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Anastassia Zinke interviews Rev. Joyce Kariuki, acting general secretary of the Anglican Councils of Africa.

Was this your first time attending the Conference on the Status of Women (CSW)?

I have been here several times before.  The last one I attended was the CSW focused on the Girl Child.  I think this is the fourth time that I have attended a CSW.  This year I was requested by the archbishop to come.  They send someone yearly, but some years for personal reasons I have been unable to serve as the delegate.

What have you learned or taken away from this year’s CSW?

We cannot let the Beijing Platform for Action to be eclipsed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or be dropped as a tool in addressing women’s rights.  We are far from achieving our goal.  It is a struggle to keep this movement going, to achieve the empowerment of women.  The Beijing Platform is useful to us though, because it reminds us and equips us to keep this struggle going.  It helps articulate women’s issues.  We can refer to it and make sure – through the use of the right language – that others understand.

What are the pressing issues that you see in Kenya?  In the church?

Also, gender equity in the church needs to be addressed.  We are far behind the governments in terms of gender equity.  This will not do.  The church ought to be the model for society.  We also have to acknowledge the huge reach that we have.  We reach everyone: girls, women, men, and boys.  We have the ability to ensure that the message is being heard.

This can be complicated however.  There is a debate that the girl-child has been promoted so much that the boy-child has been left behind.  So now I include the boy-child, so that it is about holistic participation in change.  However, we have not forgotten that that the child-girl has been in a difficult situation.  We all have become involved, and help them become and stay students.

Another significant issue is domestic violence against women.  When there is violence, a woman is reduced to nothing.  We need to change this.  The church has not been able to address this yet.  During this conference, however, I heard a South African man talk about his work of leading men to address violence against women.  Men themselves condemning the violence.  They see that it is their issue.  This is powerful and a model that I would like to see adopted in Kenya, so that men don’t push the issue aside.

In Kenya, we are changing the constitution.  This presents a great possibility for women.  We need to finish this process.  Though we can critique the government, we cannot let this opportunity pass.  We must recognize that we all function under the government, so we need to partner with the government to get the constitution to its the best stage.

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View the entire album on Picasa.

All photos taken by Jennifer Becker.

March 4, 2010, Geneva

The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and its Zimbabwe Advocacy Office (ZAO) wish to express shock and outrage at the recent wave of attacks on trade union leaders by police and security forces in Zimbabwe.  On March 1, 2010 police raided and ransacked offices of the General Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) forcing its Secretary General, Mrs. Gertrude Hambira, a mother and farm-workers’ leader to flee her home and country. On March 3, WSCF and ZAO also received troubling reports of the arrest of staff of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) who were conducting a civic education workshop in the eastern city of Mutare.

These senseless attacks, together with the recent upsurge in general violence in the country, indicate clearly that Zimbabwe’s political crisis remains unresolved and that Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Government needs to do much more to deliver change.

We pray for the safe return of Mrs. Hambira and her colleagues to their homes and places of work.

We urge the Inclusive Government in Zimbabwe to protect the rights of workers and students to organise freely and uphold its commitment to restoring human rights and the rule of law in the country. A year after the formation of the Inclusive Government the international community continues to look to the leadership in Zimbabwe to demonstrate its commitment to genuine, irreversible reforms. We ask the ongoing 13th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Labour Organisation to take note and act on these attacks.

We urge students and workers worldwide to stand in unbreakable solidarity in the face of injustice and repression, particularly in support of the students and workers in Zimbabwe.

For further details please contact:

Rev Michael Wallace, General Secretary Coordinator, World Student Christian Federation, Email: wscf@wscf.ch

Marlon Zakeyo Zimbabwe Advocacy Office Email: wscf.zimadvocacy@gmail.com

Written by Facia Harris and Monika Biswas

On the 9th of March 2010, members of Ecumenical Women started the day with a worship service at the United Nations Church Center that centered around reflections on the story of Deborah.

The church members together affirmed that:

  • We are women created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • We affirm that all women are created in the image of God.
  • We claim our voices and dare to tell our stories while uplifting the stories of others.
  • We claim our agency in political discourse.
  • We claim our responsibility to challenge oppressive systems.
  • We claim our power, our beauty, and our hope.
  • We affirm that we are called by God to be leaders and prophets, witnesses to God’s love and justice in the world.

Jointly, the congregation was asked to anoint their neighbor by placing a circle of oil on their neighbor’s hand while saying:  “You are called by God.”  We, Monica and Facia, members of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), realized that the oil symbolically affirmed our mission and our advocacy roles within society. After that, everyone went to different missions and conferences that were taking place in the United Nations Church Center, the Salvation Army and United Nations.

Monica along with an eight-member delegation representing Ecumenical Women had a meeting at the Seychelles Embassy. The meeting was part of an ongoing advocacy effort focused on the three main interventions that had been developed by Ecumenical Women for CSW 54.  In one word, it can be said that the visit to the Seychelles’ embassy was simply a success because the ambassador was very hospitable and sincerely explained and listened to our questions and concerns about women in Seychelles.  Some of the topics covered were women’s empowerment, domestic violence and churches’ roles in assisting those that have been violated either by their husbands, families or society.

