UNCSW Reflections: Debbie Smith, Diocese of Missouri

February 29, 2012

Our guest blogger for today is Debbie Smith from the Diocese of Missouri. She is attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women with the Anglican Women’s Empowerment delegation. She is the coordinator of the Diocese of Missouri’s companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of Sudan. She became interested in Africa and particularly Sudan when she began teaching English as a Second Language as a volunteer to refugee women in Des Moines, Iowa.

We are very thankful to Debbie for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us.

Above: Debbie is pictured with Bishop Stephen Dokolo and Lillian Giniwa Clement of the Diocese of Lui, Episcopal Church of Sudan. 

Tuesday, 29 February 2012

I’m participating in the UNCSW with AWE because I’m the coordinator for the Missouri side of the companion diocese relationship between the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Diocese of Missouri in the Episcopal Church. As a longtime fan of the UN, I’m excited and honored to be here and very happy to find myself in this company of women.

Yesterday I attended the side event “Women and Corruption,” organized by the UN Development Programme. Along with the Huairou Commission, they studied definitions and experiences of corruption in Asia, South America, and Africa and best practices for addressing it in each region. They had a lot to say about the arenas in which bribery, use of influence, etc., are played out in each region. Not surprisingly, women are disproportionately affected by corruption.

Getting past the sign at the UN that said “No visitors beyond this point” was in itself quite exciting. Today I went to hear the parallel event “Facilitating Human Rights from a Feminist Perspective.” The women presenting were extremely articulate and organized. Their main idea was that we need to be looking not just at social services and targeted programs in trying to address extreme poverty among women, but at macroeconomic structures, with the idea that there is gender bias built into such governmental strategies as sanctions, austerity measures, and bailouts. Much of what they had to say had come out of a meeting with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

After that event, some of us from AWE who are in African partnerships participated in a panel during which my colleagues had a lot of very enlightening things for me to learn. At our end-of-day AWE debrief, we learned about the continuing difficulties in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. After that, I went to the Africa Caucus where I heard everything in English and French and enjoyed listening to a very disparate group decide who would decide how they would respond to the Agreed Conclusions. It was an exhausting day, but I can hardly wait till tomorrow, when I get to visit the US Mission to the UN on behalf of Ecumenical Women.