By: Lia Hansen, Lutheran Office for World Community FullSizeRender (1)

On July 14th, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom held a panel discussion during the High-Level Political Forum titled “From Shrinking Spaces to Feminist Movement Building: Key Priorities on SDG 5 and 16 for Sustaining Peace”.
Lopa Banerjee Bianco (UN Women), began with introductory remarks emphasizing the importance of meaningful participation by women’s organizations to the realization of the SDGs. She spoke about conservatism and fundamentalism undermining social justice and solidarity, and about the current pushback on key aspects of women’s rights. She emphasized the accountability gap that currently exists, and a need for public demanding of accountability of government and intergovernmental organizations. She hilighted the need to focus on solidarity building of civil society with new strategies.

The first panelist was Gabriella Irsten, from WILPF Sweden. She spoke of the shrinking NGO space financially and administratively, and the constant threat of violence to feminist activists. She discussed the importance of a power shift, of local NGOs getting more space for advocacy, and strengthening meaningful women’s participation in national discussions. The second panelist, Ismail Aziz from Women Deliver in Iraq also stressed the importance of international partnership with local NGOs.

Saba Ghori, from Women for Women International, declared that existing women’s networks are often exposed and displaced, and emphasized the importance of social networks and organizing women at grassroots level. She also underscored the need for localized partnerships, building the capacity of local organizations. There is a need for more flexible funding, to have more local NGOs apply to ensure effective implementation of existing commitments and ensuring the voices of rural and local women are heard.

The last speaker was Mabel Bianco, from the Fundación para Estudio e Investigation de la Mujer in Argentina.  She discussed the widespread impunity of violence against women in Latin America, and the movement “Ni Una Menos” that began denouncing femicides. She declared that many countries do not allow NGOs to participate, or participate in a meaningful way, in national review processes. She emphasized the lack of funding and need for capacity building for women’s grassroots organizations.

“I realized I don’t have what it takes to sit back and be average” that is a quote from the Kansas Assoc33612523701_a61a6e4ca3_o.jpgiation of Youth director. My name is Kirsten Lee. I am a delegate from the Episcopal Church and I am 17 years old. I am a senior in high school and this is my first CSW.

To achieve equality, it will take 117 years according to the Economic Core. By then I will probably be dead but I will have continued the legacy. These past two weeks we have looked at the legacies left by Ester, Lydia, Mary, Elizabeth, and Tabitha. And we even looked at our modern-day Lydia’s and we commemorated all the women who have worked.  Worked in the name of the Lord. And this morning we are bounding for the finish line and we are looking hopefully for the Agreed Conclusions to be passed at one o’clock this afternoon. But it doesn’t end when those agreements are passed, we are not at the finish line. We have just begun our leg of the race to carry the message out into the world.

People say that the youth are the future of the world but we are a part of this world. We are picking up from where others have left off and we are continuing this journey but we need to start passing the baton. We need to train more people. In order to pass it on we have to be an example for others to follow. It was interesting because I expected to come here and make a difference in the world, but I realized what I really needed to do is go home.  At the UN I was surrounded by feminists, so many feminists, and it was great. But civil society and the UN do not have much power. It is strong and mighty but it cannot enforce. The questions proposed at the briefings and events were how do we implement what we are doing here? It really starts from a Grassroot level. It starts at home. If you don’t like something, change it. If they can’t do it right, do it yourself. Most were saying that we really should consider running for political office because that is where you can have power to implement. To get there is hard. We have to work so much harder to be seen as equal to men. No matter what you are doing there is going to be opposition. But you have to keep on keeping on. You need to pave the way for other women to follow. We need to work with everyone to achieve equality.

Everyone asks me what I am doing after I graduate. Great question. I’m going to stop you right there. Because I don’t really know. But what I do know is that no matter where I go I am going to face challenges. I am looking at studying engineering at a university- I don’t know what kind but engineering- with a minor in Spanish. But right now, I am the only girl in my Manufacturing Consultants class. I wish to see more girls going into STEM fields. I joined a FIRST robotics team and we only have 5 girls in total on our team. We are lucky to have a 1:4 ratio at our meetings and when we do we celebrate it. On the other hand, I lead Girl Scout tours at the CAPS building to inspire younger girls to go into STEM. Young people, people in general have to see women taking on these roles to actually want to do it and create change. I have my own heroes that I look up to and the people that have inspired me to be who I am today.

