Commission on the Status of Women inspires discussions of ‘global perspective’
May 2, 2018
Kathryn Urban spent her spring break with the United Nations and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation. She learned about the challenges women face around the world and spent her nights in a hostel several blocks away.
Urban, a junior at George Washington University studying international affairs and security policy, is typical of many of the national and international CSW participants. They are passionate, accomplished, eager to learn more and they were planning to take what they learned home to change their worlds.
Urban looked forward to using her experiences at CSW to inform the work she does with youth at Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. She’s planning to create an all-ages Sunday school curriculum based on the women of the Bible — a curriculum that will be influenced by the stories that she’s heard from other women. She also hopes to create a retreat for young adults on women’s issues.
Topics like climate change and farming, access to resources, sexual and reproductive rights, access to education, media and government all have an impact on the amount of power women have over their own lives.
Urban was particularly moved by the story she heard a North Korean woman share. She was forced to marry young. Caught in an abusive marriage and with a child who needed expensive health care, she went to work in China so that she could send money home. There, she again suffered abuse at the hands of a man, this time one who trafficked her as slave labor. She escaped and headed back to North Korea only to be caught by border guards who took all her money and assaulted her before allowing her to enter the country.
When she finally made her way back to her hometown, she discovered that her husband and son had left and she was unable to find them. She fled again and ended up going to China and Thailand before finally making her way to the United States and starting a new life.
While the stories of women facing inequality and abuse were unsettling, one of the emerging themes of the CSW was the resilience of women not only to survive their situations but also to find the strength to advocate for change.
“The ‘aha’ moments here are heart-wrenching,” said Presbyterian delegate Sharon Gibbons of Visited Eagle River Presbyterian Church in Alaska. “But I’m finding hope because I am an example of that hope.”
Gibbons, too, was a victim of domestic abuse and is currently advocating for abuse victims while also caring for her daughter who suffers from dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease that causes rashes and weakens muscles.
Gibbons said that attending the CSW in 2015 changed her life by changing how she saw herself. She realized she was not alone in what she was experiencing.
“The first time I came to CSW, I was quiet and introverted,” she said. “It was hard for me to have conversations because I was still processing my own experiences with domestic violence. But being here started to change me. It’s like it changed my DNA. Today I live and breathe the desire to change the world for the better.”
Gibbons credits God for the transformation she has undergone.
“When I was at my lowest, God brought me up. God put a fire in my belly to make a change and help other women,” she said. “In the past I wouldn’t have been able to share my story, to talk about domestic violence. But I can’t give God the glory if I don’t share my whole truth. I’ve learned to trust that that difficult part of my life does not define who I am or limit what God has for me to do.”
Gibbons plans to continue advocating for changes in legislation to benefit other victims of domestic abuse. She, Urban and 17 other women from around the PC(USA) spent a week at the CSW as part of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.
Sue Washburn, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Commission on the Status of Women
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy and merciful God, open us to the teachings of Jesus Christ so we might find new direction and understanding as we create healthy and holy relationships with those we love. Amen.