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.

Redefining Courage

New Report

So today I read an article published by UN Women that leads into some research to be published in July on men admitting violence against women in the Asia Pacific area. Using a combination of four UN agencies to collect the data, it shows in some cases, that 1 in 2 men have used violence against a woman. It goes on to state that 1 in 4 admitted raping a woman and 1 in 25 admitted participating in a gang rape. See news report here

Shocked?

I have so many reactions to this data and information. At an emotional level I am deeply saddened, outraged, angry, frustrated, want to shake my hands at God and say ‘where is the justice? Where is he love?’ in all of this. Alongside the phrase from the song by Welsh singer, songwriter Martyn Joseph, ‘do we really do these things to one another?’ (‘Precious’, Martyn Joseph). This sits with thinking about every single woman and girl affected by this violence. As we all know, behind these statistics is a human being, a woman, a woman with dashed hopes and dreams, a woman violated to her core. At an intellectual level I am wondering how the men who do not abuse feel about this report. How do they feel that yet again there is a huge body of data screaming out about abuse some men commit? And for the perpetrators, how many men simply did not admit to violence because of fear, shame or the stigma. Are the levels excruciatingly higher? I need to see the full report in July to see the complete results.

Underlying causes

What it does state is that gender inequality fuels violence against women. The report states a sense of entitlement by some men for sex. Where does this sense of superiority over each other stem from? Is it cultural? Is it religious? Do our churches fuel it with our scriptures? Do we allow space to discuss gender issues within our churches or do we shy away from it thinking its a contentious issue? When gender inequality results in a sense of superiority over another, a sense of entitlement to sex, that creates an enabling environment for violence to occur, then we have get over our fear of debate, discussion, argument even, and engage in theological studies that reveal what the Bible says about men and women. We will disagree, but can we agree that you cannot use scripture to justify violence? For me it is a misuse and abuse of scripture to justify abuse of power and control over another person. It goes against the very concept of love and grace, yet do we acknowledge the subtle ways in which certain interpretations can lead to abuse of power and control? Do we allow it to be misunderstood by not addressing gender issues head on? (pun intended) We can’t ignore it and hope that it resolves itself, or that someone else will do the thinking for us. We owe it to the women being abused to look again, to challenge ourselves, to ‘get over’ the annoyance with the debate and address it.

Perhaps we  think that these levels of violence only happen ‘over there’ and not in our own country. That they don’t happen in our church put perhaps that other one down the road or across town. We sometimes unconsciously reject what we don’t want to see. We deflect the attention elsewhere because acknowledging there is an issue means we have to deal with it and that can be long, hard and messy. It could also challenge us to the core. Do we want to be able to spot violence and abuse and address it?

Redefining Courage

This report was launched at an event about engaging men and boys in ending violence against women. It is encouraging men to take positive action. To stem the cultural tide of acceptability of the seemingly increasing levels of violence against women globally. We need to embrace a spectrum of masculinities and not a narrow view of masculinity sold to us by Hollywood and not God. [A side note: how many men in films do you see resolving conflict by steady positive negotiation?]. We need to redefine courage. Courage is challenging your friend,  your brother, father, work colleague, pastor when they make sexist comments, put women down, objectify women, when their attitude displays a sense of superiority over a woman. It’s hard because we all like to be liked and challenging a mate may mean a fracture in that friendship. Yet if we are to see violence against women reduced we need to close down the acceptance space. If we don’t challenge, if we don’t speak out and remain silent, then the space has been taken over with acceptability. After all you can’t challenge another person by simply thinking they are wrong. They need to hear it. You need to speak out. We all do.

It’s not easy. We need to support and encourage one another into action. That’s why Restored have established First Man Standing. It’s a group of Christian men around the world standing up, speaking out, taking action.

We owe it to the women suffering in silence. We owe it to the men to operate in healthy masculinities. We owe it to our generations to speak out and say no to violence against women. We owe it to our church to rise up and raise our voices, to break the silence, to be a place of safety for women.

It’s time to act. Together we can end violence against women. Come on- we can do it!