In a perfect world, our governments would be based on human rights. And women’s rights are human rights. But as we all know we don’t live in a perfect world. As put by the Executive Director of UN Women, “Women need not to live up to society; society needs to live up to women.” But what can we do, go! We need to go back and advocate, educate, and inspire.

We need to be more like the kids. We need to have a child like faith and we need to dream dreams. Especially soaking up all the information and the atmosphere here. Kids are like little sponges and pick up on all the little things you do and then repeat that. Even the stuff you don’t want copied. Be the fearless girl looking down the bull. Have courage because the lord your god will be with you wherever you go. Continue the legacy. Advocate. Educate. Inspire. And girl power. And last but not least love.

All these words are not just words. I may not be very good at English but they are all verbs. Verbs are action words. We can’t sit around to make stuff happen. You have to get up and go. Amen.

My name is Charlotte Mildenberger. I am a vicar from Germany and currently interning at the LOWC.

It was my first CSW. CSW has been an amazing experience for me. It was so inspirational and moving to meet women from around the world and to listen to their stories and also to share experiences.

God wants justice in our world. Having the opportunity to be here at CSW and to advocate for what god wants is fantastic.

“The power of womens works”, women who worked and believed in their work: continuing the legacy”.

When I return to Germany I will get my first congregation and start working as a pastor.

Rev. Dionne was asking me: Charlotte, you are about to become a pastor, what does it mean for you continuing the legacy. Now after CSW?

So I was reflecting on Rev. Dionnes question: After talking to women from around the world and learning about biblical women and their work, I feel inspired to take concrete actions. So how could these concrete actions look like?

First of all it means to listen back home to the stories of all women and girls. Also to share with them my experiences I made here at CSW. To inform them about the situation of women and girls around the world. It would be great to build possible partnerships worldwide.

I want to encourage women and girls in my congregation to take action. To take responsibility in their congregation and to stand up for their rights in their community. Also I think it is important to talk with people about the SDGs because many people have never heard about them. And especially about SDG 5 – gender equality.

The biblical women have inspired me to follow my own path. To be sensitive for what god wants me to do in our world. How I can help others.

In Germany we currently have a lot of refugees. Many of them are women and children. An issue that is close to my heart is empowering refugee women and children through education and employment.

Congregations are important places also for education. When I go back to Germany I want to make sure that refugee women and children will have access to education in my congregation, for example language courses.

Now being here at the UN during CSW is of course a great opportunity to do advocacy – but it is also extremely important to continue the advocacy work back home at the grassroots level.

During our opening service we saw a play where the biblical women were gathering. They were sharing their stories. It was a very intense scene watching the women sharing their stories, supporting each other, building networks.

 

This is for me the final frame and also the first step to be able to take concrete actions and to continue the legacy – supporting each other and building networks – because only together we can make a difference!32928553873_964169ea1b_o.jpg

By Sophia Chung, International Leaders Program, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. DSC_0475.JPG

I truly appreciated the opportunity to attend CSW in New York not only because it was a chance to expand my horizon, but also because it helped me to see more possibilities and responsibilities now and in future. Everything I experienced and learned throughout those five days is more than I could list down or express through words. I am thankful for all the meaningful conversations I had with people I met or with my teammates during meal times because they helped me developed my thoughts with much more depth. Through all these conversations, God reminds me of His plan for me, His promises, and His grace which never leaves me. Through the preparation for CSW, I learned how shallow my knowledge was, and I realized I had stayed in a comfort zone for such a long time. I thought that I knew what was going on in my country, but I realized I was unaware of a lot the issues going on there. I realized that my country women’s status in the family is the second worst in Southeast Asia, it has the second highest “discriminatory family code” in the region (meaning women’s status are undervalued), women have less than 10% political representation, marital rape is not considered a crime in my country, and the government has no plans to change it. Not only that, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap study in 2014 shows that my country has the worst gender gap in Southeast Asia, and perhaps a lot of this stems from the country’s view of women. I realized that things like marital rape and other major issues may not be happening in my community, all the aforementioned issues are happening in my country. So, this left me with the question: what can I do?

