Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I have always been strongly opinionated, but not necessarily vocal. I was astounded when I discovered feminism through an essay my older cousin wrote. It encapsulated so many ideas needed in society. But I remained silent. Even though I liked conversing about it at home, I recall occasions at school when a classmate would say something I knew was inappropriate, and I would never say anything back. I was shy but also terrified of the backlash that usually comes with verbalizing strong ideas.

Then, I decided to join my school’s debate club. It was quite frightening, but impressive, to hear the older team members present well-structured, persuasive arguments. I attended my first Model United Nations (MUN)—a debate-style event simulating a United Nations diplomatic conference—only a week after joining the group. I had barely comprehended the document explaining which issue will be debated at the conference, and knew nothing about parliamentary procedure. Nonetheless, I conducted an absurd amount of research on the subject. Fortunately, since the debate was online, it felt less intimidating to me. Still, for the first debate session period, I chose to ignore my trembling hands and gaze solely at my own video square. Yet throughout the committee sessions, I began raising my virtual hand to speak more and more frequently. It became natural. Without overthinking, I was able to effectively arrange my views and solutions. I was overjoyed when I received an Honorable Mention, or third place, in that conference. I still had a lot to learn, but I will always be proud that I took the first step.

Girl Up AIP during a Club activity

Shortly after joining the debate club, I discovered a Girl Up Club at my school and immediately joined it as well. Soon after, the two Club leaders held elections for a board of directors. Among other goals and ideas I had for Girl Up AIP, I recommended organizing a MUN conference. I recognized the immensely positive impact debate had on me and wanted others to have access to the same experience. Although we didn’t have the necessary resources at the time to hold such an event, I never gave up on the idea. When the two leaders graduated, they handed over the Club to me and my friend Mariana. When we discussed the activities we wanted to do this year and I suggested MUN, we agreed we had to do it.

Debate has taught me so much. It helped me acquire the abilities I felt I needed to make a difference: leadership, resourcefulness, problem-solving, public speaking, research, critical thinking and analysis, and various social skills. Debate provides a safe space for people to learn from others and practice diplomacy via trial and error. It trains you to examine issues, brainstorm effective solutions, and speak up for progress.

However, most conferences or debate classes are moderately expensive. The last MUN I participated in cost USD $180 per delegate. Many people simply can’t afford this. Yet, everyone deserves the opportunity to understand and practice contemporary political procedures and challenges. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be acknowledged for their abilities. Everyone deserves the opportunity to seek a better future. That’s what SOUL MUN represents.

The mission of the Symposium Of United Leaders Model United Nations, or SOUL MUN, is to provide greater accessibility in debate and to spotlight often overlooked subjects that disproportionally affect women and minority groups, including indigenous people, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups. SOUL MUN is about bringing to light these topics that must be tackled and debating them in a secure environment.

To be held on October 7-9, 2022 via an online Discord server, SOUL MUN is a free, two-day conference open to all Girl Up leaders worldwide in 6th to 12th grade. Out of the 10 different committees—ranging from general assemblies, eco-social councils, and specialized agencies—two will be in Spanish and the rest will be in English. The bilingual conference begins with an optional session of parliamentary procedure training for new debaters and anyone who wishes to understand the MUN format, and is followed by two official days of debate. Within the server, there will be a section that provides different delegate resources, such as pamphlets explaining parliamentary procedure, how position papers and resolutions are written, and how crisis notes are used in crisis debates. At the end of the conference, there will be a presentation of individual delegate and team delegation awards to recognize the hard work and incredible performance of so many involved.

I, along with the entire SOUL MUN team, cannot wait to see delegates learn from each other’s unique perspectives. I’ve met the most incredible people from around the world (including other Girl Up members!) at international debate conferences. Regardless of where they’re from, debate kids all share a passion for advocacy and that’s what MUN is about. Debate is truly an incredible resource for the activists of our future.

Adriana is a Girl Up leader from Panama and the Secretary-General of the Symposium of United Leaders Model United Nations 2022. More information on SOUL MUN can be found on their website or Instagram. To apply as an individual delegate or a group delegation, click here.

Since the goal of SOUL MUN is to give young activists and advocates an opportunity to learn and be recognized for their talent, they are also working with and looking for local conference ambassadors. These ambassadors are tasked with sharing the conference with their local schools, debate clubs, and Girl Up Clubs with the hope that everyone who is seeking an opportunity like this one, can find it. Anyone can apply to be a local conference ambassador, regardless of gender, sexual identity, geographic location, or age. If interested, please email soulmodelun@gmail.com for an application.

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