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

 

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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.

Please check out the following sermon preached this past Sunday at Sparta United Methodist Church in Sparta, NJ by Kathleen Stone, Chaplain to the Church Center for the United Nations.  It is specifically speaking about two texts from last Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary readings, Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 and Mark 12:38-44.

I’ve entitled this sermon, confessions from a woman’s eyes.

I feel a little bit that by the end of this morning, in the best of light you might look at me like I’ve uncovered the missing “r” that the monk discovered.   You see after all these 2000 years, and the 100s of years of painstaking transcription, writing down each letter with such precision, the monk discovers that an “r” had been dropped by some early predecessor who had worked painstakingly in the night to illustrate the scriptures.  You see, it was supposed to be “celebrate”….not celebate.

Now, lest you think I’m thinking this would be good news and everyone would be happy, imagine the traditionalists, imagine the church structures, and imagine all the conflict that this discovery would bring forth.

But, just to be straight up.   Here’s what I’m trying to do these days.   Scripture has been interpreted for 2000 years mostly through the eyes of those who really do not know the story of women unless they were married to them and even then, well……husbands, boyfriends, sons…..do you find yourselves sometimes just not understanding women at all?   Women’s experiences of life, the social, economic and political world around them and what they do about it really are somewhat outside men’s experiences of the same.

I remember this amazing poet I used to listen to quite regularly and he and a female storyteller did a seminar together.   In that seminar, they discussed what happens between men and women in relationship….And with great humor, David Whyte – the poet said…..you know…..the woman comes in and says…. “Dear, we need to talk about this” and the man responds, “Again?   Didn’t we talk about that last week?”

So, I ask you for a moment to think and feel along with me.   I know this can be challenging but give me and the God who has freed me and liberated me to tell my truth, for this moment, give me a hearing…….

These two texts were simply the texts assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary.

Widows — Ruth and Naomi, as well as this unnamed woman in the Gospel story, they were all widows.   In ancient Israel, a widow, was the proverbial metaphor for someone who was utterly marginalized by the society in which they lived.  They are poor, not from their own merits, content of their character or any other reason than the written and unwritten cultural, legal, social, economic policies that impoverished them and told them they are without any power.   They are not powerless or voiceless because they have no voice or no inner power or have nothing to contribute to society.   They are not helpless or dumb or uneducated from the skills they need to live in that society …… they are impoverished and exiled because the society has dis-enfranchised them and determined that they are not worth a hearing, not worth a roof over their head, not worth food on their tables…not worth anything. They are not poor because they deserve it, are owed it, did it wrong, made the wrong decisions, etc.   They are poor because the policy of the land made it so that …….unless the widow was attractive enough for a man to remarry her, she remained destitute, and vulnerable to atrocities. 

This attitude was in ancient Israel (and in some places around the world still) considered normal; not many questioned this aspect of the social world.   The Prophets challenged it sometimes.   But mainstream temple politics certainly did not.  It was most often not raised up as a question in men’s literacy classes.   The widows themselves, I’m sure, critiqued the injustice, but most merely had to put their heads down and somehow manipulate their circumstances as best they could so that they’d be able to have another meal and a roof over their heads…..  These were women……seriously cursed not by God, but it could be taken out on God…..they were women seriously cursed by the social world in which they lived. …. As they both grieved for the life and perhaps love they had lost and had concerns for their survival at levels I don’t know whether many of us in this sanctuary can relate to.

Let’s look at the texts now that we have a bit of context.   We have a bit more of Ruth and Naomi’s life in text than the Widow in the Gospel text.

In Ruth and Naomi’s case, the horrendous nature of the political and economic and social consequences of being marginalized come forth into their lives….    First of all, they have to migrate.   Naomi determines to go back where she thinks she has a bit of a community from the past.   But, Naomi arrives back into Israel to gossip from the townswomen who do not quite recognize her, and question whether she is Naomi.   I wonder if grief and the hardship of widowhood and migrating across the desert had all taken their toll.    The women of the community (which I assume are all married)  had bought into the ways things were…..had bought into the horrors of a system of social, economic and political exclusion – probably saying things like  “but for the Grace of God, go I” and then saying, “What are you going to do;  look at her,  she’s so far gone”.  But, for whatever reasons, the community support systems that Naomi had wished for are just not there.  Naomi is no longer beautiful or young and I’m assuming she has some deep well of grief and anger that she needs to work through just because of that; but this next injury where her sisters from the past gossip and exclude her again — God, help us.

