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

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

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

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

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

IMG_5071A Reflection from the End of CSW Week 1 and International Women’s Day, by Haley Mills, from the Student Christian Movement USA and part of the World Student Christian Federation delegation to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women

Friday ended week one of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women. Appropriately, Friday was also International Women’s Day. A march was held to celebrate this day. Women and men marched bringing human rights theory to life and truths of the power of women to voice. Banners displayed, voices raised, and smiles flashed as rainy snow fell. Simultaneously, in offices and meeting rooms, women and men discussed proposals, language, and strategy. I sat surrounded by smart phones, legal pads, and coffee cups rather than banners, signs, and chants.
I’m willing to admit that I was not sorry to not be in the cold or wet, but I was a little disappointed not to join the visible, palpable camaraderie of so many spirited women and men united to celebrate women. Nevertheless, the work of words comprises an integral component of the CSW. From the words of the resolution (and proposed agreed conclusions) to the words of sacred texts, these writings influence the lives of women across the globe, for better or for worse.

For me, that is why I enter these textual worlds. Diving into the biblical interpretation reveals the work of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which the text as been manipulated. The Bible invites me into the conversation with the God who created this world and the people who have walked with that God. Following the path blazed by of the Communion of Saints requires discernment, humility and community to enter this conversation. Voices from all corners of creation must be joined to see the Spirit working.
In the same way, wrestling with the agreed language cannot be done alone. All voices must be present to ensure the full protection of women and the comprehensive recognition of their rights. I must listen to my sister, whether I fully agree or not. As a Christian delegate, I pray to recognize the liberating work Jesus the Christ at work in the deliberations, discussions, and debriefs continuing to “proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18b-19, NRSV).


Check out the immensely powerful video above for “One Woman,” a song launched on 8 March, 2013 by UN Women to celebrate the International Woman’s Day.  This year International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women, a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women throughout the globe across all economic and social classes.

by Rochelle Rawls-Shaw

Presbyterians from the United States and Aotearoa New Zealand prepared to lead this morning’s Ecumenical Women (EW)’s worship service at the 57th Session of the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) for over a month.

As we met and got to know each other on conference calls, we shared our nicknames and their origins; we identified our special talents (or talents we wished we had). We shared what friends or family would say to describe us to a complete stranger. Our conversations were a great beginning for a group of women who were blessed and being used to bless others who would gather together for worship.

IMG_0255The EW worship committee who assigned each organization a scripture passage associated with women in the bible and guidelines for worship services during CSW. We received the story of the woman caught in adultery – John 8:2-11. This story became the focus of our liturgy. Exploring the story, we  began to experience the Divine Momentum leading us.

The momentum built when we were introduced to Pamela Tankersley from Presbyterian Women of Aotearoa New Zealand. She had prepared a liturgy for International Women’s Day (March 8) based on our scripture and in remembrance of the brutal gang rape that occurred in India on December 16, 2012. She entitled the liturgy, “Laying down the Stones.”

The momentum continued to build as planning members suggestions to the liturgy. A prayer of invocation was added to the call to worship and assignments made to the various parts. Our team included talented singers who would lead congregational songs and a soloist who would sing “Safe Within Your Arms.” Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote a new hymn for the service: “Christ Would Not Cast the Judgment Stone.”

We planned that the worship service would involve people who were not even present at the Church Center for the United Nations. Planning team members were invited to bring at least 15-20 stones with them to New York. A planning team member from Puerto Rico had members of her congregation bring stones to church that she brought to CSW.

This morning dawned and we made our final plans. We placed larger stones around the communion table and gathered the stones brought by the planning team members into baskets. As worshippers entered the chapel, each received a stone.

There was something about the stones.

A single red candle was lit. The service began. I strongly felt the Divine Presence.

IMG_0403After scripture had been read, songs had been sung, and words had been said, the worshipping community was invited to bring forth their stones and put them down around the table as symbols to remember the violence that our sisters have endured, to express our intention to put aside our complicity in that violence and to renew

Reflecting on the service, Laetitia Wells observed, “As the women brought their various stones to the table, I was moved during worship when I heard the loud sound of the stones hitting the table. Symbolically I felt that WE were taking a definitive STAND against violence against women and girls. Hearing the loud sound of the stones allowed me to think that we were eradicating the horrors that come with violence against women.” Jill Bolander Cohen commented, “This was a deeply spiritual and moving experience. It was really something watching women and men lay down stones which seemed to release something–something that weighed them down.” Jaime Staehle said, “Working together with women from all generations, walks of life, and places in the world was quite meaningful and really helped the theme of the service blossom.”

