Episcopal delegates to UN women’s conference poised to begin their work

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Mar 11, 2022

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal delegation to this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, kicked off their work on March 10 on Zoom. The group of seven women and one man come from dioceses across the United States, as well as the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and represent Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The 66th meeting of the UNCSW will take place March 14–25 in a hybrid format, after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 gathering and prompted the 2021 meeting to move online. The presiding bishop’s delegation will participate virtually, observing official UNCSW meetings and advocating for priorities outlined in Curry’s written statement to the UNCSW. They are also encouraged to write about their experiences and share them across the church.

In his statement, Curry said The Episcopal Church urges member states, United Nation entities and civil society to:

  1. Address the climate emergency and implement gender mainstreaming across climate, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.
  2. Prioritize responses and protection for women and girls marginalized by environmental racism.
  3. Accelerate women’s and girls’ empowerment and gender equality and eradicate violence against women and girls.

Each year the UNCSW has a theme, focusing on issues affecting women and girls around the world. This year’s theme is achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

This topic offers an opportunity for “a cross-cutting, intersectional examination, through a gender lens, of some of the world’s most critical concerns,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations.

During online introductions, delegates each gave brief remarks, describing their background and what prompted them to apply to be part of the presiding bishop’s delegation.

Joie Zhang said she sought to serve because the intersection of climate change and disaster is personal. In 2011, when she was 7 years old, her California neighborhood was battered by the strongest Santa Anna winds on record, leaving people without electricity for a week. “This climate crisis is one that my generation is shouldering,” she said.

For college student Talique Taylor, racial inequities in healthcare and climate systems are of great concern. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where several family members suffered from asthma, and pulmonary and cardiovascular illnesses. “The inner city is often the site of many inequalities, environmental just being one of them,” he said.

Cynthia Katsarelis will be a second-time Episcopal delegate to UNCSW, having first participated in 2016. She was compelled to serve again by last December’s Marshall Fire near her home in Boulder County, Colorado. Prairie grasses that had dried up from lack of snow fueled that fire, she said, and among those displaced from their homes, “single moms and kids suffered the most.” With the earth facing multiple looming environmental disasters she added, “Perhaps now it’s time women had a crack at it.”

Also introduced during the meeting was the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett, Washington, who serves as The Episcopal Church representative on the board of the Anglican Indigenous Network. She will join the Anglican Communion’s UNCSW delegation.

Assisting the presiding bishop’s delegation will be members of his staff, including representatives from The Episcopal Church offices of Global Partnerships, Government Relations, Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations and Creation Care, and they will be joined by staff of Episcopal Relief & Development. Former delegates also will support this year’s delegates.

Episcopalians can learn more about the work of the delegation on the UNCSW page on The Episcopal Church website and in a fact sheet about the Episcopal presence at the UNCSW66.

They also can follow @EpiscopalUN on Facebook and Twitter.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.