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By Sophia Chung, International Leaders Program, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
I truly appreciated the opportunity to attend CSW in New York not only because it was a chance to expand my horizon, but also because it helped me to see more possibilities and responsibilities now and in future. Everything I experienced and learned throughout those five days is more than I could list down or express through words. I am thankful for all the meaningful conversations I had with people I met or with my teammates during meal times because they helped me developed my thoughts with much more depth. Through all these conversations, God reminds me of His plan for me, His promises, and His grace which never leaves me. Through the preparation for CSW, I learned how shallow my knowledge was, and I realized I had stayed in a comfort zone for such a long time. I thought that I knew what was going on in my country, but I realized I was unaware of a lot the issues going on there. I realized that my country women’s status in the family is the second worst in Southeast Asia, it has the second highest “discriminatory family code” in the region (meaning women’s status are undervalued), women have less than 10% political representation, marital rape is not considered a crime in my country, and the government has no plans to change it. Not only that, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap study in 2014 shows that my country has the worst gender gap in Southeast Asia, and perhaps a lot of this stems from the country’s view of women. I realized that things like marital rape and other major issues may not be happening in my community, all the aforementioned issues are happening in my country. So, this left me with the question: what can I do?
This trip has helped me reflect and start thinking what my church back home can do so that we can reach both indigenous and Muslim women and young girls. These are sensitive topics in a Muslim majority country because of the many legal restrictions and limitations enforced by the government. So, providing government funded education, expecting new government policy, or giving out resources are not likely to happen. Also, it isn’t efficient or a long-term solution for the church back in Malaysia to simply supply economic resources in cases where the government care for women might be lacking. It’s easier to say that I’m going to be a part of changing the status quo than to actually take steps to make it happen, but attending the conference has motivated me to start planning so that this is not just a unilateral resource assistance, but a two-sided cooperation and management, that ensures a healthy relationship between church and community that can last to the next generations. This is a never-ending-learning process, and I wish that I could have stayed a few more days to learn and absorb. But I think it is more valuable to begin implementing the knowledge I do have in my church and community, and to begin writing down a real plan and share it with my pastors and church leaders.
Lastly, I am reminded of a quote from Thomas King, “Don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” We are each confronted by pressing issues within our culture and society, instead of simply turning a blind eye, we must each identify our role in shaping the future and the change we hope to see.
A reflection shared by Jennifer Allen a delegate of the Episcopal Church
When my daughter was baptized, she wore a dress made for my mother by my mother’s mother. As I held my tiny baby girl in that dress, with my mother at my side, I could feel my grandmother and great-grandmother standing beside me. Today, I felt their presence again. This time I also felt the invisible presence of my mother as well.
I spent some time today with a group of amazing women and men from around the globe. We listened to the stories of our sisters. Stories of violence and fear, stories that we needed to honor before we could begin to witness to the nightmare of violence that afflicts women daily. After hearing these stories, we went out and, in an unprecedented moment, stood with our arms linked to witness against gender based violence. Unprecedented because the United Nations is not generally willing to allow any type of demonstration across…
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Friday, the Canadian Anglican Delegation had a chance to visit the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN and meet with a member of their staff who is on the negotiating team for this year’s CSW. As a part of our time together, the youth delegation shared a statement which they had prepared on issues that are of great concern to them as young Anglican Canadians, in particular within Canada. We stayed up until 11:00pm the night before working on it together and that process has been one of the best parts of CSW for us so far.
You will find the statement below. It was very well received and in fact the youth were asked to send a copy so that it could be shared with other members of staff. Needless to say the youth were pleased as punch and their youth leaders and parents were very proud. So here is our statement, these are the issues that matter to us.
As Canadian Anglican Youth Delegates, we have come together to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, to observe, learn, and participate in the project of increasing women’s empowerment around the world and at home. We would like to use this opportunity to bring attention to the following issues that we as youth still feel need to be addressed. Based on our discussions with one another and delegates from around the world, our priorities include: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Reproductive Justice, Sexual Health Education, and Gender and Sexual Minorities.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
We want to highlight the need for Canada to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as promised. We believe Canada should prioritize listening to indigenous families, voices, women, and scholars and incorporating their needs, insights, and leadership into the action and research done. As indigenous advisors have suggested, we strongly believe in prioritizing the accountability of law enforcement at the levels of individual officers and policy.
Changes in government policies that contribute to missing and murdered indigenous women, particularly through criminalizing indigenous women’s lives should be addressed. Criminalizing women’s lives is instrumental in their marginalization and in forcing them into unsafe conditions where they risk losing their lives. One key example includes Bill c-36 (The Exploited Persons Act) which criminalizes sex work. Indigenous women, migrant women, and poor women are overly represented as sex workers. Bill c-36 is consistently denounced by sex workers as both criminalizing their lives, making their jobs riskier, and providing barriers to the implementation of ways that sex workers keep themselves safe. Bill c-36 contradicts Canada’s work around missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and demonstrates a failure to listen to indigenous women’s own concerns and solutions.
Reproductive health services have been highlighted as a key priority for the Trudeau government. Currently New Brunswick continues to break federal Canadian law with it’s abortion restrictions and has created a two-tiered medical system where wealthy people have access to private services that the largely low income population of New Brunswick does not. Not only are people forced to pay out of pocket for services that the province is legally contracted to provide and make accessible, when they can’t they are forced to travel across borders, or attempt highly dangerous DIY solutions.