Aside from the mission visits, a capturing side event, “Violence against women in Nigeria,” was organized by the Nigerian Consortium.  The points that were highlighted and fully discussed were: rape, trafficking of women and children, girl-child gender violence and documentation of violence against women in Nigeria.  One of the speakers provided very vivid and horrifying cases with pictures, from across Nigeria, of women who suffered from violence. The discussion also highlighted that Nigeria has a high rate of trafficking in women and girls to Europe and the Middle East, in addition to internal trafficking. 

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The following Oral Statement was delivered to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Fifty-fourth Session, on February 26, 2010 by Constance Mogale or Lana Finikin.

As organizations committed to partnering with Haitian women to ensure their effective participation in rebuilding Haiti, we call upon member governments and international humanitarian aid agencies present at the CSW to commit to actions that will ensure that all future relief, recovery and reconstruction investments declare and adhere to measurable standards of gender equality. In the current period of relief and temporary shelter, in the design and distribution of entitlements, and in the planning and rebuilding of infrastructure and development programs, we urge implementing actors to establish collaborative processes that are anchored in formal partnerships with Haitian women’s groups (particularly local grassroots groups) who are empowered and resourced to take public leadership in the protracted process of reconstruction.

As a coalition of groups and networks active in the global women’s movement we will partner with Haitian women’s groups to ensure that equitable, transparent, and socially just standards are adhered to in all phases of recovery and will regularly monitor:

Participation: Haitian women are disproportionately impacted by the crisis as well as key to their country’s recovery. Thus we expect to see a large and diverse number of Haitian women’s organizations consulted and included in needs and damage assessments, and in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of post-disaster aid programs. Financing large numbers of grassroots women and their community organizations is essential to ensuring that — women’s needs and priorities are reflected in relief and recovery and that displaced women are socially legitimated as a key stakeholder group.

Leadership: The legacy of Haitian women’s leadership at home, in workplaces and across communities is a strong foundation for designing, implementing and evaluating long-term recovery as well as continuing aid. Women’s leadership and care-giving work should be recognized and supported by policy and program mandates and transparent resource commitments that enable women to play meaningful, sustained and formal roles in the long-term recovery process. And, as social and political leadership positions are restored or created Haitian women must hold a proportional share.

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Rosana Foresti offers perspectives from Argentina.

Are there major changes in countries, communities, individuals or the United Nations that reflect the promise of the Beijing document?
 

I can answer this question from my own context.  I believe that legislation in most Latin American countries has made considerable progress since the time of the platform.

But in some cases I dare say, these changes are a result of international pressure in terms of the grant funding, rather than a political decision based on a desire to promote structural change in our societies through projects that are focused on equality and social justice.

I dare to say that being part of such projects became “fashionable,” but tangibly resulted in higher support for and interest in the whole women’s movement across different social sectors.  This has brought us together to continue fighting for legislative change, and has played a very important role.

The problem is that the cold letter of the law needs to be changed into a tangible reality and applied in the lives of many women who still suffer discrimination, lack of equal opportunities to work, experience violence in many forms, and especially those suffering from tremendous poverty.

In this sense, much remains to be done, particularly in terms of cultural change.  For often those who have the power and decision-making ability to enforce these laws are judges, police, and government officials, where machismo and patriarchy are rooted in both males and females.

Presented by Nelcia Marshall-Robinson, at the “Faith-based Responses to Institutional Barriers” side-event hosted by Ecumenical Women on Monday, March 8, 2010

What is Beijing?

It is not an event in itself, it is not a temporary excitement, rather it is a “journey of hope and restoration,” to lift women into a situation of equality.  Isaiah 54:6 says “For the Lord has called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and as a wife of youth when thou wast refused,” and again in Isaiah 61: 3, “to give women beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

The Beijing Platform for Action, signed on to by governments at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held from 4-15 September, 1995 in Beijing China, is an agenda for women’s empowerment.  The twelve critical areas of action are:

  • Women and Poverty
  • Education and Training For Women
  • Women and Health
  • Violence Against Women
  • Women in Armed Conflict
  • Women and The Economy
  • Women in Power And Decision-Making
  • Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement Of Women
  • Human Rights of Women
  • Women and The Media
  • Women and The Environment
  • The Girl Child

I will focus on the Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women.  I will address the institutional mechanisms in preparation for the conference, at the conference itself, and for implementation post-conference.

PREPARATION FOR THE BEIJING CONFERENCE

Various mechanisms helped contribute to preparations for and participation in the Fourth World Conference on the Status of Women.

