Category Archives: Christian

Two months on…

How time flies. It’s now two months since the end of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, so what’s happened since?

On returning there has been a flurry of feeding back highlights, key points to consider, consultations with the C of E head office. This is alongside blogging for Restored and doing my normal job. Noting that I need to lead by example, I have met with my MP, Dr Vince Cable, asking him to find out how the UK government plans to take forward the agreed conclusions. I have to admit Dr Cable was humble and said “We’ll do the homework you’ve set us and get back to you”. It took me a month to get the meeting with him  but I am hoping to hear back from him sooner. I have also been using to meet with my own vicar at St Stephen’s Church in Twickenham. That’s been harder than getting an appointment to see my MP due to clashing diaries. I will hopefully meet him in June to discuss what we as a church can do.

I have also done a media interview with Maria Rodrigues Toth on her Woman to Woman show due to go out tomorrow, Friday, at 11am. This was a great opportunity to highlight the issues and also what the church can do. Noting the work of Restored and the free resources available on the website http://www.restorederelationships.org.

I have presented initial findings and recommendations to the Mission and Public Affairs Council in the C of E. I still need to write a formal report for their consideration. The MPA meeting provided a good discussion, not only on what the church is doing locally, but also what can  be done in the future. I will also be conducting a side event at the General Synod in York in July on the issue.

There is still much to do. This week alone we have seen men convicted of raping young women in Oxford. Today there are newspaper reports of a premiership footballer being accused of rape. There is still much work to be done. You would no doubt expect me to do something but I can’t do this alone. I am one voice in the crowd. It can get lost in the noise of society. It needs us all to speak up and speak out if we are to make a sustained change in our culture and society until violence against women has been eradicated.

What will you do?

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What do the agreed conclusions mean for us?

Agreed Conclusions

Finally on Wednesday, just as I was about to leave wifi for a few days, the agreed conclusions were put up online by the UN CSW. But what do they mean for us and why are they important? Here’s a brief overview of what we need to take note of and, as you would expect, take action.

1. Firstly the agreed conclusions are not legally binding. Governments are tetchy about signing things at the UN that force them to do things. Indeed there was an ongoing battle at this CSW to ensure the removal of the term ‘sovereignty’ from the text which would mean that countries didn’t really have to implement the conclusions.  This was strongly opposed, after all, if you agree by consensus why would you want a get out clause?  The agreed conclusions do place a strong imperative on governments to implement the agreement, alongside the need to report back next year on actions taken to do just this.

2. The agreed conclusions give NGO’s and churches an opportunity to lobby their respective governments to put into action what they have signed up to do. It’s a great opportunity to see more action, funding, resources, political effort and will to end violence against women. NGO’s and churches can ask governments to indicate how they are implementing the required actions, and if not, to justify why certain things have not happened. I will be asking my MP, Dr Vince Cable, how the government will be implementing the conclusions. Will you do the same?

3. ‘Violence against women and girls is characterised by the use and abuse of power and control in public and private spheres, and is intrinsically linked to gender stereotypes…’ (point 10). This acknowledges what we know in that violence takes place in the home ( private sphere) and IS our business. It is not ‘just a domestic’, nor ‘none of my business’. Gone are the days when we think that what happens behind closed doors is nothing to do with us. It is our business. It is our church. We need to speak out. At a hard-nosed economic end it costs the British public billions of pounds a year to deal with domestic abuse. It costs us all economically, socially, spiritually and in many lost work hours.

4. Gender stereotypes are a cause and consequence of violence against women. Is it time to re-look and examine ourselves to see if we are perpetuating stereotypes of men and women? Do we make subtle remarks? Or obvious ones? Don McPherson challenged us all in the engaging men and boys workshop to not use phrases like ‘Throws like a girl’. He said this did two things; it created unhealthy competition between his son and daughter; and undermined the value of his daughter. Do we still make comments such as ‘woman driver’, ‘must be the time of the month’, ‘don’t be such a girl!’?  Time to change the rhetoric.

