So what difference does it make if dozens of Anglican women and girls descend on New York in a few days’ time to take part in the events surrounding this year’s session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women?
Certainly every Anglican woman and girl participating in CSW61 in New York will be changed by the experience. They will be changed by each other as they discover their sisterhood in spite of the very different cultures and contexts they come from. And they will no doubt learn new things and be energised by new ideas as they take part in the intense timetable of UN side events and NGO parallel events.
Also, we pray and trust that the diverse, determined and faithful voices they bring from their home contexts will add insight and energy to governmental deliberations at the UN – this year on the theme of women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. There will be opportunities for our delegates to meet with permanent country missions at the UN and join NGO regional caucuses that have a voice into CSW proceedings.
If we want to see our nation states pursuing a transformational agenda for women and girls, then we have to ‘show up and speak up’. Our Gospel values and our lived experience in cities and villages, townships and isolated rural areas have so much to contribute. Such values and insights can quickly become marginalised by political expediency and regressive concepts of the role and status of women – so we have to keep at it and make sure we are listened to and heard.
As well as the Anglican Communion delegation, the Episcopal Church delegation, Mothers’ Union representatives, and women from the Diocese of New York and elsewhere, it’s really exciting to see that in the Dioceses of Westminster and Niagara in the Anglican Church of Canada ‘crowdfunding’ has been underway so that a dozen young people can travel to CSW61.
It is essential that Anglican youth and young adults are enabled to speak into processes and decision-making that will have a significant impact on their lives and well-being, and to bring the formative values of their faith to a broader arena. Young people are under multiple pressures the world over but, when given opportunities to advocate, network and learn from others, they have the potential to bring hope and energy to transforming those things which would thwart their own human flourishing and the thriving of others.
Of course undertaking advocacy for women and girls isn’t entirely the province of women and it doesn’t just have to happen in New York. It is essential that women and men – equally and wonderfully made in the image of God – speak and act side by side in order to challenge and transform the gender injustice that is deeply engrained in all our cultures.
During CSW61, the global Side by Side faith movement for gender justice will be holding a launch event in the beautiful sanctuary of St Peter’s Church at 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street in New York, 10am to 12pm, Friday 17 March. Anglicans have been involved with the movement from its inception two years ago and have been helping to shape national ‘chapters’ of the movement in Brazil, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Scotland and elsewhere. If you happen to be in New York on 17 March, please come along. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or register here to let us know you are coming.
Please pray for the Anglican women and young people who will soon be travelling and representing us at CSW. May they be blessed and give blessing to others.
The Revd Terrie Robinson is Director for Women in Church and Society at the Anglican Communion Office.