Resources

For resources on ending violence against women and identifying the signs of abuse, and to download a free pack for churches see Restored‘s website http://www.restoredrelationships.org

The Anglican Communion has a collection of resources listed for churches ending gender based violence. These can be accessed here

 

The Waiting

The last few days have been mainly silent on how the negotiations have been going on attempting to reach agreed conclusions. The last version we have received is number 3 but that was on Tuesday morning (or was it Monday?). We are in a time of waiting, hoping and praying. Praying for positive agreed conclusions to come out of this Commission on the Status of Women. Hoping that ‘difficult texts’ will be negotiated positively and making a positive impact on women’s lives around the world. Waiting for government and UN staff to do the job they are skilled an trained to do. We have to wait and trust them having given feedback on what we would like to see.

In the midst of the silence and waiting are rumours, statements and articles. An article was circulated earlier in the week that was not exactly positive on reaching agreed conclusions. It was too early at that point to make a call. Rumours to be encouraged about the conclusions and rumours, sometimes backed up with published articles, that would seem agreed conclusions would and should not be reached.

The UK government has been working behind the scenes for months before we arrived at the UN trying to ensure that this year we get agreed conclusions. The work has continued in earnest since the CSW started. This morning on twitter Sir Mark Lyall Grant, UK Ambassador to the UN stated ‘Entering the CSW endgame. But will need further push from PR’s today to reach agreement on difficult outstanding issues.’ We are with him on that. With him to move forward so that many women’s lives will be saved, that governments, including our own, will be challenged into doing more to end the scourge of violence against women and girls. After all you can’t reach and realise your full potential in life when someone is abusing you, beating you, controlling you, coercing you, manipulating you and using you as a sex object.

We wait, we pray, we hope for agreed conclusions. Come on governments of the world – listen to the plea and the cry of the hearts of many women and men around the world. We are watching you.

A lack of courage?

Firstly, apologies that there has been a bit of blog silence over the last few days. Like all conferences, there are shifting priorities as the conference progresses. The last few days have been a mixture of attending some government sponsored events, NGO events, lobbying and networking. This sits alongside linking in with the rest of my Anglican Communion colleagues from around the globe. 13 nationalities are present here at the CSW. And of course dealing with emails from the ‘normal’ job back home. However I do acknowledge that it is very handy being a Co-Director, having my Co-Director, back in the UK holding the fort whilst I am away here.

Measuring Prevention Programmes

Over the last few days I have heard from an Australian delegation on a multi-sectoral response to ending violence against women. One of the issues that I keep asking is how do people measure prevention programmes that often is linked to securing funding. The answer is generally the same; it’s difficult, use proxy indicators, and governments appear not to like to fund the work. Instead funding often relies on trust funding, individuals who invest in the programmes. It makes me wonder about why governments appear to shy away from making an investment in prevention programmes. Is it a lack of courage? Is the rhetoric couched in accountability and the need to see results? Yet the governments work for us so do we demand this from our government? Do we expect to see quick results when it comes to ending violence against women?

Cost of Domestic Abuse

Of course we need to be accountable for the money we spend on the issue and we all want to be as effective as possible. Yet it can’t be ignored that behaviour change takes time. And time is money. There are different figures about how much the UK spends on addressing domestic abuse including services, police, medical support etc. One figure is £36 billion a year. This might now have reduced to £24 billion a year (which is not necessarily a good thing). I’m sure we would all like to see this figure reduced because men who chose to abuse have stopped, women are empowered, and healthy relationships flourish.

In the meantime, are we prepared to invest in the long term to see sustained behaviour change?

We Will Speak Out – International Women’s Day 2013

IDW March 2013

This will be an International Women’s Day that I will remember for a long time to come. Not just because I shook the hand of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but also because of the sense of a step change in seeing violence against women ended. From the number of faith organizations engaged here at the CSW, which has  increased considerably since 2010, but also the level of welcome that people of faith have received.

My day started with a workshop in conjunction with Terrie Robinson of the Anglican Communion looking at a church response to violence against women. Entitled ‘We Will Speak Out: Churches ending violence against women’ we aimed to communicate what action the global Anglican communion was taking to end violence against women (VAW) and also, more specifically, what the Church of England is doing.

