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A poem by Djamillah Samad, National Executive of Church Women United:

imagesee me in no shoes, my feet bare upon the ground,
see me in no shoes barely free from a war of states, they say we are free now
but, see me in no shoes, what does freedom mean?

see me in these shoes, shoes big and broken, not really made for me
see me in these shoes walking roads dark and troubled, in a marriage not meant to be,
see me in a union of race mixing and identities stolen.

see me standing in these shoes, wife of a mill owner, I’m  often denied by him in public,
see me compelled by color, class, and gender, pushed to say so little,

see me in these shoes, brand new for this occasion, never worn before,
listen as my youngest girl is crying by my grave, watch her put her own shoes on,
now, watch the slowness of her walk, her life is rapidly changing,
see her sadness in a few years as her daddy’s mills go sold to others  because I am gone on home.

see me in these shoes, shoes not very new
see me in these shoes owned by another little girl whose story, life and access so different than my own,
see the shoes they passed along to a girl who has no mother.

see me in these shoes, I’m not even 14, standing frightened at the porch door,
telling that ole sheriff that my daddy is not here,
see me now in just one shoe, the other lost in the struggle for my life,
make this man leave me alone, I fight in fear, I cry, I fail.
see me hold my other shoe, rocking and crying all alone,
I know my daddy could not have defended me, he’s almost as powerless as me.

see me in these shoes,  I feel I must leave home,
see me riding this train looking for work up north,
see me in my work shoes, maid to a woman who’s not much better off than me, I hear her sobs at night grieving a life gone south.

see me in these shoes, holding out my hand for my pay, we both knowing she pays me less than is my worth,
now see me in the shadows watching her as she steals it back,
she knows I can’t say a word, I know that she can’t either.

see me in these shoes now new and shiny but leaving once again,
see me in these shoes, years later walking on other streets,

see me say I do for a second time, I don’t really love him, it’s safe.
see me in these slippers staring at this child, too tired to read or hold her, I’ll just buy her a toy, tell her to sleep,
see me in these shoes, no one knows which ones I have on.
see my daughter stare at me in my repose, few words were exchanged these last few years, now in my death it is far too late.

see me in these shoes, running for the bus
this is not the first time my eye has been blackened and screams gone unheard,
I just know the next time will be different.

see me mother these children, they’ve aged before my eyes, look, as the years just whiz right by,
But, see them stop talking, is it them, or is it me, not opening up, never admitting they are hurting too,
see them wearing their own shoes, I wonder how much they hide.

see me in your shoes mommy, they’re  so pretty, heels so high.
see me in your shoes, so big upon my six year old feet.
see me in your shoes mommy, walking down our street,
see me walking in your footsteps, will I be just like you?


Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women speaking to a group of about 175 Ecumenical Women delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women on 2 March, 2013.

Harriet Tubman. Eleanor Roosevelt. Maggie Kuhn. Naomi Rose. Merdine T. Morris.

On this day – who are the women who have served as advocates for whom you give thanks?

Advocacy took central stage at the Ecumenical Women‘s Orientation. The afternoon workshops focused on advocacy and with good reason.

The “agreed conclusions” will be the primary outcome of the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. The 45 Member States of the Commission will create a set of concrete, action-oriented  recommendations for action by governments, intergovernmental bodies,  and other relevant stakeholders. These recommendations will call for implementation at the international, national, regional and local level. They will address the primary theme for the 56th Session of the Commission: “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”

We come to the Commission – representatives of the Ecumenical Women member organizations and other NGOs – to advocate for concepts, themes, and language to shape those agreed conclusions. In the case of Ecumenical Women, we do so guided by faith in Jesus Christ and the policies of our respective organizations.

As we advocate, we follow in the footsteps of our sisters who have gone before – we stand beside our sisters who live the struggle.

For whom do we give thanks this day and everyday?

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 Frederick Clarkson, first published in the WomensENews commentator on February 24, 2010

A religious think tank has issued a manifesto about breaking the silence in religious communities about a host of sexuality issues. It hasn’t stirred much media attention, but Frederick Clarkson thinks it could be revolutionary.

(WOMENSENEWS)–The Religious Institute has just issued a 46-page report on the state of sexuality in religious communities and a manifesto that seeks to transform the status quo.

Goals include improved pastoral care of marital relationships, domestic abuse and infertility, and training for prospective clergy in sexuality-related matters.

The institute calls for religious leaders to provide lifelong age-appropriate education for youth and adults and to become more effective advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health in society.

Clergy are often first responders in matters of domestic violence and potential (and actual) suicides by young people struggling with sexual identity. The Religious Institute points out that these first responders have usually received little to no training for the job.

A singular strength of the document is that it offers an uncompromised progressive vision that does not conform to recent fashions in seeking “common ground” with conservative
evangelicals and Catholics.

