Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Last Tuesday at the UN

Being here makes my heart sing . . . the energy and
collective passion of those present makes for an
exciting time and I always find myself spinning with
new ideas and thoughts. Today was a nearly perfect UN

Due to a long security line, our group opted for
coffee and croissants at the Episcopal Church
headquarters. They have a wonderful coffee shop and
bookstore located in their building. While there I
bought a lenten book on bread making that I want to
share with our communion bread making group.

My first workshop of the day was on the 10th floor of
the church center and called, "Ecumenical Women's
Challenge to Financing for Development Agenda." It
was sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, World
Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church, Methodist
women, the YWCA, and others. The room was pack and I
ended up sitting on top of a garbage can that,
thankfully, had a lid.

There were three panelists from Tanzania, India, and
South Africa. The woman from India was advocating
interest-free micro credit loans. By the way, the
Global Justice Center sent out an email yesterday that
included a nice synopsis of what I am attending. I
will include it now:

"The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional
commission of the United Nations Economic and Social
Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender
equality and advancement of women. Every year,
representatives of Member States gather at United
Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress
on gender equality, identify challenges, set global
standards and formulate concrete policies to promote
gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.
The Commission was established with the aim to prepare
recommendations and reports to the Council on
promoting women's rights in political, economic,
civil, social and educational fields."

Each of the speakers were interesting, but my favorite
was the woman from South Africa. She is the senior
lecturer in ethics at the University of South Africa.
She consistently outlined why people of faith should
be concerned with the economic development of women.
She discussed the danger of exploiting the environment
for the sake of economic development. She underlined
that in the end, there are no gains when there are no
natural resources left. There must be, " . . .
development that is sustainable and enables the
fullness of life," she said.

It is a common practice in these meetings to collect
several questions before answering them. I'm guessing
this allows more people to ask questions and those who
are answering might be able to answer more than one at
once. Today's meeting was no different, questions
were collected and then the presenters began to

There was one extremely talkative presenter. During
her presentation she was asked several times by the
moderator to stop talking. She was talkative and
persistent. While she was answering the questions -
all of them - she took the opportunity to talk about
issues pertaining to the violence of women and how we
shouldn't forget that women are subjected to great
violence around the world. At that point, and after
the moderator had asked her to stop talking yet again,
my favorite presenter for South Africa whispered
something in her ear and took the microphone from her.

The South African presenter, Dr. Puleng LenkaBula, was
very polite and the talkative presenter seemed
stunned. Dr. LenkaBula said something like this,
"Poverty is the indignity of development and the lack
of development must be taken into consideration.
Violence against women is important, but we must not
lose our focus. We are here to discuss how poverty
affects women. Many times poverty is a key factor in
why women are abused." The microphone was given back
to the moderator and thunderous applause occurred.
Impressive and straight from the WMU style handbook of
social grace and action.

I just found Dr. LenkaBula's card. Her title is,
Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Theological
Ethics. A quick google search turned up several
references including this one:
It is journal article she wrote for Reformed World. I
haven't read it yet, but it looks fascinating.
Towards the bottom she writes about the Church's
response to economic globalization.

Later in the afternoon I attended a workshop sponsored
by Oxfam, Launch of Program Packs Publications on the
Africa Women's Protocol.

The first link does a good job of explaining what the
African Women's Protocol is. 23 African countries
have ratified the protocol which means that 30 have
not. This reminds me, the US still has not ratified

One of the presenters discussed the fact that the
protocol doesn't do the women of Africa any good if
they don't know it exists. So, the Oxfam folks
created a campaign to get the word out among the
grassroots. They developed flip charts and posters so
that the average person could understand.

When it was time for questions a quiet young woman
from the World Youth Alliance spoke. She asked about
some of the wording in the protocol. Her question was
about dignity and whether or not it is intrinsic. She
was concerned that by claiming dignity as a right, the
protocol was missing the point that the women already
"own" their dignity. A protocol cannot give something
that someone already possesses.

The moderator didn't understand her point and the
audience members felt like it was a case of semantics,
but I thought she brought up a very interesting fact.
You can read the African Women's Protocol here:

After glancing over it I am impressed that whoever was
trying to get countries to sign it (maybe the African
Union), was able to get 20 countries to sign. I make
this statement based on the fact that the first issue
I looked at was marriage and this document states that
no girl can marry until she is 18. This document
would definitely not be ratified by the US government.
Do we have any laws that dictate marriage age? We
should, but I'm not sure we do.

My final workshop of the day was for the purpose of
discussing a fifth women's world congress.
Jean Shinoda Bolen moderated.
This workshop definitely had a different energy than
most of the ones I attend here. She began by saying,
"What is the story you came to live out? Why are you
attending these meetings?" She told the audience to
ask three questions regarding what brought them to the
1. Is it meaningful?
2. Will it be fun?
3. Is it motivated by love?

Gloria Steinem was on the panel. She encouraged the
audience to remember that, "this room is a
conference." "My constant effort is to live in the
present. The means is an end."
I was awestruck.

We ended the workshop in small groups. The founder
of New Moon magazine, Nancy Gruver, was in my group.
So was Emilie Heller, former leader in the Equality
Opportunity Commission, and Susan Jones.

I'm considering submitting this email as a chapter of
my dissertation! It was a great day at the UN.

Loving being here,


Anonymous EcumenicalWomen said...

Dear Sparkfly,

We are thrilled to read your thoughts and comments about our side event, "Ecumenical Women's Challenges to Financing for Development Agenda"! Please keep in touch with us via our website and blog, http://ecumenicalwomen.org. We would love to have your voice in our comments, and to meet with you next year at the CSW!

Best Wishes,

Alison Killeen
Ecumenical Women

10:37 AM  

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