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logo-assembly-enAn international gathering of women from across the Lutheran communion at Bogis-Bossey, near Geneva, Switzerland, kicked off the first Pre-Assembly in a series of seven that will precede the Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to be held in Stuttgart, Germany, July 2010.

Referring to the Assembly theme, “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread,” Mr Jaap Schep, acting director of the LWF Department for Mission and Development (DMD) called upon women to prepare a strong contribution on gender perspectives to issues that are on the assembly’s agenda.

Schep expressed his hope that the pre-assembly participants “will not be overwhelmed by the many negative trends in global food production.” He urged them “to create a strong call for this world to become a sustainable community that must” include gender justice.

“Is it not for the same reason that some 2 billion women around the world wake up much earlier than anyone else to prepare for the necessities of the day?” Schep asked participants, linking women’s role in providing bread and the WPA as the first pre-assembly.

Participants in the 27- 31 October pre-assembly include 34 women representatives from LWF member churches in the Federation’s seven regions.

Schep urged the WPA participants to use the opportunity of coming together “to make a strong contribution to the process of preparing yourselves for the Assembly of our communion.”

“The prevailing gender inequality is also clearly present in the context of our daily bread,” said Schep, citing what he had witnessed during DMD-related visits to projects of LWF member churches. “I see in many regions women working on preparation of the daily food … and men usually talking with other men … I have seen food being distributed unequally. And I have seen women, especially mothers, taking the least [portions],” he said.

During the opening worship, women were invited to speak out their names, and to share bread and bowls from their regions, as well as words and ideas that were inscribed on a patch work cloth. The women also remembered fellow delegates from Cameroon, India and Nigeria who had been invited to take part in the meeting, but did not receive visas.

Deliberations at the four-day international meeting include issues of women and power, women’s participation in decision making and women and justice. The participants will also have the opportunity to get acquainted with the LWF Assembly rules and procedures.

The DMD desk for Women in Church and Society has organized the WPA. Five regional pre-assemblies will take place in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America, as well as an international Youth conference, organized by the respective DMD desks.

More information on the Pre-Assemblies is available here.

posted by Onleilove Alston with permission from Alissa A. Moore

I love to shop. I share this passion for expressing myself through layers of fabric, textures, and color with many of my fellow New Yorkers. So once again I am perplexed by the wave of negative emotions that wash over me when entering the Gap, Old Navy, H&M, or any of the other various large retailers peppering mid-town Manhattan. This surge of frustration, confusion, anger, and sadness that has been growing in the pit of my stomach for the past two years becomes almost palpable as I consider the almost undoubtedly questionable or abusive context of these garments’ mass production. These emotions paired with my growing knowledge of modern-day slavery could easily crush me at any given moment as snippets of documentaries, books, and presentations, all describing this growing global atrocity, play on repeat in my head. What keeps my knees from giving way is a thin but sharp needle of hope that I have come to think of as synonymous with Nomi Network. Nomi Network, a non-profit now comprised of about 18 devoted abolitionists who have come together to volunteer their time and skills, has supported and encouraged me as we’ve collectively embarked on our mission to mobilize the fashion industry to fight modern-day slavery.

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Nomi Network, named for an 8 year old Cambodian survivor of sex trafficking, has a special focus on product design while creating distribution channels for goods made by survivors of human trafficking. Its focus on product production and demand helps to create job opportunities for women who need sound economic opportunities in order to support themselves and turn their lives around. A complicated and interlacing web, human trafficking occurs when someone is forced, coerced, or tricked into working for no pay beyond subsistence, often under threat of violence. Although it takes many forms, the most lucrative facet of trafficking is sexual slavery, whose victims are often the most vulnerable members of a community, and the individuals Nomi works to support.

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Nomi Network’s goal is to infiltrate the fashion industry with well-designed and high-utility products that have a double bottom line of satisfying customers in the main stream market as well as employing and training survivors of sex trafficking. We aim to be a truly transparent organization whose proceeds go towards creating career development and empowerment programs that allow the women who want to move beyond product creation to pursue their dreams, a higher education, and positions of leaders in their local community.

