Last week, College freshman Vidya Daryanani attended the UN Summit on the Status of Women.

Along with Wharton and Engineering sophomore Nina Lu, Daryanani represented nongovernmental organization SustainUS. College freshman Ria Desai also attended. The UN Summit on the Status of Women is a gathering of Member State representatives “to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide,” according to the UN website.

Daryanani applied to go the UN summit after a friend sent her a link to SustainUS’s application because he knew of her interest in the United Nations. SustainUS encourages youth involvement in sustainability solutions and other international issues. Daryanani formerly interned at the UN offices in Peru, her home country.

In high school, Daryanani actively participated in the Model UN club. She is part of the International Affairs Association at Penn. She has both staffed and attended conferences to satisfy her appetite for foreign affairs.

Fifteen youth delegates were invited to attend the Summit, where they were allowed to observe several possible open committee sessions. Daryanani sat in on a session of the Economic and Social Council.

Because of the large size and long meeting time of the committee, the chair invited youth delegates to put their names on the speaker’s list so that they would have a chance to speak if there was time.

Daryanani put her name on the list, she said, because she knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. At the end of the session, she was called upon to speak. She chose to highlight the role of parliament in different countries on gender equality issues.

She used Peru as an example. There, men and women are equal in the law, but inequality issues continue to stem from historical gender discrimination. Daryanani spoke about the role of government in changing the general mentality toward gender equality and discussed the importance of education and microfinance loans for women in Latin America and around the world.

Another highlight for Daryanani was meeting the Argentinian ambassador to the UN. After a few sessions, Daryanani approached the delegate, whom she said was very friendly and helpful. “I don’t have words to describe her,” Daryanani said. “She made me believe I could change the world.”

Daryanani said she enjoyed the opportunity to network with important figures. The summit allowed the youth delegates to meet UN ambassadors whose work they are familiar with, as well as discuss their own views.

In the future, Daryanani hopes to get more involved with SustainUS and return to the UN. Eventually, she hopes to work at the UN or some other international organization to affect change.

This article has been updated to reflect that College freshman Ria Desai was also present at the summit.

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