Ecumenical Women orientation – 58th Commission on the Status of Women

March 8, 2014. The long awaited Ecumenical Women Orientation had arrived.

Making my way to the United Nations early morning, I did not know what to expect other than knowing that there were going to be numerous people attending from all around the world. Upon my arrival at the Church Center, there was already a throng of attendees conversing with one another in much excitement. Though the amount of planning I had personally participated in was trivial, it was refreshing to observe the heavily planned and anticipated day finally play out.

With breakfast kicking off the day, it provided time to meet and greet others, a time I looked forward to due to the lack of familiar faces. Being with women all over the world, listening and sharing about the work they do and passion they have was inspirational. Throughout the day in between the jam-packed schedule, there was room to get to know the fellow attendees. Hearing their stories was my favorite part; in conversing with them I was repetitively reminded that we stand together with a united heart. It was enlightening to be at a gathering of women empowering one another to embrace their identity in going forth with their callings, spreading awareness of the injustice upon women and striving for change in each oppressive situation.

The opening worship was one of the most memorable and enlivening times of the day. The chaplain led us in a joyful worship service, where we danced and praised in thankfulness. It was a remembrance as to why we are congregated in sharing our thoughts and convictions. A personal prayer of mine was that our wills would be aligned with God’s; and in everything we do, our strength would be supplied by Him. The communal worship was vital in helping set the mood and spirit of the day.

Another momentous time was during the workshops. There were three workshops available for attendance: “Mission Visits”, “Your Story and the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)”, and “Review of Zero Draft”. I attended the “Mission Visits” workshop led by Ryan Smith (Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations) and Victoria Edmonds (Salvation Army). There was time to discuss with one another how we may be able to communicate our concerns to the Mission Ambassadors, during potential Mission visits, as our respective backgrounds, connect to the four Ecumenical Women advocacy priorities that had been chosen by the attendees prior to the conference: poverty and hunger; access to quality education, employment, and decision-making; health; and violence against women and girls.

During discussion, we shared which countries we come from, and a total of nineteen different countries were named. In just one room on one orientation day, there were nineteen countries represented. It brought hope and eagerness to see how the effectiveness of these women could undoubtedly lead to a synergic response in the world.

The day served as an active reminder of how we are to take back the experiences and lessons learned to our respective communities to lead to a louder cry and stronger action. At the end of the day, what good would it do if everyone went back to their communities after having participated in numerous advocacy events and makes no effort for change? One thing that stuck to me during the panel discussion was that world remains unchanged because good men and women are not taking action. To be genuine good men and women is to take a step further, beyond ‘talking the talk, but walking the walk.’ The orientation day was the perfect start of a communal approach towards practical and effective change, with one another serving as an encouragement. As Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, stated, we must raise our voices together, not for a “conclusion with a compromise that takes us backwards, but a conclusion that takes us forwards.”

Esther Lee serves as an intern with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

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