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qEesBswvyF70LM_ndDRyxELVCGw4e5ImVIsD5Dh-qRk,IPOx3XROmGnbZS8HNJf8adTTxqs_aR6hO7iDXwerzmUWhat follows is a piece written by Kirsten, a young adult delegate from EW member organization the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to CSW58. For more reflections of the ELCA young adult delegation, check out their blog.

I am always moved by what a group of motivated young people can accomplish in just a few short days.

Roughly a dozen young adults from various corners of the US were called together to observe, listen, discuss and contribute to the United Nation’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women. Each of us arrived with diverse perspectives and a different lens through which we view the world, as well as the issues at hand. What resulted in our time together was a mass of ideas, inspirations and challenges.

I observed what you might suspect. Though we are all called to a common goal of fighting for gender justice, the roads to that goal are long, divergent and winding. We heard impassioned and heartbreaking stories affecting women and girls all over the globe regarding violence, maternal & infant mortality, the fight for education, systemic hunger, poverty and disease. The list goes on and on. These issues are heavy and convoluted, not to mention mired in cultural and often religious traditions.

One of the panel discussions I attended (accidentally, I will admit) asked questions that especially resonated with me. Are we trying to change the world at large, or are we trying to change one person at a time? And how do we go about enacting change, either at an individual or a program level? Changing individuals can be accomplished through training, workshops and increasing the number of women willing to work in and through institutions. Changing perspectives on how to design and implement programs are the seedlings of cultural change.

What happens when we start chipping away at the gender gap? Access to resources as well as food production increases. Hunger, disease and infant mortality all decrease. The relationship between men and women becomes more mutual and respectful. Violence decreases. Human rights are valued.

During our time there, I heard a wonderful example of how powerful a movement can be. Picture yourself in a large auditorium filled with people in their seats. One individual gets up and starts dancing. People think to themselves, “What’s that crazy person doing dancing like that?” Then another person gets up to dance. Then another. And another. Soon the whole group is dancing, with the exception of a few individuals. Now, they are the crazy ones.

So why not start or join a movement? Or many movements? Let us begin reducing the gender gap by getting involved: as individuals, as groups, as cultures.

I ask you to engage this cohort to see what we learned and what actions we are planning to take now that we are home. I assure you, there are many. Ask what groups/programs we encountered; which ones are enacting change and which ones are not. This group of young adults all arrived with diverse perspectives. We left with even more, and I dare say that our lenses through which we see the world are a slightly different hue. I can say with absolute certainty, however, that we are all ready to dance.

-Kirsten

1932224_723683241010103_2080516418_nAgreed conclusions on the CSW58 priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” were reached late in the evening this past Friday, 21 March. To read a statement from UN Women on the news, click here. To read an advance unedited version of the agreed conclusions, click here.

Check out this video from Matilda Johnson, a World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women from the Gambia. She discusses why the Millennium Development Goals have a woman’s face. She also evaluates the MDGs and discusses what she hopes will come out of CSW58.

Check out this interview with Hannah, an Ecumenical Women youth delegate from the Episcopal Church who returned home after CSW57 and was inspired to start a radio show in her home town that deals with a wide range of issues that contemporary teenagers face. This year at CSW58 Hannah held a parallel event discussing the work of her radio show.

An interview with Maria Cristina Rendon, Program Assistant in the Lutheran World Federation’s Department for Theology and Public Witness and Reverend Elitha Moyo, Coordinator of the Gender Justice Project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe. Elita and Cristina, both who are also Ecumenical Women delegates to the 58th UN Commission on the Status of Women, discuss how CSW relates to their gender justice work on both the international and grassroots levels.

Check out the following video from the chaplain at the Church Center for the United Nations Rev. Dionne Boissiere, who discusses the use of difficult Bible texts in this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women and how we should interpret such texts. Specifically, she explains the use of 2 Kings 6: 28-29, the story of “The Two Starving Mothers” to center a worship service around Millennium Development Goal #1, “eradicating poverty and extreme hunger” which was led by our young adult delegates on 11 March 2014.

This morning’s worship service was led by Ecumenical Women’s young adult delegates from Church Women United and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Focusing on Millennium Development Goal #1, “Eradicate Poverty and Extreme Hunger,” the young adults worked with an extremely difficult Bible text, 2 Kings 6:28-29, through song, prayer and reflection. Check out the following videos from worship below.

Our Call to Worship/ Welcome

 

Singing “Canticle of the Turning.”

 

Furthermore, we ask you to reflect as well on how to deal with difficult Bible texts like 2 Kings 6: 28 -29. Please send us your comments and we’ll be sure to share them with our delegates!

