Biographies of the United Methodist Women Delegates from around the globe for CSW60.
This year for CSW 2016 United Methodist Women will focus on economic empowerment. United Methodist Women will bring in more than 20 delegates from the following countries: Ukraine, Santo Domingo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Israel, Honduras, Japan, Bangladesh, China, Russia and the United States of America.
Yvette Richards, U.S.A.
Ms. Yvette Richards is currently the national president of United Methodist Women and has been a board member of the General Board of Global Ministries from 2012–2016. A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, she received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 1985 and her master’s degree in leadership from Walden University in 2013. She has been employed for 27 years by State Farm Insurance Companies and is currently a catastrophe service claim representative. She is highly involved in her career and in her church, St. James United Methodist Church, where she serves as co-chair of the Hospitality Committee and also served on the Missouri Conference Value Team. She is involved with civic communities like the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Girl Scouts of America.
Leadership positions held by Ms. Yvette Richards at United Methodist Women include: Missouri West Conference membership chair; member of nominating committee and Dean Team and dean of Missouri Coop School of Christian Mission. She has been a West Gulf, Pacific and South Atlantic Regional School youth study leader; a retreat, annual meeting and Women’s Day speaker; and a youth workshop leader at the National Gathering, Alaska Annual Conference 2006 and South Central Jurisdiction Meetings in 2004, 2008 and 2012. She was on the Teen and College/University Women Adult Consultant Team from 2000–2008 and has been a workshop presenter at Leadership Development Days.
In addition, Ms. Yvette Richards was a women division’s director from 2008–2012, Global AIDS Fund board member from 2011–2012 and served on the General Board of Global Ministries from 2011–2012.
Orna Akad, Israel
Ms. Orna Akad is an author, playwright and a theatre director, as well as a social and political feminist activist. She is fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. She represents two distinctive groups: Sindyanna of Galilee and the Women’s Forum of the Workers’ Advice Center (WAC-MAAN). The Workers’ Advice Centre is a female-led, Jewish-Arab fair-trade non-governmental organization.
Sindyanna of Galilee promotes the concept of “business for peace” in Israel by selling Arab-produced olive oil in the international marketplace while channeling all of the profits back into Arab women's economic empowerment and education to help bridge the cultural divides in Israel.
Through its project Women and Work, Sindyanna of Galilee seeks to integrate rural Arab women into the agricultural labor market by networking with farmers who will employ them directly and provide them with legal paystubs.
Misako Fukushima, Japan
Ms. Misako Fukushima is a vice chair of Child Fund Japan (CFJ). CFJ is an international nongovernmental organization based in Methodist churches that supports children’s education and women’s empowerment in developing countries. She began to work as a researcher at the Urban Life Research Institute of Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., and with the recommendation of the Rev. Nobuo Nagayama of Ginza Church, she has been with the CFJ since 2009. She was appointed as a board member in 2013 and elected to be a vice chair in 2014. She serves the CFJ as a volunteer.
After receiving her bachelor of arts and sciences in sociology from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University in 1991, Ms. Misako Fukushima worked for the Sumitomo-Mitsui Banking Corporation as a loan officer. She then completed a master of arts degree in sociology from the American University in Washington, D.C., with a focus on inequality that is based on race, class and gender. During that time she began to attend Grace United Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and was baptized in 2004. After completing her degree, she returned to Tokyo, where she is now a member of Ginza Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan), one of the oldest Methodist churches in Tokyo.
Ms. Misako Fukushima is now a Ph.D. candidate who studies diversity and inclusion in Japanese society at the Graduate School of Public Policy and Social Governance at Hosei University in Tokyo.
Evelyn Matsika, Zimbabwe
Ms. Evelyn Matsika is an agronomist from Zimbabwe. Her work is focused on gender and agricultural development. She holds a master’s degree in rural development and management from the Netherlands. She serves as the provincial agricultural agronomist. Prior to that she served as the district’s agricultural extension officer for six years.
In addition to her profession, Ms. Evelyn Matsika is a farmer and a researcher who is self-educated on growing crops. She researches potential markets to sell farmed products. In 2013, she was appointed the provincial chairperson of the Food and Nutrition Security Committee, to ensure that there is enough nutritious food grown and consumed by the province.
