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Check out this interview with Hannah, an Ecumenical Women youth delegate from the Episcopal Church who returned home after CSW57 and was inspired to start a radio show in her home town that deals with a wide range of issues that contemporary teenagers face. This year at CSW58 Hannah held a parallel event discussing the work of her radio show.

An interview with Annamaria Notaristefano, a young adult delegate to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Annamaria discusses her experience at the CSW and the role of dance in their work to eliminate violence against women and girls.

 

An interview with Karyn Lasei and Rauhina Scott-Fyfe, two young adult delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Isatu and Rana discuss their experience at the CSW and the role of dance in their work to eliminate violence against women and girls.

 

An interview with Isatu Ville and Rana Chamandi, two young adult delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women.  Isatu and Rana discuss their experience at the CSW and the role of dance in their work to eliminate violence against women and girls.

 

An Inter-generational conversation between two delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women, Jennifer Bailey, a Church Women United and National Council of Churches and Fulata Moyo from the World Council of Churches.  Jennifer and Fulata discuss the corruption of sacred texts by some advocacy groups at the United Nations and the diversity of faith perspectives on gender rights.

IMG_4974Rana Chamadi, World Student Christian Federation Delegate, Member of the Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon writes about her experience on 3 March, 2013.

Today was a long day: We waited two hours in line to get our UN passes, went for a quick lunch, took the subway all the way across town to get to the Bible study at “the box of God” then came back to the hotel and spent the evening preparing the first ecumenical women worship service on Monday morning. It was really tiring but also very inspiring to be among this group of young educated women who are working hard to make the voice of unnamed women heard.

“If peace was defined as an absence of violence against women, no country would be considered peaceful”. It’s these simple , yet powerful words,  that marked me today. Our WSCF delegation met with other groups of young adults for a contextual Bible study. It’s during this meeting that I heard this important statement and it made me realize, that despite the fact that the women we met with came from various places and were very different, we were all the same when it came to the issue of violence and women’s rights. We are all aware of the issues women are facing, all we need to do is get the message through at the CSW to make an impact then work on the implementation of the change. The change is in our hands, at the “grass roots” level, and that is a big responsibility. These coming two weeks will only be the beginning of our journey of advocacy for women’s rights and I hope I’ll live up to my duties.

 

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 Simon Khayala, B. D. student at St. Paul’s University Kenya, and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

empowering youth KenyaYoung 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!

Also read about the Youth Peace Summet, held in Kenya April 13-18, 2009.

Preparing banners for march at Youth Peace Summit

I just returned from organizing a Youth Peace Summit in Kenya.   Really – this work is an extension of Ecumenical Women in that it is about building coalitions and empowering leaders. The peace summit went from April 13-18 in Nairobi, Kenya and brought together 200 youth from around Kenya as well as Tanzania, Uganda, DRC and Rwanda.  Youth were invited from variety of faiths, including Islam.   We had the meeting to talk directly about the post-election violence that happened in Kenya largely perpetrated by youth in 2008.   Youth came from slums, different religions, former IDPs, one girl even brought her baby.  During the meeting the Youth Minister of Kenya talked about the Youth Enterprise Fund, and we also had a peace march through the city center.

Part of my job was to coordinate the youth media team, we had about 24 people and we split into sub teams of video (the flip), photography, newsletter, blogger and public relations.   Our PR girl called the media houses every day and we got in the Nation, on Citizen TV and on the radio. We produced a newsletter every day.  They honestly blew me away they were so dedicated.  They were on computers at all hours of the day even though they were always breaking and the flash drive modems constantly ran out of airtime.   In the evaluation we did I expected to hear complaints about the technology, but they were so happy they hardly mentioned it.  One said he is studying communications in the university but he learned more in one week doing it than he had in school over all. We take it all for granted – laptops, wireless, it is such a blessing and I wish I could have given these kids laptops as parting gifts because they have so much promise.  groupshot

The group has already had follow-up meetings in Nairobi, planning their next steps.   As part of the program we have a small grants process participants can apply for, so we are sending out the application.   Continuing to put youth leaders at the center, the grants will be chosen by a team of youth peer reviewers.

This was such an encouraging experience, young people want chances to lead.   Church structures can both encourage and deny youth leadership – in this case, we rocked the house.

