Dear Ecumenical Women delegate:

Welcome to CSW58!

Your team at Ecumenical Women (EW) has been planning for months for your arrival and participation at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58). We hope that you are as excited as we are at the prospect of gathering in worship, prayer, celebration, discussion, witness and advocacy as we seek to learn from each other and influence for the better the lives of women and girls worldwide.

Our first gathering as Ecumenical Women delegates and team will be on Saturday, March 8th for a full-day Orientation. Please plan on arriving at 8:30 am at the Church Center for the United Nations, 777 First Avenue at East 44th Street. We will end at 6:00 pm.

Whether you will be participating in official United Nations (UN) proceedings, side and parallel events or all of these, you have a unique and important voice and perspective to bring to this global discussion. We are confident that as you share your voice, we all will be transformed and inspired. And when you go home, and we continue on with this work in our offices, we all will be newly energized to share what we’ve learned from one another, making a difference in the lives of women around the world.

This welcome letter aims to prepare you for your advocacy role. You are already a witness, a voice, an advocate. Delve deeply into the websites and the resources suggested below. Reflect, pray and discern: how does your own life experience connect to the CSW58 themes? What stories might you share from your unique experience?

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If you are new to the UN or CSW, prepare ahead
Before arriving, it will be important to understand a little about the United Nations system and the Commission on the Status of Women, which meets annually to promote women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields, and to make recommendations on urgent problems regarding women’s rights.  Start by reading basic information about them in Ecumenical Women’s Guide to Advocacy: “Faith at the UN: Gender in the Church. Dive further into the history of the United Nations and its purposes. Then hone in on UN Women, the umbrella organization at the UN that works for the empowerment of women and which hosts CSW. On its website you will find reference to “focus areas” that will deepen your understanding of the issues facing women and girls. Click on the right-hand side box for information on the 58th Commission on the Status of Women. Read carefully about this year’s priority theme, “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls,” and the program and events planned.

Understand Ecumenical Women’s purpose, advocacy and message
Ecumenical Women is an international coalition of church denominations and ecumenical organizations with status (an official relationship) at the Economic and Social Council or the Department of Public Information at the UN. EW seeks to train and empower a network that advocates for gender equality and justice at the UN. By connecting to our Ecumenical Women website, you can consult our advocacy resources and statements, read our blogs and learn about past Commissions. Since you have already read EW’s Guide to Advocacy mentioned above, you are ready to turn to the joint written statement that EW has prepared. This document is a collective statement of priorities based on feedback from questionnaires sent to member organizations such as yours. It is one of the cornerstones of our advocacy. Another important document to read is the draft Agreed Conclusions which member states will be negotiating and which will, we hope, result in Agreed Conclusions by the end of CSW.

How do I fit in?
Once you have an idea of what the UN does and what member-state representatives and members of non-governmental organizations are trying to accomplish at UNCSW, it’s time to reflect within. Jot down the answers to a few key questions: How does violence against women and girls manifest itself in my part of the world? What is my government doing about it? What is my church denomination doing? What organizations already work on this and how can I connect? What particular stories and voices can I bring from my part of the world to illustrate the challenges, problems, successes and celebrations? What strikes me deeply, personally and profoundly? What aspect makes me feel passionately about the subject? For what issues and situations do I feel called to pray? To speak out?

The big day arrives: what awaits in New York
Once you’ve arrived, the New York EW team will prepare you with a full day’s Orientation on Saturday, March 8th, including a full afternoon of advocacy training. This training continues throughout CSW in your individual delegations. We will introduce you to talking points, the draft Agreed Conclusions and guide you through visits to your permanent missions and to UN meetings. Before you return home, we’ll review together what has been learned and experienced and then work together to see how all you learned might best be used as a tool of change and empowerment in your local communities.

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The Commission on the Status of Women is a unique moment to contemplate the complexities, challenges and joys of living in God’s world. We share these in common as women, men and children of faith. We trust and pray that God will guide your understanding and deepen your faith as you experience this shared moment of living out the Gospel call for a better world for all, and especially this year as we consider how women and girls have fared in relation to the Millennium Development Goals. Our prayers are with you as you prepare. We look forward to meeting you soon.

Sincerely,
The Ecumenical Women Advocacy Team