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Climate change: Making Rio +20 count for rural women

On March 1, 2012, an interactive panel discussion entitled “Civil society participation in the sustainable development debate: Making Rio +20 count for rural women” took place at 56th  UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Caroline Daly from the YWCA-YMCA of Sweden, was one of the speakers of the panel and delivered a strong call to mobilize young women in the climate change debate as a force in responding to issues related and in the lead up to Rio+ 20.

Co sponsored by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the World YWCA and Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO), the side event intended to review the role played by rural women in sustainable development and poverty eradication, from the local to the international level, and critically examined the impact of the current development model on rural women’s participation in global decision-making, particularly as it relates to shaping and implementing the anticipated outcomes of Rio+ 20. Case studies of the work done by rural women were shared as a means to examine the daily challenges women face with regard to property rights, food security, feminisation of poverty, inheritance and violence.

Representing the voice of young women, Caroline Daly, Project Manager at the YWCA-YMCA of Sweden, started her presentation with a powerful quote from Winnie Asiti-Khaemba (African Youth Initiative on Climate Change Kenya): “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what your fight and negotiate for”. Caroline Daly spoke on the most pressing issues concerning young women, how and why it is important to mobilize the youth as a force to respond to issues relating to climate justice. Caroline Daly suggested a number of recommendations to ensure participation of young women in processes relating to sustainable development and climate change.

Caroline Daly

Download Caroline’s full speech.

Re-posted from

Feb. 29, 2012

As I entered the Episcopal Church Center, I wondered how many women would brave the cold & the rain that had drizzled down onto our conference all day to spend a couple of hours connecting with one another in a sacred circle. The chapel was set up with about 20 chairs in a circle, but I feared we’d have to take out most of them so the few women who had appeared by just 10 minutes prior to the circle’s beginning could be near enough to each other could pass the talking stick.

One of the sisters played Spirituals on the piano, prompting several of us to sing quietly as the abundance of women appeared, causing us to scoot our chairs back several times to accommodate the more than 50 Spirit-seekers who arrived. A bit more music & the elders of our group shared history of their sacred circles that had met over the years, honoring those women who had provided similar safe place for sharing of the spiritual over the years.

A wooden wind flute called us into intentionality & after silence, we checked into the circle with the principles of the circle read around the circle, followed by the snowflake story & our own sharing of Spirit’s presence within & among us. A breadth of backgrounds & stories were hinted at as each woman honored the whole of the Story with brief contributions of one’s Spirit-presence.

Hopes for a 5th World Conference of Women to be held in San Francisco in 2015, 60 years after the UN Charter was signed there, were expressed, & then, with each woman again honoring the whole by one’s own brevity, we checked out with a few words of farewell until the next time. A word, a song, a prayer—unity despite our diversity—women of Spirit & Grace.

(The Rev.) Martha Frances
Houston, TX, USA

March 2, 2012

Ana Chã spoke to more than 100 people on Tuesday as part of the panel, “Voices of Rural Women,” co-sponsored by United Methodist Women and World Vision International, a side event of the Commission on the Status of Women. “Brazil is becoming a big economy, yet the poor people are still there,” Ms. Chã.

Ms. Chã reported that ‘land grabbing’ in Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, is prevalent. “Big business is buying land in Brazil for companies to produce products, like soy beans, and then exporting the products,” Ms. Chã said. “And Brazil is buying companies in Africa.”

Ms. Chã’s is concerned for rural women and their exposure to pesticides. Ms. Chã reported, “Since 2009, Brazil is the world’s largest consumer of agricultural pesticides.” Brazil, she reported, uses about a billion liters of pesticides in one year, which she estimated, “is about 5.2 liters of pesticides per person per year.”

Women are the people in communities who care for the environment and for the health of neighbors and children. “The countryside is a place of life; people can live with dignity. There’s another way to live: in the countryside with joy and happiness,” Ms. Chã said.

Rose Cunningham would agree. Ms. Cunningham, a farmer who organizes indigenous women to end hunger and violence in Nicaragua, spoke at the Thursday afternoon panel sponsored by Madre and hosted by United Methodist Women.

Ms. Cunningham remembered her happiness as a child watering vegetables and sharing chores with neighbors. “If you are my neighbor, you get to be a part of my family,” Ms. Cunningham said. She defined wealth as sharing resources “in solidarity, harmony and respect.” Like Ms. Chã, Ms. Cunningham advocated for the self-determination, access to resources and community life of small-scale farmers.