Terrie started out by looking at the Primates letter from the meeting on Dublin, Ireland in 2011, which states ‘our churches must accept responsibility for our own part in perpetuating oppressive attitudes towards women. In penitence and faith we must move forward in such a way that our churches truly become a living witness to our belief that both women and men are made in the image of God.’ This was followed up with the ACC resolution 15-7 on gender based and domestic violence agreed in November 2012. This, among other points, says the Anglican Communion ‘ endorses and encourages Anglican engagement worldwide with the We Will Speak Out coalition of churches and Christian agencies against sexual violence.’  It goes on to encourage theological colleges to train clergy and ministers on the ‘natured dynamics of gender based violence’ and the theological basis for ending violence against women. It furthermore encourages leaders to engage in campaigns to end violence against women.

My part was to speak out about the Church of England’s action on this issue. Siting the 2004 Synod motion which ‘urges all dioceses to consider ways in which they could (i) work in partnership with other agencies, co-operating sensitively with those serving minority communities, to provide the resources needed by victims and their families; (ii) speak out against the evil of domestic violence; and (iii) work for justice and safety in the homes of this nation.’ This resulted in the publication of Pastoral guidelines in 2006 to help churches respond to the issue of domestic abuse.

Practical examples of churches engaging in ending domestic abuse vary across England. For example my own church, St Stephen’s Twickenham, have had a few of the volunteer staff trained by Restored. We have also put up posters in the toilets for women to access help and support, along with me speaking at two services on the 25th November, the start of the global 16 days of activism to end violence against women. A church in Carlisle is running training for churches across the diocese on addressing domestic abuse and linking in with the local services provided. Each church trained has a ‘champion’ who raises the issue an acts as a point person for women to contact. There are simple things that can be done that can make a big difference. Restored’s church pack is a useful starting point and all the copies at the workshop went very quickly. It seems there isa  real thirst for practical tools to respond.

Having dumped our bags at ‘815’ (815 second avenue, the Episcopal Church centre that hosts the Anglican Communion and Ecumenical Women during the CSW, and does it so very well), we headed to the UN for the International Women’s Day march. It was snowing, very cold and wet. On arrival we were given tabards to wear as part of the march. We head off being led by Susan Sarandon to a street near by where we heard speeches from Christie Turlington-Barnes, Mrs Ban, among others. Susan Sarandon read out a letter from Malala (the girl from Pakistan who was shot on her way to school) which encouraged us all to stand up for the rights of girls. A well-timed call as some nations are trying to remove the language of ‘girls’ from the agreed resolutions.

Then Ban Ki-moon came on the platform. Everyone cheered. He is such a respected man by so many of us in working to end violence against women. He has taken action from his inception as UN Secretary General, to highlight the issue of violence against women. He established the baseline data and then moved into action. He encouraged the setting up Say No – UNite which calls on us all to take action to end violence against women, along with his network of male leaders to make a stand to end violence against women. Mr Ban did this at a time when engaging men was nowhere near as popular as it is today. Not surprising he is so well respected.

Cold, wet and soggy after the rally with sopping wet feet, I began to leave the march. As I came to the side of the platform Mr Ban was coming down the steps. I suddenly felt like a teenager at a gig with my hero standing so close. I made my way to the front and shook his hand and said thank you for all that he was doing. Thank you was all I could think of at the time. Thank you for standing with us. Thank you for leading the way for high profile men to make a stand to end violence against women and say no more. Maybe the simple heartfelt thank you was enough. Of course, it’s moment I will be recalling to my friends and family for a long time to come and long after they become bored of hearing the tale!

Restored has a Christian men’s campaign to end violence against women called ‘First Man Standing‘. It already has a good few hundred men signed up around the world committed to speaking up and out about ending violence against women. It’s linked with Christian Vision for Men (CVM) in the UK and also the White Ribbon Campaign UK. So if like Ban Ki-moon you’d like to join in the campaign to end violence against women, sign up here.

Days like International Women’s Day are needed. Needed to highlight the progress made but also the work still to be done. Here’s hoping that next year there will be less women abused and killed due to intimate partner violence. And here’s to a future free from violence.