This trip has helped me reflect and start thinking what my church back home can do so that we can reach both indigenous and Muslim women and young girls. These are sensitive topics in a Muslim majority country because of the many legal restrictions and limitations enforced by the government. So, providing government funded education, expecting new government policy, or giving out resources are not likely to happen. Also, it isn’t efficient or a long-term solution for the church back in Malaysia to simply supply economic resources in cases where the government care for women might be lacking. It’s easier to say that I’m going to be a part of changing the status quo than to actually take steps to make it happen, but attending the conference has motivated me to start planning so that this is not just a unilateral resource assistance, but a two-sided cooperation and management, that ensures a healthy relationship between church and community that can last to the next generations. This is a never-ending-learning process, and I wish that I could have stayed a few more days to learn and absorb. But I think it is more valuable to begin implementing the knowledge I do have in my church and community, and to begin writing down a real plan and share it with my pastors and church leaders.

Lastly, I am reminded of a quote from Thomas King, “Don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” We are each confronted by pressing issues within our culture and society, instead of simply turning a blind eye, we must each identify our role in shaping the future and the change we hope to see.

A reflection shared by Jennifer Allen a delegate of the Episcopal Church

Purple Gumballs

When my daughter was baptized, she wore a dress made for my mother by my mother’s mother. As I held my tiny baby girl in that dress, with my mother at my side, I could feel my grandmother and great-grandmother standing beside me. Today, I felt their presence again. This time I also felt the invisible presence of my mother as well.

I spent some time today with a group of amazing women and men from around the globe. Women After Linking ArmsWe listened to the stories of our sisters. Stories of violence and fear, stories that we needed to honor before we could begin to witness to the nightmare of violence that afflicts women daily.  After hearing these stories, we went out and, in an unprecedented moment, stood with our arms linked to witness against gender based violence. Unprecedented because the United Nations is not generally willing to allow any type of demonstration across…

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Friday, the Canadian Anglican Delegation had a chance to visit the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN and meet with a member of their staff who is on the negotiating team for this year’s CSW. As a part of our time together, the youth delegation shared a statement which they had prepared on issues that are of great concern to them as young Anglican Canadians, in particular within Canada. We stayed up until 11:00pm the night before working on it together and that process has been one of the best parts of CSW for us so far.

You will find the statement below. It was very well received and in fact the youth were asked to send a copy so that it could be shared with other members of staff. Needless to say the youth were pleased as punch and their youth leaders and parents were very proud. So here is our statement, these are the issues that matter to us.

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As Canadian Anglican Youth Delegates, we have come together to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, to observe, learn, and participate in the project of increasing women’s empowerment around the world and at home.  We would like to use this opportunity to bring attention to the following issues that we as youth still feel need to be addressed.  Based on our discussions with one another and delegates from around the world, our priorities include: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Reproductive Justice, Sexual Health Education, and Gender and Sexual Minorities.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

We want to highlight the need for Canada to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as promised.  We believe Canada should prioritize listening to indigenous families, voices, women, and scholars and incorporating their needs, insights, and leadership into the action and research done.  As indigenous advisors have suggested, we strongly believe in prioritizing the accountability of law enforcement at the levels of individual officers and policy.

Changes in government policies that contribute to missing and murdered indigenous women, particularly through criminalizing indigenous women’s lives should be addressed.  Criminalizing women’s lives is instrumental in their marginalization and in forcing them into unsafe conditions where they risk losing their lives.  One key example includes Bill c-36 (The Exploited Persons Act) which criminalizes sex work.  Indigenous women, migrant women, and poor women are overly represented as sex workers.  Bill c-36 is consistently denounced by sex workers as both criminalizing their lives, making their jobs riskier, and providing barriers to the implementation of ways that sex workers keep themselves safe.  Bill c-36 contradicts Canada’s work around missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and demonstrates a failure to listen to indigenous women’s own concerns and solutions.

Reproductive Justice

Reproductive health services have been highlighted as a key priority for the Trudeau government.    Currently New Brunswick continues to break federal Canadian law with it’s abortion restrictions and has created a two-tiered medical system where wealthy people have access to private services that the largely low income population of New Brunswick does not.  Not only are people forced to pay out of pocket for services that the province is legally contracted to provide and make accessible, when they can’t they are forced to travel across borders, or attempt highly dangerous DIY solutions.

We also want to highlight the need for a national prescription coverage plan in order to make birth control more accessible.  Birth control in Canada is not accessible to many people, including teenagers.  Teenagers have less access to medication for financial reasons and because of physical barriers which make it more difficult for them to get to a doctor or access parent’s medical insurances while maintaining confidentiality.

