Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), a forum sponsored by Anglican Women's Empowerment was held March 4 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where Anglican women shared their hopes and concerns for a world in which Christian faith calls them to action.
Abagail Nelson, vice president of Episcopal Relief and Development, led a lively conversation with three Anglican delegates to the UNCSW on the theme "Transforming Vision into Action."
The panelists -- Lisbeth Barahona of the Diocese of El Salvador; the Rev. Joyce Kariuki of the Anglican Church of Kenya; and Dr. Jenny Te Paa, dean of the Anglican Theological College in Auckland, New Zealand -- brought perspectives from their individual contexts and highlighted some of the challenges of living in patriarchal societies.
A transcript of the conversation with Anglican delegates can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_72657_ENG_HTM.htm.
Phoebe Griswold, founding member of AWE and wife of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, delivered a powerful address for which she received a standing ovation.
The Anglican delegation is the largest NGO at the United Nations this year, Griswold announced. "What a small group of women saw in 2002 by attending this meeting was an unmatched opportunity for resourcing women's empowerment around the world," she said. "There is no better resource of intelligent research [and] articulate conversation than the gathering of women at this meeting and to bring our dear, dear sisters from around the world to learn and to take things back to their own ministries is an unparalleled opportunity."
The full text of Griswold's speech can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_72659_ENG_HTM.htm.
Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea, Anglican Observer at the United Nations, welcomed the delegates on behalf of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, president of the Anglican Consultative Council, and the 38 provinces and primates of the Anglican Communion.
In her role as Anglican Observer, Samoan-born Tuatagaloa-Matalavea is committed to sustainable development, global economic security, disarmament, freedom of faith and religion and environment, as well as peace in the Middle East, Sudan and other parts of the world.
She has been instrumental in ensuring the fullest participation at the UNCSW this year.
Tuatagaloa-Matalavea explained that she works very closely with ecumenical partners at the UN "because we need ... to have a stronger voice in what we are trying to promote."
Women's issues are a priority because "if you empower women, you empower a family, you empower a community, you empower your country and you empower the world," she said.
Barbara O'Sullivan from Jamaica, an executive member of the Mother's Union, read a prepared statement from Angela King, former assistant secretary general of the UN and special advisor on gender issues and the advancement of women, in which King said that it is "a time of celebration and a time of forward-looking strategies." King was unable to attend due to health reasons.
The UNCSW has been instrumental in setting international standards, she explained, highlighting CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was adopted by the UN general assembly in 1979. "It is often called the international bill of women's rights," she said.
The commission has also been able to create an enabling environment for women's advancement, the statement continued, "by gathering and analyzing data on which to base public policy, by offering workshops and training and by paying attention to urgent issues...such as HIV/
King's statement said that the UNCSW has brought the principal and perspective of gender equality into every sector and program, as well as other bodies within the UN. "It has also made the public more aware of the need of women to fully participate in all aspects of society if gender equality, peace and development are to be lasting."
Finally, King's statement urged all delegates of the UNCSW to make a commitment "to initiate and carry through at least one project to strengthen women's access to roles in the fields of education, health or employment, or one campaign to get women into positions of leadership or eradicate violence against women."
The Very Rev. James A. Kowalski, dean of the Cathedral, said that the Diocese of New York was honored to welcome the UNCSW delegation "as you claim the vision for all people that we be empowered for service to others and to the life of the world and especially as you transform that vision into reality."
Closing the conversation, Margaret Rose, director of women's ministries at the Episcopal Church Center, gave thanks for all the women who have participated in the UNCSW event and urged them to have the courage "to speak publicly in all the places we are, then we can begin to transform the vision that is within each of us into action that will claim women and men and abundant life for the world."
The full text of Rose's speech can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_72658_ENG_HTM.htm.
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Bishop Mark Sisk of New York also attended the event. Other distinguished guests included Carolyn Hannan, director of the division for the advancement of women at the United Nations, and Dr. Marcella Maxwell, former chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights and on the Status of Women, and representatives of the United Nations and NGOs.
Organist Timothy Rumfield and singer Ana Hernandez provided musical accompaniment and a closing prayer was offered by Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam of New York.
The UNCSW began on February 24 and concludes on March 10. Throughout the two weeks, Anglican women have attended daily worship, U.N. briefings, plenary sessions and caucuses.
Further information about UNCSW can be found online at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/uncsw.htm