Ms. Evelyn Matsika is a member of the United Methodist Church women’s group and the chairperson of the World Federation of Methodist Uniting Churches.
Anesu Mhlanga, South Africa
Ms. Anesu Mhlanga is the founder of Elah Capital, a South Africa–based private investment and advisory firm with a pan-African vision. Elah Capital is committed to investing in women in Sub-Saharan Africa, thereby facilitating their involvement in sustainable development through enterprise development. Ms. Anesu is affiliated with the United Methodist Women.
Ms. Anesu Mhlanga is also the founder of a tech start-up, “GatherUP Fragments,” an online marketplace that connects big businesses to social entrepreneurs in an effort to eradicate poverty. GatherUP Fragments provides a platform where women social entrepreneurs can build and develop their enterprises by harnessing waste and excess stock traded in order to develop their products with lower production costs or create an alternative distribution channel for goods.
Carline Vital, A Haitian National in the Dominican Republic
Ms. Carline Vital is the general coordinator of ODEMIHF and the president of Soroptimist International Club of Santo Domingo, through which she works with Haitian immigrant women in the Dominican Republic and implements diverse life-saving projects by addressing issues such as environmental safety, access to healthcare, reducing poverty in the bateyes and providing education and training on gender equality. She is a current member of United Methodist Women.
Through Ms. Carline Vital’s efforts, women that would otherwise not have any access to any social services have realized increased opportunities that help to generate income and propel and compel their participation in social processes.
Valentyna Legka, Ukraine
Ms. Valentyna Legka is a board member of the League of Professional Women (LPW) and executive director of Ukrainian Federation of Professional Accountants and Auditors. She is the co-author of the study “Regulation in the field of accounting and auditing in the EU and prospects for adaptation of Ukraine.” She serves as the editor of the federation’s professional magazine. However, Ms. Legka’s expertise is in policy and strategy development with a focus on expanding economic opportunities for women.
Ms. Valentyna Legka is also the co-founder of the LPW Initiative Group on Supporting Women Entrepreneurship in Ukraine (LPW IG SWE), which was launched in 2013.
She is a member of the LPW informal group Civil Control for the Security Fusion Sector in Ukraine.
Xuebo Cui, China
Ms. Xuebo Cui is part of a Korean ethnic minority who lives in China. She works as a vice dean of the College of Foreign Languages and also as a researcher at the Women Research Center. She advocates for the development of academic research and educational courses to have a gender perspective. She believes that educational programs offer a good environment to cultivate gender equality and gender consciousness.
Ms. Xuebo Cui has developed networks with domestic and international research centers to help improve academic curriculum and cultivate more core staff from the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China, just north of the border with North Korea. According to Ms. Cui, the education of ethnic Korean women’s groups, especially local women entrepreneurs, provides a valuable opportunity to improve their theoretical knowledge and practical capacity in their workplaces.
Kalpona Akter, Bangladesh
Ms. Kalpona Akter from Bangladesh works as the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS). She is a former child garment worker. She started working in a garment factory when she was 12 years old in order to help support her family.
In 2001, Ms. Akter founded the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity as part of a group of former garment workers. Together they are seeking to change the abusive working conditions faced by poor women workers who lack the power and knowledge to bargain for dignified treatment and decent wages. They advance workers’ rights by strengthening the capacity of workers to advocate for themselves by conducting trainings and by documenting and exposing labor rights violations for investigative reports and international news stories.
Her story and work has been profiled by The New York Times in a book titled Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy, and featured in the UN Women’s flagship report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015–2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights.”
Yasmin Beczabeth Lopez, Honduras
Ms.Yasmin Beczabeth Lopez works as an activist in the international peasant movement “Via Campesina.” She also works as a volunteer coordinator of rural and indigenous women, with the objectives of organizing women and planning advocacy sessions to advance women rights on issues such as land, credit, health and, above all, to demand a life without violence. One of the organization’s pillars is to share their experience about work in the field, and to work toward the rights of peasants and indigenous women.
