PC(USA) climate justice webinar to feature women leaders

March 22 event designed to inspire ‘meaningful action’ in churches and communities

by Darla Carter| Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Women with a heart for protecting the environment will be featured in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) webinar that takes place as the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW66) continues.

The webinar, featuring the Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, the Rev. Mamisoa Rakotomalala and Yolanda Zurita, will be from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, March 22, on the Facebook page of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Anyone who is interested can register for the event (go here), and Spanish interpretation will be available.

The webinar is part of activities that a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women is taking part in during CSW, a gender equality gathering that is usually held at United Nations Headquarters but is largely virtual this year because of the pandemic.

“This year, CSW’s focus is achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the context of climate change,” said Ivy Lopedito, a Mission Specialist for the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “Our webinar’s purpose is to have a conversation with global Presbyterian women leaders and climate advocates on how they are tackling the effects of climate change as well as ways to empower other women to protect Creation.”

The speakers have varied backgrounds:

  • Astudillo, a Venezuelan-American, is an eco-theologian and Presbyterian pastor who coordinates GreenFaith’s outreach to Latin American faith communities and to the Latino faith community in the U.S. She also is an author.
  • Rakotomalala was born and raised in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, and formerly served as senior pastor for the 14 congregations in Tanandava Parish, which has been involved in the establishment of a community clinic as well as a program to empower women and protect children and youths. Ecofeminism is among her interests.
  • Zurita is the Coordinator of Social Pastoral Care for the parish of La Oroya, Peru, which has been contaminated by mining related toxins and pollution. She helped form the Conservation Committee of Villa El Sol, which is involved in recovery of vegetation through the application of ancestral technologies, tree planting and water harvesting.

“We wish to raise awareness and highlight the important work women faith leaders are doing to combat climate change in their communities from a faith perspective,” said Sue Rheem, PC(USA) Representative to the United Nations. “Women’s experiences of climate change and our expertise in adaptation strategies make us effective agents of change.”

The need for change is being made clear during CSW, where speakers such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, have stressed that women and girls are bearing much of the brunt of the global climate crisis.

“Climate change is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls,” Rheem said. “Women are less economically secure and have less access to natural resources to cope with the effects of climate change and adapt to it. It is further exacerbated by the fact that women often have not been at the table in formulating climate policies and programs that affect their lives. They have not been included in the decision-making process, which reinforces pre-existing inequalities and less effective programs.”

Tuesday’s webinar is intended to not only be educational but inspirational within the church and beyond.

“Women leaders in the churches and faith-based organizations have and can play an important role in lifting and supporting the voices and perspectives of women in marginalized groups and communities by challenging heteropatriarchal attitudes and practices, and furthering women’s full participation in addressing climate change,” Rheem said. “We would like people in the church to come and hear and be inspired to take steps towards meaningful action to address climate change.”

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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