From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Mission: Anglican Women's Empowerment confronts plight of the girl child / Catalyst: Martin Lu

From "Matthew Davies" <>
Date Mon, 26 Feb 2007 09:57:36 -0500

NewsLink, Serving the Episcopal Church

Daybook -- Today is Monday, February 26, 2007, in Lent.

* Today in Scripture: Daily Office meditation: * Today in Prayer: Anglican Cycle of Prayer: * Today in History: On this day in 398, John Chrysostom became bishop of Constantinople.

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Mission: Anglican Women's Empowerment confronts plight of the girl child

More than 80 Anglican delegates gather for United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

By Nan Cobbey

[ENS] It is by investing in the girls of today "that we empower the women of tomorrow," declared Rima Salah, deputy executive director of UNICEF, to 300 women on February 24 at Trinity Church, Wall Street. The more than 80 Anglican delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) had gathered there with friends ahead of their February 26-March 9 meeting in New York City.

"Girls Claiming the Future: Hopes and Challenges," billed as a celebration of the delegates and their focus on global issues of the girl child, offered the women from every region of the world a chance to hear the good news of their growing strength and the brutal news of their suffering children, especially girl children.

The effort to bring the women from all 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion is that of the Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and Anglican Women's Empowerment (AWE) -- an international grassroots movement founded in 2003 to use the power of women's voices and presence to pursue a humane agenda for women worldwide.

The Anglican delegation is the largest non-governmental delegation to the UNCSW, an annual meeting that brings thousands of women from around the world to New York in part to address the challenges raised by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goal 3 which calls for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The delegates, selected by their Primates -- the Communion's presiding bishops, archbishops and moderators -- attend nearly two weeks of meetings with the commission, an arm of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The delegation this year includes 10 teenage girls, aged 13 to 18. All were present at Trinity. Several would speak.

"Our gathering here proclaims that the time is now more than ever for women to answer the Gospel call," said the Rev. Margaret Rose, director of women's ministries for the Episcopal Church, in her introduction. "Women for eons have been doing Isaiah's work -- repairing, restoring, feeding, clothing, caring for the sick. In the work at the United Nations, Anglican women are going public and claiming a public voice for this work calling on governments and churches to implement policies for change."

In her welcome, Rose tempered the celebration. "This year, as we rejoice in seeing women taking top leadership positions in the church, in government and in civil society, we become ever more aware of the gaps in the well being of those whose opportunities are circumscribed by poverty, cultural norms, or a society that does not truly recognize them as made in the image of God. This year's theme of the UNSCW, 'The Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against Girls,' points this out sharply."

The evening's three main speakers delivered sharp messages of warning, reality and challenge.

The first, Salah, born in Jerusalem and raised in a refugee camp in Jordan, spelled out the dangers faced by girl children around the world. They are the last to be fed, the first to be kept home from school. They are at the greatest risk of violence, the greatest risk of HIV/AIDS, she said. Sex selection and too early child bearing will kill thousands of them. Nearly 3 million will suffer genital mutilation. In conflict situations and war, girls are always most at risk. "They are raped, tortured, forced into prostitution."

Yet, said Salah, a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, when she talks to girls about their dreams, she feels hope and a renewed dedication to change the reality. "We have the means," she said, naming two United Nations initiatives -- CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was adopted in 1979 by the General Assembly) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. "We need to ensure these are implemented," she said to applause.

Carol Jenkins, president of the Women's Media Center and the second speaker, told of traveling in Africa and Asia and seeing girls involved in the sex trade. In Madagascar, when she asked about what was happening, she learned that the children being exploited were ages 4, 5 and 6. "How can there be so many demented people in the world?"

Part of the blame, she said, belonged to the media and its failure to "urgently tell these stories." The media is still sending out distorted messages and women still hold only 3 percent of the top positions, "the positions with clout," she said.

She illustrated her point by telling the story of Abeer, age 14, an Iraqi girl gang raped and murdered by US soldiers along with other members of her family. As the Women's Media Center attempted to get journalists to pay attention to the story, they were continually rebuffed. The too-frequent response to their insistence, she said, was "How important can a 14-year-old be?"

"Go to our website," she asked. "Read her story."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the third speaker of the afternoon, issued a challenge: "Continue to agitate, nag, pester and challenge the people and systems of this world so that all children, all girl children and all boy children, can have an appropriate sense of pride in the way in which they have been created."

Full story:

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Catalyst: "Martin Luther King, Jr. - A Life" from Penguin Group, by Marshall Frady, 216 pages, paperback, c. 2006, $13

[Source: Penguin Group] -- As a young journalist in the South in the 1960s, Marshall Frady walked the hot sidewalks, sat in crowded churches and courtrooms, and interviewed prominent civil rights leaders. Now the critically acclaimed biographer profiles a man whose spiritual and political leadership gained him an indelible place in the 20th century history. In his masterly and riveting Martin Luther King, Jr., Frady draws on his 25 years of award-winning commentary on American race relations to give an inspiring portrait of this amazing leader and the turbulent era in which he lived.

To order: Episcopal Books and Resources, online at or call 800-903-5544.

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