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Today in the Mission Yearbook

‘We must speak up, speak loudly, speak together and speak always to transform our societies’


Ecumenical Women at the United Nations gathers as part of the 68th Commission on the Status of Women

May 17, 2024

Lopa Banerjee

Ecumenical Women at the United Nations, an international coalition of denominations and organizations that advocates for gender justice, held its initial gathering as part of the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Watch the nearly four-hour celebration and discussion, which was held at the United Nations Church Center, by going here.

As Lopa Banerjee, executive coordinator of the Generation Equality Forum and director of the Civil Society Division for U.N. Women, reminded those in attendance, “We stand here today at a moment of profound pain” as well as a moment of “deep opportunity,” with almost 60 countries including the United States scheduled to hold elections this year. “Almost two billion women, most of them young, will be voting,” Banerjee said.

With 10.3% of women around the world living in extreme poverty, poverty is a “gender phenomenon, with women and girls over-represented among the world’s poor,” Banerjee said. Without “extreme action,” the dire situation could well grow worse by mid-century. “There is no way to address the gap,” Banerjee said, “if we do not look at multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

“Urgent reform” is needed in what Banerjee called “the international financial architecture” in order to “support countries to mobilize for sustainable development.”

“Debt relief is imperative,” Banerjee said, because debt service payments “are crowding out” needed investments around the world in education, health care and other sectors.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda of Zimbabwe, an Assistant Secretary-General and deputy executive director for Normative Support, System Coordination and Programme Results for U.N. Women, characterized the members of Ecumenical Women as “very humble. You bring such resources to the discussion. Let’s believe women,” she said. “Let’s believe in their innovations for the transformation of institutions.”

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

“It is people of faith who will provide nourishment,” she said. “You bring your lived experience as part of your community.”

What’s needed today is “the boldness of our collective voice,” she said. In places including Gaza, Haiti and Ukraine, “we need a ceasefire now,” Gumbonzvanda said. “We need to have the courage to stand up for what is right, and what is right is to stop the war and to give opportunities for women.”

“Justice is dignity, and injustice is a sin,” she said. “Poverty is immoral. We must speak up, speak loudly, speak together and speak always to transform our societies.”

Men have a role to play as well, she said. “Positive masculinity is not about saving women,” according to Gumbonzvanda. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

The gathering included two worship services and a panel featuring three guests: Dr. Shakeema North, executive director at Covenant House New York; the Rev. Karen Castillo, president of Lutheran World Federation in Guatemala; and the Rev. Bafana Khumalo, Sonke’s co-executive director and co-founder.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: 68th Commission on the Status of Women

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Sarah Henken, Mission co-worker serving in Colombia, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Lorraine Henry, Director, Financial Protection & Retirement Program, Board of Pensions  

Let us pray

Compassionate God, bless those who suffer. Support them in finding faith, hope, support, family, community, new beginnings and a new journey. Renew the strength of those who are called to care for their neighbors in need. Amen.