 

A variety of views about the text were then shared. One woman suggested all the characters in the story were selfish and that this reflected on the selfishness of all those who have privilege. Someone else commented that despite the horrific manner in which she went about it, the woman who cooked her son was acting in a form of solidarity with the other desperate woman. Another delegate stated that there is something powerful about dwelling in anger, in being angry at the desperation of many of those girls and women living in extreme poverty, and that there is hope in action. Another young adult commented that desperation makes people do things that we cannot even imagine, but that righteous indignation at that desperation empowers us to help end systems of injustice. Chaplain Dionne ended the conversation and raised our spirits in proclaiming “the joy of the Lord is our strength!”

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This post was written by Dustin Wright, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seminarian who is currently serving as Communications Coordinator for Ecumenical Women. The views expressed below are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization.

This past Saturday at Ecumenical Women’s Orientation Day for the United Nations 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), I was honored to give two brief workshops about advocacy, the Millennium Development Goals, and the power of sharing stories. We had extremely powerful conversations in both workshops that opened up a bunch of new insights for me about how the sharing of stories relates to Christian witness and working to end gender inequalities. Most importantly, folks got to share how they had used stories in their own local contexts to organize against gender injustice and accompany other girls and women in processes of liberation. Hopefully we all picked up a few new ideas and were able to share something from our own stories as well. As the crazy, awesome energy that is CSW swarms around me, I figured it’d take a quick break and briefly outline what we talked about. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear any feedback you might have.

We began by talking about the power and use of stories in the Christian tradition… how Jesus used stories and how we organize our Christian community around the story that is Christ death and hope-bringing resurrection over the worst of human sin. The group then got into discussion around one of Jesus’ stories, a parable not regularly heard in many of our congregations called “The Parable of the Growing Seed:

He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4: 26 – 29).

Many participants offered interpretations about how this parable related to their advocacy work… some talked about the frustration of spreading seeds and not seeing how they grow into justice. Others talked about the joy when they do succeed in their work. One woman contributed a great interpretation, that she was not the person scattering seed but rather a seed itself. God was helping her grow and change into her calling as she engaged in advocacy work.

We next watched part of the following film from Participate, an organization that is bringing the perspective of the world’s most marginalized people into the debate about what will follow the Millennium Development Goals in 2015:

While Participate is primarily a secular organization, it’s amazing about how their approach reflects the best of the Christian liberation theology tradition, which believes that Christ chooses to especially locate Himself in the lives of those who are most marginalized in the world, whether it be by poverty or other forms of oppression. The lives of oppressed people then serve as sources of revelation, and thus, prove the main source of liberation from whatever or whoever may oppress them. With this in mind, folks and organizations like the Church cannot simply swoop in and “make things better” in a patriarchal manner, but rather should simply accompaniment those living under oppression in their walk toward liberation, using whatever privilege they may have to amplify those voices who are not currently being listened to by decision makers. Furthermore, the global Church is likely the organization that in practical terms has the most direct contact with those living under oppression, including girls and women. The Church (and we as Christians) are therefore called to accompany oppressed individuals in are local communities as they seek to free themselves.

1975235_716798388365255_964671084_nAfter we discussed this concept, I highlighted two platforms through which the United Nations is providing an avenue for increased participation in evaluating the Millennium Development Goals, the World We Want 2015 platform and the MYWorld global survey of priorities for global development. Whether it pertains to the MDGs or otherwise, amplifying the voices of those living under oppression is important in any community organizing or advocacy effort, whether on a local or global scale. Thus, we spent the second half of the workshop discussing how we had used stories in our local contexts. We heard about the power of stories in combat human trafficking. We heard about the power of stories in helping women reclaiming their lives after being victims of domestic violence. We heard about the power of stories in helping women discern how to interpret privilege and oppression. We heard about the power of stories in helping women gain access to education and sexual/ reproductive health services. At once point, one participant stated that “silence kills” when trying to overcome various forms of oppression. I couldn’t agree more, and I feel extremely grateful for being able to hear the stories of all who participated. What an amazing experience, and I look forward to hearing and sharing more stories throughout the week.

God’s peace,
Dustin

Matilda JohnsonThe following poem is from Matilda Johnson, Area President of West Africa for the World Federation of Methodist & Uniting Church Women. She read this poem, entitled “Woman, This Is Your Day” during one of Ecumenical Women’s worship services on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

Woman, get up and go
Today the 8th of March is your day, -so
Celebrate! Stand up for your right
Don’t ever give up the fight.

My sisters, you are the caretakers,
You are the country’s food producers,
You are the home’s unpaid teachers,
You are the tireless housekeepers.