The Via Campesina movement has been lobbying the State of Honduras for a project on the right to healthcare for women through social factors, calling for a Line of Credit in Solidarity for Rural Women that was presented to the U.S. Congress on April 4, 2015, as a proposed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law for Gender Equality for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development.
Prior to this, Ms. Yasmin Lopez was elected Young Front Deputy Coordinator of Peasants/Via Campesina for a period of two consecutive years.
Elena Melnikova, Russia
Ms. Elena Melnikova has been with United Methodist Women (UMW) for seven years. She joined UMW in 2008 as a member, and then became a leader in a local unit. She is the president of the UMW of Russia as of 2014. She is a graduate of the Moscow Theological Seminary, and she received her diploma in church leadership in the year 2014.
Currently she coordinates the Center for Women Who Suffer from Violence. It is a UMW facility for women suffering from domestic abuse and violence, co-dependent and dependent women, and women with children struggling for survival. The facility provides consultations, coaching, legal and financial advice, financial support, psychological consulting and training, transformative education, leadership training and spiritual growth programs.
In addition, Ms. Elena Melnikova is currently starting a new project in Voronezh, Russia—Susanna, the Wesley Leadership and Care Center for women and for women with children. She is an experienced legal adviser, financial analyst and project manager for various large and small companies. In 1998 she developed a grassroots case study on women’s involvement in sustainable development in Russia for the UN Committee on Sustainable Development. The case study reported on opportunities in which women enlarged their social participation and became actively involved in the economy of their country through micro-business without compromising their role in family life.
Patricia Grant, U.S.A.
Ms. Patricia Grant has served in United Methodist Women at the local, district and conference levels.
Ms. Grant was born and raised in South Jersey. She and her husband, Richard Grant, have three grown daughters: Amy, Melinda and Sharon. Amy is a web page designer, Melinda is a musician and Sharon trains service dogs.
Ms. Patricia Grant and her husband live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and attend the Hopewell United Methodist Church.
Yewon Adriana Lee, U.S.A.
Ms. Yewon Adriana Lee is a second-generation Korean American, a daughter of two pastors. She is knowledgeable about traditional and contemporary cultures, social constructs and justice issues from both the United States and South Korea. Having lived in both countries during her youth, she has been able to distinguish between and to compare the ways women are viewed in both countries. She is a current member of both United Methodist Women and The United Methodist Church.
As a nursing student in Cleveland, Ohio, she engaged in a variety of demographic research projects, as well as clinics for underserved populations, all of which pointed to a clear disparity in social and economic justice.
During her training on taking care of women who fell victim to rape and sex trafficking, Ms. Lee quickly realized that little support was available for women in these situations, and she responded to the lack of urgency administrators and political leaders placed on the plight of the abused or at-risk-or-abused women.
Ms. Yewon Adriana Lee is currently a registered nurse in New York City and an international public health researcher. She speaks fluent English, Korean and Spanish
Dion Roberts, U.S.A.
Ms. Dion Roberts was employed by the city and county of San Francisco for eleven years, as a program manager for permanent supportive housing for homeless families, when the opportunity to work for the Mary Elizabeth Inn (MEI) was presented to her. After learning more about the founder of MEI, Ms. Lizzie Glide, a true woman of vision who used her personal resources to create a safe and affordable living environment for women in need in San Francisco, Ms. Roberts could not pass up the opportunity to embrace Ms. Lizzie Glide's mission and carry on her legacy. Ms. Roberts serves as the executive director of this 100-year-old nonprofit organization.
Furthermore, Ms. Dion Roberts values the affiliation MEI has with the National Office of the United Methodist Women. She enjoys experiencing both the professional and spiritual fulfillment this job allows.
Kim Jenkins, U.S.A.
Since 1935, the National Mission Institution where Ms. Kim Jenkins serves, has empowered women to be economically self-sufficient and to live free from violence in relationships. The Open Door Community House does this through education and skills building for living wage employment, a loan program for women to reduce the impact of situations that could create a downward financial spiral and opportunities to move beyond poverty through intentionally growing, bridging and bonding capital. Over the past few years, they have worked with United Methodist Women across South Georgia to create awareness of human trafficking (particularly the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children) and to identify opportunities in communities and churches to address the issue. In Columbus, Georgia, they began a community conversation about human trafficking, bringing together agencies from across the city, including law enforcement, service organizations, the religious community and concerned individuals.
