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We hope that all Ecumenical Women delegates returned home safely and are now rested from all of the hard work during CSW.

EW would like to follow-up on some of the conversations that we were able with two small groups to have during the last days of CSW to evaluate our work together as a means to improve our work together. Therefore, we ask that you take 5 minutes to fill out this online survey. Your responses help us to improve the orientation and our effectiveness as a coalition during CSW. We warmly welcome all of your thoughts and responses.

Please fill this online survey out before 3 April 2009.  If you are unable to access the link above, the survey can be found by copying and pasting the following link:

Thank you!

Quoting UN Radio :

As the UN Commission on the Status of Women holds its session in New York, an activist lawyer from Swaziland tells UN Radio about women’s struggle for equal rights in her country. Doo Aphane of the Lutheran Development Service is suing the government for the right to own property as a woman.

Click to be redirected to the UN Radio Website and listen to the story.

Adapted from the NRSV Biblical Story by
Rev. Kathleen Stone (writer)
DeWanda Wise (editor)
As performed with dancer, actress and voice at the
Commission on the Status of Women, 53rd Session
Ecumenical Women Opening Worship
February 28, 2009
8:30 a.m
Tillman Chapel, Church Center for the United Nations


_mg_4929Story telling:

They say—those “Theys” who write books and tell us how to think about things—They say this: (sarcastically) “The quiet, idyllic mood of the book of Ruth and the charm of its gentle heroine has given it a special appeal to many generations of readers.”

But we know better. Having been schooled in the life of strong women, we know the true story; amended in wedding chapels, churches and cathedrals, told to children as bible story, is NOT idyllic, quiet, charming or gentle. This story is a tale of desperate grief. A story of survival in an unjust world. This is a story of a woman who, according to the law of the day, is a non-person. She, women, we are possessions. Objects. Burdens. Birthing, Sexing, Accessories. This story is a story of land being Mans’ and food being Mans’ and Blessings belonging to Man. A story where a woman breaks her back to birth, to bake, to sweep, to plant, to harvest, and without a man, she can buy neither land, food, shelter, nor safety. It is a story of a woman bereft. Her deprivation of NO interest to the ways things are.

This is what WE know.
We know this not only from this story,
But, we know it today.

So, let’s listen. Read the rest of this entry »

by Meagan Manas, cross-posted from NCCC Women’s Ministries

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35-40

In this spirit, a group of women gathered in 1879 to found the Women’s Home and Foreign Mission Society in the American Lutheran Church. Through collections gathered in “mite boxes,” this organization has collected more than a million dollars to fund various projects around the world. Some of the first projects included financing women missionaries, including two female missionary doctors, Dr. Anna Sarah Kugler, and Dr. Betty Nilsson, and building schools, both coeducational and for girls only, like this one in China.

A Woman manages her product at a market in Accra, Ghana

A Woman manages her product at a market in Accra, Ghana

According to the Women’s Funding Network (WFN), “It is estimated that women hold more than 51% of the personal wealth in the United States, and they are set to inherit trillions of dollars more as the World War II generation begins to transfer its wealth. Women are expected to control 60% of the wealth in the United States by 2010.” The mission of WFN is to connect these women with opportunities to fund other women around the globe, women who are in poverty and truly the least of “the least of these.”

The movement, led by women inside and outside of the ecumenical community, to consider specifically women and children in the world’s poor when writing policy or contributing money is now seeking a new target: gender budgeting in all levels of our communities, governments, and world.

What is Gender Budgeting?

Read the rest of this entry »

Groots International is a global network of grassroots women’s organizations.  Below are their demands of the CSW with regard to the priority theme.

The CSW focuses on sharing caregiving responsibility between women and men.  This is important. But first, we must value, scale up, and invest in what women are already doing.

Compensation is broader than just salaries and stipends!

  • Invest in infrastructure and livelihoods: basic services, food, transportation, improved health systems, community centers, security of land, housing and inheritance.
  • Allocate 40% of HIV/AIDS funds to community-led initiatives, including home-based care.
  • Support pilot projects on holistic ways to compensate caregiving, where caregivers control the resources.

