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.

An emphasis on education, and on free public education, has been a hallmark of churches that stand in the Reformed tradition since the days of John Calvin.

The Presbyterian parallel event at the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focused on the role of education in breaking cycles of poverty, particularly for women.

A panel presentation lifted up ways Presbyterians support education in Kenya, Aotearoa New Zealand, the United States and around the world.

Beth Olker, Field Staff for Presbyterian College Women & Young Women’s Ministries, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moderated the panel.

Panel members were:

Wanda Beauman, Vice Moderator for Justice and Peace Concerns, Churchwide Coordinating Team, Presbyterian Women Inc., in the Presbyterian Church USA

Carol Grant, United Nations Convenor, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand

Veronica Muchiri, National Women’s Guild Organizer/Secretary, Presbyterian Church of East Africa

Frank Dimmock, Catalyst Addressing the Root Causes of Global Poverty, Presbyterian World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

A discussion followed with attendees sharing additional ways to educate girls and women.

The Presbyterian parallel event at the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focused on education as a key to breaking cycles of poverty and empowering women. Education, free, public education, is a central value within the Reformed tradition as affirmed in the introduction to the parallel event:

In different places we are known as members of Reformed, Evangelical, United or Uniting Churches. Depending on the state we are in, we may be called Congregationalists, Waldensians or Presbyterians.

We are some 80 million Christians in more than 225 member churches present in over 100 countries who trace our roots to the French Reformer John Calvin, who was active in Geneva from 1541-1564.

Calvin sought to reform the church’s theology of the day, placing a renewed emphasis on the sovereignty and grace of God.

Affirming that God is God of all of life and that all people are made in God’s image, Calvin also worked to reform the day-to-day existence of the community of Geneva.

Calvin broke with medieval theology and he broke with medieval pedagogy that limited education primarily to an aristocratic elite. He established a system of broad-based education for Geneva.

Calvin’s academy, founded in 1559, featured two levels of curricula: one for the public education of Geneva’s youth and the other a seminary to train ministers. Both schools, as historians have observed, were tuition-free and forerunners of modern public education. In a day when education was normally reserved for aristocratic scions or members of Catholic societies, the public education of young people was transformative.

An emphasis on advocacy for, and the provision of, quality education has remained a hallmark of the witness of the Reformed tradition since that time. In many communities around the world, members of the Reformed tradition were the first to provide girls with opportunities for formal education.

We welcome the inclusion of education in the Sustainable Development Goals and recommend that the 60th Commission on the Status of Women also identify the importance of education and its links to sustainable development as a key component to empowering women around the world.

Written by: Sarah Roure, Programme Officer -Brazil, Christian Aid, Member of ACT Alliance

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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.

by The Rev. Anna George Traynham

This morning, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). One line has been ringing around the assembly halls since it left her lips: “There can be no business as usual.”

She was speaking in reference to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. “Excellencies,” she said in her striking South African accent, “the Agenda you adopted is bold, ambitious and transformational. Now we gather to seek implementation modalities that match this bold agenda, where there can be no business as usual.

The down-to-earth phrase stood out in her elegantly crafted speech, hitting the ears of the room with a thud. Her point was bold, concise, and clear: If we are going to end discrimination in any or all forms, we need more than advocacy and charity. We need transformation.

Around the world, women are raped, beaten, and murdered by intimate partners.

No more business as usual.

There are 4 UN member states with no women in Parliament, and there are 8 with no women in the cabinet.

No more business as usual.

Perpetrators of human trafficking roam free, while child victims are criminalized.

No more business as usual.

Girl children are sold as child brides.

No more business as usual.

The UN has been meeting about gender equality for 60 years.

No more business as usual.

We serve the God who spoke fire through the prophets. We follow the Christ who turned over tables. We are lead by the Spirit who breathes peace into chaos. Hear this good news of the gospel: There can be no business as usual.

Read Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s full address.

