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Hello Friends! Please join us at the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) this year!
To register to attend UNSCW 60 with Ecumenical Women, beginning with our Orientation on Saturday, March 12, follow the link below.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a member organization of Ecumenical Women, had representation at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), which recently took place in Paris, France. Here, a resolution regarding international collective action to manage climate change was adopted.
Follow the link below to read more about the Conference, as well as some perspectives and experiences of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Christine Mangale, LOWC
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) launched today at a press conference the 2015 edition of the World’s Women Report on the occasion of World Statistics Day, celebrated October 20. The theme is “Better Data, Better Lives”. Speakers at the UN Headquarters launch were: Mr. Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Ms. Keiko Osaki Tomita, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and Ms. Francesca Grum, Chief of the Social and Housing Statistics Section, UN DESA.
The World’s Women Report is hailed as a “landmark on gender statistics”. The report is issued every five years, and the 2015 edition is the sixth report in 30 years. The speakers at the launch emphasized the importance of presenting empirical evidence that connects statistics and policy making. The report analyses the status of women based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action areas of concern. It looks at both the progress and gaps over the past 20 years.
The following are excerpts from the launch:
- Women marry later but child marriage remains an issue in selected countries. 1-4 women aged 20-24 in developing regions are married before they turn 18. The percentage is higher for Southern Asia (44%) and Sub Saharan Africa (40%) – often resulting in early pregnancies, limited opportunities for education and career and vocational development. For women of reproductive age, unmet need for family planning and lack of skilled attendants at birth have serious implications on mother’s health
- Education: Education has increased globally for girls and boys at all levels, yet enrollment decreases and gender gaps widen with education levels. Women are underrepresented in tertiary fields of studies related to science and engineering.
- Women’s access to labor market has stagnated – 50% of working age women in the labor force, similar to 20 years ago. The occupational segregation of women and men continue to exist in all regions. Women are working longer than men when unpaid work is accounted for (1 hour more in developing regions and half an hour more in developed regions).
- Women’s participation in leadership positions has increased, yet at a low pace: Parliaments – Women’s representation in lower or single houses of parliament was 12% in 1997 and is 22% in 2015. Executive Branch: Women’s representation among cabinet ministers was 6% in 1994 and is 18% in 2015. Most female appointed ministers are assigned portfolios related to social issues. Judiciary: higher up in the judicial hierarchy, women’s representation declines drastically. Only 19% of Supreme Courts have a female president.
- Violence against women: a global concern: 1 in 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. 2 in 3 victims of intimate partner and family related homicides are women. In most countries less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help of any sort. Less than 10% of women sought help from the police.
- 119 countries have Domestic Violence laws, 125 countries have sexual harassment laws, and 52 countries marital rape laws.
- Progress in most indicators monitored: yet, not enough progress/slow pace
- Wide disparities hidden in global and regional averages
- More data available, particularly on VAW (Some regions like Middle East, there is lack of data)
It was also pointed out that good governance is a prerequisite for good data collection. For more information, read the World’s Women Report, and download the very helpful infographics of each chapter of the report.
By: Nicholas Jaech, Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC)
Fifteen years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1325 – a groundbreaking resolution linking the experience of women to the agenda of peace and security. 1325 was the first Security Council resolution to address the disproportionate and distinct impact of armed conflict on women. This resolution notes the importance of women’s equal and total participation as active agents “in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building.”1
Yet, 15 years and six resolutions later, significant challenges remain.
On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in commemoration with the 15th anniversary of 1325, an open debate on Women, Peace and Security was convened by the UN Security Council to discuss the further implementation of 1325. In his opening remarks the Secretary-General reiterated women’s leadership in peacebuilding is a top priority and shared his personal commitment to seeing the resolutions implemented. His report on Women, Peace and Security highlights the following:
- A recent study of 40 peace processes showed that the ability of women to influence negotiations increased the chances of agreements being reached, was positively correlated with greater implementation and had a positive impact on the durability of peace (Par. 12).
- In 2012-13, the Development Assistance Committee of OECD spent only 2% of its $10 billion on gender equality objectives in its efforts to invest in developing economies (Par. 15).
- In 2013, economic recovery programs allocated only 4% of economic recovery spending to furthering women’s economic development (Par. 15).
- The global proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments has doubled from 11% in 1995 to 22% in 2015 (Par. 29).