Another part of reproductive justice is ensuring that people can raise their children in safe and supportive environments.  Child and family services across Canada too often spend resources removing children from their families instead of prioritizing supports for families to stay together.  Child removal policies criminalize poverty and most often affect indigenous, racialized, poor and single parent families. We want to encourage the government to respond to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling from January 2016 concerning its provision of services to indigenous children, and increase funding levels until these children and youth have equal access to all other young Canadians.

Sexual Health Education

Other members of our group are also concerned with access to sex positive, knowledge based sex education and are concerned at the clear and unjust disparities between provinces and their approaches, resources, standards for sexual health education.  The lack of accountability of provinces in the provision of sexual health education and the very different realities that young Canadians face across the country are inexcusable and easily fixed with a little political will.  Sex education should be inclusive of the experiences of people of all genders, sexualities and levels of ability.  It should be sex positive and fact based.  It should include discussions of consent and how sex should feel good both physically and emotionally.

Gender and Sexual Minorities

We support Bill C-16 which amends the human rights act to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.  This bill provides vital protection for queer and trans communities.  Currently, queer youth are disproportionately represented amongst homeless youth and youth in care.  Intersectionality must be a part of addressing issues faced by gender and sexual minorities since indigenous, racialized, and disabled youth who are queer and trans face increased risk of violence, poverty and discrimination.

Sincerely,

The Anglican Youth Delegation

Clare Urquhart
Karen Urquhart
Willow Martin Seedhouse
Aili Peterson McIntyre
Marnie Peterson
Alicia Armstrong
Ceilidh Gibson
Sierra Robertson-Roper
Sarah Lloyd
Caitlin Reilley Beck
Jessi Taylor

The woman standing before us held her hand out to the chair in front of the room. We had gathered to listen to a presentation by Masimanyane, a woman’s support network centered on ending violence against women and girls. Instead, we listened to this woman as she explained that Masimanyane had decided not to attend, on the premise that they wished to stand in solidarity with the many women who would not be able to participate in the 61st Commission on the Status of Women due to the United States’ recently implemented travel ban. Following her explanation, she read from Masimanyane’s official statement on its rationale for choosing not to attend:

“We have serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of the recent spate of executive orders which serve to exclude, demonize and criminalize specific communities in the United States of America (USA) and some communities globally, jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of women. Further impact of the executive orders is the denial of the right of women of member states to participate in this global forum. We took this decision to express solidarity with, in particular, the women of Libya, Sudan and Somalia, as well as our sisters in Syria, Iran and Yemen.”

As opposed to the originally planned presentation and panel, those present were encouraged to stay for a round-table discussion on the relationship between global populism and the status of women.

Our discussion was centered on the emergence of far-right political figures and parties across the world. There was a focused and dynamic energy to our dialogue, and it was clear that each woman in the room desired space for their input and concerns. Each woman’s voice was textured by its own unique intent; while some of us wanted to provide our insights on opposing the spread of divisive ideologies, others took the time to gently emote over the lives that have already been impacted by the new United States President’s first large string of executive orders.

Here’s the thing, we are here as delegates on behalf of the PC(USA) denomination. It is our faith that has driven twelve young women to attend the CSW. We come from different walks of life, yet the majority of us are attending seminary. For me, it was seminary that taught me what the imago Dei truly looked like. Genesis 1:27 affirms the personhood of every human being. The text reads, “God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God they were created; male and female Got created them.” This text is the theology that guides my politics. When executive orders dehumanize our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our faith body must stand up and affirm the imago Dei of all humanity.
Our refugees need their hosts countries to affirm their humanity and value. Our refugees need our churches to stand in solidarity and fight for their rights. Our panel began with a sweep of hand gesturing towards an empty chair. “This empty chair represents the many women who could not be with us at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women. It represents all of the voices that will not be heard at the United Nations this year.” This year, we are missing out. Women have been left behind and it is our loss. While the panel began with this image, we have continued to name the absence of those who could not attend this year. For those of us who are representatives on the ecumenical end, this empty charge became our charge and benediction to welcome, fight for, and love our global sisters

Written by Shannon Schmidt and Leslie Cox of the Young Women’s  PC(USA) Delegation to the Commission of the Status of Women

The United Nations has cancelled all official events tomorrow due to the weather conditions. Please check online or the direct location of parallel events for other arrangements. We pray for our sisters and friends in transit, and ask you all take necessary precautions.

