Nine young women, sponsored by Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, are inspired and empowered to share what they learned after participating in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation to the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations.
Each year Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, through the office of Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries, sponsors young women to attend the CSW.
This year, the nine young women delegates selected made their voices heard by joining approximately 40 members of a PC(USA) delegation, which included leaders of Presbyterian Women, and Ecumenical Women at the United Nations in advocating for policies related to poverty and hunger, access to quality education, employment and decision-making, and health and violence against women and girls.
CSW provides a critical opportunity to evaluate results achieved through the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals MDG) framework from a gender perspective, to better understand the achievements and challenges of implementing these goals and to accelerate progress in achieving the goals and identifying key gender equality issues to be addressed going forward.
The priority theme for this year’s CSW, held March 10 – 21, was “Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.” The eight millennium goals are:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
- Achieve universal primary education;
- Promote gender equality and empower women;
- Reduce child mortality;
- Improve maternal health;
- Combat HIV/AIDS; malaria and other diseases;
- Ensure environmental sustainability; and
- Develop a global partnership for development.
The young women delegates witnessed first-hand the struggles and challenges women face in the United States. They asked questions, listened to stories, attended parallel and side events daily, engaged in conversations with global and international men and women representing U.N. member states, participated in worship with other ecumenical young women and attended an intergenerational dialogue with Presbyterian Women.
Jewel McRae, associate for Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries and two field staff for the National Network for Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW) and Racial Ethnic Young Women Together (REYWT) intentionally reached out to young women to attend the Commission meeting. The young women who participated were selected from many women who applied for scholarships.
McRae said, “We selected young women who could inspire, equip and connect others to become transformational leaders for Christ’s mission in the church.”
Helen Wilkins, a student from Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., said, ”I am so incredibly appreciative of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries for sponsoring my participation. I learned how much the church and the world still need to do to create equality for all.”
Abigail Krusemark, a student from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., said, “The event that stands out the most was a parallel event on the topic of Iranian gender challenges. A group of students gave a statement on their efforts over quotas for male-suitable majors. They risked imprisonment upon their return to Iran for their participation in the Commission.”
Molly Hough from Generations Alive, a non-profit organization in Spokane, Wash., added, “There were a multitude of impactful, empowering, and life-changing conversations and workshops throughout the commission. Sitting in a room with my brothers and sisters from all over the world who have different religions, cultural experiences, and perspectives all working towards the same goal of human rights was an experience unlike any other.”
When asked how she planned to use the newly acquired knowledge for her church and community, Wilkins responded, “I will take back my passion for justice, the inspirational stories I heard, and the empowerment I gained to help my church and community to see what needs to be done.”
Krusemark added, “In my church and university communities I often feel a sense of post-feminism. Women’s issues are not talked about or discussed at length. It is important to keep talking about the plight of women both internationally and in our own country. I hope to change the discourse around post-feminism by sharing my story and encouraging others to view development issues through a gender lens.”
Hough commented, “I am extremely eager to take this back to my current position at a non-profit organization known as Generation Alive. I want to engage students in leadership opportunities through advocacy work in government and social sectors. I am also eager to sit down and listen to Presbyterian churches in my area and work alongside them to engage youth in being a part of these global conversations and working towards equality for all.”
The ecumenical community has pursued the ideals of the Millennium Development Goals for centuries and will continue to pursue a just development system long after 2015. Ecumenical Women encourages member states to continue to work toward the achievement of the MDG but also looked to the 58th Commission on the Status of Women to acknowledge that a transformative change must take place in order to achieve and generate a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) holds special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN). This status and accreditation establishes a connection that allows the PC(USA) to work more closely with the United Nations on global challenges. The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations represents the PC(USA) within the UN community. The Office of Women's Leadership Development and Young Women's Ministries worked in partnership with Presbyterian Women and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations to coordinate the Presbyterian delegation to the Commission.
Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries (YWM) is a national ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency within Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/PW. The office of YWM connects with young women ages 18-35, providing resources and opportunities to foster their formation as leaders in the church. YWM also facilitates the work of Racial Ethnic Young Women Together (REYWT) and the National Network of Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW). To learn more about YWM and to get involved, contact Alexandra Zareth at Alexandra.Zareth@pcusa.org or Jackie Spycher at Jackie.Spycher@pcusa.org or visit them on Facebook.