In addition to the Secretary-General, Under- Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that the most under-utilized tool in peace building is women. She also introduced the Global Acceleration Instrument on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Engagement. This new fund will accelerate the implementation of UNSCR 1325, and as well as channel funds to women’s organizations working on peacebuilding.. Other speakers included Julienne Lusenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, stressed the importance of including women in all parts of the peacemaking process – from the village to national levels. Yanar Mohammed, also speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that peace will “never be established” in Iraq and Syria without the proper implementation of resolution 1325. She urged for more support for grassroots women’s organizations, And Alaa Murabit of the NGO Voice of Libyan Women, and also a member of the High-level Advisory Group for Global Study on SCR 1325 had three recommendations for the Security Council regarding women, peace and security:
- Conflict prevention is paramount to global peace and security. The UN should address underlying causes of conflict, as well as focus on justice, global disarmament, accountable media and fair economic practices.
- Need mechanisms to address crisis situations. Crises disproportionately affect women and girls, who are specifically targeted by violence. Current efforts are simply not working. The UN must create a formal and accountable protection mechanism for women in crises.
- Need for adequate resources for 1325. Specifically, there needs to be a removal of political structures that hinder funds from reaching on-the-ground efforts.2
All speakers echoed the sentiment that women are the key to the prevention of conflict and the central to the lasting-effects of peace building.
Directly after this opening segment, Resolution 2242 was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council (UNSC). This resolution was supported by a record 71 countries. It has two key outcomes. The first is that it outlines actions to improve the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325. The second is proposing a broader Women, Peace and Security agenda, including countering violent extremism, monitoring sexual violence within UN Peacekeeping forces, increasing the representation of women in governments and implementing the gender recommendations of a recently-released global study. Highlights from this resolution include:
- Urges Member States to increase the representation of women in decision-making bodies at local, regional and national levels, as well as in peace-making bodies. Member States are called to finance these efforts, as well as finance the efforts to educate people on the importance of the role of women in peace making (Item 1, Page 3).
- Further encourages Member States to produce national action plans that prioritize women in the process of peace making and conflict prevention (Item 2, Page 3).
- Urges the Secretary-General and other UN entities (specifically naming DPKO, DPA AND PBSO) to strengthen their efforts to integrate the needs of women and gender perspectives into their work (Item 4, Page 4).
- Expresses the importance of civil society organizations in the realm of Women, Peace and Security (Item 5C, Page 4).
- Urges DPKO and DPA to provide the necessary gender analysis and technical gender expertise at all stages of mission planning, implementation and review. This includes more cooperation between DPKO, DPA and UN-Women (Item 7, Page 5).
- Encourages steps to be taken by the Secretary-General to prioritize the appointment of more women to senior UN positions, as well as to further expand efforts to acquire a greater number of women in militaries and police deployed to UN peacekeeping operations (Item 8, Page 5).
- Expresses deep concern over the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and calls for trainings regarding the issue and thorough investigation on the matter (Item 9, Page 5).
The following day, Wednesday, October 14, “Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace – A Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325” was officially launched. This study is the product of the engagement of Member States, UN entities, regional organizations and civil society, including research institutes. During this official launch, Member States made financial contributions to the new Global Acceleration Instrument. Radhika Coomaraswamy, lead author of the global study, also expressed her opinions of the recently-adopted UNSC Resolution 2242. While she was overall supportive of the resolution, she had serious concerns about the mixing of women, peace and security and counter terrorism efforts. She noted the need for a clear, conceptual difference between the two, and that UN intentions towards civilians and military forces cannot be blurred.
Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator for the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a program partner of the International Civil Society Action Network, also had reservations, despite acknowledging the symbolic victory for women’s security. She was concerned about the lack of participation by civil society in the creation of UNSC 2242. Noting that no representatives of civil society had the opportunity to see the draft resolution before the open discussion on Tuesday, she declares: “I would like our colleagues in the Security Council, in governments and the U.N. to know that we, civil society are here to realize the full potential of UNSCR 1325. We are here to turn the promise of 1325 into reality.”
Cabera-Balleza adds: “The international community has to set its priorities right. We cannot wait another 15 years before we see consistent positive impact.”
We join in calling for a full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
For more information on the upcoming events commemorating UNSCR 1325 organized by some of the Ecumenical Women members, and other partners, please click here.