Women, you toil day and night,
Your work goes on even when there is no light.
You persevere, you endure and take delight
In ensuring that the household is alright.

My sisters, you all have pride,
Don’t let yourselves be taken for a ride.
After all you are always around to guide,
The family safely over life’s stormy tide.

What follows is the powerful Call to Worship that was part of Ecumenical Women’s service this morning in the Church Center for the United Nations chapel:

LEADER: Come praise the Lord with me as we lift up our voices together in prayer and advocacy coming from north, south, east and west.

PEOPLE: We will affirm our work together.

LEADER: Cry out to the Lord for the least of these. Do not become weary. Do not lose heart.

PEOPLE: We will wait on the Lord. We will share our stories. We will 

listen to the stories of others.

LEADER: The Lord requires us to love mercy, seek justice and to walk humbly with our God.

ALL:  The Lord is a God of hope. We will persevere. We will eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. We will achieve universal primary education. We will promote gender equality and empower women. We will reduce child mortality. We will improve maternal health. We will combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases. We will ensure environmental sustainability. We will create a global partnership for development. These are human rights for God’s people. If we have faith of a mustard seed, God’s grace and justice will endure to all generations!

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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

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?

~~~

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.

~~~

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

Hi everyone,

We have great news! As we still have a few spots remaining at our Ecumenical Women Orientation for the 58th Commission on the Status of Women, we’ve extended the registration deadline to this Tuesday, 18 February 2014. To register, go to our Eventbrite page here.

For details about all our joint events during CSW58, check out the information below. Thanks so much, and we hope to see you at CSW58!

CSW Orientation

When: Saturday, 8 March from 8:30am – 6:00pm (EST)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
 777 UN Plaza
 New York, NY 10017

Cost: $40.00 per attendee.

Prior registration is required to attend this event.

CSW Orientation consists of worship, discussion of how to do advocacy at the United Nations and time to explore the CSW58 priority theme, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.” Breakfast, lunch and a copy of our advocacy guide are provided with registration.

You can find a complete schedule for EW’s CSW58 Orientation here.

Advocacy Dinners

When: Wednesday, 12 March and Wednesday, 19 March from 6:00pm – 8:00pm (EDT)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
 777 UN Plaza
 New York, NY 10017

Cost: $18.00 per attendee per dinner.

Prior registration is required to attend this event.

Ecumenical Women delegates gathered to eat together, reflect on our experiences and consolidate our advocacy strategies for the days ahead.

Daily Worship

When: Monday, 10 March to Friday, 21 March from 8:00am – 8:30am (EDT)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
 777 UN Plaza
 New York, NY 10017

Prior registration is NOT required to attend daily worship.

Daily worship in the Church Center’s chapel allows us to rally together and worship God as we get ready for the day ahead.

Reflecting the CSW58 priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls,” over the coming months Ecumenical Women will be posting stories about our individual member organizations’ efforts to implement the MDGs. This is our ninth installment, a story from EW member organization United Methodist Women has partnered with the Ecumenical Development Foundation to support rural Zambian women in ending sex work by encouraging sustainable agriculture. This relates to a number of the MDGs, including MDG #6 – combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. What follows is an excerpt, but you can find the complete story at UMW’s website here.

… In a village in Zambia, Nelly and her family once depended exclusively on chemical fertilizers to produce the crops on their farm. As years went by, the quality of their soil degraded to a point that hunger and poverty took over the family’s already precarious situation. Nelly’s family tried shifting cultivation to charcoal burning as a source of income, but their situation worsened due to scarce rain and the resulting bare fields. Nelly’s father migrated to the city to look for provisional jobs, leaving Nelly’s mother with seven children without an income or means of support. At the ages of 13 and 15, Nelly and her sister began a life as sex workers to earn a subsistence income and help their mother and siblings survive. In just a short time Nelly’s sister contracted HIV and passed away from AIDS.

The Ecumenical Development Foundation (EDF), a partner of United Methodist Women, became aware of Nelly’s situation and began a rehabilitation program for sex workers. The program emphasized empowerment through the acquisition of basic skills, such as sustainable farming. The program required that all participants learn to raise chickens and pigs, as well as basic land farming without the use of chemical fertilizers. Nelly completed the program and with the help of EDF staff implemented the skills she had learned on her family farm…

As we continue preparations for CSW58, we wanted to thank all of those who have been a part of our online Ecumenical Women community over the past year. In 2013 we surpassed 25,000 views to our website for the first time!!! For more information about who was viewing our website and what the most popular topics were, check out the report below. And once again, thanks for joining us!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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