Today, Ms. Chã leaves the international meetings of rural women in New York City today to return to Brazil, where she will advocate with the Landless Workers’ Movement, celebrating and demonstrating on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012. “We are demanding public policies, advocating for pregnant women in rural communities, and denouncing agribusiness, which goes against the small farmers.”

United Methodist Women, too, supports a global network of rural women as they strive for access to dignity, health and, even, happiness. “Voices on Rural Women” also included United Methodist Women-sponsored panelists from Zambia, Japan and Sierra Leone.

Learn more about Women’s Division Statement to the 56th Commission on the Status of Women, which among other issues, recommends that nations: “Protect small-scale farms and cooperatives and create access to finance for women farmers for the improvement of agriculture and better nutrition.”

Mary Beth Coudal is a writer for the United Methodist Church Women’s Division.

Re-posted from


Updated Advocacy Priorities!  Keep reading, or download a copy.

56th Commission on the Status of Women Agreed Conclusions Priority Positions – 27 February Draft

    • Ecumenical Women (EW) Disagrees with attempts to remove the word “gender”, because this word is a neutral word used in agreed language, CEDAW, and the Beijing Platform for Action. Failure to recognize this word could have negative effects on these historic agreements.
    • EW Disagrees with attempts to weaken the document around equal inheritance for women.
  • EW Agrees with efforts to include more language about the basic issues of rural women’s empowerment.
  • EW Agrees with efforts to include language about coastal rural people and fisheries.
  • EW is concerned that using words like “burden” and “drudgery” with respect to women’s unpaid care work imposes a lack of value to this work.  While we agree with the concept of lessening the burden, we also want to recognize the value of this work.

Para. 3:  “Israel TO ADD: Noting that poverty remains a massive and predominantly rural phenomenon…”

  • EW Disagrees with this addition, because we recognize that poverty is both rural and urban.

Para. 4: “Switzerland TO ADD: the widely spread land grabbing due to vast investments by foreign companies.”

  • EW Agrees with this addition from Switzerland.  Land grabbi
    ng is a major issue in rural areas, by both governments and major corporations and this language needs to be retained in the document.

Para. 6: “EU TO ADD: financial services, information,”

  • EW would like to further ADD: “financial institutions,” to this phrase, because rural women need access to institutions as well services.

Para. 8: (from Friday’s discussion) “Holy See TO ADD: consistent with national laws and development priorities with respect to religious and cultural priorities of member states.”

  • EW Disagrees with this addition, fearing that this language could be used by member states to ignore any agreed language that may be difficult to pursue.

Para. i): (original text) “… and build innovative partnerships, including public-private partnerships…”

  • EW would like to ADD: “and partnerships with civil society.”  The partnership with civil society is critical for effecting change in our communities.

Para. m): “[US TO ADD: energy production farming as a means to restore agricultural opportunities] commercial farming and entrepreneurship.”

  • EW Disagrees with this addition.  Production of energy crops reduces the availability of food on the market and increases its price.
  • EW would like to DELETE: “commercial.” Replace “commercial” with “income generating.”

Para: n): “US TO DELETE: and invest in rural women’s initiatives that promote sustainable agriculture and biodiversity.”

  • EW Disagrees with this deletion.  Sustainable agriculture and biodiversity are critical for ensuring food production and a healthy environment now and in the future.

Para. o): US TO DELETE: Para (o)

  • EW Disagrees with this deletion.  This is an important paragraph, which encourages investment in empowerment.
  • EW Agrees with the addition by Chile et al and would like to ADD: “and partnerships with civil society.”

Title C:  “Expanding access to resources, assets, employment, and services”

  • EW would like to ADD: “transportation” to the title.  Transportation is an important issue, which is not given the attention it needs in this document.
  • EW would like to ADDthe following agreed language:
    • Identify and address opportunities to achieve affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable, safe and environmentally sound transportation systems, so that rural women have transportation choices that improve access to better jobs, educational facilities, health care, markets, food and water.

(based on E/2011/29 para. 17 (a) and 12)

Presbyterian Side Event at the 56th Commission on the Status of Women

During this side event women from rural contexts share their stories connecting experience to issues, Global North to Global South, and the Bible to advocacy, with small group opportunities to learn more and determine actions we can take during the Commission on the Status of Women and at home to address poverty and hunger and work for just development. The side event was organized by Presbyterian Women, Young Women’s Leadership Development, Women’s Leadership Development, and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in the PC(USA), and the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York.

The event began with a Bible study led by the members of the Poverty Initiative.

