The Presbyterian parallel event at the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focused on education as a key to breaking cycles of poverty and empowering women. Education, free, public education, is a central value within the Reformed tradition as affirmed in the introduction to the parallel event:

In different places we are known as members of Reformed, Evangelical, United or Uniting Churches. Depending on the state we are in, we may be called Congregationalists, Waldensians or Presbyterians.

We are some 80 million Christians in more than 225 member churches present in over 100 countries who trace our roots to the French Reformer John Calvin, who was active in Geneva from 1541-1564.

Calvin sought to reform the church’s theology of the day, placing a renewed emphasis on the sovereignty and grace of God.

Affirming that God is God of all of life and that all people are made in God’s image, Calvin also worked to reform the day-to-day existence of the community of Geneva.

Calvin broke with medieval theology and he broke with medieval pedagogy that limited education primarily to an aristocratic elite. He established a system of broad-based education for Geneva.

Calvin’s academy, founded in 1559, featured two levels of curricula: one for the public education of Geneva’s youth and the other a seminary to train ministers. Both schools, as historians have observed, were tuition-free and forerunners of modern public education. In a day when education was normally reserved for aristocratic scions or members of Catholic societies, the public education of young people was transformative.

An emphasis on advocacy for, and the provision of, quality education has remained a hallmark of the witness of the Reformed tradition since that time. In many communities around the world, members of the Reformed tradition were the first to provide girls with opportunities for formal education.

We welcome the inclusion of education in the Sustainable Development Goals and recommend that the 60th Commission on the Status of Women also identify the importance of education and its links to sustainable development as a key component to empowering women around the world.