5. In these agreed conclusions we see a reference to religious institutions. This is something I was lobbying for as part of the Church of England’s key messages. The Commission strongly condemned ‘invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations’. This means we cannot justify violence against women and girls through our theology, scriptures and cultural practices. It means that we as a church, need to examine ourselves and see if anything we are doing directly or indirectly leads to violence against women. If we did this it could have wide reaching implications on the way we are as church, what we preach and teach to ensure that there is no misunderstanding nor misinterpretation of scripture that could lead to justifying violence. None of us would deliberately (mis)use scripture to coerce and manipulate right? I wish I could sit here and say a resounding yes to that. But I have listened to enough stories of Christian women both in the UK and overseas, that tell a different story. ‘I expect my wife to bow down before me as I bow down before Christ’ are the words of a rural Zimbabwean Pastor that will ring in my ears for years to come. Yes some of it is theological education and understanding the hermeneutics and exegesis of the Bible. Alongside this we have to remember and recall that the church is full of recovering sinners, addicted to sin. We are all at different points in our journey of faith, but we cannot allow abuse to happen along that journey. We need to challenge the abuse happening in our churches.

6. Under x its states ‘Prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women and girls that are perpetrated by people in positions of authority, such as teachers, religious leaders,…’ Here the governments are specifically asked not to give any special ‘get out of jail free cards’ to our vicars, curates, Bishops and Archbishops. When we see violence happen we need to take action, no matter how hard it may seem. There is a victim on the other end who needs our support, care and compassion. We need to be more victim and survivor centered in our approach and response to violence against women to avoid any collusion with a perpetrator of abuse.

7.  Part B headlines ‘Addressing structural and underlying causes and risk factors so as to prevent violence against women and girls’ (VAWG). In here we see a host of action and reaffirmation of action to prevent VAWG including addressing ‘unequal power relations between men and women‘. This will no doubt ring alarm bells for some. The Church of England will need to look at this and see how it wants to take this forward. As we have seen at Synod, there are strong views on both sides about women bishops debate. Does this constitute a violence against women denying them a right to progress in their calling? Some would argue strongly that it does, others that this is not a violence but staying tune to Biblical teaching. One thing is for sure, we need to be aware of how unequal power relations can lead to violence and make steps to ensure that violence does not result from the decisions we make.

8. ‘Engage, educate, encourage and support men and boys to take responsibility for their behaviour‘ A focus of this CSW was women and men working together to end violence against women. Men talking to men, calling out violence, challenging themselves and their dominate cultural masculinities. So in our churches, Men’s breakfasts, Men’s work groups how are we going to open up the space to actively talk about masculinities (note plural) and it’s impact on our relationships at home, work, church etc.

9. ‘Recognise the role the media can play in eliminating gender stereotypes….and refraining from presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects’. When I see this my mind goes straight to Page 3. How in 2013 do we still have a national newspaper legally allowed to objectify women on a daily basis in a paper that children are allowed to purchase? It does make me really angry that this is defended under the guise of free press. Will we join in the campaign to end page 3 or we will continue to be complicit in this objectification by our silence? I will continue to speak out on this one.

10. Point mm relates specifically to addressing and changing ‘attitudes, behaviours and practices that condone gender stereotypes … and violence against women and girls‘. This recognises the role that religious leaders can play in changing attitudes and behaviours. Getting religious leaders including in here is a victory as it acknowledges the positive role the church can, does and is playing in the UK and internationally in the Anglican Communion to bring violence to and end. Whether it is doing the simple thing of putting posters in the women’s toilets to access help, or going further and teaching and training on how to become a safe church, there is much we can share within the church on ending violence against women.  The church is about positive change, about transformation, about new life, about freedom. Freedom for the survivor of violence and freedom for the perpetrator in being bound by believing abuse of power is better than love and grace. After all the church welcomes all, but don’t expect to leave the same.

You can read the full agreed conclusions here. They are not simply for governments to implement but for us too. After all we create our culture and our environment together. We can contribute to keeping it the same or challenge and change it. What do you want to do? 

Statement from the Anglican Communion Delegation at the UN CSW 57th Session March 2013

Statement from the Anglican Communion Delegation at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 2013

A Call to Raise our Voices: Faith in Action

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1.17

We, the Anglican Communion delegation of women from 14 Churches and 17 countries, gathered in New York, 4 to 15 March 2013, to participate in the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW57).The priority theme for UN CSW57 was ‘The Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls’.

