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By: Charlotte Mildenberger- Lutheran Office for World Community
Last week during the United Nations General Assembly general debate week, I attended a side event titled “Keeping the Faith in Development: Gender, Religion and Health”. The side-event was co-hosted by UNAIDS, UN Women, UNFPA, (as part of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development), the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, and Islamic Relief USA.
The event brought together some of the report authors, editors, and producers, as well as religious scholars, faith leaders and faith-based organizations, such as: Rabbi Burton Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary; Imam Shamsi Ali, president of Nusantara Foundation; Mr Luis Mora, UNFPA; Ms Sally Smith, UNAIDS; Mr Luca Badini-Confalonieri, Wijngaards Institute; Ms Gillian Paterson, Heythrop College, London, Ms Julie Clague, University of Glasgow, Mr Ulrich Nitschke, International Partnership for Religions and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and Ms. Safira Rameshfar, Baha’i International Community.
The reports address the taboo issues faith communities encounter when seeking to address sexual and reproductive health challenges, and propose theological and practical responses that simultaneously respect the tenets of faith traditions. The event explored areas of conflict and the “faith-full” ways to resolve them. The participants were invited to put forward recommendations for action to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This symposium launched three reports examining the intersections and areas of contention between health, human rights and lived theology:
Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunities (a joint UNFPA –NORAD Paper).
Dignity Freedom and Grace: Christian Perspectives on HIV, AIDS and Human Rights (Paterson and Long, 2016) is published by the World Council of Churches.
Promoting good health & good conscience – The Ethics of Using Contraceptives (Wijngaards Institute).
During the Q & A section, I was shocked to learn that there is only one toilet for women in a remote village of 16,000 people in in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Leaving the event, I could not stop thinking about it and did some research. I have since learned that of the world’s seven billion people, 2.4 billion people do not have improved sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Poor sanitation increases the risk of disease and malnutrition, especially for women and children. 1 in 3 people on this planet still don’t have access to a clean and safe toilet; 1,000 children die each day due to poor sanitation. Women and girls in many parts of the world are living out there right now under these terrifying circumstances. It’s also a matter of safety – women and girls are getting raped while seeking sanitation.
One toilet for women and girls in a village of 16,000 people is an example of the dire need to build toilets and create safe spaces for women and girls. It is a call for the full implementation of SDGs especially SDG6 “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. Better sanitation supports better nutrition and improved health, especially for women and children. Let’s do something about it! We can’t wait while a lack of access to sanitation affects health, education, gender equality, nutrition, the environment. #wecantwait
By: Lia Hansen- Lutheran Office for World Community
During the general debate of the 71st session of the General Session, I attended a side event hosted by UN women titled: “Making Every Woman and Girl Count”. This event highlighted the importance of gendered data in the implementation of international, regional, and national policies. Eleven out of the fourteen indicators of gender inequality currently lack sufficient data. The gender data initiative has three main goals: To enable an environment to strengthen policies for the production of gender statistics, to increase data production efforts, and to increase data accessibility for more members of society. The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, noted that we do not have 80% of data to monitor SDG5, and emphasized the lack of political will on the issue, as only 13% of countries dedicate resources to gender data. The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop emphasized the importance of collecting data at an individual rather than a household level, known as the individual deprivation measure (IDM), in order to create effective policies.
The panel included Melinda Gates from the Gates foundation, who declared that we “can’t close gender gap if we don’t close the gender data gap”, noting that “what gets measured gets done”. She stated that it is necessary to build a data set and track data, since decisions cannot be made on estimates. She also emphasized the importance of data on women’s unpaid work, since it is part of a root inequity affecting women worldwide. Emily Courey Pryor, Senior Director of Women and Girls Initiatives for the Women and Population team at the UN Foundation, urged member states to “not just talk about gender equality, but measure and celebrate it”. She advocated for the use of data in communities and countries to drive policy change and for the accessibility of such data to community members that can hold decision makers accountable. Many heads of state, leaders of civil society and the private sector, and UN affiliates gave interventions during the session. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico emphasized the importance of disaggregating data, to include all groups of women and girls.