The Salvation Army Children's Choir

The Salvation Army Children's Choir

Once again we were blessed this morning with a worship service that seemed to perfectly restore and replenish our spirits. Yesterday, the children’s choir of The Salvation Army was unable to make it to our worship because of a traffic hold up. Last night they stayed in a hostel near the United Nations so they would be sure to worship with us this morning. So much the luckier are all of us, because surely we were all in need of the blessing of energy today, in particular, as we received word late last night that Ecumenical Women were chosen to be part of an interactive expert panel at the UN on “the gender perspectives of the financial crisis.” The leaders of our advocacy teams were up late into the night tightening and refining our contributions to the agreed conclusions. Gulping down coffee, I made it into the worship service as the children were finishing their first song. Luckily, Rev. Stone called the children back to wild applause from the packed pews. The children launched into a fierce, beautiful song called I am a friend of God. Quickly, we all were on our feet, waving our hands in the air and feeling the tremendous blessing of being able to gather together every morning, sing, dance, march, and, today, join voices with joyous children.

Later in the afternoon, before going into the Anglican Consultative Council panel Empowering the Girl Child I tried to remember the energy of our children as my own energy was flagging. In 2007 the focus of the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women was on ending all forms of discrimination and violence against girls. Therefore, the focus of this important panel was on giving girls from across the globe a space to talk about the progress and challenges they have experienced in the two years since the Agreed Conclusions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against Girls. The panel started with members of the Anglican Consultative Council calling on all the girls in the room to introduce themselves to all of us. As these girls were introducing themselves I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would be like today if I had had the opportunity to involve myself in the pursuit of women’s rights at the UN. Indeed, all the girl panelists affirmed their desire to be involved in our processes. As church women we can stand to learn much from listening to our children’s experiences as child soldiers and as survivors of gender based violence across the globe. After the girl panelists spoke, members from the Working Group on Girls facilitated a powerful discussion about practical ways we can engage with girls and integrate inter-generational conversation into our communities. One easy way to start this process is to visit the Working Group on Girls website. You can find a toolkit for introducing the 51st CSW Agreed Conclusions to small groups of girls with girl friendly language, including sets of Indicators on the issues of Health and Poverty.

Throughout the course of my first week here at my first CSW I have heard strong, smart women advocate for the involvement of women on all levels of policy-making. Surely, it is just important for women advocates here to provide space for the voice of girls as we move forward in our pursuit of gender equality.

For the first time ever, young adult women have organized themselves into a caucus for the 53rd session of UNCSW and beyond. Representing 8 NGOs, the group of 42 women and 1 man began meeting on Sunday March 1 at the Episcopal Church Center to discuss issues, partnerships and goals for the caucus over the next 2 weeks. Thee NGOs that were represented were:

  • The Episcopal Church/ACC
  • The National Council of Churches
  • World Student Christian Federation
  • World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
  • World Council of Churches
  • Worldwide YWCA
  • Girl Scouts USA
  • Voices of Canadian Women for Peace

Jessica Hawkinson from the Presbyterian UN office facilitated and introductory exercise with the group, after which Kaburo Kobia from Worldwide YWCA and Bernadette Fischler from WAGGGS facilitated small group discussion on the theme and the oral statement to be made in plenary. The caucus will meet again on March 3 at 11:30am and March 4 at 1:00pm in Conference Room B.

Look for them. They are wearing lime green stickers and ribbons.

Nine extremely talented young adult women ranging in age from 19 to 26 will participate in the UNCSW from Feb 27 to March 6 through a joint effort within the Episcopal Church’s Mission Leadership Center of the Women’s and Young Adult Leadership areas.  The group is diverse in their cultural backgrounds and education, but all have had opportunities to take leadership roles in the church and in other NGO’s.

The most defining characteristic, however, is their passion for human rights for women.

“In my ministry with some of the brightest young adults in our country, I am struck not just by their intelligence, but by their passion to contribute something positive to the world. At the same time, they are not naïve about the challenges we face. This is, after all, the generation that came of age on 9/11 and has always known about global warming. To involve these young women at a level that engages both the church and the political realm seems to me to be a marvelous way to connect them with structures through which they can channel their passion for justice,” says the Rev. Stacy Alan, Chaplain, Brent House, The Episcopal Center at the University of Chicago.

The members of the group are: Areeta Bridgemohan, Allison Adair, Catherine Healy, Laura Eberly, Karen Longenecker, Amy Porterfield, Kate Lemler, Andrea de la Torre, and J. Kiku Langford. Read the rest of this entry »

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