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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 »


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


The EW-pictures of the CSW59 are now on flickr:

Please share also your best CSW-photos with us and mail them to:

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.

Raimy Ramirez comes from the Student Christian Movement of Venezuela and is a part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the UNCSW57.


If we are in a crowd and hear a voice that rises above the others, we can think that probably this stronger voice, is a woman´s voice and a Latin American woman´s voice. Our stories, our experiences have made us loud people. We can not afford to speak quietly, because our lives need to be told loudly, because although we do a lot of noise, they are not always heard.

Parallel events of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, have helped screams emerge not only from South, but also from East, West, North and Center to be heard. We have gathered women around the world in a place where the voice finds an ear to be heard.  However, are those voices shouting stories and demanding justice, getting to where they should be heard? Do these voices have relevance in the discussions that take place within the “solemn” United Nations compound?

Many… have not.

The challenge  is to empower those spaces where decisions are made, where over the needs of women laws are legislated, where few speak and many suffer. For this reason because even the ears of the people who choose not to be open, we have to keep screaming loud and keep in mind the need to keep walking, because although “the pace is slow, is still underway.”

For this, Nelly del Sid, Honduran women shouts loudly for defending their right to build a country without foreign military. Here is why Magda Lopez , colombian, speaks loudly when she speaks in favor of the right of women to participate in the peace process in Colombia. Here is why Cuban women, speak loudly when sharing with the world that their contribution was essential for the eradication of illiteracy in Cuba. Here is why in El Salvador, young women raise their voices in defense of an environmentally just world. This is why women in Venezuela scream in defense of a process that is sustained and will continue because of the hands of  fighter women.  Here is why a small delegation of young women around the world, identified themselves with a label that says “WSCF” are making so much noise!

Rosina Scott-Fyfe is a graduate from Otago University in New Zealand, and part of the Student Christian Movement Aotearoa. She is part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the UNCSW57. Written March 11, 2013.


“When we are aware of our inner resources and use them, they help us to be resilient and assertive. It’s when we disconnect from ourselves and react to the world around us that we can become violent. By involving both men and women in this process real sustainable change can occur” –Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University


“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17 (NIV)

I begin with these two quotes because they articulate why I am here: to use my faith to take real action; to use my faith to bring about real transformation in the communities I am a part of; to see the connections between myself and others, globally and locally, and to use my own personal voice to advocate for those who have less. To be part of the transformation of attitudes.

Today I attended three parallel events which moved me and connected to my work in different ways. The first, entitled “Both Men and Women using their inner resources to bring change: relearning peace” and run by Brahma Kumaris, reflected on how we need to draw on our own “inner resources”- what some of us might label God, the Spirit- before we can make meaningful change. We had the honour of hearing from four inspirational panelists- Carl Murrel, Denise Scotto, Luis Mora and Gayatri Naraine, who shared with us through story and experience a richness of ideas. What resonated with me was the idea that we need to go beyond engagement and aim for transformation and elevated conciousness of our communities. And as Gayatri expressed, women we have a pivotal role of healing and transformation; although at our core, our soul does not have a gender, we were born into this body and onto this planet and it is up to every one of us to use our power for justice and peace. The most important tool is ourselves.

So what does this look like? What is the physical manifestation of this inspiration? It’s all very well talking about peace but we need to put it into action. What the actions look like will be different and will depend on our cultural context but they need aspects of innovation and creativity. The second event I attended looked at Primary Prevention tools- stopping violence before it happens, and was presented by Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA). A 15 page toolkit created by AWAVA is available free online here.

I like the idea of primary prevention because it is all about changing attitudes, and addresses the underlying causes of violence. It ties in to our desire to belong. If our assumptions are that humans are innately violent, and if this is the way things roll in our communities, this idea is perpetuated through action. And the inverse is true: if we believe that humans are innately peaceful, and this is the belief of our community, this belief will be lived out.

Nothing could be more important in the eliminations and prevention of violence against women and girls than the involvement of men and boys. The third workshop I went to today was so inspirational, and the room was packed. We heard stories from men working with men and boys on attitudinal change to hold the conversations about violence against women. Part of this is just planting the idea. It is about providing a new lens through which to look at these issues, because they are not just women’s issues: they are men’s issues too because while most men are not the perpetrators, most of the perpetrators against women are men, and, as the panelists shared, we cannot tell by looking at a man what his attitude will be. Men are also victims and survivors of this same violence, perpetuated by assumptions about gender. Some of the key messages from this powerful event were that we do not need a society that “protects” women, we need a society that respects women; and that men can be strong without the use of violence. Fathers and positive male rolemodels have a key role through the messages they give their sons. And a quote I found particularly inspiring, from Q Cochlin from Brooklyn’s Connect programme: “In doing this work, I become a human being”.