The main outcome of “Making every woman and girl count” is the idea of enabling an environment for gender statistics, to produce more disaggregated data, and increase its accessibility to every sector of society. These efforts can aid in producing more gender-sensitive policies worldwide. This discussion and initiative is essential, as it helps to mainstream gender issues into the UN bodies and initiatives, while honoring the SDG’s promise of leaving no one behind.
For more information on UN Women’s Flagship Programme, click here.
By: Rachel Chardon, Anglican Communion
The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW61) will focus on the Priority Theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, studying how to empower women economically by promoting the equality and accessibility of women to obtain an education, to enter the workforce, and to control their financial savings. For women and girls, an accessible education is an important component in obtaining competitive jobs with higher incomes. As more women earn money, families have greater combined household incomes that women can control. Women’s growing capabilities in spending coupled with access to savings accounts at financial institutions can help achieve faster economic growth. The changing world of work acknowledges the growth of women in the workforce and the lack of equality women face in obtaining high-level jobs, similar wages, mobility to formal work sectors, and economic independence.
When women and girls are solely responsible for household chores, they are more likely to work in low-paid and undervalued jobs that inhibit their participation in the formal workplace. Legal restrictions and spousal objections have repressed women’s economic opportunities and the types of jobs they can obtain. Amongst all major racial and ethnic groups, women’s economic equality is significantly lower than that of the median earnings of white men. Alongside the important facts outlined above, our delegates at UNCSW61 are also asked to report on any progress made (or challenges remaining) in their nation regarding the Review Theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.
By: Lori Kochanski, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/Lutheran World Federation, CSW Delegate
Entering this Holy Week I reflect on the sacred holy week I experienced as a participant in the events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Every Good Friday I remember a little girl in the congregation in New Haven, CT, where I served as intern. As we were walking the stations of the cross and listening to the story of Jesus she pulled at my hand and asked THE question: “why did he have to die if he didn’t do nothing?” In a neighborhood where she witnessed violence every day she had grown used to understanding the consequences of life on the street. She could not reconcile the innocent Jesus dying the same death as the drug dealers.
The question still goes to my heart and names the tensions in my own believing. For me this is where faith is more important than belief. Here is where I hope it is true that God can take my anger and questioning in the face of the world of injustices. Because after the holy week in New York of sacred walking and listening I hear echoes of the same question a little girl asked a long time ago: “Why do girls and women have to die every day? They have done nothing except be born.” If Jesus died so that we are free then why are there still women and girls dying at the hands of violence and persecution.
My prayer right there is to find the places where hope can rise at intersections of suffering and pain. In the rising I believe we will catch a glimpse of the promise of Christ rising from the dead. This place of hope is constructed by the power of people to lament realities that only serve to harm another through misuse of power. Hope takes flesh when we lay down our own swords and reach out to our neighbors in order to create a vision of humanity that includes both justice and freedom. Hope is born from truth of reconciliation. And it takes time and deliberate plans and collective advocacy.
As global partners in achieving the sustainable goals set out for the world by the United Nations we must hold each other accountable to our actions and inaction. We also must be willing to keep noticing the things that cause greatest harm, in particular harm to those who are most vulnerable. To be more specific – women and girls.
Today, it is very easy to act as if the time at the United Nations was a dream, a parallel reality I can step out of and forget. So for as tired as my brain was last week, I pray to become even more tired in my purpose and prayer of how to be of continued use in my own context. I pray my vocation meets my call and a vision is revealed. I trust there will be partners in the journey that it may be so.
Yet, we still have so far to go and so much to learn. We have to find our place in the order of things. Because…well, because promise. Because, grace. Because, freedom. Because, faith.
By Mavis Duncanson, Association of Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand, CSW Delegate
Wednesday (3/16/16) started with worship where I heard the story of a rice farmer in Korea. At a time of economic hardship global aid agencies sent large volumes of rice at a low price so that the people could eat their staple food. Which meant the price the farmer could get for his produce was seriously deflated, at the time that his fifth daughter was born. Only a son could inherit his property, and he needed a son to grow up and work the fields, yet every child was another mouth to feed, and he wanted his children to have a warm, secure life free from hunger. He made the difficult, so difficult decision to allow his beloved daughter to be adopted far away to the United States of America. She was loved deeply by her adoptive parents and well provided for, growing in grace and stature and telling this story as she led in worship on Wednesday.
