Not many people can say they’ve spoken before the United Nations, but one of Augustana’s current seniors will soon have the opportunity.
This month, Lydia Simmons, a Spanish and philosophy major from Sioux Falls, will fly to New York City to serve as a delegate for the Episcopal church at the 62nd session of the UN’s Commision on the Status of Women from March 12-23.
“Lydia has been so active in her church and her interest has always been in women and children, so this is just natural for her.” English professor Sandra Looney said. “She has as much experience as one can have for her age in advocating, planning and being with and for children.”
The theme of this year’s session is “empowering rural women and girls.”
Delegations from around the globe will address the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality in rural areas, as well as develop action plans involving education, microfinancing, sustainable growth and urban development.
Simmons will spend those two weeks advocating, attending UN hearings and building relations with other activists. She says she and the Episcopal church intend to focus on education as a means of empowering rural women, primarily in Spanish-speaking countries
“One of the things that we’re really hoping to achieve is more awareness and partnership on behalf of rural women and girls in areas where the church doesn’t have reach yet to continue to advocating for education,” Simmons said.
Simmons is one of 15 global delegates chosen to represent the Episcopal church and its presiding bishop. Other delegates include university professors, students and clergy from across the U.S. and around the globe. This coming fall, Simmons plans to attend seminary herself.
“Lydia has been a part of the Episcopal church since she was born so she knows the ins and outs of being Episcopal,” senior Laura Wilsey said.
Simmons currently runs a youth group for a Spanish-speaking congregation. In addition, during her time at Augustana, she has worked with people from several countries, spent a semester in Peru and recently traveled to India over J-term.
“Lydia has had experiences abroad that have solidified a perspective on women and children in developing countries,” Looney said. “And she’s very articulate and very energetic, so she will make tremendous use of this appointment.”
Though currently juggling classes, choir and seminary tours, Simmons said, “I’m really excited for the opportunity to see how the UN runs and to see how change happens on a larger scale like this.”