By: Jennifer Allen Delegate of the Episcopal Church

Purple Gumballs

Today I am leaving for the United Nations’ Commission for the Status of Women’s 61st Session. I’ll be blogging about the experience, as I am able. It will be a busy two weeks. But, today, I’d like to just share a little Information with you about UNCSW. It will only take about seven minutes of your time to read this post. Seven minutes doesn’t seem like too much time does it? Consider, however, in the seven minutes you are reading this post 2,000 girls under the age of 18 will be sexually assaulted somewhere on the globe. 64 women will be beaten by their partner in the US. 60 girls under the age of 16 will be married, 40 girls in Africa will have their genitals mutilated. And, somewhere nine women are entering human trafficking against their will.

Those numbers caught my attention, but it’s the stories that captured my passion…

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By: Charlotte Mildenberger- Lutheran Office for World Community ew-blog

Last week during the United Nations General Assembly general debate week, I attended a side event titled “Keeping the Faith in Development: Gender, Religion and Health”. The side-event was co-hosted by UNAIDS, UN Women, UNFPA, (as part of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development), the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, and Islamic Relief USA.

The event brought together some of the report authors, editors, and producers, as well as religious scholars, faith leaders and faith-based organizations, such as: Rabbi Burton Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary; Imam Shamsi Ali, president of Nusantara Foundation; Mr Luis Mora, UNFPA; Ms Sally Smith, UNAIDS; Mr Luca Badini-Confalonieri, Wijngaards Institute; Ms Gillian Paterson, Heythrop College, London, Ms Julie Clague, University of Glasgow, Mr Ulrich Nitschke, International Partnership for Religions and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and Ms. Safira Rameshfar, Baha’i International Community.

The reports address the taboo issues faith communities encounter when seeking to address sexual and reproductive health challenges, and propose theological and practical responses that simultaneously respect the tenets of faith traditions. The event explored areas of conflict and the “faith-full” ways to resolve them. The participants were invited to put forward recommendations for action to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This symposium launched three reports examining the intersections and areas of contention between health, human rights and lived theology:

Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunities (a joint UNFPA –NORAD Paper).

Dignity Freedom and Grace: Christian Perspectives on HIV, AIDS and Human Rights (Paterson and Long, 2016) is published by the World Council of Churches.

Promoting good health & good conscience – The Ethics of Using Contraceptives (Wijngaards Institute).

During the Q & A section, I was shocked to learn that there is only one toilet for women in a remote village of 16,000 people in in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Leaving the event, I could not stop thinking about it and did some research. I have since learned that of the world’s seven billion people, 2.4 billion people do not have improved sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Poor sanitation increases the risk of disease and malnutrition, especially for women and children. 1 in 3 people on this planet still don’t have access to a clean and safe toilet; 1,000 children die each day due to poor sanitation.  Women and girls in many parts of the world are living out there right now under these terrifying circumstances. It’s also a matter of safety – women and girls are getting raped while seeking sanitation.

One toilet for women and girls in a village of 16,000 people is an example of the dire need to build toilets and create safe spaces for women and girls. It is a call for the full implementation of SDGs especially SDG6 “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. Better sanitation supports better nutrition and improved health, especially for women and children. Let’s do something about it! We can’t wait while a lack of access to sanitation affects health, education, gender equality, nutrition, the environment. #wecantwait

By: Lia Hansen- Lutheran Office for World Community

 

making-every-woman-countDuring the general debate of the 71st session of the General Session, I attended a side event hosted by UN women titled: “Making Every Woman and Girl Count”. This event highlighted the importance of gendered data in the implementation of international, regional, and national policies. Eleven out of the fourteen indicators of gender inequality currently lack sufficient data. The gender data initiative has three main goals: To enable an environment to strengthen policies for the production of gender statistics, to increase data production efforts, and to increase data accessibility for more members of society. The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, noted that we do not have 80% of data to monitor SDG5, and emphasized the lack of political will on the issue, as only 13% of countries dedicate resources to gender data.  The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop emphasized the importance of collecting data at an individual rather than a household level, known as the individual deprivation measure (IDM), in order to create effective policies.