Caregivers are organized and demonstrate collective voices!

  • Include home-based caregivers in decision-making positions, as representatives of their organizations from local to global levels.
  • Listen to Participatory Action Research: In the African-wide Home-based Caregivers Alliance, grassroots women are leading research counting their labor, resources, and time, also drawing their own conclusions.

President Obama today signed an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. The mission of the Council will be to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families. The Council will be chaired by Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor, and will include as members cabinet-level federal agencies. The Executive Director of the Council will be Tina Tchen, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House.

“The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy,” said President Obama. “My Administration has already made important progress toward that goal. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. But I want to be clear that issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women’s issues, they are family issues and economic issues. Our progress in these areas is an important measure of whether we are truly fulfilling the promise of our democracy for all our people. I am confident that Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen will guide the Council wisely as its members address these important issues.”

The White House Council on Women and Girls will ensure that agencies across the federal government, not just a few offices, take into account the particular needs and concerns of women and girls. The Council will begin its work by asking each agency to analyze their current status and ensure that they are focused internally and externally on women.


I am a third-wave feminist.  And sometimes, I have no idea what that means.

At the Ecumenical Women Orientation two weeks ago, we worked with feminist theologian Caryn Riswold to elaborate on what it is to be a third-wave feminist in today’s world.  Three generations reflected on whether the distinction of “third-wave” is even helpful. They worried about where the next generation will take us.  And, they expressed concern over whether feminism itself is dead.

Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation
Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation

Women spanning six continents reminded each other of the various perspectives that a global movement brings to feminism.  We noted with joy young women like Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, who hosts a radio show for young girls, embodying a bridge between the second and third waves.  Privileged feminists of Ecumenical Women were reminded of the needs of a far greater population of women—those for whom reproductive justice is not an option; whose decisions are often made for them; whose bodies are made vulnerable to domestic violence, human trafficking, and crimes of war and terror.

Suddenly, we weren’t facing the nuanced standards of a privileged third wave anymore, riding on the shoulders of our mothers who fought before us.

2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Tamar, a young woman who is raped by her brother Amnon with the permission of her father—none other than King David, who the Bible so faithfully upholds as the greatest leader in Jewish history.  Because she is physically weaker than her brother, the passage tells us, Amnon is able to force her into having sex with him against her will. After this, we are told that because of the actions that he himself chose to perpetrate against her, he comes to hate her “with a hatred greater than the love with which he had loved her.”  So Tamar puts ashes on her head and she tears her robe in grief.  Her father David is angry but does nothing, and her brother Absalom encourages her “hold her peace.”

We never hear what happens to Tamar after this story. The horror of discovering this rape in the Bible is eclipsed only by the realization that even the author cares not what happened to Tamar after all was said and done.  Her life, her name, the “rape of Tamar” – these all serve in the text only as a function to explain why later her brother Absalom, who told her to stay silent, kills her brother Amnon, who raped her.  In the story, Tamar is property to be protected or violated. She is a figure whose violation represents not her own personal grief but her family’s public shame; a woman whose grief is but a footnote in the long opus to political power that we find recorded in the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released report HIV vulnerabilities of migrant women: from Asia to the Arab States: shifting from silence, stigma and shame to safe mobility with dignity, equity and justice (full-text, 2.27 MB). The report is a result of a study that focused on the vulnerabilities of Asian women who migrate to work in the Arab States. The women migrants, who bring substantial economic benefits for both – countries of origin and host countries, become easy targets for violence and sexual exploitation. Lack of legal coverage and limited or no access to health and social services make these women especially vulnerable to HIV. The report provides methodology of the study, key findings and recommendations, as well as regional analysis, country reports on four countries of origin and three host countries.

by Kim Llerena, Ecumenical Women photographer

As a born-again feminist, I have recently seen the light. I am a repentant rejecter of ignorance being bliss, apologetic for my past indiscretions. I’m almost rushing out to buy that fun “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt…but that’s my lunch money for tomorrow.

