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syria-womenEver since I heard UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speak so eloquently on the need for women’s political participation in peacebuilding two weeks ago at a ‘Peacebuilding Commission High-Level Ministerial Event,’ I felt inspired to dig a bit deeper past the headlines coming out of Syria in order to begin learning a bit more about the role of women in the Syrian armed conflict. Ever since the UN Security Council unanimously adopted its landmark Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000, the international community has repeatedly affirmed that women play an essential role in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and conflict prevention. For instance, as Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka pointed out in her address, “women’s political participation is associated with lower levels of corruption, more inclusive decision-making, greater investment in social services, job creation for women, and family welfare,” all factors that lead to a more peaceful society. Furthermore, while correlation does not necessarily prove causation, there is a “statistically significant relationship between female representation in government and peace,” as you can read about here.

However, well over a decade after the adoption of Resolution 1325, rates of women’s political participation in formal peacebuilding negotiations remain extremely low. As an August 2010 report released by UN Women indicates, a “reasonably representative sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 reveals that only 4 percent of signatories, 2.4 percent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses and 9 percent of negotiators are women.” Women have specific concerns in peace negotiations, such as a need for gender training on all levels of armed forces, the elimination of sexual violence, and the protection of women refugees and internally displaced persons, yet these concerns are rarely addressed in final peace accords. As discussed in this video from IREX, violence against girls and women, especially sexual violence, has become widespread in the Syrian armed conflict, and thus it will be especially important that women are represented in any future peace negotiations in order to increase the likelihood that women’s issues are properly addressed. For more information on sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian armed conflict, as well as other issues, you can read this report from Human Rights Watch and this report from International Rescue Committee.

While we need to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian armed conflict, women are playing many leadership roles as well, both officially and unofficially. As discussed in the video from IREX linked to above, women are leaders of protests, civil society organizations and occasionally serve in the Free Syrian Army, although they are increasingly being marginalized as extremist groups to continue to gain power in the opposition. The work of women to protect other women and girls in refugee camps was also mentioned.

Finally, we would like to lift up three women working providing leadership in Syrian armed conflict, all with different approaches. Although currently in exile, Suheir Atassi is a co-vice-president in the Syrian opposition and is one of the movement’s leading secular activists. Razan Zaitouneh is a Syrian writing and human rights lawyer who still remains in the country, working to document human rights abuses. Finally, the young Yaman Al Qadri is a peace activist who was detained and tortured by Syrian police in 2011. She eventually fled to Canada after being released, and has recently toured in a play called “Let’s Talk” about the complex issues Syrians have about the uprising. To hear more from these three amazing women, check out the videos below.

Earlier this month the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a follow-up publication to its first statistical report on female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) in 2005.  The report in its entirety can be found here: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change.  While concentrated across a wide swath of African and (to a lesser extent) Middle Eastern countries, FGM/C takes place in a variety of forms for a variety of reasons around the world.  In some countries such as Guinea, Mali and Somalia, well over 90% of girls and women of reproductive age have undergone the practice, according to the report.

In many countries, especially in rural areas, FGM/C is performed by traditional practitioners (primarily older women), but in some countries like Egypt it is frequently performed by trained health professionals.  In nineteen out of twenty-nine countries where FGM/C is concentrated, the majority of girls and women think it should end.  While often viewed as a manifestation of patriarchal oppression, rates of support for the practice among boys and men in many countries are roughly equal to that of girls and women according to the report.  FGM/C is linked to variety of both short and long-term medical complications such as severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

Ethnic grouping greatly determines why girls and women undergo FGM/C, with some reasons including social acceptance, beauty, preservation of virginity and a perceived association with religious beliefs (although no religious Scripture requires it). While prevalence of FGM/C amongst younger generations of girls and women is decreasing and many countries have outlawed the practice, faith communities have a major role to play in combating this form of violence against girls and women, especially in areas where it is a deeply entrenched social norm.  For instance, some faith communities have removed the cutting aspect from associated rites of passage for young women while retaining the positive aspects of the ceremony overall.

