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New York, September 17, 2009 – As a major women’s rights anniversary approaches, women of faith are already at work, asking their governments to recommit to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, a milestone human rights platform agreed upon at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

“Millions of women worked for years to create the Beijing Platform, but its goals have been eclipsed by other political agendas” said Emily Davila, chair of Ecumenical Women at the United Nations, a faith-based non-profit coalition focusing on women’s rights internationally.  “We are calling on women of faith from around the world to come together in their churches and ask, ‘Have these goals for women’s leadership, education and development been met in our communities?’”

To ensure the upcoming anniversary is not forgotten, Ecumenical Women has launched the campaign: “Resurrect Beijing! Calling for a Renewed Commitment to Women’s Rights,” to inspire women around the world to gather together and ask their governments to increase their political commitments and resources towards meeting the principles of the Beijing Platform for Action.

The campaign will host advocacy gatherings in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first meeting in North America will be on October 7 in New York hosted by the National Council of Churches of Christ.  Faith communities were active participants in producing the landmark Beijing Platform, and now they can play a leading role again.

The campaign resources, available at http://ecumenicalwomen.org contain information about the Beijing Platform, a sample agenda for a meeting, tips on building coalitions, a sample advocacy letter for governments and a bible study.  The resource is intended to launch meetings all over the world and is also available in Spanish.

Meetings should be held prior to March 2010, the findings of which will be reported back to Ecumenical Women at the United Nations.  Earlier dates are strongly encouraged.  Conclusions from the meeting will be shared at the March meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-53) at the United Nations and with government representatives.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Anastassia Zinke, Advocacy Coordinator: anastassia@ecumenicalwomen.org
Ecumenical Women at the United Nations: 212-808-5360

Caring Men – Ezra Chitando

My ears of faith
Stretch for the sound
Of the arrival of caring men
My heart of faith
Yearns for men who care

My hands of faith anticipate
The gift of caring men
My eyes of faith
Search for men who care

My nose of faith senses
The aroma of caring men
My feet of faith propel me
Towards men who care

Sensitive men
Loving men
Inspired men
Humble men
Caring men.

This poem was composed during the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women in New York, March 2009. The theme was, “The Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between Women and Men, Including Care-giving in the Context of HIV and AIDS.” 

Ezra Chitando is a Theology Consultant to the WCC.

Cordaid and Partners reward Home Based Care Leadership in responding to HIV and AIDS. Win up to 15.000 Euro!

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AIDS has changed the fabric of communities around the world and placed a burden on the lives of many people, especially girls and women, young and old. With health systems failing and people living longer with HIV thanks to access to Antiretrovirals (ARVs), mainly poor women, are increasingly forced to devote their time, energy, skills and the little resources to care for their family members at home and provide their services to the wider community, often at great expense to themselves. This invisible task-shifting is insufficiently recognised, valued and validated as work.

Prize of €15.000 and €5.000 for HBC Leadership

The Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development (Cordaid) and partners of the Caregivers Action Alliance’s (CAA) Organising Committee (HelpAge International, Huairou Commission, VSO International) as well as the World YWCA, reward and encourage leadership around the strengthening of home based care in responding to HIV and AIDS in the “global South” by awarding €15.000 for an organisation and €5.000 for an individual. Cordaid and partners are seeking applications from organisations or individuals committed to supporting home based care as a necessary, effective, and community-based initiative – recognising home based care as an insufficiently resourced, under-valued and unrecognized solution for mitigating the effects of HIV and AIDS.

How to submit

Submissions can be sent up to 15 September 2009. To download the Rules and Procedures as well as the Application Form, visit the website: http://www.cordaidpartners.com/rooms/hiv-and-aids-award-2009. For more information please contact HIV_and_AIDS_Award@cordaid.nl or visit www.cordaid.nl.

by Malte Lei

The CSW – the Commission on the Status of Women – is an annual event.  Hundreds of women from all around the world come together in New York  in February in order to advocate for the rights of women  and girls.  These women come from all backgrounds – they are professors, teachers, social workers, economists, pastors, students, or mothers. They know what’s really going on in their communities, and are well aware of the needs of the people, probably more than the average government official in the UN system. To help the UN to hear the very needs of women and men, boys and girls “on the ground”, and to incorporate these needs into a strong statement – the Agreed Conclusion – is a main goal of the participation of women during CSW and the reason why they are invited by Ecumenical Women.

