I am because they did…

My name is Sthela Gun Holly Hanitrinirina, I am 24 years old, Volunteer Youth Liaison in Malagasy Lutheran Church. This was my first experience in United Nation and at the Commission for Status of Women.

Women Department at Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Women Department at Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

20 years ago, when I was 4 years old, 5,000 men and women, was gathered in Beijing, China for the 4th world Conference of Women. Now it is, 2015, I am 24, and we are celebrated the Beijing Platform at the Commission for the status of Women CSW 59. Being in the CSW 59 is witnessed the effort of many women, 20 years ago, and heard that the world is moving toward change even if it is slowly. Change is two steps forward and one step back.  If I have greater ability to vote, speak out my mind, wear pants, know my rights, get education than my 29 years old cousin, it is because I was raised after the Beijing platform 20 years. So being at the United Nation, for the women Status is standing for the next generation. If we want to reach our goal, seeing women, free, claiming their rights, then we must start today, with you and me.

Two months ago, March 4th, 2015, I took the late flight from Antananarivo, Madagascar to New York, United States.  There I was, in the middle of Manhattan, New York, US, representing the the voice of my Lutheran sisters, jet lagged but excited to learn and hear people’s stories. I was at the United Nation, for the commission for status of Women 2015 CSW 59 with the great opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge about women and our rights. One of my biggest challenges was to hear things that are taboo in Madagascar. But it is empowering to know that Madagascar and the other African nations are not the only ones who want gender equality.  It is an issue for everyone from the richest country to the poorest country.

i am 20

During the two weeks of workshop, I focused my CSW 59 experience on Education and Training women and Girls, and Violence against Women (VAW). The workshop, I attended were mostly about Gender Based Violence, breakthrough cultures, women and girls education and women and girls leadership. It is amazing what simple things people do in other countries that, can change the entire world.  A 16 year old girl, from Ecuador, shared about her cooking class for both boys and girls high school. While boys learn to cook and clean, the girls being supportive cook and clean with them. So easy and simple. Also, breakthrough to end early girl’s marriage in India, an approach started in India to end early marriage. It is not the same context in Madagascar, my country, but I do believe that we can take something to learn from the approach, especially to sensitively navigate in the culture.

Explain the Commission for Status of Women and share stories

Explain the Commission for Status of Women and share stories

After two weeks of experiencing the CSW 59, I felt like sponges soaked in the water, I have gathered a lot of information.  For a month, I have wondered how to share this information with other. Finally, the women group leader from a church in Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar heard about my experience and wanted to hear more about status of women. Women’s department from Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar met and requested talk about gender based violence and how other countries deal with those issues and what the CSW’s?    On a cloudy day, Mai 16th, 2015, eighty five (85) Malagasy Men, women and youth  were gathered in Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar  It was little challenging to talk about sexual violence at church because in Malagasy culture, sex and domestic violence discussions are considered only for private life, the people who attended are from a traditional and church context.

Christina (Right) and Sthela ( Left) Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Christina (Right) and Sthela ( Left) Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

I had the great pleasure to invite a guest during this information work. Miss Christina Espegren, a Young Adult in Global Mission, studied about Women and Gender at California Lutheran University and serving for a year in Madagascar. She explained what Gender based violence and talked about gender equality was such great opportunity. I explained what we should do if violence happens, how we can, as a church, be a safe space for women  and Girls, to talk about and fight against a violence that happens in our community. And, starting as simple an action as we can, let’s say, the cooking class, just to teach the children at home or school to know that house

cleaning is for both boys and girls, not just girls. Finally, shared the stories from other women all over the world. People were really interested in the gender based violence and wanted to know how to start a safe space for women in church to talk about the violence that happens in their life.

Now, I have three more presentations to do, for youth, family and my local congregation.

