Katie Starr '11 Presents Research on Sex Trafficking at United Nations Women's Conference

Thousands of women from around the world recently gathered at the United Nations (UN) to engage in a dialogue on the status of women, and Katie Starr ‘11 was among them. While in New York, Starr presented her research on the sex trafficking of women and girls in the state of North Carolina as a delegate of the 55th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Katie Starr ‘11 presenting her research at the United Nations.

“I chose this topic because sex trafficking goes almost unnoticed in North Carolina,” says Starr. “There is so much power through education and that is what I set out to do through CSW, I wanted to educate people on a human rights issue I am deeply connected to.”

Starr’s road to the UN began last fall when she applied for a research fellowship with WomenNC, a Raleigh nonprofit organization that is working to have the United States ratify the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This is the second year that WomenNC has offered four opportunities for North Carolina students to research a topic on the status of women in the state and present their findings to the CSW.

“WomenNC offers an incredible opportunity for students,” says Starr. “Not only do they offer students a chance to do independent research in the humanities and social sciences, they support students in preparing presentations that are worthy for the UN - for me, it seemed like a dream come true.”

Starr traveled to the UN with three other fellowship recipients. Together, the group comprised a panel representing the status of women in the southern United States and presented on topics ranging from child labor in the agricultural sector to interpersonal violence prevention. Traditionally, students do not present in sessions at the CSW conference. Most of the panel sessions involve nongovernmental organization founders, top researchers, or UN delegates.

“To be in a room where one woman from Mozambique is sharing her experience on technological education with women from France, Britain, and Moldova, while a woman from Bahrain raises her hand to comment, is truly an amazing experience; it shows our ability to share ideas no matter where we come from,” says Starr.

Following the conference, the UN compiles all information that was shared among delegates and drafts conclusions, from which they compile a list of goals to address. The progress will be monitored over the course of the next year and reviewed at the 2012 meeting.

“It was exhilarating to have the opportunity to represent the United States,” says Starr. “When I can again be in an atmosphere where women from around the world can voice their thoughts regarding empowering women to achieve their equal status with men, I will know that I have arrived at a place where I can contribute to social change on the global scale,” says Starr.

Originally from Grove City, Ohio, Starr is majoring in international studies and French, with a minor in Middle East studies. After she graduates, Starr plans to continue her studies on women’s international issues and Arabic.