In all seriousness, I only recently accepted that I can be a feminist and call myself a feminist without relinquishing completely the reasons I denied myself the label for so long. I was for many years a bit – gasp – ignorant even in my early twenties to both the meaning and value of feminism.

The biggest obstacle to me accepting feminism into my life wasn’t necessarily that I associated it with people who get really offended over the semantics of the word “mankind” (though really, those people just need to get over it and embrace etymology into their life). My problem was with any feminist perspective that purported that because we were women, we were all in some way oppressed. I had never once found myself at a disadvantage due to my sex or my gender, and I found it annoying whenever a privileged, white, female friend of mine would suggest that they had.

In general, mine was a poorly reasoned, superficial, and defensive position that I assumed whenever a staunchly feminist friend took the mic, like a cat flexing the nape of his neck right before he hissed. Clearly, my viewpoints, valid though they may have been within my own context, were oversimplified because of a lack of knowledge of what the women’s movement truly means for all women and of what we are still fighting for in other parts of the world.

At the Ecumenical Women conference’s opening day, I got to hear stories from women from around the world – women expected to care for dying family members because “wife” will always equal “caregiver,” no matter what the relationship becomes; women who never entertained the thought of deaconship because they knew their church wouldn’t either; women who were fighting simply for inclusive, unbiased language in government policy recommendations. Though I wasn’t officially participating in the conference, just documenting it, I listened and heard accounts of repression and oppression from across oceans, counterparts to my life story and ones like it. Read the rest of this entry »

Cross posted from National Council of Churches USA, Women’s Ministries website
by Meagan Manas

March 2-13 marks the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Each year, the Commission meets to “evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Throughout the two weeks, work is done to complete and modify a document known as “agreed conclusions.” The agreed conclusions formulated by the representatives of 45 member states at the end of these two weeks will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council for adoption, setting a precedent for governmental and non-governmental action and policy on a certain issue. This year, the theme of the CSW is the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS, and this year’s agreed conclusions can be found here.

But what does all of this international bureaucracy and UN jargon have to do with the National Council of Churches, the ecumenical community, and the Justice for Women Working Group? Lots. Participating as an NGO, Women from the NCC work together as part of a coalition of sixteen organizations called Ecumenical Women , striving to get our recommendations for the agreed conclusions to the representatives who will be debating them. Watching all the women who participate as part of NGO’s in the CSW, nearly 2000 in all, is inspiring, and watching the over 200 delegates who also count themselves as Ecumenical Women is a true witness to the Spirit moving in all contexts and corners of the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Ophelia Dahl, in her 2006 commencement address to Wellesley College, contextualized her work as a humanitarian and activist with a quote from Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains, an account of the British abolitionist movement. “The abolitionists succeeded where others failed because they mastered the one challenge that faces anyone who cares about social and economic justice: drawing connections between the near and the distant.” I have struggled to define what exactly it is that I should be doing as an activist to find my part, and my voice, in the global struggle for human rights.2,191 Days and Counting

In a conversation with Islamicist Reza Aslan, about the challenge presented by the history of religion, the Christian theologian Jack Miles asked, “Is there a way to tell the stories that we tell on this planet so that they become intertwining stories? So, that they become a common story in which everyone can have an acceptable place?” It is somewhere between these two challenges, of drawing connections between the near and far, and telling an intertwining story in which everyone has an acceptable place, that I have come to see my responsibility as an artist and activist. Throughout my first week at CSW I listened to stories about caregiving from across the globe and sought a common story. For every story I heard from far away I have remembered a story from my own life as the daughter of two caregivers.

This weekend I attended a benefit exhibition for Iraq Veterans Against the War and heard stories from veterans that are part of our common story. The exhibition, titled 2,191 Days and Counting, was co-curated by Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Chere Krakovsky and considers “a broad range of reactions to the two wars: grief, rage, despair, cynicism, and even compassion.” The opening started with cocktails and general carousing, but then the mood changed decidedly when the performance half of the evening began. We were introduced to some of the men and women of IVAW. Immediately, I flushed with embarrassment. In all my conversations at CSW about women’s rights, caregiving, and peace, I had neglected to consider women’s rights violations in the American military and the burden of care placed on the families of veterans. Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from The Chicago Tribune, by Manya Brachear

Cotton swabs tucked between their jaws and cheeks, bishops from the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination sat in silence for three minutes on Thursday as they underwent testing for HIV.

Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA

Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA

Those few minutes of silence would serve to break another silence, one that the bishops insist has kept the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America from addressing the global AIDS crisis and welcoming AIDS victims into the pews.

“We in the U.S. tend to think of this as a global pandemic unrelated to people in the U.S.,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who gave his own three minutes for the HIV test on Thursday. “For me as a married heterosexual man to be tested is a reminder that all communities are affected—if not infected.”


General Assembly resolution 61/143 called for the Secretary-General to establish a database “on the extent, nature and consequences of all forms of violence against women, and on the impact and effectiveness of policies and programmes for, including best practices in, combating such violence.” In connection with International Women’s Day, 8 March 2009, the database has been launched. The information received from governments in response to a questionnaire forms the core of the database. Learn more about the UN’s work on this topic from the Issues on the Agenda page on Women.

cross-posted from Sparkfly, an Ecumenical Women blogging friend

I want to preface this post by stating I have never been raped. I do not know what it is like to experience such an atrocious violation. I am writing from the perspective of an outsider who wants to stand in solidarity with her sisters, locally and globally, who have experienced this atrocious violation. I want to be sensitive to those who have been raped who may read this post and disagree with me. I believe it is every woman’s right to choose weather or not she publicly acknowledges the rape she experienced. It is her right and it is not my right to persuade her to do otherwise.

Yesterday [Wednesday, March 4] I attended a workshop called “She says no to violence”. It was sponsored by UNIFEM. A variety of panelist spoke eloquently about the need to decrease violence against women and how that was happening in the contexts from which they came. The room was warm. The day was late. My mind began to wander.

During the question and answer portion of the workshop my attention surfaced in time to hear an NGO representative say, “Of course I would rather have a gun held to my head than be raped.” She was responding to a panelist’s response to her original question and comment. Ironically, the woman who made the statement was from a women’s peace activist group. Leaving the workshop, I walked with the peace activist to the next gathering. She told me she had never been raped and that she could not imagine her personhood being violated in such a traumatic way. Read the rest of this entry »

Confidence, culture, childcare and cash: four factors which Anne-Marie Goetz of UNIFEM identifies as keeping women out of high level decision making bodies in both public and private spheres.

Confidence: women need to learn that their voices are essential for the best decision making to happen. This will only sink in when men as well as women welcome the full participation of women at every level of political and public debate. It will also only happen when women support women and don’t feel that their own individual inclusion in the elite is change enough.

Culture: we need to work for a radical attitudinal change in cultures where women are still purposely excluded from public life. And we need to ensure that women’s participation is more than token in cultures which only superficially include women.

Childcare: women need to know that their children are not losing out through their mother’s choice to participate in the world outside the home. We need to create societies where child-caring is a shared responsibility between women and men and where there is funding to allow families to pay for help when needed. Which leads us to the fourth and final factor:

Cash: women are the poorest of the poor – 70% of the world’s poor are women. Equity of pay, and social assistance proportionate to need, are essential prerequisites to allow women to offer themselves for public office.

And one final churchy question: exactly how well is your denomination doing in including women at every level of decision making? We should be leading the way, not lagging behind!

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  • Work of doctor who helped treat rape victims focus of new film
    The work of a gynaecologist who treats rape victims who have been subjected to sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the focus of a film which has just been released. "The Man Who Mends Women", tells the story of Dr Denis Mukwege.
    UN Radio
  • Report lays out "baseline" for progress in gender equality
    Although women are outpacing men in achieving higher levels of education, they are still more likely to pursue the humanities as opposed to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That's according to the World's Women 2015, a UN report which looks at how women worldwide are faring in eight critical areas such as health, education, work, p […]
    UN Radio


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