In conversation with Ruby and Sorrel of NAWO Youth Caucus

One thing that I’ve noticed about this CSW is that there is a noticeable, and very welcome increase, in the number of young people participating. One of the UK civil society groups here is NAWO (www.nawo.org.uk) who do an amazing job coordinating the UK NGO delegation at the CSW both on site and before we arrive. Zarin Hainsworth of NAWO has been instrumental in getting a large number of young people from the UK to this CSW session. I took the opportunity to speak to two of them this morning, Ruby Goddard (RG) and Sorrel Macleod (SM), on their reflections of participating in the CSW as first timers. This is what they had to say.

photo (1)

Sorrel Macleod and Ruby Goddard

Q1. Why did you want to come to CSW?

RG: Zarin informed me about it through our school. I looked it up and saw what it was about and said ‘I’m in!

SM: I saw it was about women’s rights and thought I’m in!

Q2. What has stood out most to you about the CSW?

SM: Everyone’s dedication and passion on women’s rights. We had a little easy getting here [MM note: They paid for themselves to get here so not that easy] but others have faced big obstacles. It’s a privilege to just be here.

RG: What’s struck me most is how much I don’t know and how much work there still is to do. I’ve learnt a lot by being here and still have a lot to learn.It’s made me motivated to push the cause [SM interjects ‘Hell yeah!’]

Q3. What has been a challenge?

SM: It’s so full on. There is so much to go to. It’s good seeing something can be done [about women’s rights]

RG: It’s so broad an issue, there is no end to what needs and can be done. I’ve learnt that you need to find a section and focus on it.

Q4. So what did you focus on?

RG: Widows. I’ve found myself quite drawn to the issue of widows. Originally I thought this issue doesn’t concern me but when I looked into it it hadn’t received the attention it deserves. Now I’m quite passionate about widows and their rights.

SM: Trafficking. I’m very angry about how much trafficking is going on and how much I cared about it. There is so much of it going on and not just in third world countries but in the UK too.

RG: ‘Yes we heard yesterday about gangs in the UK and how many girls have been killed, raped or sold into prostitution in the UK’

Q5. What one thing will you take away with you from this CSW?

SM: The need to keep working and lobbying and asking the question, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ [ending violence against women]

RG: The need to raise awareness on the issue and tell others about the situation

SM: And what I can do about it

Q6. How will you share what you have learnt back home?

RG: We have a blog http://www.nawoyouth2013.blogspot.co.uk which we blog

SM: We will speak at the schools in our area. It needs to be coming from us rather than the teacher as we can relate to our peers

Q7. What would you say to the young people in the Church of England about participating in the CSW?

SM: Get involved, ask questions and come as it’s a good experience  You have to make time for it. Don’t dismiss it thinking you don’t have time. It’s important. It’s good to see other young people here. Everyone has been so encouraging to us being here. People really appreciate our presence.

RG: If you get given the opportunity just do it! We need to get more young people here as there is not enough. Young people need to be engaged and actively involved. I got to see UN SG Ban Ki-moon and that was exciting and it highlighted to me how important this issue is. [SM interjects: Yeah she’s NOT stopped talking about it!]

Q8. What would you suggest to the Church of England about getting more young people involved in the CSW?

RG: We need the Church of England here as they have a vital role to play in ending violence against women and combine that with the expression of faith. It’s such an important issue.

SM: The Church of England has one of world’s biggest cases for being here with the message of ‘Love thy neighbour’. One of the things we have seen and heard here is that one of the main solutions is to involve religious leaders.

RG: The church is passionate and engaged and has a huge role to play both in relation to people who abuse and the survivors.

SM: There is a need to involve the Church of England young people because their voices are heard.

RG: We heard yesterday of a 16 year old girl who was sharing her family’s experience of child marriage. Her grandmother had been married at the age of 9, her mother had been married at the age of 16 and here she was at the CSW at 16 speaking out about ending child marriage. It was very powerful.

SM: We need more grassroots people here with experiences to share. It’s powerful.

My thanks to Ruby and Sorrel who gave their time this morning for this interview. My hope is their hope, that more young people engage, participate and learn more about the Commission on the Status of Women. They are not simply the next generation. It is our generation now. It is our world. We are all in this together.

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?