Reflections from the SA delegation to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women
The Salvationist delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women 51st session (February 26 – March 9, 2007) reflect on their experience and the Army's role in advancing the welfare of women and girls, and fighting the evils and vices that threaten them.
Commissioner Janet Street
World Secretary for Women’s Ministries
The 51st Session of the [United Nations] Commission on the Status of Women was a mind–broadening, heart-rending, and inspiring experience. The immensity of the global issues raised under the theme, “The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against the Girl Child,” could easily have led to a sense of despair.
But hope was ever–present, revealed in consistent progress made by the commission since the subject was inaugurated as one of the Millennium Goals of the Economic and Social Department of the U.N. The 51st Session marked further steps forward.
The participation of 10 international delegates in this session was a significant step forward for The Salvation Army. It showed commitment and intent for the future; two weeks spent in close proximity with these women leaders from a wide variety of cultures, all involved in issues affecting women and children, was an inspiration in itself.
[We soon found that] a common thread running through the majority of issues—human trafficking, female infanticide, rape, child marriage, education, poverty, violence in the home—is gender equality, and in this respect it was encouraging to see the participation of men as well as women.
Speaking on International Women’s Day (March 8) the Secretary General of the United Nations, H.E.Ban Ki-Moon, indicated that while women have done much to [advance] the achievement of human rights, much more still remains to be done, and transformation will only come about when men and women work together to make it happen.
Major Arschette Moukoko
The U.N. conference … was an empowerment place [that] has also given me opportunity to better understand that such issues as human trafficking are global and not limited to poor countries and people of color.
It was also an opportunity to learn about different types of discrimination and violence against women and girls, such as domestic violence, the sale of organs of girls who are kidnapped and murdered, sex trade, female infanticide, forced child labor, and so on.
These are big challenges for us as Christians who have a responsibility to do something to save souls who are suffering around the world.
Major Prema Wilfred
Women’s Advisory Council
Attending the [conference] was a unique opportunity to see and listen to women from all over the world. We discussed the elimination of discrimination and violence against women and girls, [which] affects not only particular individuals or communities but also the whole world.… Maybe this conference could be a final alarm for all of us to wake up and answer the cries of unseen girls and women. Problems are there, but there is hope in Christ!
It is true that women have strength. If we women of the world can recognize our strength, stand up, unite, raise our voices, and channel our strength into building a better world, we could change history.
Captain Ruby Casimero
Women and Family
I thank God for this wonderful opportunity to see and understand how the United Nations [addresses] the welfare of the whole world. It is also interesting to know that many non–governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world participated in the formulation of the recommendations on “The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.”
I hope that all member states and NGOs work hand in hand to materialize what is in the recommendations, and I also pray that this will be the beginning of The Salvation Army’s being more involved in actively addressing social issues along with the United Nations, as well as being good ambassadors for Christ.
Women’s Development Officer
India Eastern Territory
I have always been impressed by the words of our Founder, General William Booth, “While Women Weep as they do now, I’ll fight. While children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is one poor lost girl on the streets, I’ll fight...I’ll fight to the very end.”
At the U.N. Commission, I heard with my own ears many women and girls speak out about the terrible, inhumane acts of discrimination and violence [against women and girls], such as human trafficking, rape, and female genital mutilation.
I have been really challenged, and have said to myself, “This is terrible. I am not going to just sit and watch, I am going to take up the challenges and needs of the world and do something for the weeping women and girls of which William Booth spoke. I have to fight this evil.”
I [have] rededicated myself to God that He might use me to help the weeping women and children wipe away their tears and fears.
Lt. Colonel Dawn Sewell
Anti-Trafficking Response Coordinator
United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland
The commission provided up–to–date information on the problem of human trafficking and the global fight to combat it. Delegates shared a vision and direction of response for their governments and NGOs to combat the trade of human beings.
The commission also provided an opportunity to hear about and reflect on the role men and boys [can play to] combat the demand for trafficked victims. Speakers emphasized that it is time to get the message out that men and boys are fueling this multimillion–dollar illegal trade that is feeding from the pool of the most vulnerable of the world. Without the demand, victims would decrease.
These meetings have confirmed my conviction that, although much has been achieved since the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), there is still a great deal to do to eradicate discrimination against women and girl children.
Human trafficking is multifaceted, with the majority of victims being sexually exploited. Added to this [are] the practice[s] of—to name a few—female genital mutilation, torture, rape, infanticide, as well as [women and girls becoming] victims of war and patriarchal suppression or child brides.
So much remains to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The political will of governments and continued cooperation and collaboration with NGOs at all levels will be needed.
The Salvation Army has “grass-roots” experience and expertise and must advocate for change at all levels through bodies such as the U.N. Commission for the Status of Women. We must be a voice for the voiceless.
Lisa L. Thompson
Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking
USA National Headquarters
While attending the [meetings] two things struck me: 1.) that in many ways there is a silent but lethal war against women raging throughout the world today (as evidenced by such things as domestic violence, acid attacks, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, rape as a weapon of war, honor killings, and 100 million missing women due to female feticide and infanticide); and 2.) as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” God is moving to reconcile the world to himself, and it was our privilege to be ambassadors of that fact in the halls of the United Nations.
Major A. Victoria Edmonds
Camden Citadel, N.J.
In Mark 16:15 it says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Being at the United Nations for two weeks was like being in a different world. This was certainly an opportunity to do cross–cultural ministry on a day-to-day basis. It was also an opportunity to listen to stories from women from around the world, to network, and to build relationships.
But it was also an opportunity to hear firsthand how many women and young girls have gone through horrific abuse and to hear how they were forced into situations that many people today cannot even perceive.
Being on the commission was also an opportunity to see where The Salvation Army can make a difference in the lives of people around the world who are affected by these tragedies. I thank God for the opportunity to serve Him in this way and I hope that I can help empower others through what Christ has done in me.
Major Elisabeth Frei
In my role as representative of The Salvation Army at the United Nations in Vienna, I am secretary to the NGO Committee on the Status of Women. Participating in the Commission on the Status of Women in New York helped me to see the connection with my work in Vienna and gave me a fuller picture of what is being done and a broader view of the task that is mine.
Message from Commissioner R. Moretz, Territorial Commander USA Eastern Territory
“We welcome 10 international guests under the leadership of Commissioner Janet Street who will be in attendance at this important focus session as they represent The Salvation Army and Commissioner Helen Clifton, the World President of Women’s Ministries, in determining our growing influence, enlarging places, and seizing opportunities around the world. Many thanks to the Greater New York Division and the Williams Residence for the kind hospitality and assistance as the delegates arrive from India, Africa, the UK, Vienna, the Philippines, Canada, and America.”
(from the TC’s Pastoral Letter of Feb. 23, 2007)
Download PDF file of 'Women and the World' from Good News