Particularly striking in this regard is its call for a society in which there is full access to reproductive health care, including abortion, marriage equality and full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of religious communities.

Since it was announced two weeks ago, the report, “Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade,” has generated little media attention beyond a few regional newspapers and online news sites.

Sometimes, this is the quiet way revolutions begin.

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The Civil Society Unit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is moderating an on-line discussion on Women and Human Rights, focusing on issues of accountability and access to justice.

The discussion started on 1 February and will end on 28 February.  Sub-themes are:

- National legal frameworks challenges, trends and best practices with respect to legal protection of women’s human rights (Week 1);

-Accountability challenges, trends and best practices with respect to ensuring accountability for violations of human rights of women, including violence against women (Week 2);

-Access to justice challenges, trends and best practices with respect to womens access to justice (Week 3);

-Summary, wrap-up and observations (Week 4).

Each week starts with a short introduction to the theme to trigger and encourage a constructive and fruitful on-line discussion, to be summarized and analyzed in order to contribute to the Beijing +15 review. The discussion is part of a series of United Nations online discussions dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000); and is coordinated by WomenWatch, an inter-agency project of the United Nations Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality.

Join the discussion!

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!

by Onleilove Alston

Note: Though DWU works on issues affecting domestic workers in the U.S. the issues faced by its membership are shared by women worldwide. The exploitation of women workers is an international human rights issue. According to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the U.N. :

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor  and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. THEY will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD   for the display of his splendor. THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; THEY will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. -Isaiah 61:1-4

“I want to be in tune with my maker.”

“I pray for the organization to get the (the Domestic Worker) Bill of Rights passed”.

“Without God we can’t do anything”.

“I put fliers in the churches, I speak to the pastors”.

–Marilyn Marshall and Joyce Gill-Campbell Leaders in Domestic Workers United (DWU)

“We have a dream that one day, all work
will be valued equally”.-Mission of Domestic Workers United

During the spring of 2006 I started to closely read Isaiah 61 and began to gain spiritual encouragement from meditating on God’s care for the poor and oppressed. I began to study this scripture whenever I had the chance. In 2007 I started to work with New York Faith & Justice after meeting founders: Lisa Sharon Harper, Anna Lee and Peter Heltzel at Pentecost 2007. In the Fall of 2007 New York Faith & Justice did an in-depth Bible Study on Isaiah 61 and from this study I learned that this passage declares the poor “the oaks of righteousness”, and “that THEY will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated”. This new insight revolutionized my approach to the ministry of ending poverty. Instead of just preaching the gospel to the poor, the poor are called to rebuild and restore their communities! If you are a person of privilege instead of working for the poor you are called to work alongside the poor. And if like me you come from the ranks of the poor you are called to rebuild and restore your community. This re-reading of Isaiah 61 is further supported by my work with the Poverty Initiative’s Poverty Scholars Program. The Poverty Scholars program brings poor activist from across America to Union Theological Seminary to take part in an educational program of conferences, theological reflection and action planning centered on re-igniting Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign.

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For many women who weren’t able to attend (or who weren’t old enough to know what was going on oat the time) the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995 exists only in the realm of the imagination.  For me (age 12 at the time) the words “Beijing conference” conjure up the list of areas of the Beijing platform and visions of huge crowds of global women.  That was until I saw “The World Through Women’s Eyes.”

In the time leading up to the Beijing conference, a group called The U.S. Ecumenical Women’s Network: Beijing and Beyond, was focusing on the importance of calling media attention to Beijing and spreading the stories that would be shared there.  This group of women decided that one of the most effective things they could do was create a video (yes, it was VHS then) documenting the conference.  Through the magic of modern technology, we were able to transfer this VHS tape to DVD, and then upload it to YouTube.

It is with great thanks to the women who had the foresight to make this video possible that we encourage you to watch, send it to your friends and networks, and inspire a new generation with the stories of your own involvement in the global women’s movement.

Cordaid and Partners reward Home Based Care Leadership in responding to HIV and AIDS. Win up to 15.000 Euro!

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AIDS has changed the fabric of communities around the world and placed a burden on the lives of many people, especially girls and women, young and old. With health systems failing and people living longer with HIV thanks to access to Antiretrovirals (ARVs), mainly poor women, are increasingly forced to devote their time, energy, skills and the little resources to care for their family members at home and provide their services to the wider community, often at great expense to themselves. This invisible task-shifting is insufficiently recognised, valued and validated as work.