Stories from East Jerusalem, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the United States (North Carolina, Illinois, and Oregon) were shared. The stories focused on issues around employment, hunger and nutrition, infrastructure, human trafficking, and domestic violence.

After the presentations, participants gathered in small groups to discuss intersections between the Bible stories, the stories shared by the presenters, and their personal stories. Each group was asked to identify key insights and action plans and to share one of those ideas.

With thanks for all who shared their stories and with prayers for God’s continued guidance and strength, the participants went forth to work to overcome poverty and hunger and to work for just development in the context of the Commission and in their homes – Global South and Global North.

Photos by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne

If you feel like I do, this is just what you need right now.



C’est un grand rassemblement. Le monde entier s’est retrouvé à New-York autour du thème majeur : « Le renforcement des capacités des femmes rurales et leur rôle dans l’éradication de la pauvreté et de la famine ».

Des ONGs, des associations féminines ou réfléchissant sur la genre, des personnalités civiles et judiciaires, des représentants des nations et autres, ont réfléchi, débattu, échangé sur le thème et les sous-thèmes tels que, le droit des la femme, l’égalité de genre, la place de la femme et de la jeune fille rurale dans les communautés de chaque pays et dans le monde. La situation de la femme et de jeune fille rurale est une préoccupation majeure en ce début du troisième millénaire. Chaque individu est un agent développement et de ce fait, la femme rurale ne peut être reléguée au second rang à cause de son analphabétisme ou encore d’autres préjugés que la société, sans couvrir le yeux pour voir, place la femme rurale dans un plan qui n’honore pas l’être humain. Nos pays, nos sociétés et même nos communautés ont longtemps négligée la femme et en particulier la femme rurale. Mais ce qui est à prendre en compte c’est que, le développement quelque soit le domaine, ne peut se faire sans la femme et surtout la femme rurale. Réfléchissons-en.
by Ada Jeannette Maina


An international group of young women from The Grail led worship on Monday, March 5.  They closed the service with the following prayer:

Infinitive reality,
Unending in time,
Unending in every direction,
You surround us,
You pervade us.

Everywhere we look,
There you are.
We swim in a sea that is made of you.
Our every cell is made of you.

Lift every concern from our hearts;
For we are filled with your being.
Give us awareness that always and everywhere,
We rest in you,
Now and forever.



Presbyterians led worship Wednesday, Feb. 29.


Read a moving blog written by Colonial Gwenyth Redhead as she reflects on her time at the CSW, and the inspiration she received from hearing Leymah Bgowee speak.

On March 1st, the morning chapel service was led by the Salvation Army. We heard from Major Susan Naua, who is a Salvation Army officer, but also a rural women from Papua New Guinea. Here are the inspirational words that she shared with us.

I would like to thank you for the immense privilege that has been given to me to speak to this special gathering. I am grateful to those who have made this possible for me. It is an honour for me to represent Papua New Guinea and The Salvation Army.

The text for me is an ugly text. Exodus 1:15-22 tells the terrible story of an Egyptian pharaoh feeling threatened by the growing numbers of Hebrews living in his land, who issues an order to the midwives that they intervene so that all baby boys should be killed. This order was not obeyed so he issues another order to his own people that Hebrew baby boys should be drowned.

This is not the only such story to be found in the Bible. In the text we choose not to read so often in the Christmas story Herod, also afraid of losing his power, sends out an order that all boys aged two and under should be killed.

And this kind of story has been repeated in most cultures and communities throughout history, either because parents cannot afford to feed any more children, or governments choose to limit the population, or because girl children demand a dowry and are too expensive to keep, or because of ethnic cleansing — and I could go on with reasons.

It is interesting to me that these two Bible stories occur around the birth of someone very special — in this story, Moses, who was not drowned but put into a special basket, which saved him. Or in the Herod story, the Son of God is born. God arranged for Jesus to be taken to Egypt, of all places, to be safe.

The stories tell of people who feel they have a right to do a terrible thing: to stop a whole generation, to kill the innocent, to assume that certain actions are permitted, if you are powerful enough. Something quite terrible goes on in the heart of anyone who could issue such a decree and allow the killing of babies in whatever form it takes.

I come from Papua New Guinea where 43 babies die out of every thousand born. Our babies are not killed by political leaders but the deaths occur because of ignorance, poor health, poor communications and lack of trained helpers.

I am glad that the Exodus story mentions midwives all over the world who are committed to seeing women through this child-bearing experience, who are making it possible for new life to come into our world, who herald in the next generation with its hope and opportunity, and countless possibilities.