We also want to highlight the need for a national prescription coverage plan in order to make birth control more accessible. Birth control in Canada is not accessible to many people, including teenagers. Teenagers have less access to medication for financial reasons and because of physical barriers which make it more difficult for them to get to a doctor or access parent’s medical insurances while maintaining confidentiality.
Another part of reproductive justice is ensuring that people can raise their children in safe and supportive environments. Child and family services across Canada too often spend resources removing children from their families instead of prioritizing supports for families to stay together. Child removal policies criminalize poverty and most often affect indigenous, racialized, poor and single parent families. We want to encourage the government to respond to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling from January 2016 concerning its provision of services to indigenous children, and increase funding levels until these children and youth have equal access to all other young Canadians.
Sexual Health Education
Other members of our group are also concerned with access to sex positive, knowledge based sex education and are concerned at the clear and unjust disparities between provinces and their approaches, resources, standards for sexual health education. The lack of accountability of provinces in the provision of sexual health education and the very different realities that young Canadians face across the country are inexcusable and easily fixed with a little political will. Sex education should be inclusive of the experiences of people of all genders, sexualities and levels of ability. It should be sex positive and fact based. It should include discussions of consent and how sex should feel good both physically and emotionally.
Gender and Sexual Minorities
We support Bill C-16 which amends the human rights act to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. This bill provides vital protection for queer and trans communities. Currently, queer youth are disproportionately represented amongst homeless youth and youth in care. Intersectionality must be a part of addressing issues faced by gender and sexual minorities since indigenous, racialized, and disabled youth who are queer and trans face increased risk of violence, poverty and discrimination.
The Anglican Youth Delegation
Willow Martin Seedhouse
Aili Peterson McIntyre
Caitlin Reilley Beck
The woman standing before us held her hand out to the chair in front of the room. We had gathered to listen to a presentation by Masimanyane, a woman’s support network centered on ending violence against women and girls. Instead, we listened to this woman as she explained that Masimanyane had decided not to attend, on the premise that they wished to stand in solidarity with the many women who would not be able to participate in the 61st Commission on the Status of Women due to the United States’ recently implemented travel ban. Following her explanation, she read from Masimanyane’s official statement on its rationale for choosing not to attend:
“We have serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of the recent spate of executive orders which serve to exclude, demonize and criminalize specific communities in the United States of America (USA) and some communities globally, jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of women. Further impact of the executive orders is the denial of the right of women of member states to participate in this global forum. We took this decision to express solidarity with, in particular, the women of Libya, Sudan and Somalia, as well as our sisters in Syria, Iran and Yemen.”
As opposed to the originally planned presentation and panel, those present were encouraged to stay for a round-table discussion on the relationship between global populism and the status of women.
Our discussion was centered on the emergence of far-right political figures and parties across the world. There was a focused and dynamic energy to our dialogue, and it was clear that each woman in the room desired space for their input and concerns. Each woman’s voice was textured by its own unique intent; while some of us wanted to provide our insights on opposing the spread of divisive ideologies, others took the time to gently emote over the lives that have already been impacted by the new United States President’s first large string of executive orders.
Here’s the thing, we are here as delegates on behalf of the PC(USA) denomination. It is our faith that has driven twelve young women to attend the CSW. We come from different walks of life, yet the majority of us are attending seminary. For me, it was seminary that taught me what the imago Dei truly looked like. Genesis 1:27 affirms the personhood of every human being. The text reads, “God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God they were created; male and female Got created them.” This text is the theology that guides my politics. When executive orders dehumanize our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our faith body must stand up and affirm the imago Dei of all humanity.
Our refugees need their hosts countries to affirm their humanity and value. Our refugees need our churches to stand in solidarity and fight for their rights. Our panel began with a sweep of hand gesturing towards an empty chair. “This empty chair represents the many women who could not be with us at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women. It represents all of the voices that will not be heard at the United Nations this year.” This year, we are missing out. Women have been left behind and it is our loss. While the panel began with this image, we have continued to name the absence of those who could not attend this year. For those of us who are representatives on the ecumenical end, this empty charge became our charge and benediction to welcome, fight for, and love our global sisters
Written by Shannon Schmidt and Leslie Cox of the Young Women’s PC(USA) Delegation to the Commission of the Status of Women
The United Nations has cancelled all official events tomorrow due to the weather conditions. Please check online or the direct location of parallel events for other arrangements. We pray for our sisters and friends in transit, and ask you all take necessary precautions.
By: Jennifer Allen Delegate of the Episcopal Church
Today I am leaving for the United Nations’ Commission for the Status of Women’s 61st Session. I’ll be blogging about the experience, as I am able. It will be a busy two weeks. But, today, I’d like to just share a little Information with you about UNCSW. It will only take about seven minutes of your time to read this post. Seven minutes doesn’t seem like too much time does it? Consider, however, in the seven minutes you are reading this post 2,000 girls under the age of 18 will be sexually assaulted somewhere on the globe. 64 women will be beaten by their partner in the US. 60 girls under the age of 16 will be married, 40 girls in Africa will have their genitals mutilated. And, somewhere nine women are entering human trafficking against their will.
Those numbers caught my attention, but it’s the stories that captured my passion…
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