Prize of €15.000 and €5.000 for HBC Leadership

The Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development (Cordaid) and partners of the Caregivers Action Alliance’s (CAA) Organising Committee (HelpAge International, Huairou Commission, VSO International) as well as the World YWCA, reward and encourage leadership around the strengthening of home based care in responding to HIV and AIDS in the “global South” by awarding €15.000 for an organisation and €5.000 for an individual. Cordaid and partners are seeking applications from organisations or individuals committed to supporting home based care as a necessary, effective, and community-based initiative – recognising home based care as an insufficiently resourced, under-valued and unrecognized solution for mitigating the effects of HIV and AIDS.

How to submit

Submissions can be sent up to 15 September 2009. To download the Rules and Procedures as well as the Application Form, visit the website: http://www.cordaidpartners.com/rooms/hiv-and-aids-award-2009. For more information please contact HIV_and_AIDS_Award@cordaid.nl or visit www.cordaid.nl.

In the US, slavery was officially abolished 140 years ago. “In reality, modern day slavery is not only alive and well, but growing in unprecedented dimensions”, Sheila Novak SDS says. in Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery, a resource packet for congregations, she informs that app. 27,000,000 men and women, girls and boys are enslaved in today’s world. Human Trafficing was created by the Sisters of the Divine Savior, in order to raise awareness and to equipp congregations to act against this modern scandal.

Grounded in the Christian faith, Human Trafficing includes practical background information, gives suggestions for bible readings, prayers, and sermons, helps with event planning from letterwriting campagns to FairTrade, and shows how a congregation can reach out to different age groups.

Download your own copy of Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery.

by Diana Sands.

To begin, I would like to borrow an exercise popularized by a very creative teacher and writer*. Below I have copied a quote from a human rights advocate. All clues to the identity of the writer, the writer’s religion, and the writer’s country of origin have been obscured. Please read the following three paragraphs and try to guess which religion is referenced, which country the writer is from, and if you’re really daring, who wrote it.

 “I have been a practicing [religious faith] all my life and a [lay leader and teacher] for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with [my religion], after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the [religion’s highest] leaders, quoting a few carefully selected [religious text] verses, … [declared] that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as [religious leaders].

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries…

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of [prophets] and founders of [the] great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of [God]. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”

Can you guess? I am sure that the media, which is truly a global influencer these days, must have had some sway over your guesses. Be honest with yourself. Did you guess the writer was a formerly Muslim woman from the Middle East or Central Asia who was fed-up with the politics of Islamic leadership in her community? Maybe you sensed a trick question and guessed a formerly Muslim woman from the West? Well, the writer is former United States President Jimmy Carter writing about why he is leaving Christianity. This exercise can show us lots of things about ourselves – I think primarily it shows that Islamophobia in the Western media is influencing us in very divisive ways. We have been distracted from the reality that women suffer subjugation and dehumanization at the hands of so many religious leaders across faith traditions. We have almost forgotten that opportunities for interfaith solidarity and cooperation around women’s rights are indeed possible through progressive and respectful dialogue.

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by Sarah Armitage. Cross-posted from inspiremagazine.org

The Burmese military is using rape and sexual violence against ethnic women and girls as part of a deliberate strategy to attain and strengthen control.  Charity worker Sarah Armitage reports
 
Rape. It may be a small word, but it has a meaning that carries the power to destroy individuals, families and entire communities. All around the world, rape is used against women as a show of power and control. In Burma, it is also used as a weapon of war.
 
A couple of weeks ago the Burma Army, the military force of the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), began a new offensive along the border in Karen State. Almost 4,000 civilians fled for their lives across the Moei River into Thailand creating an extensive emergency crisis. In the days leading up to the attacks, the Burma Army entered villages in the area forcibly recruiting soldiers and porters.
 
On 12 June, Naw Pay and Naw Wah Lah chose to stay in their homes rather than try to outrun the Burma Army soldiers heading towards their village, a few hours’ walk from the border.

Naw Pay, aged 18, was eight months pregnant and Naw Wah Lah, aged 17, had a six-month old baby to care for.  It was a decision with dire consequences. When found by the soldiers they were taken out of their homes and gang raped. Afterwards, both young women and the unborn child were brutally murdered. Karen-Women
 
Tragically, this is not an isolated case. Over the past few years, a number of women’s groups based in Burma have produced reports documenting the systematic use of rape and sexual violence by the Burma Army against ethnic women and girls.

The number of known rape victims, some going back as far as 1995, is just under 1,900.  However, this is only a fraction of the true number as so many women are afraid or unable to speak out about what has happened to them.

Sometimes rape is carried out with such extreme brutality that for the victim, death can be the only possible outcome.
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  • UN welcomes Malaysia's court ruling to decriminalizes transgender women
    The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today welcomed the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal of Malaysia that declared unconstitutional the criminalization of Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing.
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    Allegations of the mass rape of 200 women and girls in a town in North Darfur continue raise concerns in the war-torn Sudanese region as the African Union-United Nations hybrid mission there presses ahead with its efforts "to shed further light" on the reports.
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