Nomi is realistic about the challenge we face: the fashion industry is cut throat and deeply profit driven industry. We realize that our products must be competitive for our vision to be lived out and for this movement to become sustainable. And so the niche we fill is unique. We have observed and listened to the needs of organizations already doing product production on the ground with survivors and we are not interested in duplicating efforts. Rather we desire to come along side these producing organizations and help infuse their work with our design expertise and sourcing capabilities. Another key part of our mission is to break down silos and inspire communication so that local communities and NGO’s start collaborating to strengthen their production abilities. We keep our focus on a larger network, and work towards giving this slave-free movement legs to stand on in the professional fashion arena._MG_1007

Nomi’s first product is an eco friendly, awareness raising tote-bag, brazened with our slogan BUY HER BAG, NOT HER BODY. We’re currently selling our bags on our website, so buy a bag for yourself and give one as a gift for the holidays. Consider getting a whole group of friends to buy a bag and make a visible statement at your school, workplace, or church. Help us to create a genuine demand for slave-free products. Because, dear reader, Nomi Network could not exist without consumer demand. You are a key part of our network and we need you to vote for slave-free products with every purchase you make. So please join us, buy our bag, and be on the look out for next season’s collection. Allow the voices of the women we support to be heard. They are crying out, “Know me, know my story, know my success.”

AlissaMoore_headshotAlissa A. Moore is the co-founder and co-executive director of the non-profit, Nomi Network. She is avidly engaged in her local anti-trafficking scene, was the co-producer of Freedom Week NYC 2009, and the NYC coordinator for the anti-trafficking documentary Call + Response at Tribeca Cinemas. She graduated with honors from Skidmore College and is currently living in the Brooklyn-based Christian Intention Community, Radical Living.

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA and Co-Founder of the Blog Café Thawrahoney_do

Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t like seeing curvy women on catwalks. Yes ladies, the over-bronzed, starved designer whose eyes have never been seen in living memory gives dieting advice to women. And apparently, we’re supposed to listen.

Soon after the English designer Mark Fast’s show during London Fashion Week featuring size 12+ women, the self proclaimed king of fashion declared that “fashion was a fantasy, a dream” and that “these fat women eating crisps in front of their TV, thinking slender models are ugly” were basically jealous.

Without even brooding on the impossibly condescending tone and cringing misogyny of this statement, I’d like to put a harsh stop on the whole “fashion is a dream, let it be, people do want to see under nourished 15 year old girls dressed as 35 year old women” rhetoric. Yes, fashion should be a dream, celebrating crazy colours and shapes, shaking society like the Dior-length skirt or the mini skirt did, but it becomes a nightmare the moment it is established as the norm, the moment snooty salespeople look at you with contempt for sporting healthy full bodies. Karl’s supporters would have us think that designers are not saying we should look like the models, but merely that we should only wear the clothes on the models.

How helpful, we hadn’t figured this one out for ourselves.

But when brands stops their collection at size 4, then we have the right to ask ourselves what’s the secret message behind it.

Even though this question has been abundantly treated, it seems to me that we are not witnessing any significant changes when it comes to the public representation of the female body. Pictures in magazines are more photoshoped than ever, models are still alarmingly thin, and God helps the woman who tries to point to these issues, for she’d be instantly catalogued as jealous or frustrated by a small group of the Fashion Crew.

First of all, I think it is important to set some facts straight. Women perfectly know that models in magazines are not like that in reality.

Thank you, we are not stupid, we do use our brains from times to times.

This being said, I still think it is important to analyse the impact of these images on the body image of women and girls.

As members of the “Western” society, we are constantly surrounded by ads and images of unattainable standards of beauty, standards that, as research has shown, are only achievable by less than 5% of the female population (Remember the Body Shop campaign, “”There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do” ? Well, for once, a slogan can be true). This constant exposure to a stereotyped type of beauty makes it look attainable, normal, in the sociological sense of the word.

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Even if women perfectly know that the images have been modified, our brains simply pick up what they see all day every day, following the very often-unconscious logic of “if I see it everyday, everywhere, then it’s probably the norm” and right there and then comes the question of “Am I in the norm”? And, ladies, this is how we start questioning our body, and with the questions, come the doubts, and eventually, the negative body image. The overwhelming number of articles in women’s magazines about how-to-become-thin-in-2-seconds-while-eating-nothing-for-2-decades, or about plastic surgery have women believe that they could be like the girl in the magazines, if only they had more will/money/courage and that their key to blissful happiness is to lose the weight they grew to resent. So basically, guilt makes its appearance on top of the questions and doubts about one’s body, which of course works wonders for the overall self esteem.