The panel included Melinda Gates from the Gates foundation, who declared that we “can’t close gender gap if we don’t close the gender data gap”, noting that “what gets measured gets done”. She stated that it is necessary to build a data set and track data, since decisions cannot be made on estimates. She also emphasized the importance of data on women’s unpaid work, since it is part of a root inequity affecting women worldwide. Emily Courey Pryor, Senior Director of Women and Girls Initiatives for the Women and Population team at the UN Foundation, urged member states to “not just talk about gender equality, but measure and celebrate it”. She advocated for the use of data in communities and countries to drive policy change and for the accessibility of such data to community members that can hold decision makers accountable. Many heads of state, leaders of civil society and the private sector, and UN affiliates gave interventions during the session. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico emphasized the importance of disaggregating data, to include all groups of women and girls.

The main outcome of “Making every woman and girl count” is the idea of enabling an environment for gender statistics, to produce more disaggregated data, and increase its accessibility to every sector of society. These efforts can aid in producing more gender-sensitive policies worldwide. This discussion and initiative is essential, as it helps to mainstream gender issues into the UN bodies and initiatives, while honoring the SDG’s promise of leaving no one behind.

For more information on UN Women’s Flagship Programme, click here.

By: Rachel Chardon, Anglican CommunionCapture_Rachel

 

The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW61) will focus on the Priority Theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, studying how to empower women economically by promoting the equality and accessibility of women to obtain an education, to enter the workforce, and to control their financial savings. For women and girls, an accessible education is an important component in obtaining competitive jobs with higher incomes. As more women earn money, families have greater combined household incomes that women can control. Women’s growing capabilities in spending coupled with access to savings accounts at financial institutions can help achieve faster economic growth. The changing world of work acknowledges the growth of women in the workforce and the lack of equality women face in obtaining high-level jobs, similar wages, mobility to formal work sectors, and economic independence.

When women and girls are solely responsible for household chores, they are more likely to work in low-paid and undervalued jobs that inhibit their participation in the formal workplace. Legal restrictions and spousal objections have repressed women’s economic opportunities and the types of jobs they can obtain. Amongst all major racial and ethnic groups, women’s economic equality is significantly lower than that of the median earnings of white men. Alongside the important facts outlined above, our delegates at UNCSW61 are also asked to report on any progress made (or challenges remaining) in their nation regarding the Review Theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.

By: Lori Kochanski, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/Lutheran World Federation, CSW Delegate

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Entering this Holy Week I reflect on the sacred holy week I experienced as a participant in the events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Every Good Friday I remember a little girl in the congregation in New Haven, CT, where I served as intern.  As we were walking the stations of the cross and listening to the story of Jesus she pulled at my hand and asked THE question: “why did he have to die if he didn’t do nothing?”  In a neighborhood where she witnessed violence every day she had grown used to understanding the consequences of life on the street.  She could not reconcile the innocent Jesus dying the same death as the drug dealers.

The question still goes to my heart and names the tensions in my own believing.  For me this is where faith is more important than belief.  Here is where I hope it is true that God can take my anger and questioning in the face of the world of injustices. Because after the holy week in New York of sacred walking and listening I hear echoes of the same question a little girl asked a long time ago:  “Why do girls and women have to die every day?  They have done nothing except be born.”  If Jesus died so that we are free then why are there still women and girls dying at the hands of violence and persecution.

My prayer right there is to find the places where hope can rise at intersections of suffering and pain.  In the rising I believe we will catch a glimpse of the promise of Christ rising from the dead.  This place of hope is constructed by the power of people to lament realities that only serve to harm another through misuse of power.  Hope takes flesh when we lay down our own swords and reach out to our neighbors in order to create a vision of humanity that includes both justice and freedom.  Hope is born from truth of reconciliation.  And it takes time and deliberate plans and collective advocacy.

As global partners in achieving the sustainable goals set out for the world by the United Nations we must hold each other accountable to our actions and inaction. We also must be willing to keep noticing the things that cause greatest harm, in particular harm to those who are most vulnerable.  To be more specific – women and girls.

Today, it is very easy to act as if the time at the United Nations was a dream, a parallel reality I can step out of and forget.  So for as tired as my brain was last week, I pray to become even more tired in my purpose and prayer of how to be of continued use in my own context.  I pray my vocation meets my call and a vision is revealed.  I trust there will be partners in the journey that it may be so.

Yet, we still have so far to go and so much to learn.  We have to find our place in the order of things.  Because…well, because promise.  Because, grace.  Because, freedom.  Because, faith.

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