Joining the Global Conversation

Delegates from around the world meet at our CSW61 side event to network and learn new strategies for working toward equality.

Joining the Global Conversation
Clara Ester, Deborah Williams and Mari Ikeda at a CSW61 side event.

Sophorn Yang is fighting for Cambodian women workers’ rights. Flory Atieno wants women in Kenya to have economic independence. Mari Ikeda works in a shelter in Japan,  helping victims of domestic violence.

These women are among the 22 delegates who gathered the week of March 13 at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York. They were here for United Methodist Women’s side event to CSW61, the United Nations’ 61st session of the Annual Commission on the Status of Women. The national and international delegates attended panels and workshops examining women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence, migration, peacemaking and more. They exchanged information, created connections, and returned to their home states and countries with a new knowledge and an expanded network of support. Those who live in the U.S. got a local perspective on how United Methodist Women has made an impact on the other side of the globe and what work still needs to be done.

Many of the delegates had specific issues on which they focused to better help women and children. But they all came to share their stories, to join the global conversation and to take home strategies that advance their mission work.

The Delegates

Alzira Sebastiano Isaac Machauene is the executive secretary for The United Methodist Church Annual Conference in Mozambique. There, she said, “on paper, men and women have equal rights. But the reality is quite different.” Machauene is working to create gender equality, especially by helping women get an education to generate their own income — which is especially vital for orphaned girls and widows. She is grateful for the grants she receives from United Methodist Women, with which she has been able to hold advocacy workshops in Mozambique.

Cambodian labor leader Sophorn Yang says she is “here to tell the story of Cambodian women workers,” as well as to connect with and learn from others. Many women workers in Cambodia work some 80 hours a week for little pay,  often under forced labor conditions to meet quotas. She is fighting to unionize women workers and to improve women’s  working conditions.  She sees the conference as a starting point for continuing to work  with the women she has met here.

Mari Ikeda was sent to CCUN by the Wesley Foundation in Japan. She is somewhat new to mission work, and for the past three years has been working in a shelter in Tokyo to help women who are victims of domestic violence, who live in poverty or who have lost their homes. The conference marks the first time she has investigated the prevention of domestic violence.  Back home, Ikeda wants to raise awareness, so that others, including professionals in the field, “will have more understanding of domestic violence.”

Flory Loise Atieno of Kenya is grateful to “see how things are done at the global level, because I am always working at a grassroots level.” This year’s CSW theme of women’s economic empowerment was especially relevant for her, because she is focusing on helping women achieve economic independence, either through education or skill-building to generate income. She is grateful for the grants she has received from United Methodist Women, which were used to purchase school supplies and clothing for orphaned children and for psychosocial support. Another grant was used to give vulnerable women computer training and access to information technology.

National Delegates

The national delegates may not have travelled as far, but they were just as grateful to meet women from other parts of the world. They saw how valuable it is to get a local perspective on what work is most needed and how United Methodist Women has been able to make an impact.

President Shannon Priddy was excited to “hear from the women what is happening in their country, because we are not there all the time. It’s only when we hear from the women themselves that we can we find out what matters to them. It is their perception that matters — what is important to them. It’s not us forcing our goals on them.”

“When I took over as chair of finance and saw the amazing amount of work that we do,” Estella Wallace said, “I wanted to come here and get a better sense of the role of women in different parts of the world, and their needs. “

District President Ingrid Peters added, “hearing what happens makes things tangible. It makes the work of United Methodist Women real and urgent.”

Vice President Clara Ester says she is learning a lot more by having one-on-one conversations with the delegates: “I’m hearing things that I’ve known and also things that I was totally unaware of.”

Amelia Gibbon, former executive director of the Friendly Center came to build bridges; while Program Advisory Group member Deborah Williams came to learn about women in the labor force and to take back strategies to the Act of Repentance Working Group. Both women acquired real-world solutions that they could implement back home.

CSW61 was a time to connect, learn and reflect.  The delegates are returning to their home states and countries with a new network, newfound strategies, and with knowing that they shared something that can’t be duplicated — stories from all over the world. As an organization, United Methodist Women has gained renewed understanding and insight into the work it does worldwide — what works, and what more needs to be done.

Posted or updated: 3/24/2017 12:00:00 AM
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