About the Author: Rev. Anna George Traynham serves as Pastor in Residence at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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Thanks to Virginia Wanjiru Njenga of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation for the photo.

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.

On 11 March 2016, I spoke about the work of advocacy at the orientation for the Presbyterians attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I was asked to post a portion of my remarks and did so on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations blog. I reprint the words here with the permission of the blog editor (who happens to be me).

All people have voices.
The task of advocacy has nothing to do with giving voice to the voiceless, because
all people have voices.
Some people have voices we choose not to hear.
Some people have voices we ignore.
Some people have voices we force to the margins.
Some people have voices we oppress, repress, suppress.
Some people have voices we have silenced, sometimes for a long time, but
all people have voices.

The work of advocacy leads us
to uncover the voices of our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to listen, truly listen, passionately listen to the voices of our sisters and brothers
to heed the voices of our sisters and brothers
and then to work with our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to amplify the voices of our sisters and brothers
to bring the voices of our sisters and brothers to the halls of privilege and the tables of power
to invite and call and challenge all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to demand that all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, listen, truly listen, passionately listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence because
all people have voices.

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
director, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ecumenical-women-uncsw-60-tickets-19828146520

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.).

http://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/12/7/pcusa-associates-participate-cop-21-conference/

presbyterian_church

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.

Conclusions:

  • 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.

By: Nicholas Jaech, Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC)

Fifteen years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1325 – a groundbreaking resolution linking the experience of women to the agenda of peace and security. 1325 was the first Security Council resolution to address the disproportionate and distinct impact of armed conflict on women. This resolution notes the importance of women’s equal and total participation as active agents “in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building.”1

Yet, 15 years and six resolutions later, significant challenges remain.

Security Council Meeting: Women and peace and security Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security (S/2015/716) Letter dated 1 October 2015 from the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2015/749)

Security Council Meeting: Women and peace and security (UN Photos).

On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in commemoration with the 15th anniversary of 1325, an open debate on Women, Peace and Security was convened by the UN Security Council to discuss the further implementation of 1325. In his opening remarks the Secretary-General reiterated women’s leadership in peacebuilding is a top priority and shared his personal commitment to seeing the resolutions implemented. His report on Women, Peace and Security highlights the following:

  • A recent study of 40 peace processes showed that the ability of women to influence negotiations increased the chances of agreements being reached, was positively correlated with greater implementation and had a positive impact on the durability of peace (Par. 12).
  • In 2012-13, the Development Assistance Committee of OECD spent only 2% of its $10 billion on gender equality objectives in its efforts to invest in developing economies (Par. 15).
  • In 2013, economic recovery programs allocated only 4% of economic recovery spending to furthering women’s economic development (Par. 15).
  • The global proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments has doubled from 11% in 1995 to 22% in 2015 (Par. 29).

In addition to the Secretary-General, Under- Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that the most under-utilized tool in peace building is women. She also introduced the Global Acceleration Instrument on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Engagement. This new fund  will accelerate the implementation of UNSCR 1325, and as well as channel funds to women’s organizations working on peacebuilding.. Other speakers included Julienne Lusenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, stressed the importance of including women in all parts of the peacemaking process – from the village to national levels. Yanar Mohammed, also speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that peace will “never be established” in Iraq and Syria without the proper implementation of resolution 1325. She urged for more support for grassroots women’s organizations, And Alaa Murabit of the NGO Voice of Libyan Women, and also  a member of the High-level Advisory Group for Global Study on SCR 1325 had three recommendations for the Security Council regarding women, peace and security:

  • Conflict prevention is paramount to global peace and security. The UN should address underlying causes of conflict, as well as focus on justice, global disarmament, accountable media and fair economic practices.
  • Need mechanisms to address crisis situations. Crises disproportionately affect women and girls, who are specifically targeted by violence. Current efforts are simply not working. The UN must create a formal and accountable protection mechanism for women in crises.
  • Need for adequate resources for 1325. Specifically, there needs to be a removal of political structures that hinder funds from reaching on-the-ground efforts.2

All speakers echoed the sentiment that women are the key to the prevention of conflict and the central to the lasting-effects of peace building.