National Mechanisms

In 1993, I was employed at a national women’s organization in my country.  I was also President of the National Association for Adult Education, in a voluntary capacity.  I received a call from a Mr. John Harrison, the Head of the British Development Division for the Eastern Caribbean, based in Barbados.  I assumed that he wanted to talk to me on women’s issues. He did, but it was in relation to the adult education process, which he saw as the best vehicle to educate people on the upcoming Conference on Women.  Mr. Harrison had funds for the purpose, which he channeled through the Government Community Services Ministry.  In collaboration with the Women’s Desk, we embarked on an island-wide educational program that included the involvement of civil society organizations – women’s organizations, and faith-based organizations.  As a result, a national report was produced on the situation of women.

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Written by Joseph Nagle, March 2, 2010

I am at the UNCSW as part of a joint delegation of the World Student Christian Federation http://www.wscfglobal.org/ and the World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/ . I am the Gender Interest Group Coordinator WSCF Europe.

This is a brief reflection on what it means to do advocacy. It came to me during worship on the first day of the CSW. The worship took as its text the song of Miriam which she led the Israelites in singing to glorify God. Taking the theme of women in leadership and of overcoming barriers and breaking chains, the youth delegation of the Ecumenical Women led the congregation in joyful singing and dancing, following in the footsteps of Miriam. This was a worship of hope and of celebration. Hope that the chains would be broken, celebration at the barriers already being broken down.

The centerpiece of the worship was a lone figure, wrapped in paper chains which had different barriers written on them which needed to be broken down. The congregation were invited to come up and break these chains to free the woman and then throw the chains into the font, symbolizing the sea. Now what made this really powerful for me, what made this into such a statement of what advocacy is, was what happened at the very end of the worship. As people were dispersing, the lone woman still had some chains hanging from her. She took them, and threw them, with all the others into the font. Not many people saw this. But in an instant I understood it as a symbol of immense hope. Our role is not to completely emancipate women from the oppressive system which binds them and acts violently against them. It is to break down enough of the barriers that the women themselves can bring about their own liberation. Advocacy is about breaking down the institutional barriers as far as they need to be broken down so that those who once needed help, can free themselves and cast all the remaining barriers into the sea.

As member delegates arrive, advocacy, and witness at the United Nations for Women’s Rights, those not able to be present are able to follow the most recent development through the news and blogs.

Ecumenical Press attended Ecumenical Women’s orientation program on February 27.  Below is the story.

EcumenicalWomen.org and the blog of the “Gender Equitable Episcopalians at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women” can also provide you with first-hand accounts of delegate’s experiences.

Group Readies for Faith-Based Advocacy at U.N. Women’s Conference

By Michael Camacho
Ecumenical Press Reporter
Sun, Feb. 28 2010 10:35 PM

Colorful scarves, handbags and headdresses filled the room of nearly 100 women, with a few men in between, at the Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN) as Hellen Wangusa, Anglican Observer to the United Nations, spoke about her personal reasons for being involved in advocacy.

“It’s my witness,” Wangusa, a Uganda native, opened her talk with. “It’s my way of witnessing to what I believe, it’s my way of witnessing to the mandate that I have been given.”

Following a reading from the book of Jeremiah 22:13-16, Wangusa went on to say that, “Not everybody can access power, not everybody can access people to make decisions, so those of us who have such access – it would be unfortunate if we don’t maximize on such opportunities.”

Wangusa was one of several speakers invited to an all-day orientation on Saturday hosted by New York-based coalition Ecumenical Women (EW), which included talks from Fulata Mbano Moyo, World Council of Churches (WCC) Program Executive on Women in Church and Society; and Mary Roodkowsky, principal ethics adviser for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The orientation was held in preparation for the Ecumenical Women’s advocacy work at the 54th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which runs from Mar. 1-12 in New York City.

According to Elizabeth Lee, United Nations Liaison Office for the WCC, the CSW is a “dynamic opportunity” where “the ecumenical spirit comes alive, bringing together women from different generations, cultures, and faith traditions who are able to work together creatively to advance women’s rights and to worship together.”

“We do it not just for the opportunity to be a faith voice throughout the CSW, but to learn and claim things we can take home, to continue to be a voice for full participation of women as we go back to our home places as well,” noted the Rev. Anne Tiemeyer, prrogram director for Women’s Ministries for the National Council of Churches (NCC) U.S.A.

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Every year thousands of women and men from around the world gather in New York to join in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. From policy makers to directors of NGO’s to people of faith, these women and men spend two weeks discussing, discovering, and deciding the ways in which the United Nations and its constituent bodies will approach questions of gender equality and women’s rights.
This weekend ten young adults from the Episcopal Church arrived in New York despite all types of transportation and weather related odds to begin a one-week journey through the 54th UN CSW. From all backgrounds, they come representing not only themselves but all young adults of the Episcopal Church. We invite you to engage them as they undertake this journey, to listen to their reflections, to ask them questions, to engage locally the dialogues they enter internationally, and above all, to hold them and the women they represent in prayer.
Please take a moment to learn more about these young women and men as they experience, explore, and advocate at the UN CSW 2010 over the next five days.

With great hope,
Jason Sierra & Karen Longenecker, Co-Conveners

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