A perspective

Women talked about poverty, health, AIDS, war, violence and the fact that women are not in decision making positions
April 30, 2005

First and foremost I am an activist. When I received a call in February 2002 saying it wasn’t too late to get credentialed for the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, I leapt at the chance.

This was to be an amazing opportunity for Anglican women. Ever since Tai Matalavea became the Anglican Observer at the U.N. in 2001, she focused attention on this forum. In 2002, I was the lone Anglican delegate but that was about to change.

A year later, joined by Elizabeth Loweth from Canada and Pauline Muchina, a Kenyan living in the U.S., we started talking about the need to enlarge the delegation. Then, with Matalavea and Phoebe Griswold, planning began to find ways to include women from as many of the Anglican provinces as possible and we set out to raise funds.

We succeeded. In 2004, 18 provincial delegates -- named by their primates and supported by our fund raising – joined 30 ECUSA delegates for the two-week conference.

This year was even better. Our planning team, now named the Anglican Women’s Empowerment Team (AWET), gathered the largest of any NGO delegation. I loved making connections with all these women. I was enormously impressed with many for their education and experience. Their hands-on ministry far surpassed mine.

As this witness grows, it affirms my belief that women are on a different page than men most of the time. We talked about poverty, health, AIDS, war, violence and the fact that women are not in decision making positions in most provinces or dioceses.

Counter to religious right

In the past, heard far too often “the R word” – religion, meaning the religious right. This year, in creating a U.S. NGO [non-govermental organization] women’s caucus, I was able to announce meetings and read portions of statements, introducing myself as “an Anglican Consultative Council delegate, which in the United States is the Episcopal Church.” That was always received with cheers of appreciation and requests for copies of the statements. NGO delegates from around the world were delighted to know we were alive and kicking.

The church is the only medium which can fix the world because most of us operate out of love for the other, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, even sexuality. The world needs leaders who are clear and outspoken. I hope that being together in the ACC community for two weeks will provide encouragement to be that nudge that force back at home.

What moved me the most was the part we played in forcing the U.S. ambassador to retreat from her government’s efforts to derail the meeting by introducing amendments to the proposed Declaration of Reaffirmation of the Beijing Platform. Our government’s attitude towards the UN is one of arrogant superiority and total belief that the U.S. can tell the world what to do.

Anglicans to the rescue

When we learned of the government efforts to sidetrack the agenda and realized we had not U.S. caucus as the Europeans had, the Episcopalians created one. More than 150 women representing dozens of NGOs wrote statement protesting their government’s amendments and rejoiced in the participation when government withdrew its amendments.

Similar efforts took place in every region, and Anglican women meeting with their caucuses and their ambassadors were unified in their reaffirmation of the Beijing Platform for its attention to the elimination of the poverty and violence which afflicts women in so many countries.

Since our time together, messages have flowed back and forth through the internet. We’ve rejoiced over good news and wept about sad news; we’ve cemented friendships which will see us through the turmoil currently engrossing the Anglican Communion. In the words of one of our global sisters, “You’re angels in my life and have enriched my pilgrimage for in you I see the vision of God’s family.”