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In honour of International Women’s Day, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, in collaboration with Washington Post On Faith, released a blog series entitled Is religion good for women? A fine example of the work from this series is the embedded video below from Grace Lee Baughan of the Faith and Global Engagement Initiative at Hong Kong University. If you find Grace’s video helpful, you can check out the entire series from experts around the world here.
The diverse opinions expressed in the Is religion good for women? series do not necessarily represent the views of Ecumenical Women, but rather are provided simply as a resource for our readers.
In an effort to share the voices and experiences of our delegates to #CSW57, the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) in Canada has
started a blog. Posts include pieces written by delegates, photos, interesting links from parallel and side events, pieces from worship, advocacy updates and information that may be helpful for those working in grassroots organizations or official structures in their work relating to this year’s priority theme, that is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Some posts are more narrative, some colloquial, some personal and some academic – this diversity of voices is a product of the diversity of this group and we hope it makes this blog more accessible and interesting to the broad group of people of faith concerned with women’s empowerment.
To check out this amazing blog from an important Ecumenical Women partner, click here. Ecumenical Women will occasionally cross-post pieces as well.
by Rochelle Rawls-Shaw, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegate to CSW57; this was originally written as an email to her community at San Francisco Theological Seminary
I felt it was time to share with you all the exciting happenings and history-making things going on here at the United Nations. For the next two weeks, March 4-15, women ( some 5,000 are registered, no one is absolutely certain how many will participate) will come to the UN for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This year’s theme is the Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
I’m part of the Presbyterian delegation which has over 70 people at this year’s Commission. This includes girls and men from across the US. Our delegation is a member of the Ecumenical Women (EW) delegation which has over 200 people from different denominations and church organizations.
I attended two full days of orientation that began last Friday when the Presbyterian delegation met. Our delegation includes individuals from Presbyterian Women and Young Women’s Leadership Development as well as Presbyterians working to end violence against women and girls and PC(USA) national staff. As we fellowshiped, we shared information about our ministries and explored our purpose at CSW: to advocate for justice and equal rights for all women and girls around the world.
The EW orientation met Saturday. The day began with breaking bread together and included 2 worship services. I had a significant role in the worship service at the end of the day. I was the narrator/storyteller in the story/presentation on the story of Jepthah. It was awesome!
Every day for the next two weeks of the CSW, EW delegates begin the day by worshiping together in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations. Each represented denomination or church organization is responsible for preparing one worship experience focused on a biblical passages about women. I was responsible for leading the Presbyterian worship service on Tuesday. It included Presbyterian women from New Zealand. It was titled Laying Down The Stones. It was well attended and a blessing to all who were present.
There are planned marches all around the world for this Friday, March 8th – International Women’s Day. I will be there with our delegation as we march for justice and equality for all women and girls. I will be representing women, Presbyterian, and SFTS!
by Joanna Hertzog, CSW delegate and seminarian from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
I came to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women with my own stories of the way violence and abuse has separated my family. I came with the stories of women I have met and the stories of women I have never met. I came unsure of how my voice, as a Lutheran seminary student, would fit in the midst of the voices of leaders from around the world.
It was during the General Assembly on Tuesday that my uncertainty about where my voice fits was made clear. The representative from Australia during her statement said, “Living free from violence is everyone’s right. Working for freedom from violence is everyone’s responsibility.”
It was at that moment that I took notice of who was sitting beside me: a woman in her twenties from Uganda and a woman in her forties reading a newspaper written in French. I looked at the rows of women and men from around the world: some in black suit coats, some in bright colored scarves, some young and some old.
I realized that I was surrounded by thousands of powerful women from around the world–all of who are speaking out with one loud and powerful voice to end violence against women and girls. I am here with women who are fighting for freedom from violence and oppression. I am here with men who are speaking out with their mothers, wives, daughters, and friends. Each speaking in her mother tongue. Each bringing her own stories. Each beautiful in her own way.
And I knew that it didn’t matter of where my voice would fit because it was the power of all our voices brought together as one voice. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that continues to move and breathe that unites all of us, despite our differences, as one body—as one voice. It is out of the promises of the gospel that we stand together, hand in hand, no longer focusing on what separates us but on what unites us. The 57th CSW is a testament of how the Spirit is moving with one voice to end violence against women and girls. As the church, let’s continue to boldly proclaim the radical gospel that all have the right to a life free from violence and oppression.
Artist Mary Button sat down with the Ecumenical Women Communications Team yesterday to give some background information on her artwork, CSW57 and what inspires her. Check out the video above.
A new side event has been announced:
Enhancing Women and Girls’ Leadership: A Perspective from Rural Communities
28 February 2012
Chapel, Church Center for the UN
8:45 am – 10:15 am
Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee
WIPSEN-Africa’s Projects on Gender and SSR
West Africa Women Election Observation Team
Young Girl’s Transformative Leadership
Co-sponsors: The Lutheran World Federation and Ecumenical Women at the UN
H.E. Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations and Chair of the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women welcomes everyone to this year’s session.
Note that the volume appears to be low
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.
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.
The Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network has recently launched the Restoring Dignity initiative, engaging senior religious leaders, women and men of all faiths, survivors of violence, and youth to End Violence Against Women. The response to the initiative, “so far has been inspiring”, says Jacqueline Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program at Religions for Peace, a collaborator of Ecumenical Women. Faithful women and men are taking leadership and becoming active in the Restoring Dignity– End Violence Against Women campaign at http://religionsforpeace.org/initiatives/women/restoring-dignity.html.