1325_SCmeeting_Oct2015_GA78394_1_400x267

Under- Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the UNSC Open Debate (Photo: UN-Women)

Directly after this opening segment, Resolution 2242 was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council (UNSC). This resolution was supported by a record 71 countries. It has two key outcomes. The first is that it outlines actions to improve the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325. The second is proposing a broader Women, Peace and Security agenda, including countering violent extremism, monitoring sexual violence within UN Peacekeeping forces, increasing the representation of women in governments and implementing the gender recommendations of a recently-released global study. Highlights from this resolution include:

  • Urges Member States to increase the representation of women in decision-making bodies at local, regional and national levels, as well as in peace-making bodies. Member States are called to finance these efforts, as well as finance the efforts to educate people on the importance of the role of women in peace making (Item 1, Page 3).
  • Further encourages Member States to produce national action plans that prioritize women in the process of peace making and conflict prevention (Item 2, Page 3).
  • Urges the Secretary-General and other UN entities (specifically naming DPKO, DPA AND PBSO) to strengthen their efforts to integrate the needs of women and gender perspectives into their work (Item 4, Page 4).
  • Expresses the importance of civil society organizations in the realm of Women, Peace and Security (Item 5C, Page 4).
  • Urges DPKO and DPA to provide the necessary gender analysis and technical gender expertise at all stages of mission planning, implementation and review. This includes more cooperation between DPKO, DPA and UN-Women (Item 7, Page 5).
  • Encourages steps to be taken by the Secretary-General to prioritize the appointment of more women to senior UN positions, as well as to further expand efforts to acquire a greater number of women in militaries and police deployed to UN peacekeeping operations (Item 8, Page 5).
  • Expresses deep concern over the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and calls for trainings regarding the issue and thorough investigation on the matter (Item 9, Page 5).

The following day, Wednesday, October 14, “Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace – A Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325” was officially launched. This study is the product of the engagement of Member States, UN entities, regional organizations and civil society, including research institutes. During this official launch, Member States made financial contributions to the new Global Acceleration Instrument. Radhika Coomaraswamy, lead author of the global study, also expressed her opinions of the recently-adopted UNSC Resolution 2242. While she was overall supportive of the resolution, she had serious concerns about the mixing of women, peace and security and counter terrorism efforts. She noted the need for a clear, conceptual difference between the two, and that UN intentions towards civilians and military forces cannot be blurred.

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator for the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a program partner of the International Civil Society Action Network, also had reservations, despite acknowledging the symbolic victory for women’s security. She was concerned about the lack of participation by civil society in the creation of UNSC 2242. Noting that no representatives of civil society had the opportunity to see the draft resolution before the open discussion on Tuesday, she declares: “I would like our colleagues in the Security Council, in governments and the U.N. to know that we, civil society are here to realize the full potential of UNSCR 1325. We are here to turn the promise of 1325 into reality.”

Cabera-Balleza adds: “The international community has to set its priorities right. We cannot wait another 15 years before we see consistent positive impact.”

We join in calling for a full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

————

For more information on the upcoming events commemorating UNSCR 1325 organized by some of the Ecumenical Women members, and other partners, please click here.

1) http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/women/wps.shtml

2) http://webtv.un.org/watch/part-1-women-peace-and-security-security-council-7533rd-meeting/4555944476001

By: Nicholas Jaech

“Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.” – Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director

On September 27, a small group of representatives from civil society gathered to have an intimate and honest discussion with UNAIDS regarding the next 15 years of combating the AIDS epidemic. I attended this discussion on behalf of the Lutheran Office for World Community. In 2014, UNAIDS drafted and published the Fast-Track strategy, which details the pathway to ending AIDS by 2030. This strategy utilizes the 90-90-90 model, aiming for 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status having access to treatment and 90% of people on treatment having suppressed viral loads by 2020. Should this be successful, the strategy then calls for a 95-95-95 model by 2025. In 2030, HIV/AIDS will be so contained that it no longer can or will be considered an “epidemic.”