Later in the day women upholding faith, family and motherhood shared what they had done to make a difference for those less fortunate. With seemingly boundless love and energy teams of people are ensuring that dolls are being sewn and dressed, booklets coloured in and bound, foam shapes cut out so that children can learn to distinguish circles from triangles, stars from squares. The passion and enthusiasm were undeniable. Provision of washable sanitary towels to girls who previously sat in their bedrooms on a piece of cardboard and training of midwives to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality will undoubtedly have a positive impact on gender equality. Yet I couldn’t help wondering to what extent women like me, women of privilege, sending item after item to children perceived as being in need might not undercut development of local solutions to local issues or put local manufacturers out of business.
In a third event a speaker from the floor reminded me that violence takes many forms, and that corporate violence taking land and testing agricultural chemicals is often backed up with the power of legal strategies and even military intervention when women and girls stand up for the right to clean air and water in their communities. In my own country Aotearoa New Zealand we know the long term effects of alienation from land for tangata whenua (the people of the land). How can private corporations be held to account when their need for product development undercuts local economies and directly impacts health and education?
As I reflect I realise that all this undercutting can be framed as coming from a positive motivation: to avoid starvation in a country in dire economic circumstances; to provide special items to needy children and find personal joy and fulfilment; to develop fertilisers and pesticides that can make agriculture more efficient. But it can also be framed as philanthropy without partnership or corporate exploitation. Thinking of our pivotal scriptures this week the starting points were entitlement to inheritance and sharing of resources. Moses affirmed the rightness of the daughters of Zelophehad having the inheritance that was theirs. They were the ones to decide what crops to grow and stock to raise. And the widow of Zarephath did not receive a delivery of bulk discounted oil. Rather she poured out what she had and found that it was more than sufficient. So somehow we need wisdom to distinguish paternalism from partnership, self-fulfilment from solidarity. I pray for that wisdom.
Written by: Holly Hanitrinirina Sthela Gun, Lutheran World Federation, ELCA International Leaders Program, CSW Delegate
The Commission on Status of Women (CSW) is always a life changing event for me, and I am hoping that it does the same to all people who join this event. It is a way to engage with your own country. Any CSW conference is a new experience. The more you listen to others’ stories – the more you learn, the more you speak – the more you advocate. The more you engage in discussion, join meetings, you help the grassroots voice to be heard.
In CSW 60, I was able to engage and be in discussion about the status of women and the policies in which my church stands, as well as in discussion regarding a proposition that the church wants to bring to the table, with my Mission at the United Nations (Madagascar) and government representatives. This ability to be in consultation with them helped the voice of the church to be heard. Because of this, when they make decisions, I hope they will consider the importance of those voices.The government itself will never be able to reach any goals by themselves. They need collaboration with other sectors.
Being a participant in this Commission on Status of Women has shaped me to be more of my church, to help other voices to be heard. I think anyone who takes part in CSW should be responsible to share their experiences. The only job you do in the United Nations is representing the voice of your brothers and sisters.
Written by: Mavis Duncanson, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand
I was privileged to be able to observe and listen to this high-level event which was organised by the OECD Development Assistance Committee Network on Gender Equality, and the Missions of Switzerland, France, Peru, Morocco, Italy and Fiji in partnership with others. At the very start we were reminded that this conversation could not be more timely nor more urgent, especially in light of the recent catastrophic damage experienced by the people of Fiji. Although women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and are also drivers of effective action, an OECD review in 2013 found that gender equality was targeted in only 29% of DAC members’ bilateral aid for climate change action. It is encouraging to learn that private sector funders of climate change action have been very strong in seeking gender equity training, and including gender equity in their proposed projects. I hope this will lead to better results in future OECD audits and that more organisations will follow the example of Green Climate Fund which has mandatory gender analysis in funding applications. The interrelatedness of the SDGs and need for explicit links between CSW60 and COP22 was highlighted in the report from Peru that adolescent girls from rural areas are increasingly subject to sexual violence as El Nino weather patterns badly affect rural areas and changing social patterns increase their exposure to harm. The association between climate change and violence against women and girls is well established and the panel also noted that in Vanuatu there was a 300% increase in sexual violence after Cyclone Pam. Women are at the front line of climate change crisis and solutions, and action must be informed by their experience. With the panel my hope is that women will be right at the heart of the process to translate political commitments into effective gender-responsive climate solutions.
