Introducing Indigenous Delegate to UNCSW Nellie Adkins
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, UNCSW 59, met on March 9-20, 2015. This year The Episcopal Church has received a new status with the United Nations and therefore is sending a delegation of women to represent the Episcopal Church and participate in this two-week conference. This year, the agenda looks back at the Beijing Platform and evaluates how it has or has not addressed all that it originally set out to accomplish for and about women.
I was honored to be asked to attend UNCSW several years ago as part of the Indigenous Ministries under the leadership of Sarah Eagle Heart. I attended with several other native women, and we were able to observe and experience first-hand what UNCSW is all about. It was a busy and very complex event with some 17,000 women in attendance that year. I was glad to be there with other indigenous women of like minds and backgrounds, because I felt that we could relate to one another with a shared commonality. The schedule was fast-paced, hectic, challenging, and complicated, but I had the comfort of being with sisters along the Red Road. We came back to the hotel each night and caucused, sharing about our day with one another and working out ideas and strategies that would allow this complexity of experience and information to work on our behalf.
Since that first conference, I have had the honor to attend several U.N. conferences in part. Along with other women from Indigenous Ministries, I have helped to host parallel events at the National Church Center, sharing our concerns as native women. This year I was chosen to attend the 2015 UNCSW conference as a delegate for the Episcopal Church. It certainly is an honor, but I carry with me a grave responsibility as well, since I will be representing all of my indigenous brothers and sisters.
I carry with me this sense that we as indigenous women need to develop a sisterhood of sharing and caring where we support one another around the circle and take from events of this nature, ideas and strategies that can be shared and utilized back home in our diocese, our church and our community. Many powerful people attend this conference, so it is imperative for us as indigenous women to put the ideas birthed and expressed at these conferences to better use within our own communities. I have to be honest and say that first-time attendees often find this mélange of women, the agendas and constant events really intimidating, but the wealth of knowledge and ideas that you come away with is truly worth it all. Networking options are unlimited, and the parallel events that are ongoing all of the time are AMAZING! Coming with a group of women from Indigenous Ministries was the key to getting indoctrinated and getting comfortable with the “wildness” of it all on the first go for me.
After my first UNCSW conference, the next year that I had the honor of attending UNCSW, our group put a parallel event together and it was wonderful. It was a standing-room-only event, and those in attendance wanted us to try and fit another event in during that conference. We were so excited that those who came sensed our passion and caught our vision. That daunting first year became worth it all: developing a learning curve from it and putting that to work for us the following year as we shared our stories.
The past years that I have attended UNCSW were hallmark times for me, because I was able to take back a wealth of information gleaned from the conferences. Once you are able to go, you become aware of many opportunities with which to return to your place of origin and share with both your community and your diocese. Opportunities to network while in attendance at UNCSW are basically unlimited and produce much fruit in so many ways.
So why should you think about coming to UNCSW in the future? Because it will give you added information, instruction, ideas, potential moves for your future and the future of your church, diocese, and community. Once you become impassioned, it's contagious. You can share with others the dream and the vision that events like this give you, and in our particular case, with other native people and native women. We need to find our voice in a greater way. Caucusing together as indigenous women at events like UNCSW births creative thinking, and thus future opportunity and unlimited possibilities of all kinds.
I have used this knowledge and training is so many ways on many levels. For example, this summer I was required to attend an S.T.E.M. Learning training event for Virginia educators. S.T.E.M. Learning is the teaching and learning of integrated science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I was required to put together two week’s worth of focused teaching and then demonstrate this by teaching two selected lessons to a room full of teachers to prove that I had mastered the concept. Based on what I had learned during my times at the UNCSW, coupled with the parallel event that our indigenous women presented together that last time, I pulled from all of that experience and knowledge and used that for the basis of my teaching block. Had I not had the honor to go, attend and learn from conferences like UNCSW, I daresay that I would not have had the material to integrate into my S.T.E.M. Learning lesson plans. So what I said earlier about learning and then returning home to share at various levels holds true. Don't miss this opportunity to come, learn and grow as indigenous women contributing to the health and well being of the greater circle. Women as warriors standing on Mother Earth with purpose and vision together!
Perspectives shared on this blog are from the personal experience of Indigenous Peoples in an effort to raise awareness.