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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Scripture Reading: John 12:1-11

If asked to name who were the first followers of Jesus or the first leaders of Christianity most would name: Peter (the rock), John (the disciple that Jesus loved), or even the Apostle Paul (who spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire). Though all of these men played important roles in establishing the church the first person to actually figure out the full capacity of who Jesus was and act on this knowledge was a woman named Mary by anointing Jesus with her alabaster jar of perfume that was worth a year’s salary this woman was not just serving Jesus with a random act of kindness but she was acknowledging who he was and what he was about to undergo. She was the first Christian and a leader because she had the vision to see and act on the totality of who Jesus was. Her action was actually a prophecy without words. Though most men of his day would not have acknowledged her service, Jesus actually advocates for her when Judas (for his own selfish reasons) criticizes her “wastefulness”. Jesus also says some curious and difficult words: “the poor will always be with you”. Though this comment from Jesus may discourage some from working to end poverty, could it be possible that Jesus made this statement more as a condemnation of the disciples’ behavior and not as a commentary on whether it is possible to end poverty. We have to be a careful to not read this comment out of the context of Jesus’ entire ministry, where in his inaugural sermon he declared that he came to “preach good news to the poor”. This passage also shows us the importance of women in the ministry and life of Jesus-Martha was present at this event because she planned the dinner where the anointing occurred. Women were not a side bar in the ministry of Christ but played an essential role, by hosting, fundraising and completing many other tasks that facilitated the spread of Christianity. The sin of sexism prevents many women from serving in leadership roles but throughout history we see examples of women who like Mary navigated around the confines of their times: Deborah the Old Testament Prophetess, Queen Esther, the women of the National Welfare Rights Movement, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and even Mary Mother of Jesus. These women worked for freedom in various ways and had the vision to prophesy to the injustices of their day. God can use anyone regardless of the conventions of culture.

Prayer: God help me to truly see you and your children for who they are, help me to prophesy with whatever I have-whether it be words, hospitality, resources, or time. Give me a vision that is larger than societal expectations so that the poor will not always be with us.

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 Ann Tiemeyer

From February 22 – 26, 2008, seven young women between the ages of 21 to 28 years old participated in the first Young Women’s Leadership Experience facilitated by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC). The group received intensive orientation about the NCC, Ecumenical Women at the UN, Nongovernmental Organizations (NGO’s) at the UN and the history of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  More>>

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