Written by: Sarah Roure, Programme Officer -Brazil, Christian Aid, Member of ACT Alliance
On March 12th, I joined a number of people at the Salvation Army for the Ecumenical Women orientation meeting. I didn´t expect the variety of women that I found there: women from different parts of the world, different churches and denominations, but the same dedication to the Kingdom of God and it values.
To meet other women of faith and women from various faith-based organizations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and committed to the right of every women to live a life with dignity was the best start to my first time at the CSW.
The challenge to women´s empowerment and sustainable development has to consider the key message of the SDGs of leaving no one behind. More than just a long list of goals, the agenda was shaped considering that message.
This day was filled with strong messages about inequality and the important role of FBO´s in making possible that no one will be left behind. If every creation belongs to God then all creation is entitled to a sustainable and good life. If it all belongs to God, then no one should be left behind.
Author: Lisa McDonald, Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In response to hearing about human trafficking one women shared with me how a group of women from her church go to the streets and minister the gospel of Christ to those caught up in prostitution. She shared how a simple special bag of feminine products literally had a young women to come off the prostitution stage just to make sure she had her own care package WOW! Loving the lost in simple ways is key! People need to see and feel the concrete love and care of Jesus, they need the GOSPEL.
Unfortunately we heard about a child marriage practice of a 13 year old to a grown man that died 4 days after her injuries – just breaks your heart- such evil. Sexual child abuse legitimized as marriage. Our response at the meeting: who is marrying children to men? We must work to end this atrocity!
As we sang songs ” It all belongs to you Lord”, I couldn’t help but to be horrified and wondered how can we make the words of Jesus come alive that says …. occupy until I come? Luke 19:13.
A prayer: Lord let this be the year that the people of God everywhere come together and share the gospel of Jesus Christ , bringing light to darkness. We are His hands, His feet – use us to transform lives and rescue those in danger and those suffering and pleading to be helped. In Jesus name. Amen.
Click here to read the 3rd Edition of our Advocacy Guide to prepare for your time at CSW 60. Can’t join us at CSW 60? That’s okay! This guide provides useful background, stories, and resources for all around the world working towards achieving gender justice.
Begin your days in worship, and join EW in a number of our parallel events during CSW60! Don’t miss out on the following:
Daily: 8:00 AM Ecumenical Women Morning Worship @ CCUN Chapel
March 14th, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Opening Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
- 1:00 PM “Developing a Common Feminist Faith Discourse to Achieve Gender Equality”, Baha’i Centre
- 6:15 PM “Engaging Men of Faith to be Champions in the Fight to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, Boss Room
- 6:15 PM “Breaking Cycles of Poverty through Education: Models from Presbyterian Churches” CCUN, 10th floor
- 7:00 PM “Unbind and Let Go: Mobilizing Faith Communities to Combat Human Trafficking” Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Ave
March 15th, 2016
- 8:30 AM “Striking to our Goals: Scholars and Donors as Agents on Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development”, CCUN, Boss Room
- 10:30 AM “Empowering Women to End Hunger”, CCUN, 2nd floor
- 12:30 PM “Forced Migration, Human Trafficking, and Child Armies: How ISIL is Exploiting the Conflict in the Middle East”, CCUN Chapel
March 16th, 2016
- 10:30 AM “How Will You Join Rural Women in Implementing SDGs?” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 11:30 AM “Engaging Faith Communities to Implement SDGs” UN Conference Room A
- 12:30 PM “Faith at the Crossroads of Sustainable Development and Sustained Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, 10th floor
- 4:30 PM “Sustainable Development: The Powertool for Women and Girls” The Salvation Army, 221 E 52nd St., Auditorium
- 6:00 PM Ecumenical Women Advocacy Dinner – CCUN, 2nd floor
March 17th, 2016
- 8:30 AM “Empowering Women Refugees for Successful Integration into the United States Society through Quality Education” CCUN, Boss Room
- 8:30 AM “Changemakers – Leadership Strategies to Increase Maternal Health Awareness, Education and Improve Outcomes of Pre/Post Pregnancy Care” CCUN, 10th floor
- 10:30 AM “Empowering Women in Migration: Development Justice and Government Accountability for SDGs” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 10:30 AM “Women’s Leadership in the Korea Peace Process” CCUN, Boss room
- 10:30 AM “Women, Peace, Security and Sustainable Development” TCC, room 2
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
March 18th, 2016
- 10:30 AM “Women and Urbanization: Celebrating their Leadership in Ensuring Sustainable Development” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 6:15 PM “Women of Faith Leading Change” CCUN, Boss room
March 21st, 2016
- 12:30 PM “Feminist Theological Resources for Engaging Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, 10th floor
March 22nd, 2016
- 12:30 PM “Women, Drugs and Development” CCUN, Hardin room
- 4:30 PM “The Dynamics and Challenges of Assisting Human Trafficking Survivors to Take Control of their Lives through the Combined Efforts of NGOs and Governmental Agencies” CCUN, Hardin room
March 23rd, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNSCW Closing Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
- 6:00 PM Ecumenical Women Advocacy Dinner – CCUN, 2nd floor
March 24th, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Closing Eucharist @The Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
Hello Friends! Please join us at the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) this year!
