, 601 will offer a change of scenery from its usual sticky floors and stench of pablos, to offer a lecture panel from a multitude of international speakers. The event aims to “bring together the greater humanitarian community to both educate and exchange thoughts”, through creating a forum in which current and future leaders in the field of child conflict can discuss how to address the plight of children worldwide suffering injustice. Although this may seem less appealing than the nights out UNICEF on Campus have organised previously for students, the team seem energetic and optimistic about engaging the town with UNICEF, through the symposium.
The theme chosen this year is “Children in Conflict: Gendered Vulnerabilities”, a social issue which is important and contentious for any student population. “We chose this theme as the 21st Century has marked a sea-change in gender discourses throughout the world, and now, more than ever, we see how gender dominates and manipulates opportunities, outcomes and consequences”, states the Symposium team. I was able to get a peek at the line-up, and in comparison to previous years, this Symposium features an expert panel of four female speakers who have all contributed in conflict itself, as well as in government, to closer reach the goals of UNICEF.
The first of the speakers is Dr Liita Carney, who is the founder of Kalitasha, a company bringing dignity and wellbeing to women and girls all over the world. She will be speaking about her work with underprivileged girls in Namibia, and how she started an educational movement for the community about menstrual needs. Next will be Lisa de Pagter, who is not only a current student at the University of Leiden, but is also the youngest intern at the UN Population Fund. She is dedicated to fighting gender-based violence, and will share her stories in how she continually fights for sexual and reproductive health rights for all young people. Thirdly, Vanessa Farr (who works as an independent consultant) will impart her experience of working with women in conflict and non-conflict settings, especially the Middle East. This impressive line-up rounds off with Dr Elena Ahmed, an international development expert, leading in policy development on the psychosocial support needs of children affected by conflict. For £8 a ticket, UNICEF on Campus have worked to provide affordable access to these world-class speakers, while generating substantial profit for the charity.
It is clear that the Symposium team have worked hard to engage St Andrews with the charity, and show a real desire to raise awareness for the socio-economic issues children face globally. Despite battling for attention between the more alcohol-infused and glamorous events that St Andrews is known for, the Symposium holds promise of not only bringing together a humanitarian community, but also paving the way to invigorate the presence of a global charity such as UNICEF, in this wee Scottish town.