Meeting discusses inclusive mountain development


The Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) was co-organized by Utah Valley University (UVU) and the International University of Kyrgyzstan (IUK) in Orem, Utah, USA on 7-9 October 2015. For the first time, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU successfully hosted this high-level forum. Since holding the first WOMC in 2007, UVU and IUK have been able to transform the event into one of the major gender-focused, grass-roots-level forums in the Rocky Mountain region and at the same time a gathering to advocate the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations in general. This approach was demonstrated again during the 2015 WOMC.

The conference addressed critical issues women and children face in mountainous regions across the globe and focused on eight major areas: Transmitting Family Values, Heritage & Culture; Health of Women & Children; Education of Women & Children; Economic Issues of Women & Children; Climate Change and Gender; Human Trafficking and Exploitation; Leadership for Women; and Access to Information and Public Services for Women.

During the business fair, held on the last day of the three-day meeting, conference participants from Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Peru and other nations built partnerships with local entrepreneurs from the State of Utah in the areas of agriculture, tourism and renewable energy. Conference participants also had the opportunity to visit a Habitat for Humanity worksite to help build a home in Orem, Utah (see photo).

To strengthen the involvement of North American mountain communities with the Mountain Partnership (MP), WOMC included special session for the MP members from North America titled “Mountain Partnership and the mountain-related targets in the Post-2015 development agenda.” Such MP members as The Mountain Institute, City of Orem, Gruppman International Violin Institute, Tatra Mountain Cultural Foundation, Utah Valley University and Vista 360, participated in the discussion and contributed to the conference agenda.

Student organizers contributed to a global social media campaign, “Keep Mountains in the SDGs” to support the inclusion of mountain issues in the United Nations Post-2015 development agenda. In addition, the conference agenda included signing a petition calling for action on climate change in the mountains. Recognizing the outstanding contribution of UVU students for advocating the UN Open Working Groups to include the mountain indicators among SDGs in 2014-2015, Mia Rowan of the MP Secretariat presented “Mountain Partnership Star” certificates to the UIMF. Similar certificates were presented also to Dr. Rusty Butler, UVU focal point for the MP and to Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, advisor of UIMF.

“The Mountain Partnership Secretariat is pleased to have been part of an inspirational grass-roots event driven by youth and local community leaders that generated ideas and provided momentum for action in mountainous areas worldwide,” said Rowan. “WOMC was a great opportunity to share information as well as make new contacts and plans aimed at improving the lives of the men and women who live in the mountains.”

Over 120 people attended the conference, representing the Mountain Partnership, the World Bank, the United States Department of State and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. People traveled from mountainous states, such as Colorado, Montana, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming as well as Washington, DC, to attend. Contributions to the conference agenda were also made by the Ambassadors of Romania and Turkmenistan, scholars, businesswomen and NGO leaders from 17 mountainous nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Active involvement with the conference was demonstrated by such institutions from the State of Utah, as the United Nations Association in Utah, UN Women in Utah as well several female-led NGOs that were part of the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 9-20 March 2015, among others.  

Hosting the 2015 WOMC allowed the UIMF members to expand their coalition by including students from University of Utah and Brigham Young University in addition to a number of volunteers and local community representatives from the Salt Lake City area. Student members gained local and international recognition, valuable professional skills, experience and networking opportunities.. Looking forward, the organizers aim to host the WOMC on an annual basis, alternating venues between the State of Utah and mountain nations around the world.

Download presentations from the conference:
The Post-2015 Development Agenda
Mountain Partnership
The Mountain Institute - Vicki Fenwick-Judy
Tatra Mountains Cultural Foundation
The Mountain Institute - Dr. Jed Shilling

Check out the flickr gallery

Download final document

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News by Utah Valley University (UVU)
Photo: Deann Torsak

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