To learn more about female genital mutilation/ cutting and what UNICEF is doing to end the harmful practice, you visit UNICEF’s page on the subject here.

world_ywca_logoA new publication, Her Future, The Future Young Women Want: A Global Call to Act was recently released by the World YWCA (an Ecumenical Women member organization) in the lead up to the Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals on 25 September. The purpose of Her Future is to give young women a voice in the future they want for their families, communities and countries. It was developed following extensive consultation with young women across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, The Caribbean, Middle East, Pacific and North America and encompasses both new research and the outcomes of recent meetings of young women at regional and global levels.

Her Future makes recommendations to the United Nations, governments and civil society in four key areas that will create a future of gender equality and respect for the human rights of all the world’s 860 million young women.  These recommendations are categorized in four specific areas:

  1. End Violence Against Women and Girls
  2. Fulfillment of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
  3. Meaningful Participation of Young Women
  4. Access to Education, Economic Empowerment and Resources

The report furthermore discusses the value of the world’s 860 million young women and the challenges they face.  To read the report in its entirety, click here.

UN Women has recently launched a new paper contributing to the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda.  Entitled “A Transformative Stand-Alone Goal on Achieving Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and Women’s Empowerment: Imperatives and Key Components,” the paper lays out a vision for a transformative framework that addresses the structural impediments to gender equality and the achievement of women’s rights. The paper is available for download on the UN Women website.

In order to address the structural causes of gender-based discrimination and the paper suggests a standalone gender quality goal in the post-2015 development framework that addresses three critical target areas (quoted from the paper’s executive summary):

  • Freedom from violence against women and girls. Concrete actions to eliminate the debilitating fear and/or experience of violence must be a centrepiece of any future framework.
  • Gender equality in the distribution of capabilities – knowledge, good health, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights of women and adolescent girls; and access to resources and opportunities,including land,decent work and equal pay to build women’s economic and social security.
  • Gender equality in decision-making power in public and private institutions, in national parliaments and local councils, the media and civil society, in the management and governance of firms, and in families and communities.

Additionally, the paper proposes a set of indicators to monitor progress in each of the three target areas.

UN Women would like feedback on their paper, and here’s where you can add your voice to the conversation:  Go to UN Women’s online consultation space on the World We Want platform, create a user profile, look through the report and then respond to various questions that will be posted online each week.  If you participate in UN Women’s consultation, please let us at Ecumenical Women know by either emailing us at or by commenting on this post.  Thanks so much!

Countries around the world are marking the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula today, 23 May 2013, in an effort to raise support and awareness of a devastating injury that can occur during childbirth.  For more information check out the Campaign to End Fistula and watch a short video from UN TV here.

In honour of International Women’s Day, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, in collaboration with Washington Post On Faith, released a blog series entitled Is religion good for women?  A fine example of the work from this series is the embedded video below from Grace Lee Baughan of the Faith and Global Engagement Initiative at Hong Kong University.  If you find Grace’s video helpful, you can check out the entire series from experts around the world here.

The diverse opinions expressed in the Is religion good for women? series do not necessarily represent the views of Ecumenical Women, but rather are provided simply as a resource for our readers.

In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

  • A Brief Statement of Faith, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


Participants in March 3 Ecumenical Women’s orientation for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women remembered our sisters whose voices are and have been silenced.

In worship, we remembered.

In prayer, we remembered.

In art, we remembered.

As we marched in silence from The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission to the Church Center for the United Nations, we remembered.

Remembering, may we act.

Photo by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne

Photo credit: UN Women/Felix Eldridge

Hi everyone, with only 3 days remaining before the 57th Commission on the Status of Women begins on 4 March at United Nations Headquarters in New York, we at Ecumenical Women will be providing you with daily thoughts, video, quotes and prayers that inspire our work.

Today we’re posting a link to a powerful story from Kenya that was recently shared by UN Women.  In the run-up to Kenyan national elections on 4 March, students at the Kinyanjui Road Primary School in Kawangware have been participating in an interactive series of plays addressing domestic violence.  Here’s an excerpt from the story:

As the play unfolds, the 700-strong audience is packed into the school auditorium, some leaning in through doors and windows to catch a glimpse of the play. They are captivated. The children in white and blue uniforms wince in collective unison at the violence being portrayed on the stage before them then cheer together as justice is served.