The incredibly loyal daughter in law Ruth thus must figure out a way for them to survive.   So, she goes out to glean the barley in Boaz’s fields.   Gleaning, for those of you who don’t know, was a legal way that the impoverished could have food in ancient Israel – like a food bank,  this was the leftovers…..they would follow behind the official harvesters and glean whatever little bits were left.   Whole loads of poor people often gleaned in the fields.

For a while this gleaning works for Naomi and Ruth, but in today’s text, the fields are harvested and so, like we heard, they have to figure out something new to survive.   Naomi, wise in the ways of the world, determines to use the one power the two of them have left,   Ruth’s youth, appearance and beauty…coupled with the power of sexual attraction…..  Naomi traffics Ruth – dressing her in very attractive clothing and perfume, Naomi tells her to lie down with the twice her age old man Boaz in the middle of the threshing floor.   This way, they might both have a chance of surviving.

Now let me stop here.   Tradition hasn’t usually looked at this text in the way I’m going to look at it.  Traditional interpretations seriously white wash Boaz.   The tradition says:   Boaz is a savior type figure who saved Ruth and Naomi and whose descendants eventually birthed Jesus.   We know, certainly, that without Boaz, the life of Ruth and Naomi would have most likely ended, unless they found another way to survive. ….…. . But from my vantage point, Boaz isn’t really worthy at the entire label of savior.   He simply uses his economic, political and cultural power as a landowning politically privileged male of significant social stature to get what he wants.  He neither really cares whether women who are still left in the fields have anything to eat…. nor figures out ways that there could be a more systemic address to feed the widows where they would not be so impoverished.   He simply figures out a way to save the one he wants, Ruth, who has done such kindness to him to lie down with him, an old man….. and realizes it’s probably a package deal with Naomi.

This is the moral dilemma with having power.   And this is what I want to talk about…..For I believe this is the challenge in both this story and the widow’s mite story.   When you have economic, social or political power, you can use it simply to get more of what you want or you can understand the systems and pressures that create the power imbalances and the totally unjust judgments of society……and do something about that…..notice it….tell the truth about it…..work to eradicate it.  I prefer to think the 2nd of these is Gospel Good News work.

In the Widow’s mite story, Jesus is pointing out not so much the Widow’s two cents as the Widow’s two cents in comparison to the Sadducees and Pharisees who’s relatively small but great contribution allowed them access to the power and privileges of the temple.  They were sure they were “in”, “righteous”, “the ones whose appearance seemed so clean” while at night they devoured widows’ houses.   How we could spend a long time on this when we think about bank bailouts, the housing crisis, the ways were made to participate in a system which is just not good for poor people, which does ok for the middle class but which does very well for the rich……….from birth to death…..

Recent elections?  Yes, we can use the power we have to get what we want, to make us feel important, to make sure we have the privileges we think important…..  Or we can use it to make sure that the systems change so that no woman or man or child ever has to compromise their fullness of life, the abundant life,  by giving their proverbial last two pence to the religious coffers…..or that no man, woman or child ever has to give their body to the Boaz’s of the world in order to belong, be a part, to eat, to have shelter, to be forgiven, to have a place…..everyone should have these things…..PERIOD.

What is the role of the Church – the Body of Christ – in such a world……..  