We hope that all Ecumenical Women delegates returned home safely and are now rested from all of the hard work during CSW.

EW would like to follow-up on some of the conversations that we were able with two small groups to have during the last days of CSW to evaluate our work together as a means to improve our work together. Therefore, we ask that you take 5 minutes to fill out this online survey. Your responses help us to improve the orientation and our effectiveness as a coalition during CSW. We warmly welcome all of your thoughts and responses.

Please fill this online survey out before 3 April 2009.  If you are unable to access the link above, the survey can be found by copying and pasting the following link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=BmmYANnblcbiGy0JsrkqXQ_3d_3d

Thank you!

THE STORY OF RUTH AND NAOMI
Adapted from the NRSV Biblical Story by
Rev. Kathleen Stone (writer)
DeWanda Wise (editor)
As performed with dancer, actress and voice at the
Commission on the Status of Women, 53rd Session
Ecumenical Women Opening Worship
February 28, 2009
8:30 a.m
Tillman Chapel, Church Center for the United Nations

DOWNLOAD RUTH AND NAOMI SCRIPT AS PDF

_mg_4929Story telling:

They say—those “Theys” who write books and tell us how to think about things—They say this: (sarcastically) “The quiet, idyllic mood of the book of Ruth and the charm of its gentle heroine has given it a special appeal to many generations of readers.”

But we know better. Having been schooled in the life of strong women, we know the true story; amended in wedding chapels, churches and cathedrals, told to children as bible story, is NOT idyllic, quiet, charming or gentle. This story is a tale of desperate grief. A story of survival in an unjust world. This is a story of a woman who, according to the law of the day, is a non-person. She, women, we are possessions. Objects. Burdens. Birthing, Sexing, Accessories. This story is a story of land being Mans’ and food being Mans’ and Blessings belonging to Man. A story where a woman breaks her back to birth, to bake, to sweep, to plant, to harvest, and without a man, she can buy neither land, food, shelter, nor safety. It is a story of a woman bereft. Her deprivation of NO interest to the ways things are.

This is what WE know.
We know this not only from this story,
But, we know it today.

So, let’s listen. Read the rest of this entry »

Groots International is a global network of grassroots women’s organizations.  Below are their demands of the CSW with regard to the priority theme.

The CSW focuses on sharing caregiving responsibility between women and men.  This is important. But first, we must value, scale up, and invest in what women are already doing.

Compensation is broader than just salaries and stipends!

  • Invest in infrastructure and livelihoods: basic services, food, transportation, improved health systems, community centers, security of land, housing and inheritance.
  • Allocate 40% of HIV/AIDS funds to community-led initiatives, including home-based care.
  • Support pilot projects on holistic ways to compensate caregiving, where caregivers control the resources.

Caregivers are organized and demonstrate collective voices!

  • Include home-based caregivers in decision-making positions, as representatives of their organizations from local to global levels.
  • Listen to Participatory Action Research: In the African-wide Home-based Caregivers Alliance, grassroots women are leading research counting their labor, resources, and time, also drawing their own conclusions.

I am a third-wave feminist.  And sometimes, I have no idea what that means.

At the Ecumenical Women Orientation two weeks ago, we worked with feminist theologian Caryn Riswold to elaborate on what it is to be a third-wave feminist in today’s world.  Three generations reflected on whether the distinction of “third-wave” is even helpful. They worried about where the next generation will take us.  And, they expressed concern over whether feminism itself is dead.

Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation
Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation

Women spanning six continents reminded each other of the various perspectives that a global movement brings to feminism.  We noted with joy young women like Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, who hosts a radio show for young girls, embodying a bridge between the second and third waves.  Privileged feminists of Ecumenical Women were reminded of the needs of a far greater population of women—those for whom reproductive justice is not an option; whose decisions are often made for them; whose bodies are made vulnerable to domestic violence, human trafficking, and crimes of war and terror.

Suddenly, we weren’t facing the nuanced standards of a privileged third wave anymore, riding on the shoulders of our mothers who fought before us.