In Papua New Guinea we have too many young girls who are pregnant. The reasons for the pregnancies are for another discussion and another forum. Most of our country is made up of rural villages distanced from one another by mountainous terrain. The young mothers-to-be are nowhere near anyone who knows how to help them. We have too few rural health centres, and any roads we have are so bad that girls cannot travel to health workers who could be with them at a time when they are most needed. Lessons on what will happen at the time of labour are not taught. Too many of these young girls go to the outskirts of the village and squat down to try to give birth on their own with no-one to help them – giving birth on a dirt floor, tired, frightened and experiencing pain they have never known before.

The Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea has now undertaken the mammoth task of training rural women in village settings to understand basic midwifery, so that a young mother has someone with her who will help her and tell her what to do.

Midwives are pivotal to child-birth. They were at the time of Exodus and they always have been. Other things, important at such a time where possible, are clean water, a clean room and electricity, or at least some kind of lighting.

The Millennium Development Goals number four to reduce child mortality is important to us but the task seems so big. We feel like Moses did when God gave him his life’s work, ‘Who am I that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’

And we say, ‘How can we help all these mothers, we are a small group in Papua New Guinea and we do not have the resources we need?’ God told Moses that he would be with him and provide for him, and, as on so many other occasions in the Bible, that made a difference. We are not the only ones taking on this task. There are many other groups in Papua New Guinea challenged to deal with the problems.

For me, the verse in the next chapter brings me hope. Exodus 2:23-4 says this, ‘The Israelites cried out and their cry went up to God. . . God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant to Abraham’

The text said they cried out about their slavery but I suggest their cries were concerning every part of their lives, which were oppressed and unfair, and their cries were also for the fact that their babies had been slaughtered. And God heard them crying.

I believe God still hears the cry of the destitute, the enslaved, and the grieving mother, and chooses to call people to move with compassion on his behalf.

Sometimes they are midwives, doctors, teachers or lawyers. Sometimes they are people who work in this building – aware of the needs of the world and with a voice to speak on behalf of those with no voice and little chance of ever having a voice that will be heard.

I pray that God will bless you in the work you do here, that you may continue to learn more about the needs of our world, and that you may have the courage to ask the questions that need to be asked, and challenge ignorance and tyranny, repression and cruelty.

Here is my prayer for you all:

May the Lord disturb you and trouble you;
May the Lord set an impossible task before you and dare you to meet it;
May the Lord give you the strength to do your best;
And then, and only then, may the Lord grant you his peace.

If you would like to read more about the Salvation Army and their work in Social Justice, please visit the following website:

The Ecumenical Women’s worship service at the Commission on the Status of Women on Friday, March 2 focused on the World Day of Prayer. This year’s worship materials were written by women from Malaysia.

Theresa Symons, Executive Director of the Good Shepherd Welfare Centre in Malaysia, provided a Reflection on Malaysia during the Ecumenical Women’s worship that took place in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations. She noted the changes and the progress that Malaysia has seen over the past two decades.

She also reflected on the challenges face by the 4 million migrants who have come to Malaysia.

These women migrants do not have a voice, poverty has silenced their right to be heard. My heart aches.

But, she affirms that there is a ray of hope:

I see people braving prison sentences in order that the voices of the helpless are heard. I see people of different races, religions, culture and economic status walk the streets, demanding for fair general elections. I hear people affirming that human rights are women’s rights. I see people helping each other.

She concludes with a vision and a prayer:

May Malaysia be a land where truth, justice, and compassion prevail for all who come to my shores.




Watch more videos from the World Day of Prayer Ecumenical Women worship service:

Call to Worship

Prayer of Intercession

Gospel Reading


Think of people whom you’ve not met in your life.

Heard in one of the morning prayers.

*     *     *

Something I wish I’d heard from the Japanese government at their side event: Japan is smaller than California.  There are 54 nuclear reactors in the small archipelagos, on constantly moving plates.  This is insane.

*     *     *

Women do 66% of the world’s work, earn 10% of the world’s income, and own 1% of the world’s property.

*     *     *

It is essential that we respect Mother Nature when we think of rural life.  I believe that we should implement more scientific evidence to our educational programs.  We also should change the tendency to make things only economically efficient.

*     *     *

Making this kind of event itself is beyond my imagination!  But I wanted to see more Asians and more farmers.  Rural women mean farmers, but all I saw were representatives of BIG organizations.

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