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Nurses Attend UN Commission On Status of Women  

Nahnsejay Mauwon, '17 and Gabriell Pascarella, '17 at the United Nations 61st Commission on the Status of Women.Nahnsejay Mauwon and Gabriell Pascarella, undergraduate nursing students in the College of Nursing, had the privilege of participating in the United Nations 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. They accompanied Clinical Assistant Professor Maureen Byrnes, D.N.P. who was invited to attend exclusively because of her work to Stop Human Trafficking. Both students were inspired to provide reflections about their life-changing experiences in a blog for Sisters of Notre Dame d Namur, a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations that was recently published to a world-wide readership. Gender equality and the advancement of women’s issues were the overarching themes for the Commission. Among other topics, Mauwon and Pascarella’s blog contains observations on how alcohol and violence are intertwined in countries such as Botswana, which sometimes further extends to issues related to HIV. The family unit was also evaluated for how women’s roles differ based on culture and economics, among other factors, and that character is an undervalued component of education that could provide a better foundation for future leadership potential.

In all, both women were inspired and encouraged to document and speak to the reality of women’s lives throughout the world. This is something they intend to carry forward as part of their work as nurses.

For Mauwon, the experience had a much more immediate effect. “The CWS heightened some of the negative experiences I encountered growing up in Africa. During my early age, I quickly realized that the culture posed major setbacks on young women like me,” she states. “Where I am from, and in other parts of the world, voices of victimized young women are not usually heard.” She plans to focus her future nursing career on working with other like-minded healthcare professionals in further developing preventative strategies that help women live healthier lives, especially in underdeveloped countries. She states as one of her objectives, “I want to work to protect women in these countries from dying when bringing a new life into this world.”

Pascarella has a goal to empower women by example and help them understand that they are capable of achieving anything they desire. She states, “As many of us know, nursing is a field mostly dominated by women. Many of our professors in the College of Nursing are women with a number of degrees and many years of experience. I believe this prepared us for the [Commission] event in the fact that we went into the conference knowing that women can be great leaders, and have so much to offer to the world.”

Mauwon and Pascarella were equally ebullient in their gratitude to Byrnes for preparing and choosing them to accompany her to the conference. Mauwon particularly cites Byrnes’ guidance and passion for the healing arts with helping her to mature personally and professionally during her four years as a student. “I took Maternity Nursing under Professor Byrnes. During our first day of clinical orientation, we were not serious and laughing at every little thing. She took us into another room and, more as a parent than a teacher, told us that ‘Nursing is a special calling. You should be proud to answer that call. You can’t be laughing while people are in pain and looking to you for help.’ That was the day my entire perception of nursing changed. It was the inspiration that got me to the conference.”

Byrnes sense of pride in having been a mentor to so many students is matched only by her commitment to sharing her time and expertise wherever it will affect the greater good of humanity.

Seton Hall was the only nursing school represented at the Commission that day, and their invitation came as result of Byrnes’ volunteer work with Mary’s Place by the Sea, a respite home in Ocean Grove, NJ for women receiving cancer treatment. She was overheard discussing her work with Covenant House and efforts related to human trafficking victims by Sister Jean Stoner, a U.N.-NGO leader for trafficking, who also happened to be there that day. Sister Stoner immediately gave Byrnes her card with the request that she attend the United Nations 61st Commission on the Status of Women as her guest. Thanks to the invitation along with the efforts of Sister Grace Amarachi, the main representative for Sisters of Notre Dame d Namur, who took care of the many technicalities of arranging U.N. clearances, Byrnes, her two students and Mary Ellen Roberts, D.N.P., another College of Nursing professor, were able to attend the otherwise private, limited access event. Quotes Byrnes, “The University’s mission of servant leadership is something I not only practice but instill in the students. This was a pivotal moment for these two young women. Both have a passion for women’s health, and we are launching careers in a very different way due to this experience.”

Nahnsejay Mauwon and Gabriell Pascarella both graduated on May 15, 2017 with their Bachelors of Science in Nursing and are preparing for the NCLEX Examination. Pascarella has a goal to work in a Maternal Child Health unit at a New Jersey based hospital. Mauwon plans to pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing in Nurse-Midwifery to enable her to serve the needs of rural and underserved populations.

Read their blog post for Sisters of Notre Dame d Namur.

Maureen Byrnes, D.N.P., R.N., C.N.M. is Clinical Assistant Professor in the Undergraduate Department of the College of Nursing. She is nationally credentialed as a Certified Nurse Midwife through the American College of Nurse Midwives and the American Midwifery Certification Board. She has received Advanced Practice Nursing awards for clinical excellence and has special interest in the delivery of women's healthcare to underserved populations. Her publications and presentations focus on mHealth within homeless populations of young mothers, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses, interdisciplinary simulation education and historic aspects of nurse midwifery.

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