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Trip gives Penticton teen something to talk about

With her speech on the importance of establishing women
With her speech on the importance of establishing women's access to contraceptives and family planning resources as a basic human right, Dana Johnson earned the right to represent the region on a visit to the United Nations in New York.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

A speech focused on the importance of making access to birth control a basic human right helped earn a Penticton teenager the right to visit the United Nations’ headquarters.

Dana Johnson, 17, will represent the Okanagan this summer during the annual UN Pilgrimage for Youth in New York, where she’ll meet with 200 other kids from around the world who share her passion for international affairs.

The annual pilgrimage is organized by the International Order of the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, a service club with global reach that’s committed to a host of high-minded ideals. To be selected to take part in the pilgrimage, high school students must demonstrate community involvement and win a speech contest.

All four contestants from the Okanagan hailed from Penticton and delivered their speeches earlier this month at the Faith Rebekah Lodge in Summerland.

Johnson built her talk around the November 2012 declaration by the United Nations Population Fund that access to contraceptives and family planning should be made a universal human right. She wasn’t sure how the topic would be received.

“I know it’s a touchy subject, but I believe it’s an important subject,”  she said.

Allowing women, particularly those in Third-World countries, to choose when to have, and grow, their families, is the height of female empowerment and a key to brighter futures, Johnson argued.

“Empowerment leads to equality and equality leads to development and that helps everybody,” she said.

The Grade 11 student at Penticton Secondary will also travel with a school group to Tanzania in July on a humanitarian mission, and besides an interest in music and art, also regularly works as an master of ceremonies at school functions.

That experience with public speaking gave Johnson an edge over her three rivals in the speech contest, one of the judges said.

“They all did a really good job, but she was just a little better,” said Frances Beulah, also the secretary of the host Faith Rebekah Lodge. “She knew her subject matter and she delivered it very well.”

Beulah said the four-entrant turnout was low for the event, which runs most years, but noted the speech contest conflicted with a school play in Summerland and that likely hurt attendance.

 

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