A delegation of women from across the Anglican Communion are preparing to represent the Church again at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), being held next month.
The Communion routinely sends a delegation to the commission, at which UN member states and entities and NGOs from around the world gather to discuss how to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. This year’s commission will explore how these goals can be achieved against a backdrop of climate change and escalating environmental disasters.
Rachel Mash, Environmental Co-ordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and one of the delegates, said that while the climate crisis affects everyone, women and girls are often disproportionately affected. Women are often the first to go hungry when food is low, carry the greatest burden in sourcing water or fuel and are more likely to die in natural disasters.
Mandy Marshall, the Director of Gender Justice for the Anglican Communion, said that when disasters do strike, “the situation can be made worse for women and girls, as their vulnerability increases in many ways”. This might come from their limited access to safe sanitation, water and shelter, but also from increased exposure to abuse or sexual violence.
Marshall said churches are a vital voice in the conversation around climate change. They are “often the first to respond in a time of crisis as they are at the centre of the community and are trusted by local communities”. She said the ACO delegation to CSW66 aimed to ensure that Anglicans and all people of faith “are included in the response to gender, climate change and disaster response and mitigation”.
Breadth of experience
The delegation is made up of women from around the Communion who will be able to share both their deep theological knowledge and research and their lived experiences of climate and gender justice.
Among them are Rachel Taber-Hamilton, a Shackan First Nation woman, from Canada, who represents the Episcopal Church on the board of the Anglican Indigenous Network. With 30 years’ experience in social justice and environmental advocacy, and as an ordained priest, Taber-Hamilton will reflect the voice of indigenous women within the Communion, and the particular challenges they face.
Jacynthia Murphy joins the delegation from the Anglican Church of Aoearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. She said women’s voices are critical in the battle against climate change.
“From birth to birthing women have an intrinsic relationship with creation,” she said. “It is for this reason that women have the potential to make greater contributions at the sustainability tables of ecological awareness, biodiversity, regeneration, climate care, and all manner of practices relevant to robust environmental protection.”
Christine B Benoit is the only female priest from the Diocese of Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, a nation already living with the realities of climate change.
“Coming from small islands, I believe that my contribution will be to share evidence based information on how we are being affected with some of our beaches being destroyed due to climate change, and how scary it is that we might just disappear altogether from the Earth,” she said.
CSW66 will take place from 14-22 March and is primarily online, due to ongoing restrictions and concerns around Covid-19.