As women of faith and representing the diversity of the Anglican family of Churches, we observed the proceedings of UN CSW57 and listened to a wide range of speakers. Where possible we met face to face with our country missions to the UN in order to advocate directly with them on behalf of women and girls in our different regions. We also participated in a full programme of UN and non-governmental side events dedicated to the priority theme. These meetings and side events gave us an opportunity to learn, and to share insights and concerns from our home contexts with government representatives, members of other church and faith traditions and non-governmental organisations. We were also able to share with others the progress we have made in many of our Churches, where leaders have spoken out and championed the work needed to end violence against women and girls and care for survivors, and where resources have been developed to assist our moving forward.

We thank God for the progress we have made. However, violence against women and girls continues as a global and often hidden pandemic.

Women and girls make up more than half the world’s population but many of them live in the shadow of violence and abuse with up to seven in ten women having undergone physical and/or sexual violence. Violence against women and girls takes on multiple forms – physical, sexual, psychological, social and economic, and includes interpersonal/domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and forced prostitution. It is a proven fact that violence against women and girls adversely impacts all of society. Violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of gender inequality and gender injustice, compounded by numerous forms of discrimination.

The Church worldwide must be part of the solution.  Wetherefore urge all the Churches of the Anglican Communion:

1. to continue and build on the positive work already being undertaken towards the eradication of violence against women and girls
2. where silence and inaction persist, to end it. Speak out and begin the work.
3. to include men and boys as an integral part of seeking solutions to, and eradicating violence against women and girls
4. to implement Anglican Consultative Council Resolutions 15.07 on gender-based and domestic violence and 15.10 on the trafficking of persons
5. to encourage churches at parish level to become places of refuge and safety and participate actively in addressing violence against women and girls
6. to create awareness and provide training for clergy and the laity to recognise violence and to address it effectively.

 

We draw attention to existing resources around the Anglican Communion to facilitate and empower churches in their work towards eradicating violence against women and girls.

We affirm that all people are made in the image of God and that violence against women and girls mars God’s creation. We also affirm that Scripture brings the message of freedom, justice and love.

We call the Churches to recover their prophetic voice in speaking out against the gross injustice of violence against women and girls.

We challenge our Churches to become agents of justice, peace and reconciliation. Reconciliation must be preceded by transformation and accountability. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, recently reflected: ‘There is a challenge to active cooperation with the life of God in our lives now. We live and we serve. The recognition by the Samaritan of the other as his neighbour leads to action, not mere existence. He becomes a herald of reconciliation.’

We are deeply grateful to the Anglican Communion Office at the UN for facilitating and supporting the Anglican presence at UN CSW57, and to The Episcopal Church for offering us space and a warm welcome within the Episcopal Church Center. We also extend heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers who so generously gave of their time to extend to us hospitality and care. We enjoyed and benefitted considerably from the fellowship of other Anglican and Episcopal women and men present in New York for events surrounding UN CSW57, and sincerely appreciated our interaction with Ecumenical Women, an international coalition of churches and ecumenical organisations which have status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations.

We commit ourselves to promoting the Five Marks of Mission, and in particular to seeking to transform unjust structures of society, challenging violence of every kind and pursuing peace and reconciliation. We pray for God’s grace and guidance as we strive to participate in God’s transforming mission in the world.

The Inspirational Leader

‘The world is watching…they want to know, ‘Where is the justice?” challenges Former President of Chile, now Under Secretary General and Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, at the opening session at the CSW. She continued to say that it was an understatement to say that this sessions focus on violence against women and girls was timely and that the world cannot afford the cost of violence against women. She’s not wrong. In a time of recession I’m sure we can all think of how to use the £34 billion (ref Sylvia Walby research) spent annually in the UK of dealing with violence against women. ‘This is an historical moment’ she continued, as this session is ‘the largest international meeting ever on ending violence against women.’ We have a lot to live up to.

‘Women’s bodies are a battle ground.’.Michelle Bachelet said and in the NGO briefing last Sunday stated that ‘7 out of 10 women report that they have suffered physical and or sexual violence.’