Ms. Kim Jenkins represented the former Women's Division on The United Methodist Church Global AIDS Fund Committee and as a member of the technical review panel for UMCOR’s “Imagine No Malaria” campaign. She has served as a Mission U study leader on poverty in 2012 and 2013, and presented the poverty study in churches across South Georgia. Locally, Ms. Jenkins serves on the Community Development Advisory Council with the City of Columbus and on the Mayor's Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity.
Jessie Cunningham, U.S.A.
Jessie Cunningham is a member of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Homewood, Illinois, where she serves as lay leader and lay delegate to the Annual Conference. She is the former social action coordinator of the Northern Illinois Conference United Methodist Women. She represented the conference at the 2011 National Seminar in Birmingham, Alabama. Her focus in 2011 was immigration, and she has spent the four years since speaking on immigration in each district in the conference. She attended the Church World Service Global Summit on Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C., in October 2013.
During her tenure as social action coordinator, Ms. Cunningham organized a silent vigil at Daley Plaza in Chicago on the Friday before each Super Bowl to raise awareness of human trafficking. As a member of the social justice group Generations For Peace, she was a member of “Truth in Recruitment” task force. The group sought to be present whenever military recruiters were in area high schools to hold them accountable to practice honest recruiting tactics.
Ms. Jessie Cunningham’s other areas of interest are human trafficking, domestic violence and maternal health care. She is an ambassador for “Healthy Families, Healthy Planet,” and a certified lay speaker and the mother of two daughters. She retired in 2012 after 40 years in the banking industry.
Sharice Easterlin, U.S.A.
Ms. Sharice Easterlin is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She is a long-time member of Newman Memorial United Methodist Church, where she has served in many church leadership roles and is currently the financial secretary.
Twenty years ago Ms. Sharice Easterlin was introduced to the United Methodist Women by her great aunt who was a dedicated member. Since joining the United Methodist Women, her strong organizational skills were immediately identified and Sharice was elected as secretary for her local unit. In January 2014, she started her term as the newly elected Secretary of the New York Conference United Methodist Women.
Ms. Sharice Easterlin is a graduate of Pace University with a bachelor in business administration degree. She is also a magna cum laude graduate of Queens College with a master of arts degree in urban affairs.
Ms. Sharice Easterlin works at Bellevue Hospital Center where she is the administrator for the Hansen’s Diseases Program and Department of Dermatology.
Elaine MacKay, U.S.A.
Ms. Elaine MacKay was born as a Methodist in Maryland and grew up in Puerto Rico from the age of seven. She currently resides in Manhattan. She is fluent in both English and Spanish. For many years, she has worked in different areas: as a teacher, program coordinator and social director. In 2005, she left her job to take care of her now late mother.
Currently Ms. MacKay works as a volunteer for the Methodist Home for Residents and Rehabilitation. On the first Saturday of each month, she works as a volunteer with the Christ Church group. Having served with the United Methodist Women for several years, she currently holds the presidency of Church Women United. She holds a bachelor of science degree in education from Boston University.
Marcia Roebuck, U.S.A.
Ms. Marcia Roebuck has been a member of United Methodist Women (UMW) since 1993. She has served in different capacities for her local unit and at district and conference levels.
For her local UMW unit, Ms. Marcia Roebuck served as president, vice president, and as the secretary of program resources. At the district level, she has also served as president and as the secretary of program resources. At the conference level, she served as the secretary of program resources.
Ms. Marcia Roebuck served on a variety of committees at Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church and has held the position of youth group leader, participating in several mission trips. She is currently a member of the General Commission on Status and Role of Women (COSROW) for Greater New Jersey and serves as the MNO for her conference.
In addition, she is a travel consultant for Routes Beyond, LLC, where she makes arrangements for private tours in East Africa, Egypt and Jordan.
Ms. Marcia Roebuck holds a degree in urban land economics from The Sheffield College in England.