We can take a look at the Body of  Jesus’  in this middle of this culturally, politically and economically disastrously powerless world for widows, for those disenfranchised…those society has deemed not so important………He sits down where he can see what’s going on and he waits, and listens, and watches and from all of that, he slams the Pharisees and Sadducees – tells the truth about them and then…finds a widow, this unnamed widow – the one with nothing – no looks, no marriageability, no power in society and impoverished and notices her. …..There’s nothing pretty about what he gazes upon.  It’s painful.   She’s putting her last two pennies in the temple treasury….Don’t you want to shout, “STOP!”   But, he watches her.   He gazes upon her.     And then?   He raises her up.   He notices her love, her faithfulness, her hope, her story, her generosity, her richness and in pointing to the system of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he then condemns a system that would require her to give her last two pennies to the Temple treasury where she will receive nothing in return from their economic, political or social distribution of power…no power to sit up front, no belonging, no food, no redemption….nothing…..    He watches her.   The great Jesus who had crowds of people gathering around him, in the center of Jewish economic, social, political power, the Temple which was in the center of an unjust Jerusalem and he gazes upon the one who is “nothing” in the eyes of the world…

I’m not pretending to have answers about what the Church should do, but Jesus’ action here would be a good start.   I’m sure there was discomfort in the room when Jesus pointed out this concern in the Temple and to raise up a Widow’s tuppence as the better gift?   Where do we need to point out the concern in our life together, dear people?   And how would this truth-telling and compassion truly embody the good news Gospel?

[Athena Peralta, World Council of Churches Consultant on Poverty Wealth and Ecology, presented the below address during the United Nations’ General Assembly Hearing with Civil Society on the Millennium Development Goals, 14-15 June 2010, New York]

Tackling the roots of poverty

For Christian churches and the worldwide ecumenical movement, eradicating poverty is nothing less than a moral and ethical imperative. We believe that God’s will is for all humanity – regardless of gender, religious belief, race and ethnicity – to experience life in fullness and in dignity. Thus, together with many civil society organisations (CSOs), we at the World Council of Churches (WCC) applauded the United Nations (UN) in 2000 for taking leadership in the articulation and adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), foremost of which is the internationally agreed goal to halve the number of people “living” in poverty by 2015. Discussions on poverty eradication must continue to be a main concern of the UN, where broad participation of all nation-states and civil society could take place. As 2015 looms closer, there is an urgent need for the international community to revisit and deeply consider the structural, historical and interconnected roots of impoverishment and the required policy- and systemic transformations leading not just to the attainment of the MDGs but to the eventual eradication of poverty.

The WCC remains profoundly concerned that the global financial and economic crisis – which continues to wreak havoc on economies including in the Euro zone – has thrown tens of millions more people into poverty, swelling the ranks of the disempowered, hungry, thirsty, unemployed, sick and homeless, and further derailing the achievement of the MDGs. At this stage of the crisis, many countries are being forced to adopt stringent fiscal policies that imperil economic recovery as well as social and ecological protection – at a time when such protection is needed most.

If anything, the global economic turmoil has called into serious question the previously widely accepted role of deregulated and liberalised global financial and trade structures in reducing poverty: current evidence points to the opposite. Yet the international community appears not to have adequately absorbed these sobering lessons. Prevailing financial and trade paradigms are still driven, at core, by the pursuit of ever-higher growth rates and short-term returns at the expense of people’s economic, social and cultural rights and the health of our increasingly fragile ecosystems. Mere economic growth, however, has already been shown to be an unsustainable, inefficient – and in some cases, ineffective – way of addressing the global poverty crisis.

Against this light, the WCC reiterates its calls for governments and international institutions – with the democratic participation of all peoples – to pursue economic policies as well as build economic frameworks that move away from the current paradigm that is focused on unlimited growth and based on structural greed towards models founded on pro-poor, redistributive growth; universal provisioning of common social goods; sustainable consumption and production; and investments in small-holder agriculture (which continues to be the main source of livelihood for people and women in poverty), social reproduction and ecological protection.

Critical to lifting societies and people out of poverty is a much more equitable distribution of assets (capital, technology, land, education, health care, among others). A wealth of studies reveals that the lack of access by the poor (especially poor women) to assets necessary to achieve socio-economic security as well as higher productivity and income is a “fundamental constraint” on poverty eradication.