The Right Reverend Chilton R Knudsen, Assistant Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island preached a very moving sermon about Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection, and about its connection to our call to action as women of faith in the UNCSW 2015 and as we go forth into the world.  This sermon was given at the UNCSW 2015 Opening Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center, New York City, NY, March 9, 2015

Text: John 20: 11-18  Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where the body of Jesus was placed after his death on the Cross.  She came to mourn his absence, to remember. She wanted assurance that she could find hope to live the rest of her life without Jesus. Her precious friend Jesus.  Read the rest of this entry »

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As one of the mission visits, Ecumenical Women met with Ambassador Deng, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Sudan to the United Nations on the occasion of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Sister Brenda Smith from the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women was inspired by CSW to share the story of Hazel Kurian, a brave young woman from India who survived a huge accident is now a testimony of God`s grace: Here you find her story:Hazel`s Story

Beth Olker, member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation writes:

UN Women has recently begun #heforshe, a “Solidarity Movement in Gender Equality“.  This movement is being heralded as a transition and solidification of the feminism movement as one whose supporters and benefactors are not only women. The effort affirms that “gender equality is not just a women’s issue” but call it a human right’s issue which demands support from all people.

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The EW-pictures of the CSW59 are now on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecumenicalwomen/.

Please share also your best CSW-photos with us and mail them to: ecumenicalwomen@gmail.com

Events sponsored by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Young Adult Cohort

While we are at UNCSW 59 you can follow the ELCA Young Adult Cohort on Twitter at @elcayoungadults and by using #elcayacohort and #uncsw59.

Learn more about the ELCA Young Adult Cohort.

Faith, Justice, & Culture
Monday, March 9 – 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Tuttles Bar and Grill, 735 2nd Avenue

Connect with young adults from around the country interested in talking about faith, justice and culture. You don’t have to have faith, you need to care about justice, and want to create inclusive culture. Food’s on us; drinks on you.

Worship: To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live
Wednesday March 11 – 8:00-8:45 a.m.
Church Center United Nations, Chapel, 777 UN Plaza (44th street/1st Ave)

Every morning during CSW, one member organization of Ecumenical Women prepares a morning worship referring to one of the 12 areas of concern of the Beijing platform for Action. The topic of the Lutheran worship will be the area of “Education and Training for Women”. On the basis of Proverbs 8:1-11, Lutheran Delegates from all over the world prepare this worship for all who are interested.

Silent No More: How Can Faith Communities Address Sexism and GBV?
Wednesday, March 11 – 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Salvation Army Downstairs, 221 East 52nd Street (bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave)

Every community is affected by gender-based violence (GBV), yet the topic is often avoided, silenced, or at least neglected. People of faith, faith leaders, communities, and institutions can break this silence in their own communities and in society through direct support, advocacy, and prevention. This meet-up is sponsored by the ELCA World Hunger, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and will feature small group dialogue, reflection, artistic expression, prayer and examples of the church’s work on GBV and gender justice. Light food will be provided.

Three Lives of Women 20 Years After Beijing
Thursday, March 12 – 12:30-2:00 p.m.
Salvation Army Downstairs, 221 East 52nd Street (bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave)
Sponsored by: Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches

A series of portrayals of women from Palestine, Kenya and United States. The panel will focus on how women’s lives have evolved since the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) in 1995, and what role faith and faith based organizations have played in this evolution.  The panel will also share examples of how churches and faith-based organizations have impacted the major issues affecting women (poverty, violence, access to land and financial resources, political participation, etc.) within the church, in the public space and at the policy level. 

Events sponsored by Lutheran World Federation

The role of faith in realizing the promise of Beijing: Where do we come from and where do we need to go to accelerate progress on transformative gender equity

Tuesday, March 10 – 9:00 a.m.-Noon
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 619 Lexington Avenue
Sponsored by: ACT Alliance, World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation

Local People, Global Impact: The role of community based organizations in the fight against the Ebola virus

Tuesday, March 10 – 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Salvation Army Downstairs, 221 East 52nd Street (bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave), New York
Sponsored by: Gbowee Peace Foundation, Lutheran World Federation

Women have been disproportionately affected by the Ebola virus. Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee’s foundation provides community-based accurate information, materials, and rapid mini grants to promote education and disease prevention. Join us for a discussion on local women’s initiatives in addressing the ongoing crisis.

UNCSW’s 59th session is fast approaching, and its theme, a 20-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, calls for a review of progress made and challenges remaining over the past 20 years.