So what do we have? A global trend of a weight gaining population in the Western hemisphere and global media featuring almost only extra thin models. Dichotomy, anyone?

Governments should incorporate in school curricula serious programmes on what to eat to have a complete, healthy diet, but also to educate teenagers on the various diseases related to body images, while bearing in mind that processed, canned or ready-made food, that contain more sugar than fresh products, are also much more cheaper than said fresh products. Hence the need to offer affordable healthy food to the population, but let us not digress.

Truth is, beloved ladies, your body knows the weight it is comfortable at. Short of any health problems, your body WILL go back to this weight, no matter what you do, no matter how many diets. So stay healthy, and just embrace your body the way it is, for there is no point in torturing yourself. Life’s too short.

As for Mr Karl and his whole “Fashion is a dream, an illusion” thing, let me tell you something. Give me a Marylin Monroe, in a curvy figure, laughing and running on a beach in her Pucci blouse, and I’ll dream. Give me a Jackie O. in a Givenchy coat, and I’ll dream. Give me any in love, passionate about what she believes in, woman, and I’ll dream, for this is beauty.

Show me one of your models, and I’ll make her lunch.

Also read the article “Body as Battleground” by theologian Tommy Ross.

Posted by Onleilove Alston (with permission) and authored by Lisa Sharon Harper on God’s Politics (first posted 09-25-2009)
 
The following is a message delivered at the “Stand for Freedom in Iran” rally that took place September 24th, 2009 at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the United Nations.

Hello! I’ve been deeply moved by this gathering. This is amazing! My name is Lisa Sharon Harper. I am the executive director of NY Faith & Justice and the author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican … or Democrat, and I am here today to say “Enough is enough!” Say it with me, “Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough!”

The whole world saw the elections in Iran and the crush of the Iranian government when they stole the election from the people! We saw it via social networking sources like Twitter and Facebook. Well I’m a twitterer! So, everyone say “Hi!” and I’m gonna take a picture of you because this is amazing!

[The empty space is the space directly in  front of the stage. You can't see it from here, but the crowd reached back to 3rd Avenue from 1st Ave!]

President Ahmadinejad,
Democracy is not enough!
Democracy is nothing unless that government protects the rights of “the least of these” in society!
Democracy is nothing unless that government protects the rights of the ones who live with their backs against the walls!
And that kind of democracy is achieved by protecting the basic human rights of all people within a society.

We watched Iran’s election and it is unconscionable that 322 people have been executed just this year. It is unconscionable that every day citizens of your country were thrown in jail just because they wanted to have their vote count!

Enough is enough!

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by Onleilove Alston

This Bible Study Resource is one part of a series of Bible Studies that examine The Last Week of Christ Life and The Last Year of Rev. King’s Life, created by The Poverty Initiative, an organization “dedicated to Building a Movement to End Poverty Led by the Poor”. This is an interactive, multimedia Bible Study that can be used in various settings. We offer a variety of resource choices so that you can tailor the study to the needs of your group.  This type of Bible Study was created by The Poverty Initiative by working with grassroots community groups and is called textual reflection, where we engage the Biblical text with contemporary writings. In no way is this Bible Study comparing the life of Dr. King to the life of Christ but by looking at the life of our fellow man we can see that it is possible to live out the teachings of Jesus in the public square to the end of social change.

 

Mary of Bethany Contributing to the Movement....

Mary of Bethany Contributing to the Movement....

This Bible Study examines the role women played in the ministry of Jesus and in Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, showing that the leadership of women is needed in ministry and  social movements; Christ set this example.

For the entire Bible Study (including resources and links) visit:

The Last Week of Jesus and the Last Year of Martin Luther King: Women in the Movement

By Simon Khayala, BD student St. Paul’s University, Kenya and a youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

Despite the Beijing Declaration that “Women empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society including participation in the decision making process and access to power are fundamental for achievement of equality development and peace”, women still feel discriminated. Based on a one-sided interpretation of culture and scripture, discrimination of women is often reinforced by the churches. 