Emphasising the pivotal role of MDG 8 (global partnerships for development) in meeting the rest of the MDGs, governments and international institutions must seriously respond to widening inequalities among and within nations and the global financial and trade structures that propagate and deepen these inequalities.  Much more attention ought to be placed on developing policies and structures that enable wealth-sharing among and within countries.

Poverty eradication is of course a critical goal in and by itself. At the same time, the WCC has long argued that many of the violent conflicts that continue to rage in different parts of our world stem in large part from the socio-economic deprivation experienced by communities. Thus, measures to eradicate poverty and close socio-economic gaps are important pathways to strengthening social cohesion and achieving lasting peace at local, national and global levels.

We believe that mobilising the financial resources needed for poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs – particularly through creative forms of taxation inasmuch as taxes are the only sustainable source of development finance – is a matter of political will, yes, and also of moral courage. At the onset of the global financial and economic crash, governments in rich countries were able to put together trillions of dollars in a matter of months to resuscitate ailing financial institutions; and global military spending continues to increase, amounting to US$ 1464 billion in 2008 alone (SIPRI 2010). We need to re-examine and dismantle such a perverse system of priorities that places more import on rescuing big banks and acquiring machines that kill people than on emancipating people from starvation and homelessness. Clearly, the often put forward excuse of a dearth of financial resources to overcome poverty is instead more indicative of a dearth of life-affirming values and morals – a dearth of justice, solidarity and care.

What the international community can and must do in 1660 days

Reshaping the unjust financial and trade structures that generate and reinforce poverty and inequality is a long-term undertaking requiring coordinated action and meaningful cooperation among and between governments and international developmental institutions, as recognised by MDG 8, beyond 2015. Yet this does not preclude the international community from taking immediate measures and initial steps towards deep-seated transformations. Therefore, the WCC calls on governments and international institutions to commit to the following actions at the MDG Summit in September 2010:

  • Enact urgent financial reforms and support further high-level discussions with substantial civil society participation under the auspices of the Financing for Development process to build an international financial architecture that not only distributes socio-economic risks fairly but finances job-creating production, social reproduction and environmental sustainability; and in particular with a view to:
    • Achieving stronger democratic oversight of international financial institutions, by making them subject to a UN Global Economic Council with the same status as the UN Security Council as proposed by the Stiglitz Commission;
    • Creating and/or transforming financial regulatory institutions and mechanisms and implementing financial transaction taxes to deter speculation (whether on currency, food and other commodities) and capital flight;
    • Supporting regional initiatives that decentralise finance and empower people in the global South to exercise control over their own development through bodies such as the Bank of the South, the Asian Monetary Fund and the Bank of the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América;
    • Strengthening tax systems by establishing an international accounting standard requiring country-by-country reporting of transnational companies’ economic activities and taxes paid and forging a multilateral agreement to set a mandatory requirement for the automatic exchange of tax information between all jurisdictions to prevent tax avoidance;
    • Establishing a new global reserve system based on a supranational global reserve currency and regional and local currencies;
    • Setting up a new international credit agency with greater democratic governance than currently exists under the Bretton Woods institutions;
    • Setting up an international bankruptcy court with the authority to cancel odious and other kinds of illegitimate debts and to arbitrate other debt issues;
    • Regulating and reforming the credit agency industry into proper independent supervision institution(s), based on more transparency about ratings and strict regulation on the management of conflict of interest; and
    • Using innovative sources of finance, including carbon and financial transaction taxes, to pay for global public goods and poverty eradication.
  • Resume the Doha Round of trade talks and review free trade agreements based on the objective of transforming multilateral and bilateral trade and investment rules and agreements in support of realising the enshrined rights to food, water, health, education, and gainful and decent employment; and in particular to:
    • Implement workable common international regulations to end agricultural import dumping; and
    • Establish international commodity agreements setting stable base prices for products.
  • Channel resources away from military spending and odious and illegitimate debt payments to investment areas with potentially strong anti-poverty impacts, particularly small-holder agriculture, social development and ecological sustainability; as well as ensure that development assistance to poor countries is not diminished in light of current pressures to rein in fiscal deficits.
  • Discuss and adopt new and more balanced indicators that factor in social and ecological costs and benefits, and therefore better measure and monitor global socio-ecological-economic progress.

by Samuel Nyampong, Ghana. First publisched in Gender and Religious Education.

