by Mary Button, Ecumenical Women artist and member of the Evangelical Church in America.

The walls of the chapel at the Church Center for the UN have ten banners hanging on them. Each one features a silhouette of a woman who represents the shadowy nature of the unwieldy topic that we’re all gathered here at CSW to address. During our orientation on Saturday each of you was given a sheet of paper with four silhouettes on them and asked to name the women in your lives who live in the shadows because of violence against women and girls. You were asked to list their names and to share what part of their story you would like remembered. On the walk from the Salvation Army to the Church Center you carried these shadow pictures with you then offered them up during our closing service in which we memorialized the daughter of Jephthah.

I have been transcribing the names and stories that were offered during our closing worship on Saturday onto colorful pieces of cloth and weaving them through the shadows. Over the course of two weeks Ecumenical Women will be working to bring gender based violence out of the shadows and each morning during worship you will find a new banner embellished with colorful fabric prayers from the day before. On the baptismal font in the chapel you will find pieces of cloth and markers – please continue to share words and stories with me to help bring color and life to the shadows. Use the materials provided and I’ll integrate it into the banners so that we move from shadow to light together. I’ve also had several women approach me with materials that they’ve collected in the short time that they’ve been here at CSW. Please bring me anything that has inspired you or moved you and we’ll work to incorporate it into these banners that we’re creating together.

Yesterday morning a member of our delegation shared with me a large pack of cards with the names and faces of women who have disappeared from Juarez, Mexico. The murders and disappearances of women in Juarez is a topic that has haunted me since I was an undergraduate. Since 1993 close to 400 women have been murdered in Juarez. But, that number is just a best guess estimate because so many women live on the margins in Juarez. The city lies on the Rio Grande, south of El Paso, Texas and there are a total of 19 maquiladoras in the city. Maquiladora is the Mexican name for factories in a Free Trade Zone where products can be assembled on a duty-free and tariff-free basis. Many of the young women who have been murdered and disappeared in Juarez are women who worked in these factories. Learning about the violence in Juarez motivated my advocacy work as a young woman and put me on the road to this year’s CSW. It was an honor to add the names and faces of women from Juarez on one of our banners, to wrap them in our prayers. I look forward to gathering meaningful materials from many of you and integrating it into the sanctuary artwork.