You can check out the story in it’s entirety here: “As elections approach, school kids cast their vote against violence in Kenya.”  The work done at Kinyanjui Road Primary School provides a great example of how we can build societies where violence against girls and women is not acceptable.

Ecumenical Women will be working throughout CSW57 to support the creation of such societies.  See you soon!

Hi everyone, with only 5 days remaining before the 57th Commission on the Status of Women begins on 4 March at United Nations Headquarters in New York, we at Ecumenical Women will be providing you with daily thoughts, video, quotes and prayers that inspire our work.

Today’s post is an amazing video from PreciiousSiikh, a young vlogger from Canada we recently began following on YouTube.  Through word, image and music, PreciiousSiikh presents a powerful message about why we need to eliminate all forms of violence against girls and women.


Hi everyone, with only 6 days remaining before the 57th Commission on the Status of Women begins on 4 March at United Nations Headquarters in New York, we at Ecumenical Women will be providing you with daily thoughts, video, quotes and prayers that inspire our work.

Today’s post is from The Episcopal Cafe, a website “where Episcopalians and those interested in our church can read, watch, listen and reflect upon contemporary life in a context informed by faith and animated by the spirit of charity.”

One article on the Episcopal Cafe’s Lead news blog reports on a flash mob that took place at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland on 14 February 2013 as part of the One Billion Rising movement to end violence against girls and women.  Take a minute to watch video footage of this powerful event:

For more information, you can read the article in full here.

Hi everyone, with only 7 days remaining before the 57th Commission on the Status of Women begins on 4 March at United Nations Headquarters in New York, we at Ecumenical Women will be providing you with daily thoughts, video, quotes and prayers that inspire our work.  Today’s post is a video of Leymah Gbowee’s inspiring words at last year’s CSW about men, religious leaders and radicalizing the church.


EW Web Logo Click here to view Ecumenical Women’s recommendation document to member state governments at CSW57. Our Advocacy Team has been hard at work to make sure each individual recommendation cites previously agreed upon language in a number of UN resolutions.

Burmese Girl photo by Rusty Stewart.As Ecumenical Women is busy making last minute preparations for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women that begins on Monday, 4 March, we wanted to highlight a recent article by Vandana Shiva entitled: “Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women.”  The article, which you find in it’s entirety here, discusses the relationship between unjust economic policies and the recent intensification of violence against girls as women.  Here’s a short excerpt:

Violence against women has taken on new and more vicious forms as traditional patriarchal structures have hybridized with the structures of capitalist patriarchy. We need to examine the connections between the violence of unjust, unsustainable economic systems and the growing frequency and brutality of violence against women. We need to see how the structures of traditional patriarchy merge with the emerging structures of capitalist patriarchy to intensify violence against women.

As the priority theme for CSW57 is “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” we thought Ms. Shiva’s article was particularly timely.  Happy reading, and we hope to see you at CSW57!


In addition to the group Ecumenical Women Advocacy Statement that is submitted to the United Nations and shared with member states each year for CSW, some of our individual member organizations prepare and submit advocacy statements as well.  This year for CSW57 there are two EW member organization advocacy statements, which you can check out below:

Thanks so much, and we can’t wait to see you at CSW57!

In order to promote civil society and public participation in a June 2014 thematic report, the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Discrimination against Women has created a survey on discrimination against women in economic and social life, available here.  Survey responses will inform the report, which will specifically focus on women’s economic and social lives during times of economic crisis.  The deadline for contributions is 1 March 2013, so please contribute soon.  Depending on your expertise and experiences, you might want to respond to only some of the questions or some of the sections of the survey. Please be assured that all responses will remain confidential.

The Working Group on Discrimination against Women is a special procedure established by the Human Rights Council in 2010. It has been tasked to identify, promote and exchange views on good practices to eliminate discrimination against women in law and in practice.

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