Women get children and are not able to think

The traditional perception of females in Ghana up to the latter part of the 20th century was that females could not undertake arduous tasks and were better suited for child ‘producing’ and domestic, trading and farm work. Intellectual and professional developments were the preserve of men. A Ghanaian proverb explains it better: “Obea to tuo a etwere obarima dan mu” (When a woman is able to acquire a gun, it is the man who keeps it in his room).

A research on Position of Women in Ghanaian Society has confirmed that women in premodern Ghanaian society were seen as bearers of children, retailers of fish, and farmers. Given the male dominance in traditional society, some economic anthropologists have explained a female’s ability to reproduce as the most important means by which women ensured social and economic security for themselves, especially if they bore male children.

This ingrained perception about females gave justification for fathers to give their daughters to early marriage so they (fathers) would reap the benefit of receiving a dowry in the form of drinks, cash, cattle and other material goods prescribed by Ghanaian traditional customs. Early unprepared marriage has plunged many girls and women into difficulties which have entangled and imprisoned them with no hope of emancipation. Today the Constitution of Ghana guarantees equal rights for males and females.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Onleilove Alston

In America many people make New Year’s Resolutions to set goals as they go into the New Year. Most resolutions involve breaking a harmful habit or beginning a positive one. This New Year’s I want to challenge all of us to make the resolution to resurrect Beijing by supporting the advancement of women’s rights at your church, in your communities and on your jobs. If you choose to take-up this resolution review the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Become familiar with the document and share it within your community. One way in which you can advance women’s rights is by advocating for women’s leadership in local churches and denominations. March is Women’s History Month and you can advance women’s rights by teaching a Sunday school class on women in the Bible. On a broader level if your state or nation is considering legislation that affects women get involved by lobbying your governmental officials. Consider mentoring a younger woman in your church or community this year and encouraging her to be a leader. Individually you can make a donation to a women’s organization or ministry. Personally you can resolve to advocate for yourself and other women when faced with sexism and gender discrimination.  One important way you can help resurrect Beijing is by attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City from February 26 to March 3. Even if you can not attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women take-up a local cause that affects women: childcare, sexism in the workplace, women’s wages or any issue that affects women in your community.

2010 and the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action gives us a unique opportunity to consider the advancements women have made since the Fourth World Conference on Women and to fight against the disadvantages we still face as a global community. The New Year always presents us with new opportunities for growth and advancement, 2010 will present women with the opportunity to advance our cause for equality. As a global community let’s unite and resurrect our rights, our voices, and our cause.  Let’s Resurrect Beijing! Have a blessed, safe and prosperous New Year from Ecumenical Women!

Luke 1:39-56 (The Message)

Blessed Among Women

39-45Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,You’re so blessed among women,and the babe in your womb, also blessed, And why am I so blessed thatthe mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears,The babe in my wombskipped like a lamb for sheer joy.Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!46-55And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news;I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts.He knocked tyrants off their high horses,pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.   It’s exactly what he promised,  beginning with Abraham and right up to now. 56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. 

