Fourteen young women from across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shared their experiences after participating in the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held March 10–18 in New York. The delegation was organized through a partnership between the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries and Presbyterian Women. Their presence was made possible due to the special consultative status the PC(USA) holds through the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
During its 60th session the commission addressed its priority theme, women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development, and evaluated progress toward a key goal of the 57th session, elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
“These issues have a tremendous impact on us as women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to help eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls and to empower women for transformational leadership to serve for Christ’s mission as well as learn about the 17 sustainable development goals,” said Jewel McRae, associate for women’s leadership development and young women’s ministries.
The young women attending the Commission session participated in a wide range of events, attended worship services, networked with women from around the world, wrote daily reports and, for those who had ground passes, attended sessions at the United Nations.
One such event was attended by Anna Traynham, who wrote, “This morning, U.N. Under-Secretary General and U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addressed the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). One line has been ringing around the assembly halls since it left her lips: ‘There can be no business as usual.’ She was speaking in reference to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. . . [She] said in her striking South African accent, ‘The Agenda you adopted is bold, ambitious and transformational. Now we gather to seek implementation modalities that match this bold agenda, where there can be no business as usual.’”
Every evening the young women gathered with staff leaders Beth Olker and Aqueelah Ligonde to debrief, unwind, pray and discuss their day. They heard difficult stories from women who poured out their hearts about poverty, hunger, sex trafficking, prostitution and other topics.
These were grueling days for the young women, but also days that empowered them to speak up and add their voices to confront issues that impact women and girls. These young women represented the church broadly; they came from colleges and universities, seminaries, congregations and the PC(USA)’s Young Adult Volunteers program. They came to learn how they can become advocates to help end injustices against women and children, to meet women from around the globe, to hear their stories and to decide what they can do at their local level to impact change.
When asked what they would do with the information they had learned, the young women offered a variety of responses, including:
- “This has been a wonderful week together, and we are leaving each other connected, inspired and equipped to be God’s hands, feet, voices and ears in the world.”
- “This commission has given me confidence to speak up.”
- “I will start a ‘Little Library’ in my community in one of the local parks.”
- “I will engage my Sunday school class to read and learn more.”
- “I will advocate on behalf of women by talking with our local government officials about the sustainable development goals.”
- “I will connect art with helping children learn and grow.”
“I’ve been attending CSW for the past three years, and every year we have a different group of young women delegates who are smart, intelligent, Christ-centered and want to make a difference in this world,” said McRae. “This year we had an outstanding group of young women and staff leaders who made me proud to say I am Presbyterian.”
To read stories from the young women delegates at the 2016 CSW, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pcusayoungwomen/?fref=ts.