2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Tamar, a young woman who is raped by her brother Amnon with the permission of her father—none other than King David, who the Bible so faithfully upholds as the greatest leader in Jewish history.  Because she is physically weaker than her brother, the passage tells us, Amnon is able to force her into having sex with him against her will. After this, we are told that because of the actions that he himself chose to perpetrate against her, he comes to hate her “with a hatred greater than the love with which he had loved her.”  So Tamar puts ashes on her head and she tears her robe in grief.  Her father David is angry but does nothing, and her brother Absalom encourages her “hold her peace.”

We never hear what happens to Tamar after this story. The horror of discovering this rape in the Bible is eclipsed only by the realization that even the author cares not what happened to Tamar after all was said and done.  Her life, her name, the “rape of Tamar” – these all serve in the text only as a function to explain why later her brother Absalom, who told her to stay silent, kills her brother Amnon, who raped her.  In the story, Tamar is property to be protected or violated. She is a figure whose violation represents not her own personal grief but her family’s public shame; a woman whose grief is but a footnote in the long opus to political power that we find recorded in the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kim Llerena, Ecumenical Women photographer

As a born-again feminist, I have recently seen the light. I am a repentant rejecter of ignorance being bliss, apologetic for my past indiscretions. I’m almost rushing out to buy that fun “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt…but that’s my lunch money for tomorrow.

In all seriousness, I only recently accepted that I can be a feminist and call myself a feminist without relinquishing completely the reasons I denied myself the label for so long. I was for many years a bit – gasp – ignorant even in my early twenties to both the meaning and value of feminism.

The biggest obstacle to me accepting feminism into my life wasn’t necessarily that I associated it with people who get really offended over the semantics of the word “mankind” (though really, those people just need to get over it and embrace etymology into their life). My problem was with any feminist perspective that purported that because we were women, we were all in some way oppressed. I had never once found myself at a disadvantage due to my sex or my gender, and I found it annoying whenever a privileged, white, female friend of mine would suggest that they had.

In general, mine was a poorly reasoned, superficial, and defensive position that I assumed whenever a staunchly feminist friend took the mic, like a cat flexing the nape of his neck right before he hissed. Clearly, my viewpoints, valid though they may have been within my own context, were oversimplified because of a lack of knowledge of what the women’s movement truly means for all women and of what we are still fighting for in other parts of the world.

At the Ecumenical Women conference’s opening day, I got to hear stories from women from around the world – women expected to care for dying family members because “wife” will always equal “caregiver,” no matter what the relationship becomes; women who never entertained the thought of deaconship because they knew their church wouldn’t either; women who were fighting simply for inclusive, unbiased language in government policy recommendations. Though I wasn’t officially participating in the conference, just documenting it, I listened and heard accounts of repression and oppression from across oceans, counterparts to my life story and ones like it. Read the rest of this entry »

Cross posted from National Council of Churches USA, Women’s Ministries website
by Meagan Manas

March 2-13 marks the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Each year, the Commission meets to “evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Throughout the two weeks, work is done to complete and modify a document known as “agreed conclusions.” The agreed conclusions formulated by the representatives of 45 member states at the end of these two weeks will be submitted to the Economic and Social Council for adoption, setting a precedent for governmental and non-governmental action and policy on a certain issue. This year, the theme of the CSW is the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS, and this year’s agreed conclusions can be found here.

But what does all of this international bureaucracy and UN jargon have to do with the National Council of Churches, the ecumenical community, and the Justice for Women Working Group? Lots. Participating as an NGO, Women from the NCC work together as part of a coalition of sixteen organizations called Ecumenical Women , striving to get our recommendations for the agreed conclusions to the representatives who will be debating them. Watching all the women who participate as part of NGO’s in the CSW, nearly 2000 in all, is inspiring, and watching the over 200 delegates who also count themselves as Ecumenical Women is a true witness to the Spirit moving in all contexts and corners of the world. Read the rest of this entry »

cross-posted from Sparkfly, an Ecumenical Women blogging friend

I want to preface this post by stating I have never been raped. I do not know what it is like to experience such an atrocious violation. I am writing from the perspective of an outsider who wants to stand in solidarity with her sisters, locally and globally, who have experienced this atrocious violation. I want to be sensitive to those who have been raped who may read this post and disagree with me. I believe it is every woman’s right to choose weather or not she publicly acknowledges the rape she experienced. It is her right and it is not my right to persuade her to do otherwise.