I playfully call the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the first baby shower. In America baby showers are times for women to come together and celebrate new life; presents are exchanged, advice given and games played. I am sure that each culture has its own version of the baby shower. Mary and Elizabeth celebrated the new life within them by exchanging presents of joy, encouragement, song and prophecy. Both women were carrying children of promise: one would pave the way and the other would be the way. John the Baptist being a prophet even from the womb jumped for joy because he knew the baby Mary carried was the Messiah. Mary and Elizabeth were both silenced and marginalized in their society, yet in the company of each other they declared prophetic words of what God was doing in their midst. Neither woman had a convenient pregnancy- Mary being a teenager and Elizabeth being an elderly woman, but each allowed herself to be inconvenienced for God’s purposes. Mary and Elizabeth’s celebration shows the importance of women coming together for prayer, praise and prophecy. When Mary sings: “He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud.  The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold” we see that in the presence of Elizabeth she could freely declare words that may have been dangerous if spoken in public. When women gather in Christ name he is in our midst. Mary and Elizabeth are a positive example of what can happen when women come together to celebrate life. By their example I am reminded of women coming together throughout history such as: Ruth and Naomi, woman suffragists, and the Fourth World Council on Women in Beijing, China. As we reflect during this season of Advent we must remember that the Gospels included everyday people who God used in extraordinary ways and that we can walk in their example. Women can continue to come together to rejoice, celebrate and prophesy about liberation through collective action and prayer. When we come together the course of history will be interrupted, life birthed and hope given. 

Question for Reflection: Using the example of Mary and Elizabeth how can women support each other and create a space that celebrates life?

Prayer: Dear God give us spaces to rejoice, laugh, and celebrate your life during this Christmas season. Develop friendships that will inspire us to speak truth to power. Help us to support our sisters and rejoice with those who rejoice. Thank you for the example of Mary and Elizabeth. Thank you for the gift of your life. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

by Peace Corps Member Erica McMahon posted with permission by Onleilove Alston

from Ms. McMahon’s Peace Corps Aspiration Statement:

As a Christian African American women born in Brooklyn, NY moving to Kazakhstan will not doubt bring culture shock. Although I have traveled to many countries, I have never spent more than 2 months in one place. During my times abroad I was able to adapt and learn about different cultures by remaining observant, asking questions, and being as humble as possible. Also, as a person who often travels alone, I am familiar with people staring and questioning me. I consider myself to be a person who has strong faith and values and because of this I am willing to experience new things, while at the same time, not having to compromise my beliefs or push them onto others. I remain open-minded and humble to the fact that I have a lot to learn and I am eager for new growth. I hope to use these strategies in Kazakhstan, but I am also eagerly awaiting the advice that comes from Peace Corps training.”

“Hitler is my favorite world leader”

So….

Many things have happened since I started teaching last week. So far its been going really well. My students seem to really like me and I do my best to make sure my lessons are interesting. In Kazakhstan, the teaching style isnt centered around critical thinking; its mostly memorization. I like to give my students challenging activities to make them think out side their Kazakhstan box.

Today was my 1st lesson with a new class so I wanted to give them an activity that would help me get to know them. So I taught them how to ask interesting questions besides “what is your name, how old are you, yada yada yada…”. Some of the questions I came up with were “If you could be any animal what would you be?, If you could cure any sickness in the world what would it be? How much money do you spend in a week and what do you spend it on?” While playing a musical chairs each student had to ask the person who was lost that round some of these questions. Overall it went well…until…..

One particular student had to answer the question: “Who is your favorite world leader and why?”

Student: I like Hitler.
Erica: Im sorry, I dont think I heard you correctly, can you please repeat.
Student: I like Hitler.
Erica: Hitler? From Germany?
Student: Yes, I like Hitler from Germany.
Erica: Oh ok (while thinking in my mind…..whaaaa?) Can you please explain to the class why.
Student: He had great visions for Germany and I like is ideas.
Erica: ………………………………………………………………………………..Interesting…………ok lets move on.

So needless to say I was speechless. This was a class of 1st year students, so their level of English was pretty low. I didn’t think it would be wise to get into a debate about Hitler when the students cant form complex sentences. Also, the topic was “Getting to know you” which was supposed to be a happy lesson! So I let it go.

I posted this on my facebook page and one of my friends had an interesting point. Here is his response: “Remember, people are raised and taught differently. We cannot judge them (not saying you are). All we can do is share our opinions and hope we show how that may not be an appropriate answer… of course your student may have been referring to leadership skills and certain domestic policies of Hitler, not the monstrosities he orchestrated.”

My response: “Good point Mario… we didn’t get a chance to discuss because for that lesson I didn’t think it was appropriate, and we were running out of time. I hope she was just referring to his leadership skills. But I would not characterize Hitler as some who is interesting to study and analyze. Not my FAVORITE world leader. But everyone is entitled to their opinion!”