Stop

Think about that

7 out of 10 women reported they had suffered physical and or sexual violence.

I was taken aback to hear that statistic and I work in the sector. It makes me wonder how did we let the situation get so bad? Did I get distracted by life that my culture normalised violence against women? Do I want to excuse this statistic? Justify it? Ignore it? Want to defend my position because I feel challenged? Do I accept it? Does it make me angry? Or do I bat it away with a comment into the long grass so I don’t have to face the reality of what that statistic means for me, my culture, my church, my family, my work, my life?

It’s really hard to be faced with a reality we would rather not be faced with. It’s even harder to take it in, acknowledge the reality of the pain and hurt of so many of our sisters who are and have suffered, and allow that reality to transform and change us.

No-one likes being told what to do. So what do you suggest we do with that statistic noting that each one represents an individual? What do we do with that information in our churches? What does it mean for our churches? How do we want to respond? Or perhaps a little closer to home, how do I want to respond?

Will we follow the inspirational leadership of Michelle Bachelet and allow the information to move us into action?

What is the something you can do?

UN General Assembly

UN General Assembly

The day has finally arrived. The opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women officially got underway a little after 10am EST. Ms Marjon Kamara, Chair of the CSW, from Liberia said that ‘expectations were for agreed results that governments can take back to make concrete actions.’ She continued, ‘violence exists in each and every country’ and that we need a ‘solid, practical and convincing outcome’. In the diplomatic language of the UN she made a strong statement that there is ‘one clear message that the current situation on violence against women in unacceptable’. I would probably state it a little less diplomatically than that, rather that it is outrageous and scandalous. With one in four women in the UK suffering abuse in her lifetime, and two women a week being killed by their partner or former partner, it is indeed time for action.

Later Ms Kamara added as more of an instruction than a statement that, ‘the words we speak will be transformed into action on the ground to bring real and meaningful change.’  She also paid tribute to the many people who had made it ‘their life’s mission to end violence against women. I salute you.’

Following on from the Chair of the Commission was Dep Secretary General who stated that ‘ending violence against women is a matter of life and death’. He continued with challenging the shame and stigma around violence against women stating ‘we have to create a culture where shame around these crimes is placed solely on the perpetrators.’ He went on to encourage everyone to play their part in ending violence against women, ‘everybody can’t do everything, but everybody can do something’.

More in the next blog but for the moment taking what the Dep Sec Gen said, what is the something that you can do?

Resources and Info:

Church Pack on ending domestic abuse http://www.restoredrelationships.org/resources/info/51

See the Church Times news article on the Church of England at the UN CSW here http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/1-march/news/world/church-joins-in-as-un-bids-to-end-violence-against-women

Remembering the Women in the Shadows

Remembering the women whose voices have been lost

Remembering the women whose voices have been lost

A poignant ending to the day with Ecumenical Women when we marched together from the Salvation Army building to the Church Centre to remember the women in the shadows of violence. We remembered them as we speak for those who are not here, whose voice is not heard, reminding ourselves to speak up for others.

It was an inspiring and encouraging day meeting so many women, and a few men, at the briefing for the CSW. Alongside the much needed basic information for the first-timers, of which there where many, was detailed information on the draft agreed conclusions. This draft, currently 7 pages, will be discussed in depth over the next 2 weeks by country missions to the UN. There have already been many comments which has resulted in the 7 pages turning into 33 pages for the comments to be debated to return back down to a manageable document.

UN Women Deputy Director, Lakshmi Puri, arrived at midday to give an overview of the CSW and UN Women’s strategy. She ended with encouraging us and that her prayer was for a good CSW and agreed conclusions.

There is much emphasis being placed on achieving agreed conclusions after not getting them last year. This was due to a number of factors including some member states wanting to regress on already agreed language at the UN. The process is that all member states on the CSW have to agree the final document, so much of the discussions focus on specific terminology and language. This ‘all or nothing’ approach could be questioned and reviewed if agreed conclusions are not reached this year. Something that we are all hoping will be avoided. We want agreed conclusions so that member states act on them and adhere to them.

Never once losing sight of the reason we are here – to ensure that violence against women is prevented and ended.

Until then we remember the women in the shadows whose voice has been lost due to violence.