There was something about the stones–something special about being able to release some things that have burdened us all our lives. The Divine Momentum presented the opportunity for us to release them during our worship here today. Thanks be to God!

Photos by Andrew Nam Chul Osborne

General Assembly resolution 61/143 called for the Secretary-General to establish a database “on the extent, nature and consequences of all forms of violence against women, and on the impact and effectiveness of policies and programmes for, including best practices in, combating such violence.” In connection with International Women’s Day, 8 March 2009, the database has been launched. The information received from governments in response to a questionnaire forms the core of the database. Learn more about the UN’s work on this topic from the Issues on the Agenda page on Women.

Students at Union Theological Seminary in New York will be celebrating International Women’s Day in chapel on Monday, March 9.

“Persist” is the name of the student caucus at Union organizing the prayer service. Their mission statement begins by saying, “As a student group, we are women and men who believe in the  affirming notion that dignity, equality and human rights belong to all people – male or female”

Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza wrote that “the roots and pillars of patriarchy are sexism, racism and militaristic colonialism.”  These seminarians are working to empower their local and global community with awareness of and skills to reform structures and systems of domination and control related to all three pillars.

In order to plant new roots, the co-chairs of Persist believe we must learn to act together with others to transform the societies in which we live. The horizon of freedom from patriarchy is hope. On Monday, seminarians at Union will gather to sing the songs of freedom for all women in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Below is a short video the caucus compiled for use during the candle lighting communion. “By incorporating the pictures of women from around the world,” the co-chairs of the caucus shared, “we acknowledge women’s voices which are most often ignored or silenced rather than celebrated.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cross posted from Russia Today.
A 2008 International Women's Day demonstration in Delhi, India

A 2008 International Women's Day demonstration in Delhi, India

Conference Room B was packed with women this past Thursday morning. It was a wonderful sight – and sound – and a reminder of how impoverished our decision making bodies are when they exclude women from their chambers of power. For those women who are isolated in their own societies because of their championship of gender equality and human rights it would have been a rare moment of support and solidarity.

The UN is fortunate in having a current Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who is dedicated to building gender equality and, in particular, to zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. It will, of course, be an even healthier institution when the wall of portraits of former Secretary-Generals includes female faces alongside the male.

Mr. Ban and others do bring the possibility of this day — International Women’s Day — a little closer through working to eradicate violence against women and girls, identifying this as both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality. Mr Ban reminded us that “real men respect women”, that only men can choose to change their behaviour, and that “the time to change is now.”

The Australian slogan of the White Ribbon movement of men against violence against women and girls was greeted with great enthusiasm: “Not violent. Not silent.” It would be a true celebration of International Women’s Day if this could be in the hearts, minds and voices of many men this coming year and beyond.

Then, please God, some year soon we will have no more stories like that of an 18 year old Congolese girl raped by 4 soldiers and ostracised by her family or a 14 year old Liberian girl raped by 5 soldiers and then married by their commander. Zero tolerance for violence against women. The time to change is now!

In light of International Women’s Day–which falls on a weekend this year, Saturday March 8–Ecumenical Women coalition members have been issueing articles and resources about women.  The United Methodist Board of Church and Society wrote an article on Women’s History Month in their eNewsletter, Faith in ActionEpiscopal Life Online released an article about financing for gender equity, the theme of this year’s CSW, while the ELCA Advocacy department made recommendations on how best to observe International Women’s Day.  Finally, the NCC’s program for women’s ministries also wrote an article honoring women’s history month, adding helpful resources and links at the bottom of the page. 

Apart from the ecumenical scene, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said today in the UN programme commemorating International Women’s Day, “I am deeply convinced that, in women, the world has at its dosposal the most significant and yet larglely untapped potential for development and peace… Women are still severly hampered by discrimination, lack of resources and economic opportunities, by limited access to decision-making and by gender-based violence.”  He called on everyone in the international community to increase investments in women and girls.

Ecumenical Women wishes you a fruitful and informative International Women’s Day! 

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