Traditionally the story of the fall of man in Genesis 3 was used to blame women. Eve, the first women, seduced Adam into eating the fruit from the forbitten tree. Hence all women today have inherited that blame. Women were seen as inferior, weak, disobedience and easily tempted. But if we read through Genesis 3 carefully, we will realize many positive things about Eve. Aspects, which the churches neglected far too long. 

Genesis 2:18 (RSV), says “…it’s not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”. The Hebrew word azer (helper) does not mean any form of subordination as it was always preached. In fact, azer has divine attributes (Heb 13:6, Psalms 10:14). The Bible discribes God as a helper to us. In John 15:26, Jesus tells his disciples he will send them a helper, the Holy Spirit. This implies that Eve was in the correct image and likeness of God.

In Genesis 3:6 we see Eve as a rational being. She is able to reason out to see that the tree was good for food and to be desired to make one wise. The Hebrew word raah (to see), also means “understanding or awareness”.

Jan Gossaert, gen. Mabuse, Adam and Eve (1520)

Jan Gossaert, gen. Mabuse, Adam and Eve (1520)

Who does not want to be wise? All of us desire wisdom. To me the mother of all human wisdom is Eve, because it was until she ate the fruit that we acquired a higher status to become like God (Genesis 3:22). 

Eve was also the provider. Where was Adam when Eve was looking for food? In fact, Adam is portrayed as irrational being, because he never questions where Eve had found the fruit, but just ate it. This may imply that it was a tendency of Eve to provide food for Adam. Being the provider Eve again is in the image and likeness of God, because our God is also the provider (Psalm111:5).

 

Therefore our perceptions towards women on the basis of the story of the fall of man should change. Women may indeed have a unique gift which men don’t have.

rosie-riveterBy Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA and Co-Founder of the blog Café Thawra

Everyone remembers Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, wearing her sharp suit, trading sneakers for high heels as she enters her office, struggling to reach the top in the corporate jungle.

With her determination to defend her idea and her position, she became the symbol of women, women that dared to venture in the male-dominated area of the workplace, and even fight back when attacked by abusive bosses.

Oh, how bad we all wanted to become high-powered women, women passionate about their work, who are not belittled, whose ideas are take into account. Women paid as much as men, and who do not have fits pf panic if they get pregnant, for fear of being fired or “replaced”.

I guess my generation grew up being spoilt by all the statements we heard while growing. All this Spice Girls thing and Girl Power could not be good for us. It mislead us into thinking that women, and what’s more, young women, were the newly appointed darlings of the workplace, and that the only thing we had to do was to study and work hard to be able to be competitive on the work market and be hired and promoted based on our merits.

Allow me here to quote one of my favourite author, Irish author Marian Keyes, when speaking on the subject of feminism and women in the workplace:

“It took a mortifyingly long time for it to dawn on me that actually all the hard work had not been done, and that now everyone was not lovely and equal. Not even slightly. It happened one afternoon when I was fighting through a throng of grey suits in the business-class section of a plane. Suddenly I wondered: where are all the women in their red lipstick and sheer tights? Nowhere to be seen. (Because they were stuck in the office, providing secretarial back up, drinking cup-a-soup, painting the run in their sheer tights with nail varnish because they couldn’t afford to buy new ones.”

 

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Missionaries in Tanganyika, late 1890s

Missionaries in Tanganyika, late 1890s

by Simon Khayala, B.D. student at St. Paul’s University, Kenya, and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

To understand the changing role of women in Africa, the history of mission is a very interesting subject to study. Mission was generally equated with maleness; invisibility of women in Christian history was the order of the day. Officially, early period mission agencies were not keen with women contributions, but in fact women missionaries were important for the development of the African church. 

Most mission societies however perceived women as ignorant and backward. They were viewed as more resistant to civilization than men, but that means they were also viewed as victims of traditional rites and practices such as naming, initiation, marriage, funeral rites, and eating rites.   

Therefore Mission agencies became champions of women liberation. They challenged the traditional customs that were oppressive to women; they developed Christian mothers and Christian homes through various terms of education; they helped women to establish women’s organizations to support the church. Women who received this help from missionaries became the pillars of the African church, i.e. Women’s Guild, United Society of Friends Women, Mothers Union, Methodist Women, among others.

