Laurene is Swiss French. She is an advocate for the rights of children, youth and girls. She has been a NYLESA member since June 2019 

Tell us about your work in addressing gender-based violence. What is your specific work and what makes you passionate about it?

I am a passionate advocate for children, youth and girls, with more than 10 years of experience as a human and child rights expert. I worked in humanitarian and development contexts, in 12 countries, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. It is a fascinating job. I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of practitioners in the field, doing an amazing job to reinforce child protection systems and address issues related to violence against children, and girls especially. I led complex analysis and consultation process with local authorities, families and children. I designed training programs and conducted research on child protection and access to justice for children, including for girls victims of sexual abuse. More recently, I worked on a study to analyse how policies and laws discriminate against women. Many girls and women are helpless, they are not supported and are rejected by their families or communities. I love to work on the causes and consequences, but to find solutions. By strengthening protection systems, prevention and capacity building, we can make sure that this never happens.

What would be your message for the 16 Days of Activism Against the Gender-based Violence?

Gender-based Violence is a cross-cutting priority. Through my experience, I heard so many sad stories. It happens everywhere in the world, all the time. Like many of us, I also have women close to me who were abused, and as it often happens, they were abused by their male family members. They were only 5 years old when it happened. It is sad, cowardly and inadmissible. However, women are often afraid to speak as the systems are not adequate to address gender-based violence and fully protect women. Many women end up closing their eyes and trying to continue their life, with deep wounds, psychological and emotional trauma. Four years ago, I decided to become a professional yoga teacher and had the opportunity to work with a group of girls victims of violence. Some of them were only 10 years old. I organized workshops adapted to their needs, with a lot of humility and kindness, creating a safe space for them to relax and feel better. This is the best experience I ever had. After a few minutes, you could see their happiness, sparkling eyes and bodies a little bit more relaxed. Justice is essential. But I also learnt from that experience that support and long-term recovery is the key. More programs should be developed to help those girls.

Being attached to UN affects our individual lives and the lives of our families. How does it affect your work and career?

I am a great supporter of the UN, especially UNICEF, and of all the great achievements, despite massive challenges. People are often doing an amazing job. Travelling all over the world gave me another perspective. After many years in Africa and Asia, I was surprised to see the situation in NYC. Social injustice, inequalities are sometimes even more obvious here than in the countries where I lived before. Putting back humans at the center, with all our strengths and diversity, is essential. I am honored to contribute to this important cause and will continue to support UN efforts to eliminate violence against girls and women.