Episcopal delegates resume in-person presence at annual UN women’s commission

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Mar 6, 2023

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (at podium and on screens) addresses the opening of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The priority theme for the 67th session is “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Photo: UN Photo Service

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal delegates to the 67th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women gathered for a breakfast meeting at the Episcopal Church Center in New York on March 6 to begin their work at the annual international event promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Over 8,700 delegates from across the world —a record number—are attending the March 6-17 event held at U.N. headquarters and offsite locations around the city. It’s the first time in four years UNCSW has been held in person. The 2020 event was postponed because of the coronavirus and both the 2021 and 2022 events were held online.

One thing that makes this year’s session unique is that the United Nations is working on its first-ever Global Digital Compact, to be published in September, Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, said during the breakfast meeting.

“This UNCSW is incredibly significant because its final outcomes document will feed into the recommendations for that compact,” she said, noting that delegates will be sharing information about technology resolutions that have been adopted by General Convention.

The theme of the March 6-17 commission is innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. According to the latest progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals, it will take 286 years to achieve gender equality at the current pace of improvement.

“Roll up your sleeves, because we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Main said.

The nine Episcopal delegates representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry come from six provinces across the United States, as well as from Colombia which is in Province IX.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance of the work being undertaken by delegations and member nations in his address to the opening session. The work, he said, “takes on even greater significance at a time when women’s rights are being abused, violated and threatened. Progress, won over decades, is vanishing before our eyes.”

Following on the event’s theme, the Episcopal delegates’ advocacy work will be guided both by resolutions adopted by General Convention and by three priorities that Curry outlined in a statement:

  1. Extend accessibility to all and prioritize marginalized women and girls.
  2. Ensure human rights protections, safety and security.
  3. Accelerate gender equality education for all.

Delegates will be observing official meetings, which also are being livestreamed. They also can participate in hundreds of side events organized by U.N. member states and parallel events hosted by nongovernmental organizations.

For many years Episcopal women have been involved in official United Nations gatherings related to women and girls. They, along with Anglican women, were present in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women that birthed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

In 2004, Phoebe Griswold, the wife of then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold who passed away yesterday, played a key role in getting women from around the Anglican Communion involved in the work of the commission. Along with the Anglican Observer, she worked to bring delegations from around the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Margaret Rose, The Episcopal Church’s deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations, told delegates during the March 6 welcome breakfast.

“She was on fire for UNCSW,” said Rose, who at the time was serving as the church’s director for women’s ministries.

Assisting the presiding bishop’s delegation will be members of his staff, including representatives from The Episcopal Church offices of Global Partnerships and Government Relations, as well as staff of Episcopal Relief & Development. Former delegates also are supporting this year’s delegates.

Learn more about the work of the delegation on the UNCSW page on The Episcopal Church’s website and in a fact sheet about the Episcopal presence at the 67th commission. Follow along @EpiscopalUN on Facebook and Twitter.

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