To register to attend UNSCW 60 with Ecumenical Women, beginning with our Orientation on Saturday, March 12, follow the link below.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a member organization of Ecumenical Women, had representation at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), which recently took place in Paris, France. Here, a resolution regarding international collective action to manage climate change was adopted.
Follow the link below to read more about the Conference, as well as some perspectives and experiences of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Christine Mangale, LOWC
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) launched today at a press conference the 2015 edition of the World’s Women Report on the occasion of World Statistics Day, celebrated October 20. The theme is “Better Data, Better Lives”. Speakers at the UN Headquarters launch were: Mr. Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Ms. Keiko Osaki Tomita, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and Ms. Francesca Grum, Chief of the Social and Housing Statistics Section, UN DESA.
The World’s Women Report is hailed as a “landmark on gender statistics”. The report is issued every five years, and the 2015 edition is the sixth report in 30 years. The speakers at the launch emphasized the importance of presenting empirical evidence that connects statistics and policy making. The report analyses the status of women based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action areas of concern. It looks at both the progress and gaps over the past 20 years.
The following are excerpts from the launch:
- Women marry later but child marriage remains an issue in selected countries. 1-4 women aged 20-24 in developing regions are married before they turn 18. The percentage is higher for Southern Asia (44%) and Sub Saharan Africa (40%) – often resulting in early pregnancies, limited opportunities for education and career and vocational development. For women of reproductive age, unmet need for family planning and lack of skilled attendants at birth have serious implications on mother’s health
- Education: Education has increased globally for girls and boys at all levels, yet enrollment decreases and gender gaps widen with education levels. Women are underrepresented in tertiary fields of studies related to science and engineering.
- Women’s access to labor market has stagnated – 50% of working age women in the labor force, similar to 20 years ago. The occupational segregation of women and men continue to exist in all regions. Women are working longer than men when unpaid work is accounted for (1 hour more in developing regions and half an hour more in developed regions).
- Women’s participation in leadership positions has increased, yet at a low pace: Parliaments – Women’s representation in lower or single houses of parliament was 12% in 1997 and is 22% in 2015. Executive Branch: Women’s representation among cabinet ministers was 6% in 1994 and is 18% in 2015. Most female appointed ministers are assigned portfolios related to social issues. Judiciary: higher up in the judicial hierarchy, women’s representation declines drastically. Only 19% of Supreme Courts have a female president.
- Violence against women: a global concern: 1 in 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. 2 in 3 victims of intimate partner and family related homicides are women. In most countries less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help of any sort. Less than 10% of women sought help from the police.
- 119 countries have Domestic Violence laws, 125 countries have sexual harassment laws, and 52 countries marital rape laws.
- Progress in most indicators monitored: yet, not enough progress/slow pace
- Wide disparities hidden in global and regional averages
- More data available, particularly on VAW (Some regions like Middle East, there is lack of data)
It was also pointed out that good governance is a prerequisite for good data collection. For more information, read the World’s Women Report, and download the very helpful infographics of each chapter of the report.