However, during this meeting, UNAIDS admitted to a funding gap – a $10-15 billion shortfall in the implementation of this “Fast-Track” approach. The under-prioritization of HIV/AIDS often leads governments to be unwilling to legitimately undertake measures to create new revenue specifically for AIDS.

This isn’t to say that national governments are completely shying away from funding the response to the current AIDS epidemic. At a high-level event at the UN held later that day, the United States of America pledged to fund the life-saving treatment for 12.9 million people living with HIV in 2016-17, as well as funding efforts to reduce HIV among girls in 10 sub-Saharan countries by 40%. Additionally, Malawi has pledged 14% of its GDP to HIV prevention, factoring out to $148 per HIV positive person per year. This funding comes in the form of the distribution of necessary anti-retroviral drugs.

But despite this investment, the $10-15 billion shortfall remains.

However, this budget shortfall was not the most concerning reality I heard during this meeting. I was shocked to discover the disproportionate extent to which the AIDS epidemic affects women and girls around the world.

As a young person who has grown up in the United States, the face of HIV and AIDS for me has always been gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM). This is due to both the disproportionate transmission of HIV and AIDS among gay men and MSM (19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population), but also the stigma and violent stereotypes placed upon gay men and MSM living with HIV/AIDS. Yet, when examining the new reality of the AIDS epidemic, we have to broaden our understanding of who is affected by this epidemic.

In 2013, statistics show that almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15-24 occurred among adolescent girls and young women. Globally, 15% of women living with HIV are aged 15-24, of whom 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa and adolescent girls are eight times more likely to be living with HIV than their male counterparts. Furthermore, transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than all adults of reproductive age.

In conjunction with all of this, women and girls experience serious violations of human rights. According to UNAIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 80% of women have not completed their secondary education, and one in three women cannot read. In South Africa, a study found that 30% of young female rape survivors were assaulted in or around their school. And in some settings around the world, up to 45% of adolescent girls and young women report that their first sexual experience was forced.

When we continue our own discussions on the advancement of women and girls around the world, the AIDS epidemic must be a central part of the conversation. IMG_0923The global face of AIDS is the woman: the black woman in the United States, the transgender woman in the Caribbean, the girl-child in sub-Saharan Africa and the sex worker in Southeast Asia. These populations are severely affected by the AIDS epidemic and are further marginalized in society when seeking treatment for the virus.

Our advocacy must reflect this global face of the epidemic. We as people of faith, when advocating for women and girls, have a moral obligation to insert the discussion of the AIDS epidemic onto the table. We have a moral obligation to lobby governments and the private sector to invest in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, because failure to do so will only perpetuate the marginalization of women and girls in our world. Let us do this through partnership, communion, solidarity, and most importantly, love. Work led by love is the work of God.

So what can we do, as followers of a loving and compassionate God, to bolster the efforts of UNAIDS to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030? We must begin by urging governments to adequately fund the Global Fund. We can also make donations to local HIV/AIDS organizations, for example, the ELCA HIV and AIDS Ministry, which has established a commitment to support the efforts of ending the AIDS epidemic. This support manifests in the training of pastors for HIV/AIDS counseling, providing necessary anti-retroviral medication to rural communities, and free offerings of HIV testing. We can also support our family, friends, and neighbors living with HIV by providing food, clothes, toiletries, and other specified items to local HIV/AIDS clinics, shelters, and organizations. This can also include volunteering one’s time and energy as well. These two simple yet significant actions not only contribute to efforts to end the epidemic, but also illustrate our ability to manifest God’s love in our daily lives. As written in 1 John 3:17-18 – “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? …let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” – we are called to love and support those around us. This has to include those living with HIV and AIDS.

For further reading on combating stigma against key populations, see UNAIDS publications here.

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