Mission work however provided only half liberation. Because the missionaries sent to Africa by European or US-American mission agencies came from a patriarchal background, they were unable or unwilling to  fundamentally challenge another patriarchal system. The nature of education given to women failed to liberate them from the patriarchal structures, because they were only taught how to be good Christian mothers in terms of nutrition, child care, different feeding methods and hygiene.

In the 1960 and 1970’s a new wave for liberation of women came to challenge the existing patriarchal structures in order to allow full participation of women in churches. It was in 1965 when the Women’s Guild in Kenya questioned why only men were church elders and leaders; also the Mothers Union in Kenya advocated more openly for women the rights of women in the church.

Full participation of women or liberation of women is an ongoing struggle. Today we see great improvements, i.e.  most of the churches have embraced women ordination. But that’s not enough, the struggle continues until it achieves its objective of breaking all forms of women oppression.

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA

41HI5NPYBSL._SL500_AA240_This week I just finished reading Tears of the Desert, by Halima Bashir, a very moving and tough biography about a female Sudanese doctor during the height of the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

Being a Zaghawa, a black tribe from Southern Sudan, Halima soon discovers that her people, along with many other black tribes, have become the target of the central government and their de facto militias, the Janjaweeds, “Arab” nomad tribes. Being an educated woman who didn’t make distinctions between whom she was treating and curing, she stood out, and was therefore punished for it.

Nothing was spared to her: she endured torture, gang rape, threats, and loss.

Her pain was so intense, I cringed even reading about it, it was as if I could feel the atrocities being perpetrated on my body. This book got me to wonder about rape and its use during armed conflicts, but also on the state of a “humanity” that loses its rights to call itself that as soon as it starts violating bodies designed to give life.

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by Onleilove Alston

Note: Though DWU works on issues affecting domestic workers in the U.S. the issues faced by its membership are shared by women worldwide. The exploitation of women workers is an international human rights issue. According to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the U.N. :

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor  and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. THEY will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD   for the display of his splendor. THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; THEY will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. -Isaiah 61:1-4

“I want to be in tune with my maker.”

“I pray for the organization to get the (the Domestic Worker) Bill of Rights passed”.

“Without God we can’t do anything”.

“I put fliers in the churches, I speak to the pastors”.

–Marilyn Marshall and Joyce Gill-Campbell Leaders in Domestic Workers United (DWU)

“We have a dream that one day, all work
will be valued equally”.-Mission of Domestic Workers United

During the spring of 2006 I started to closely read Isaiah 61 and began to gain spiritual encouragement from meditating on God’s care for the poor and oppressed. I began to study this scripture whenever I had the chance. In 2007 I started to work with New York Faith & Justice after meeting founders: Lisa Sharon Harper, Anna Lee and Peter Heltzel at Pentecost 2007. In the Fall of 2007 New York Faith & Justice did an in-depth Bible Study on Isaiah 61 and from this study I learned that this passage declares the poor “the oaks of righteousness”, and “that THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated”. This new insight revolutionized my approach to the ministry of ending poverty. Instead of just preaching the gospel to the poor, the poor are called to rebuild and restore their communities! If you are a person of privilege instead of working for the poor you are called to work alongside the poor. And if like me you come from the ranks of the poor you are called to rebuild and restore your community. This re-reading of Isaiah 61 is further supported by my work with the Poverty Initiative’s Poverty Scholars Program. The Poverty Scholars program brings poor activist from across America to Union Theological Seminary to take part in an educational program of conferences, theological reflection and action planning centered on re-igniting Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign.

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By Simon Khayala, B. D. student at St. Paul’s University Kenya, and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

empowering youth KenyaYoung people in Africa grow up as prisoners of the elder generation. They usually have limited or no right at all to decision making. The community they come from led by the elders dictates what they should do and what they should not do. In most communities youth have no right to chose their spouses, the parents through the help of community will always influence who they should be married or get married to. Any opposition concerning this matter may lead to rejection or isolation from the parents and the community.

In the case of initiation, whether it is inhuman or not youth are expected to participate whether they like it or not. For example female circumcision has been termed as crude, painful and inhuman practice for young girls, but the communities practicing it have kept a deaf ear and expect no opposition from those undergoing it, who are mostly the youth. If one stands firm to reject this practice, they are simply expelled from the community.