Please join and take action today!
With the official launch of Phase II of the UN Secretary-General’s and UNIFEM’s Say NO—UNiTE initiative, the initiative will count actions by individuals, governments, civil society partners and faith-based partners. You can show your support by visiting the Say NO website and take action by:
- Adding your signature to the Letter to the UN Secretary-General to strengthen partnerships with faith-based organizations and increase commitments to end violence against women
- Sign the Interfaith Pledge on Restoring Dignity
- Join in Interfaith Prayer on Ending Violence Against Women
- Submit a Poster for the Interfaith Youth Poster Competition.
On this webpage, you are invited to create your own resources and actions, update photos from your interfaith event, and even link videos to youtube! And the best part, it’s very easy to use! But if you have any snags, send an email to GlobalWomenofFaith@religionsforpeace.org for technical support.
TAKE YOUR FIRST ACTION TODAY! Sign the Call to Action to the UN Secretary-General by 23 November 2009.
Young people in Africa grow up as prisoners of the elder generation. They usually have limited or no right at all to decision making. The community they come from led by the elders dictates what they should do and what they should not do. In most communities youth have no right to chose their spouses, the parents through the help of community will always influence who they should be married or get married to. Any opposition concerning this matter may lead to rejection or isolation from the parents and the community.
In the case of initiation, whether it is inhuman or not youth are expected to participate whether they like it or not. For example female circumcision has been termed as crude, painful and inhuman practice for young girls, but the communities practicing it have kept a deaf ear and expect no opposition from those undergoing it, who are mostly the youth. If one stands firm to reject this practice, they are simply expelled from the community.
In some communities in Kenya young boys are expected to go to the forest and kill a lion to prove they are men enough to marry. If he fails to do that no girl will marry such a coward man…
Many are the things therefore that happen to the life of an African youth that no one talks about. Similar to women, youth are expected to follow the customs and decisions made on their behalf. But they are not allowed to speak for themself. Elder men are usually regarded as the custodian of wisdom; they are the ones to be consulted whenever there is crisis in families or community. They are believed to be trustworthy and therefore highly respected. Young adults in Africa have some privileges which the youth do not have in the community. For example, they can be included in meetings, or can be given leadership roles.
Although things are now changing due to modernity and westernization, a lot has still to be done if significant change has to be realized. The traditional belief that the youth and women are inferior group has cropped even in our modern time, where we find most leaders both in religious and political cycles in Africa are elder men.
This perception has to stop; I call upon the youth and women whenever they are to call for mutual relationship with the elder men, and to stand up strong to fight for their rightful place in the society!
by Paola Salwan
In September 1995, thousands of people made the historical move of adopting the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action during the World 4th Conference on Women. The declaration, although not legally binding, quickly became a comprehensive reference policy document on women’s rights and women’s lives throughout the world for governments, NGOs, international organisations and the global women’s movement. The twelve critical areas of importance and concern outlined in the declaration (Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional environment and the girl child) paved the way for the other documents that try to ensure and enforce women’s rights, such as the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 or the third Millennium Development Goal, which is promote gender equality and empower women.
A review of the implementation of the BDPA has taken place every five years since its adoption. A political document was drafted at Beijing +5, “Further Actions and Initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, in order to deepen the understanding and application of the BDPA.
For Beijing+15, governmental delegations, but also NGOs, UN Bodies and international organisations attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010 will assess and evaluate the progress made on the implementation of the Beijing document. Delegations will be invited to share good practices and experiences, but also to reflect on the challenges that are still lying ahead for women around the world. Many different spaces will be available for participants to express themselves and try and build strategies for women’s rights. The outcome of theses meetings should be a vision for the substantial improvement of women’s lives , in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
In order to prepare this ever-important session, many regional events are already taking place around the world, such as the Africa Regional Task Force for the Beijing Review Process or the 2009 Asia-Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing +15, organised around the theme “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future”. These events are mainly put together by NGOs and civil society, while the high level and experts review meetings that are also being undertaken in each region towards the end of 2009 are organised by ministries and national ministries or regional commissions.
It is indeed paramount to have these events, as well as the review of the Declaration, taking place, in view with the current status of women around the world. If we follow WHO’s statistics following a 10-countries study:
- About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
- Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
- Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Worldwide, up to one in five women report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
- Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.
It’s time the world wakes up and truly makes the Violence Against Women a top priority on the global agenda. VAW not only traumatizes the women as individuals, it also affects the community as a whole. In societies where women are less represented than men, where women die from honour killings or domestic abuse, the cohesion is likely to be loose and a lack of resources may arise.
Women are homemakers, more often than not bread earners, mothers, sisters, and pillars of the family and of the society. To violate and abuse them is to violate and abuse the society as a whole.
Beijing+15 will be a platform to fight this battle, but we need more of those.
Go on, promote Gender Equality, participate in Beijing+15 events, follow the news on Gender-based violence, spread the word. Every voice counts.
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.
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.
crossposted from unaids.org
According to a new report published by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), estimated 50 million women in Asia, who are either married or in long-term relationships with men who engage in high-risk sexual behaviours, are at risk of becoming infected with HIV from their partners.
The HIV epidemics in Asia vary between countries in the region, but are fuelled by unprotected paid sex, the sharing of contaminated injecting equipment by injecting drug users, and unprotected sex among men who have sex with men. Men who buy sex constitute the largest infected population group – and most of them are either married or will get married. This puts a significant number of women, often perceived as ‘low-risk’ because they only have sex with their husbands or long-term partners, at risk of HIV infection.