While celebrating the successes in the empowerment of women and girls, Ecumenical Women’s joint written statement to UNCSW 59, submitted last October, lifts up four areas where progress remains to be seen: violence and discrimination against women; poverty, inequalities and climate change; education and training of women and girls; women and health – full access to reproductive health and informed decision-making. We invite you to read the statement and add your own voices in lifting up these needs, using your own communications tools and ours.

Your team at Ecumenical Women has been hard at work this past fall preparing for the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Evaluating questionnaire responses, formulating advocacy priorities, drafting and submitting our joint written statement, reconsidering our mission – it’s all been the focus of energetic monthly meetings since September.

Stay tuned for more info about Ecumenical Women’s advocacy and upcoming events for UNCSW 59, the 20-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Two  scripture passages (1John 3:1-2 and Mark 12:28-31 — See below) are at the core of what calls us forth to advocacy, especially to give voice to the concerns and issues of women and girls who do not currently have a voice in this world.  These readings focus on the nature of our relationship with God and how that leads us to be in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

qEesBswvyF70LM_ndDRyxELVCGw4e5ImVIsD5Dh-qRk,IPOx3XROmGnbZS8HNJf8adTTxqs_aR6hO7iDXwerzmUWhat follows is a piece written by Kirsten, a young adult delegate from EW member organization the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to CSW58. For more reflections of the ELCA young adult delegation, check out their blog.

I am always moved by what a group of motivated young people can accomplish in just a few short days.

Roughly a dozen young adults from various corners of the US were called together to observe, listen, discuss and contribute to the United Nation’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women. Each of us arrived with diverse perspectives and a different lens through which we view the world, as well as the issues at hand. What resulted in our time together was a mass of ideas, inspirations and challenges.

I observed what you might suspect. Though we are all called to a common goal of fighting for gender justice, the roads to that goal are long, divergent and winding. We heard impassioned and heartbreaking stories affecting women and girls all over the globe regarding violence, maternal & infant mortality, the fight for education, systemic hunger, poverty and disease. The list goes on and on. These issues are heavy and convoluted, not to mention mired in cultural and often religious traditions.

One of the panel discussions I attended (accidentally, I will admit) asked questions that especially resonated with me. Are we trying to change the world at large, or are we trying to change one person at a time? And how do we go about enacting change, either at an individual or a program level? Changing individuals can be accomplished through training, workshops and increasing the number of women willing to work in and through institutions. Changing perspectives on how to design and implement programs are the seedlings of cultural change.

What happens when we start chipping away at the gender gap? Access to resources as well as food production increases. Hunger, disease and infant mortality all decrease. The relationship between men and women becomes more mutual and respectful. Violence decreases. Human rights are valued.

During our time there, I heard a wonderful example of how powerful a movement can be. Picture yourself in a large auditorium filled with people in their seats. One individual gets up and starts dancing. People think to themselves, “What’s that crazy person doing dancing like that?” Then another person gets up to dance. Then another. And another. Soon the whole group is dancing, with the exception of a few individuals. Now, they are the crazy ones.

So why not start or join a movement? Or many movements? Let us begin reducing the gender gap by getting involved: as individuals, as groups, as cultures.

I ask you to engage this cohort to see what we learned and what actions we are planning to take now that we are home. I assure you, there are many. Ask what groups/programs we encountered; which ones are enacting change and which ones are not. This group of young adults all arrived with diverse perspectives. We left with even more, and I dare say that our lenses through which we see the world are a slightly different hue. I can say with absolute certainty, however, that we are all ready to dance.

-Kirsten

1932224_723683241010103_2080516418_nAgreed conclusions on the CSW58 priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” were reached late in the evening this past Friday, 21 March. To read a statement from UN Women on the news, click here. To read an advance unedited version of the agreed conclusions, click here.

Tina’s Story

Tina Van Ochten, one of the Presbyterian delegates to this year’s CSW shares part of her experience studying math in University and how it relates to this year’s Commission.

Kayleen Sam is an intern with the Salvation Army. Here is the story of her experience at CSW58 and how it relates to life where she is from in Papua New Guinea.

Here is a partial video of the lovely sending song from our final worship. Sadly the camera ran out of battery before it was over, but I think the waving glow sticks make up for that.

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