Where do you see yourself – your life experiences, passions, interests, concerns – connecting with the UNCSW priority theme and the three priorities lifted up in our Presiding Bishop’s written statement? What about the concerns of your church? Local community? Our wider Church? What personal illustrations might you draw upon to emphasize these priorities when you share this statement with stakeholders at the UN?
That’s what we were asked to be ready to speak to for our most recent delegation meeting in preparation for the upcoming U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019. Bishop Curry has submitted his written statement on this year’s Priority Theme outlining three main points, and what each one means to us as Episcopalians and followers of Christ. His points are:
- Implement gender-responsive solutions to gaps in social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure;
- Prioritize marginalized groups of women and girls in extending social protections, public services and sustainable infrastructure;
- Promote gender equality education and practices and eradicate gender-based violence.
Our task for this last meeting was to place ourselves in the theme and written statement, so to speak. So, I read both, jotted down some cryptic notes, and joined the web conference. And then silently panicked a little bit when we were asked to share our thoughts in the form of a 2-3 minute “elevator speech.”
Fortunately, we all seemed to be in the same boat. And 3 minutes is SO short!! But we’ve all got such a variety of experience, that it was really powerful to hear each other’s stories! And, as we were reminded, the stories are compelling and will help influence the wording of policies that will be developed at the Commission on the Status of Women.
Our task, now, is to focus on those stories, refine our thoughts, and start to prepare to explain and defend the Bishop’s written statement at the U.N. in March. *Gulp* It’s a little intimidating, to be honest! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, though, a little overview of some of the stories I hope to share, with fake names, of course:
- Sara, whose husband refused her access to any money and occasionally roughed her up, stayed for years until she finally escaped with her two daughters;
- Yvonne, deported at age 13 and dumped in Mexico, a country she didn’t remember, without an adult with her, sold her young body for cash to survive as she walked across the desert to get back to her parents in Texas, years later to become pregnant and homeless, giving birth at 23 weeks gestation to Baby Marco who will have significant developmental delays and physical disabilities for the rest of his life;
- Gulf War Veteran with no legs and no wheel chair, living in tent city, self-medicating with heroin, craving a glass of cold milk and in need of tampons;
- Farah, a refugee from the Middle East whose husband became addicted to meth while they were in a refugee camp and then began beating her until she finally left with her small son and lived in women’s shelters for months worrying about how she would support them without an education or a social network;
- Grace, who recently transitioned socially to being a woman, lost her job, and was making ends meet by tending bar while spending all her free time advocating for other young trans people who often lose their jobs, their families, and are at high risk for physical and sexual assault; and,
- Alicia, a senior citizen living in public housing and unable to work since cancer ravaged her body, raised her two small grandchildren for 3 years while her daughter did time for a drug charge, then took emergency custody of a cousin’s baby to remove the her from the home of a registered pedophile.
So. How about that list? Those stories are about women we’ve served through our Hands & Feet Ministry at St. Andrew’s! I just love that I get to carry our ministry with me to the United Nations, to tell the stories of women we are personally connected to, and urge those in power to improve the lives of women by prioritizing and empowering them through social protection systems, public services, and sustainable infrastructure.
As you might have caught, there are some themes and patterns in the stories:
- The need for education and financial independence;
- The plight of refugees and immigrants;
- Gender discrimination in the workplace;
- Sexual assault and violence against women;
- The challenges of those with illnesses, special needs and disabilities.
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be picking through those themes, writing and rehearsing my “elevator speeches.” If you have questions, comments or insight to share, please do! I’d love to hear from you and take your thoughts into consideration as I write. Thanks in advance for your help!
Please pray with me:
Lord, we lift these women to you and ask that you keep us ever mindful that they are so much more than their stories, that they are real people, created in your image, loved deeply by you. Break the hearts of those of us who have any little bit of influence, that we might truly see the challenges women face and be stirred by the Holy Spirit to always fight for justice in our own communities and around the world. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
If you’d like to contribute to the GoFundMe we set up to help me fund the $5,600 trip to Manhattan for two weeks, click here. I appreciate every penny!