“Recently five women in my community were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. That’s unacceptable. I hope my time in New York City at the Commission will give me the tools and resources that I need to be an advocate for the women and girls in my community.” Florence Vargas is one of 22 women who will travel to New York City in a few weeks as part of a Presbyterian Women delegation attending the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  The focus of this year’s Commission will be on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

Vargas recalls when the moderator and other members of Presbyterian Women traveled to Beijing in 1995 to participate in the Fourth World Conference on Women, where the Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted. “When these women returned from their trip, they were so filled with enthusiasm and hope and their lives had been forever changed.  I can’t wait to see what impact this event will have on my own life.” 

As part of the Presbyterian delegation at the Commission, she hopes to gain the information, tools, and resources needed to help her to be an advocate for women and girls, especially in addressing two major issues that run rampant in her hometown of San Sebastian, Puerto Rico—gender equality and violence against women and girls. “ I want to work to equip women in my community with the information they need to be active participants in decision making at home, at work, at church, and at all levels of government.” 

“This year’s event is also particularly special to me because I’ll be attending it with my granddaughter, Lisiann Rodriguez.  Being able to experience this moment of learning and sharing together will be unforgettable to both of us.” 

Vargas’s granddaughter is one of 12 young women delegates attending the Commission through scholarships provided by the Office of Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries in Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries.  These young women delegates will participate in global forums and engage in critical issues that are most relevant to them. 

The presence of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries at the Commission on the Status of Women is made possible through a partnership with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s status as an accredited nongovernmental organization (NGO) with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council.