In some communities in Kenya young boys are expected to go to the forest and kill a lion to prove they are men enough to marry. If he fails to do that no girl will marry such a coward man…

Many are the things therefore that happen to the life of an African youth that no one talks about. Similar to women, youth are expected to follow the customs and decisions made on their behalf. But they are not allowed to speak for themself. Elder men are usually regarded as the custodian of wisdom; they are the ones to be consulted whenever there is crisis in families or community. They are believed to be trustworthy and therefore highly respected. Young adults in Africa have some privileges which the youth do not have in the community. For example, they can be included in meetings, or can be given leadership roles.

Although things are now changing due to modernity and westernization, a lot has still to be done if significant change has to be realized. The  traditional belief that the youth and women are inferior group has cropped even in our modern time, where we find most leaders both in religious and political cycles in Africa are elder men.

This perception has to stop; I call upon the youth and women whenever they are to call for mutual relationship with the elder men, and to stand up strong to fight for their rightful place in the society!

Also read about the Youth Peace Summet, held in Kenya April 13-18, 2009.

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA, Geneva

 

Being a World YWCA staff means always having something new to learn. I became fully aware of that last week, when our World Board meeting was held. Being a faith based organisation, the World YWCA often starts its meetings’ sessions by prayers, a meditation or a reflection.

 

Last Wednesday, world Board member Deborah Thomas led us through a very meaningful reflection on gender and climate change. Being from Trinidad, a Caribbean island vulnerable to severe weather conditions, Deborah underlined the awful and sad truth of climate change: global warming is leading to a rise in sea level and to various weather disorders, which could lead to the very submersion of small islands, be it in the Caribbean’s or in the Pacific. She stressed the dramatic climate change effects on communities, notably in the Pacific, where islanders consider their land to be sacred. The extreme weather conditions that seem to hit them more and more often are leading their elders to advise them to flee, which constitutes an absolute trauma for these populations.

 

If Climate Change is touching communities as a whole, it should not be forgotten that once again, women pay the high price of global warming. Indeed, in a large number of rural communities, women bear the burden of having the major responsibility for food security, which makes them highly dependent on local natural resources, thus on the variations in temperature and weather. The fact that they’re often put aside when it comes to policy making and environmental decisions increases their vulnerability towards climate change, all the more so if we consider the gender inequalities of access to resources.

 

But back to Deborah’s meditation. Amidst these grim facts and figures, she introduced a concept I had never heard of before: the Green Bible. In front of our bewildered faces, she must have understood that her audience was not familiar with the subject, and she proceeded to quickly explain it to us : “Have you ever heard of the Green Bible? No? Well, it’s a Bible printed on recycled paper, with every verses related to the environment printed in Green. While producing these Green Bible, people realised that the Bible mentioned the environment over a thousand times, while it mentioned love and heaven around five hundred times”.

 

Amazed and intrigued by these figures, I decided I needed to know more.

 

After a bit of research, here it was: The Green Bible, printed on recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover, produced to make Christians understand the importance of protecting the environment God has created for us. By using green ink to make the environment-related paragraphs stand out, the reader realises that going green is not merely a fashion, nor is it simply a political statement: it becomes God’s will and is therefore a faithful commitment that is to be respected.

green_site_02

However, far from being acclaimed by all Christians as a spiritual way of fighting climate change and respecting the environment, the Green Bible sparked controversy as some congregations seemed to think that it was not a Christian initiative but rather, a political one. Their fear is that the political aspect of environmentalism will overcome the spiritual message and interpretation of the Bible and distract believers from their mission that is to spread the Gospel.

 

Nevertheless, even if the Green Bible doesn’t seem to make consensus, more and more Christians are becoming aware of the need to respect our environment more, and to force governments to act against Global Warming. This movement, called Creation Care, is spreading more and more, outnumbering more conservative Christian streams who would like to preserve Christianity from what they consider to be a political opportunistic movement.