Within the midst of this presentation, a conflict arose where a member of the audience spoke out about wanting time to ask questions, felt he was being lectured to, and was quite derogatory to the moderators of the event. I greatly admired the way in which the moderators handled the situation- not reacting, which would be the easiest thing to do, but treating the man who offered the comment with respect but also respecting the time and knowledge of the panelist who were there. It was a ‘wow’ moment for me, seeing this man really practice what he was preaching, using non-violence to proactively negotiate a conflict. I think that this is something all of us can learn from.

So in reflection, our attitudes are how we live out our lives. To live our lives truthfully, we need to put into action the values we are promoting: faith and action is inextricably linked. These ideas are not new to any of us, but I think it is worth taking some time to reflect on.


“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” – Romans 12:2 (KJV)

Major Jessyca Elgart is a Salvation Army delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. She describes her overall experience here at CSW 57 and describes one of the events she attended on human trafficking that most impacted her.

Major Julie Aren is a Salvation Army delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. She describes her overall experience here at CSW 57 and describes one of the events she attended that she found most striking.


Stephanie Freeman is young adult delegate with The Salvation Army to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Stephanie describes her experience at CSW 57 as well as some of the things she will be taking away from her time here.







Originally posted on C of E at the UN Commission on the Status of Women:

IDW March 2013

This will be an International Women’s Day that I will remember for a long time to come. Not just because I shook the hand of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but also because of the sense of a step change in seeing violence against women ended. From the number of faith organizations engaged here at the CSW, which has  increased considerably since 2010, but also the level of welcome that people of faith have received.

My day started with a workshop in conjunction with Terrie Robinson of the Anglican Communion looking at a church response to violence against women. Entitled ‘We Will Speak Out: Churches ending violence against women’ we aimed to communicate what action the global Anglican communion was taking to end violence against women (VAW) and also, more specifically, what the Church of England is doing.

Terrie started out by looking at the Primates letter from the meeting…

View original 918 more words

Luwiza Makosa is from the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and a member of World Student Christian Federation delegation.



Dear all

Greetings to you all. l am a young girl aged 22, l am born and bred  Zimbabwe. l am really honoured to be sharing some of my experiences here at the UNCSW 57th session. l want to also take this opportunity to thank World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) for giving me this opportunity to be part of its 2013 CSW delegation and represent other African young girls.

This session has provided a platform for various organisations to share ideas and strategies which are feeding in to the  2013 UNCSW priority theme.  l strongly believe that the shared information here at the CSW is of value addition to all the work that we are all doing back home. I have been attending worship services every morning and these have reminded me of how women of faith are committed to help the women and girls who are  are being abused in all forms of violence. My opinion from this is that  women’s victory is inevitable. Women are strongly taking up the legacy that women from the the Bible left.

The theme for this year is “Elimination and Prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. Today l was able to attend at least three sessions which were discussing on use of video in video advocacy-strengths and weaknesses, effective ways on ending violence against women and girls and the last session was on the future young women want: putting women’s rights at the heart of the post-2015 Development. However the session which really struck me was that of when l had to meet and discuss with women from various organisations about what young women want to see happening in their countries with priorities and recommendations.

I strongly feel that the media has a played a fundamental role in moulding the society on what they think about gender, hence my contribution from a youth perspective of a woman of faith would be to say that both state and non state actors have a role to play in redefining the gender perspective that has been portrayed by media which has at most seen woman being portrayed as agents of sex.

I am of the opinion that because of this platform on the CSW there are very high chances of creating good synergies with various organisations noting that most of the issues that were raised in the discussion were similar.

I also want to urge everyone that this fight is not solely a women’s issue instead it calls for the attention of everyone. The book of  Esther 4:14 states that, “we will not remain silent at such a time as this……………” so shall we until we have attained our goal.

I also want to urge everyone that this fight is not solely a women’s issue instead it calls for the attention of everyone. The book of  Esther 4:14 states that, “we will not remain silent at such a time as this……………” so shall we until we have attained our goal.

I do believe in the zero tolerance of violence against women and girls.

Ecumenical Women:

A great post from a Church of England delegate to the Commission on the Status of women.

Originally posted on C of E at the UN Commission on the Status of Women:

The day has finally arrived. The opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women officially got underway a little after 10am EST. Ms Marjon Kamara, Chair of the CSW, from Liberia said that ‘expectations were for agreed results that governments can take back to make concrete actions.’ She continued, ‘violence exists in each and every country’ and that we need a ‘solid, practical and convincing outcome’. In the diplomatic language of the UN she made a strong statement that there is ‘one clear message that the current situation on violence against women in unacceptable’. I would probably state it a little less diplomatically than that, rather that it is outrageous and scandalous. With one in four women in the UK suffering abuse in her lifetime, and two women a week being killed by their partner or former partner, it is indeed time for action.

Later Ms Kamara added…

View original 180 more words

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