By: Nicholas Jaech
“Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.” – Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director
On September 27, a small group of representatives from civil society gathered to have an intimate and honest discussion with UNAIDS regarding the next 15 years of combating the AIDS epidemic. I attended this discussion on behalf of the Lutheran Office for World Community. In 2014, UNAIDS drafted and published the Fast-Track strategy, which details the pathway to ending AIDS by 2030. This strategy utilizes the 90-90-90 model, aiming for 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status having access to treatment and 90% of people on treatment having suppressed viral loads by 2020. Should this be successful, the strategy then calls for a 95-95-95 model by 2025. In 2030, HIV/AIDS will be so contained that it no longer can or will be considered an “epidemic.”
However, during this meeting, UNAIDS admitted to a funding gap – a $10-15 billion shortfall in the implementation of this “Fast-Track” approach. The under-prioritization of HIV/AIDS often leads governments to be unwilling to legitimately undertake measures to create new revenue specifically for AIDS.
This isn’t to say that national governments are completely shying away from funding the response to the current AIDS epidemic. At a high-level event at the UN held later that day, the United States of America pledged to fund the life-saving treatment for 12.9 million people living with HIV in 2016-17, as well as funding efforts to reduce HIV among girls in 10 sub-Saharan countries by 40%. Additionally, Malawi has pledged 14% of its GDP to HIV prevention, factoring out to $148 per HIV positive person per year. This funding comes in the form of the distribution of necessary anti-retroviral drugs.
But despite this investment, the $10-15 billion shortfall remains.
However, this budget shortfall was not the most concerning reality I heard during this meeting. I was shocked to discover the disproportionate extent to which the AIDS epidemic affects women and girls around the world.
As a young person who has grown up in the United States, the face of HIV and AIDS for me has always been gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM). This is due to both the disproportionate transmission of HIV and AIDS among gay men and MSM (19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population), but also the stigma and violent stereotypes placed upon gay men and MSM living with HIV/AIDS. Yet, when examining the new reality of the AIDS epidemic, we have to broaden our understanding of who is affected by this epidemic.
In 2013, statistics show that almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15-24 occurred among adolescent girls and young women. Globally, 15% of women living with HIV are aged 15-24, of whom 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa and adolescent girls are eight times more likely to be living with HIV than their male counterparts. Furthermore, transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than all adults of reproductive age.
In conjunction with all of this, women and girls experience serious violations of human rights. According to UNAIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 80% of women have not completed their secondary education, and one in three women cannot read. In South Africa, a study found that 30% of young female rape survivors were assaulted in or around their school. And in some settings around the world, up to 45% of adolescent girls and young women report that their first sexual experience was forced.
When we continue our own discussions on the advancement of women and girls around the world, the AIDS epidemic must be a central part of the conversation. The global face of AIDS is the woman: the black woman in the United States, the transgender woman in the Caribbean, the girl-child in sub-Saharan Africa and the sex worker in Southeast Asia. These populations are severely affected by the AIDS epidemic and are further marginalized in society when seeking treatment for the virus.
Our advocacy must reflect this global face of the epidemic. We as people of faith, when advocating for women and girls, have a moral obligation to insert the discussion of the AIDS epidemic onto the table. We have a moral obligation to lobby governments and the private sector to invest in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, because failure to do so will only perpetuate the marginalization of women and girls in our world. Let us do this through partnership, communion, solidarity, and most importantly, love. Work led by love is the work of God.
So what can we do, as followers of a loving and compassionate God, to bolster the efforts of UNAIDS to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030? We must begin by urging governments to adequately fund the Global Fund. We can also make donations to local HIV/AIDS organizations, for example, the ELCA HIV and AIDS Ministry, which has established a commitment to support the efforts of ending the AIDS epidemic. This support manifests in the training of pastors for HIV/AIDS counseling, providing necessary anti-retroviral medication to rural communities, and free offerings of HIV testing. We can also support our family, friends, and neighbors living with HIV by providing food, clothes, toiletries, and other specified items to local HIV/AIDS clinics, shelters, and organizations. This can also include volunteering one’s time and energy as well. These two simple yet significant actions not only contribute to efforts to end the epidemic, but also illustrate our ability to manifest God’s love in our daily lives. As written in 1 John 3:17-18 – “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? …let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” – we are called to love and support those around us. This has to include those living with HIV and AIDS.
For further reading on combating stigma against key populations, see UNAIDS publications here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecumenicalwomen/.
Please share also your best CSW-photos with us and mail them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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. http://www.nrwn.org.au/toolkits/
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.