 

Although there is definitely a marketing argument to the Green Bible, it is important that Christians are given a tool that shows with such evidence the caring for the environment message that the Bible entails. Every effort to make this planet a better place is not to be disregarded. Besides, the Bible being the absolute all time best seller, it was time it was printed on recycled paper…

 

 

The World Student Christian Federation will participate in the Beijing +15 Review.  WSCF’s annual European Regional Student Conference will use Ecumenical Women’s Resurrect Beijing! as a part of its programme.

beijing imageResurrect Beijing! is a tool developed by Ecumenical Women to bring grassroots voices to the next Commission on the Status of Women, which has as its theme a review of the Beijing Platform for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

The Europe Regional Conference to be held in Sibiu, Romania 6-13 October 2009 will bring over 40 Christian student leaders together.  The conference theme this year is: “Gender, Society and Religion – exploring diversity in an expanding Europe”.    During the conference there will be many workshops exploring gender and sexual identity, especially as it relates to faith.  Some of the topics will be: the Koran and gender, a Bible Study around gender issues, and Human Rights and gender, among many others.   

The workshop on human rights and gender is a perfect opportunity for the European students to learn more about WSCF’s participation in the Commission on the Status of Women as a part of the Ecumenical Women coalition and for them to share their experiences, which will feed into Ecumenical Women’s advocacy as well as sharpen their own advocacy at home. 

The workshop will focus on institutional barriers that the students, especially women, have faced in their universities.  Through sharing their stories the students will be able to better understand how they are personally affected by violations of women’s rights.  However, we are aiming for more than understanding alone – WSCF students seek to be powerful catalysts of change toward the full participation of women in all aspects of society and the development of innovative partnerships between men and women to this end.

The thoughts and interventions of these student leaders will give Ecumenical Women a young voice that is so necessary in all international advocacy.   The insights of these students will be an invaluable contribution in the preparation for CSW 2010 and the advocacy to be accomplished during it. 

Contact: Christine Housel, Global Project Manager, World Student Christian Federation, chh@wscf.ch

by Paola Salwan

In September 1995, thousands of people made the historical move of adopting the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action during the World 4th Conference on Women. The declaration, although not legally binding, quickly became a comprehensive reference policy document on women’s rights and women’s lives throughout the world for governments, NGOs, international organisations and the global women’s movement. The twelve critical areas of importance and concern outlined in the declaration (Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional environment and the girl child) paved the way for the other documents that try to ensure and enforce women’s rights, such as the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 or the third Millennium Development Goal, which is promote gender equality and empower women.

A review of the implementation of the BDPA has taken place every five years since its adoption. A political document was drafted at Beijing +5, “Further Actions and Initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, in order to deepen the understanding and application of the BDPA.

For Beijing+15, governmental delegations, but also NGOs, UN Bodies and international organisations attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010 will assess and evaluate the progress made on the implementation of the Beijing document. Delegations will be invited to share good practices and experiences, but also to reflect on the challenges that are still lying ahead for women around the world. Many different spaces will be available for participants to express themselves and try and build strategies for women’s rights. The outcome of theses meetings should be a vision for the substantial improvement of women’s lives , in line with the Millennium Development Goals.

In order to prepare this ever-important session, many regional events are already taking place around the world, such as the Africa Regional Task Force for the Beijing Review Process or the 2009 Asia-Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing +15, organised around the theme “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future”. These events are mainly put together by NGOs and civil society, while the high level and experts review meetings that are also being undertaken in each region towards the end of 2009 are organised by ministries and national ministries or regional commissions.

It is indeed paramount to have these events, as well as the review of the Declaration, taking place, in view with the current status of women around the world. If we follow WHO’s statistics following a 10-countries study:

  • About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
  • Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
  • Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Worldwide, up to one in five women report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
    • Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.

It’s time the world wakes up and truly makes the Violence Against Women a top priority on the global agenda. VAW not only traumatizes the women as individuals, it also affects the community as a whole. In societies where women are less represented than men, where women die from honour killings or domestic abuse, the cohesion is likely to be loose and a lack of resources may arise.

Women are homemakers, more often than not bread earners, mothers, sisters, and pillars of the family and of the society. To violate and abuse them is to violate and abuse the society as a whole.

Beijing+15 will be a platform to fight this battle, but we need more of those.

Go on, promote Gender Equality, participate in Beijing+15 events, follow the news on Gender-based violence, spread the word. Every voice counts.

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