What follows is a short piece from Casey Liston, a young adult women delegate from the US National Council of Churches and Church Women United reflecting on her experience at CSW57. As we enter into final preparations for CSW58, we will frequently be posting similar pieces from other young women delegates to CSW as well.

My experience at the United Nation’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women was, in one word, kindling. The dual purpose of “kindling”—as a verb and a noun—reflects the depth of what I have taken away from five days of lectures, panels, trainings, worships, and new personal connection. The CSW kindled a new, personal call to action that I had never felt with such urgency: during a panel discussion hosted by UNAIDS, I listened to speaker after speaker discuss the ways that the economic and social empowerment of women could help lower HIV transmission rates in Africa and prevent related violence against women and girls. As each presenter went through long lists of the different barriers women are facing in accessing protection, treatment, and counseling for HIV and violence alike, I found myself wondering when these panelist were going to explain what they were doing to solve this issue. At that moment, the realization hit me: it is my job to solve those issues. When I came to the CSW with an NGO (and as an active member of civil society), I put myself forward as someone with the capacity or compassion to make the necessary changes to end violence against women and girls. Of course, this will not be my job alone—and that is where the role of “kindling” as a noun enters my experience at the CSW. For those five days, I represented the National Council of Churches USA and Church Women United, the United Church of Christ, and young ecumenical women everywhere. As a delegate, it was my duty to absorb and learn for every member of those groups who weren’t in attendance. Not only did the knowledge and experience I gained at the CSW kindle my personal call to action, it will act as kindling to a much larger fire, one burning across the planet as people of faith call for an end to the violence that has pervaded women since the dawn of time. With every speech I heard and every note I took during my time in New York, I increased my capacity and ability to enact change, and I am now able to increase the capacity of others to do the same. My time at the Commission on the Status of Women was enlightening, deeply spiritual, and at times, disconcerting. But above all, it was kindling, for myself and for the larger movement to end and prevent all types of violence against women and girls.

Casey Liston
United Church of Christ