Yesterday [Wednesday, March 4] I attended a workshop called “She says no to violence”. It was sponsored by UNIFEM. A variety of panelist spoke eloquently about the need to decrease violence against women and how that was happening in the contexts from which they came. The room was warm. The day was late. My mind began to wander.

During the question and answer portion of the workshop my attention surfaced in time to hear an NGO representative say, “Of course I would rather have a gun held to my head than be raped.” She was responding to a panelist’s response to her original question and comment. Ironically, the woman who made the statement was from a women’s peace activist group. Leaving the workshop, I walked with the peace activist to the next gathering. She told me she had never been raped and that she could not imagine her personhood being violated in such a traumatic way. Read the rest of this entry »

Confidence, culture, childcare and cash: four factors which Anne-Marie Goetz of UNIFEM identifies as keeping women out of high level decision making bodies in both public and private spheres.

Confidence: women need to learn that their voices are essential for the best decision making to happen. This will only sink in when men as well as women welcome the full participation of women at every level of political and public debate. It will also only happen when women support women and don’t feel that their own individual inclusion in the elite is change enough.

Culture: we need to work for a radical attitudinal change in cultures where women are still purposely excluded from public life. And we need to ensure that women’s participation is more than token in cultures which only superficially include women.

Childcare: women need to know that their children are not losing out through their mother’s choice to participate in the world outside the home. We need to create societies where child-caring is a shared responsibility between women and men and where there is funding to allow families to pay for help when needed. Which leads us to the fourth and final factor:

Cash: women are the poorest of the poor – 70% of the world’s poor are women. Equity of pay, and social assistance proportionate to need, are essential prerequisites to allow women to offer themselves for public office.

And one final churchy question: exactly how well is your denomination doing in including women at every level of decision making? We should be leading the way, not lagging behind!

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Photos taken by Kim Llerena.

In a very exciting turn of events, Ecumenical Women was requested by the CSW to deliver not one, but two oral statements on behalf of our coalition.  The first statement, on the topic of women and the financial crisis, was read aloud on March 5, 2009 by EW member Verónica Biech, a young woman of Argentina, stating:

For Ecumenical Women, genuine development is one that fosters just, equitable and caring relationships. Equality between women and men of all races and classes is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice; it is a fundamental prerequisite for development and peace. Due in large part to the efforts of pioneering UN conferences on women, there is now growing acknowledgement that development cannot be attained without gender equality.

We affirm that women are also part of the solution to the global financial crisis. It is critical, therefore, that women are intentionally, strategically and systematically involved in the discussions and decision-making processes around the global financial crisis

Ecumenical Women’s second oral statement was read today at the United Nations by Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, another young woman representing Ecumenical Women.  The topic of the statement was the priority theme of CSW53: “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV and AIDS,” of which Ecumenical Women reiterated our core stance on the issue:

In conclusion, as women and men of faith, we are committed to the creation of a more equitable society between women and men that is also free from AIDS. Grounded in our faith and commitment to global justice, we believe that the church – at its best – can be a transformative center which models gender equality, resists systems of oppression, supports and promotes women’s rights. We reaffirm our belief that both women and men are created in God’s image. We recognize that the face of AIDS is becoming younger, poorer and more female, and we all must partner to meet the needs of these women where it exists.

A former professor of mine, a cultural critic and a lecturer on the history of photography, loves to tell a story about an experience she had walking home one day with her stepson. It was a humid day in August in New York City and she and her stepson saw an older neighbor struggling with a heavy bag of groceries. My professor and her stepson took the groceries and helped the neighbor up the stairs of her building and made sure she recovered from the heat. As they were leaving the little boy turned to his mother and said, “Is this going to be on the news tonight?”  “No,” the professor replied. Her stepson smiled and said, “I suppose if we’d hit her and stole her groceries it would be.”

In the past week we have talked a lot about how we can work together to eliminate gender stereotypes. Employing new media can be an important way to continue this work after we leave CSW and return to our communities. How can we make sure that good, decent work is portrayed in the media? How can we use social networking technologies to change attitudes around caregiving thereby helping to eliminate its stigma?

Read the rest of this entry »

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