I wonder what Kazakh history books say about Hitler/Holocaust?

Teaching has been very interesting so far. Maybe with a more advance class I will do a lesson plan about controversial would leaders and have them debate.

Thanks for reading. And as a special prize for reading my blog, here is a picture from the Kazakh Symphony Orchestra and A Squat toilet!

The conductor was a diva! I loved her!

Its not what you think…thats mud…but still….lol

Be Blessed
Erica

Erica McMahon is a Peace Corps Education and Community Development Volunteer in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. A native New Yorker  she graduated from Syracuse University where she studied Information Technology. A former Diversity Recruiter for Credit Suisse, she is  a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. a historically African-American community service sorority. She blogs about her Peace Corps experiences at Faith, Patience and Endurance.

by Onleilove Alston

Naomi Wolf author of The Beauty Myth discusses how images fueled by consumerism are used against women.  Wolf points out that the beauty myth becomes harsher  after times of political gain for women, thus distracting us from the cause of equality. As  Ecclesiastes 1:9 states “their is nothing new under the sun” because in the Song of Songs (a.k.a. Song of Solomon) we can hear the protest of a woman who does not fit into her society’s beauty myth:

“I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. “Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, For the sun has burned me.My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard.”

The unnamed love interest in this Biblical text does not fold under the beauty myth but stands up to it, affirming not only her beauty but her humanity. Colorism is one form of the beauty myth that is a common reality for women around the world; Dalits in India, the color caste system in African-American rap videos, and African women using deadly skin bleaching creams are just a few examples of this social ill.

This video was created by Kari Morris and Onleilove Alston based on scriptures from Song of Songs 1:5-6; 5:7; 8:6b and Music “‘Til We Reach That Day” taken from the Original Cast Album of RAGTIME.  In this video Kari and I wanted to feature women who may stand outside of the beauty myth yet convey a beauty that surpasses society’s norms, we also wanted to show the beauty of women doing justice because “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). One way we can fear or reverence God is by being agents of justice in the world, which highlights a true beauty which is not temporal but eternal in value.

As we seek to be women of faith and justice how can we debunk the beauty myth in our own lives and communities? How can men be allies in this effort?

Kari Morris a graduate of  The Actors Studio and Union Theological Seminary is an  actor, writer,singer and executive producer of the film “Two”.

Onleilove Alston is a student at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University School of Social Work. She organizes with NY Faith & Justice and the Poverty Initiative. During the summer of 2008 she served at Sojourners as a Beatitudes Society Fellow. You can visit her blog- Esther’s Call

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.

The Poverty Initiative, based at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, has a mission “to raise up generations of religious and community leaders dedicated to building a social movement to end poverty, led by the poor.” Recently, at Camp Virgil Tate outside Charleston, West Virginia, they presented a week-long Leadership School with leaders from more than 20 organizations, including NY Faith & Justice, Domestic Workers United, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Jesus People Against Pollution, as well as international participants such as the Shackdwellers Movement from South Africa, the Church of Scotland, and Justicia Global from the Dominican Republic.

090904-leadership-schoolHere, Union alumna and Poverty Initiative member Kym McNair interviews Donna Barrowcliffe, the development manager from the Community Church of Ruchazie in Glasglow, where she works with the Church of Scotland Priority Areas Project (a project focusing on the poorest areas of Scotland). Donna was born and raised in a priority area.

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by Onleilove Alston

It is Thursday September 10, 2009 and I am writing live from The Moral Obligation to End Poverty Event co-hosted by Union Theological Seminary and The Poverty Initiative.  The speakers for this event include: Peter Singer author of How Are We to Live?, President Serene Jones (the first women to serve as president of Union), Ray Offenheiser president of  Oxfam America and Charlene Sinclair member of the Poverty Initiative and Ethics PhD candidate at Union Theological Seminary. Peter Singer is currently discussing what it means to live an ethical life and he has a wise critique for those who may suggest that to end poverty individuals have to give away large sums of money. Singer makes a great point of saying that this extreme solution will only attract a small minority but that the Christian tradition does call us ALL to a moral obligation to end poverty.

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Today the women of Papua New Guinea (PNG) invite us to come with them to the Land Of The Unexpected; to come together with the confidence that In Christ There Are Many Members, Yet One Body. The women of PNG ask us to unite as one in Christ as we join with them in celebrating a unity where love is genuine, where good overcomes evil and where we are of one heart and soul.  Learn more about the World Day of Prayer, and international movement of women.

This post has been cross posted from the National Council of Churches.

This March, the Justice for Women Working Group of the National Council of Churches is celebrating Women’s History Month with weekly articles touching on a diversity of Women’s experiences in Churches and in the world.

Our topics will range from women of faith and their involvement in the United Nations, to the connections between the suffrage and abolition movements and what they can teach us about ending human trafficking today, to examining the connections between faith and feminism and the value of women meeting together through a focus group report on Helen LaKelly Hunt’s Faith and Feminism, A Holy Alliance.

But for now, during this first week of Women’s History Month, the week preceeding International Women’s Day (March 8), and the week beginning the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, we thought we would check out what our Member Communions are doing to celebrate.  Here’s what we found—for your convenience we’ve organized the links into three categories: History, Resources, and Advocacy.

First of all, some history:
∙ For general background, we found this article from womensenews.org helpful.

∙ Are you a women’s history buff?  Try this quiz from the National Women’s History Project
∙ The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends gives some interesting background on two prominent women of faith, Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth.
∙ Histories of women in the Reformed Church of America, and in the United Methodist Church.  Make sure to scroll all the way down!
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Today I’m blogging live from the Transformative Lutheran Theologies conference in Chicago.   We’ve got 156 women and men thinking deep thoughts and asking tough questions, both about church structure and society, as well as identity, love and suffering.

This morning Caryn Riswold, a professor from Illinois College and future Ecumenical Women delegate (we’re excited!) talked about her life as a religious academic who is trying to bridge the gap with feminists.  Third wave feminism recognizes that women have an intersection of identities simultaneously at work: race, class, gender and nationality.  She has found that for the most part, third wave feminists have glossed over religion, finding it irrelevant or just another impediment.  So Riswold is carving out a space where they connect, and asking: what do Christians want to do with feminists?  And– what do feminists want to do with Christians?

Quoting sociologists, Riswold argues that as society we create products and ideas, which then take on a life of their own.   This means that we are producers of our reality, and that God too is a cultural product.  Therefore to assume the image of god is fixed is to miss an opportunity– because really, our image of a patriarchal God has not kept pace with the times. From Luther she takes the understanding of a God that humbles, and the belief that human enterprise must be humbled.  After all we humans are failures, we can’t even create a peaceful world.  She argues that we must reset the balance: where there is privilege, sew humility and where there is poverty, sew empowerment.   After all, she says, the God of creation is a redeeming God, and he trusts our power as creators.

For the second day in a row, NGOs have been excluded from observing government negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women. Over 2,000 NGOs have come to New York from around the world to participate in the meeting.

This is a terrible precedent for the Commission, which would not exist in its current form, if not for years of women’s movement and advocacy at the UN. Countless UN agreements provide guiding principles for NGOs and governments to work together, such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the Beijing Platform for action and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination on Women.

In 2000 governments came together and created the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 — but they made a major mistake doing it behind closed doors. It took until 2003 for civil society to join the campaign, and valuable time was lost.

Governments cannot achieve gender equality alone. As the ones implementing gender equality on the ground, NGOs should be considered experts and allies. The CSW is not the Security Council, this is a team effort, and if governments send a message of exclusion to civil society, their most valuable resource, the entire world will suffer.

NGOs have presented a letter to the bureau of the commission requesting that they be able to observe the meeting, and restating that they will follow observer protocols. But NGOs must keep the pressure on and get the word out about what is happening. Click here to download NGO letter to bureau chair

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