Episcopal delegates engage in a wide variety of activities in New York during UNCSW

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Mar 19, 2024

Some of the Episcopal delegates to the 68th meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, along with people who are assisting them, gather in front of this year’s UNCSW logo in the United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo: Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The 10 women selected to represent Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the 68th meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women have been busy in a wide variety of activities since the annual event began on March 11.

Most of them have spent time in sessions and side events in New York, as they engaged with the meeting’s priority theme, “accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.”

The Commission on the Status of Women is the largest event hosted by the U.N. in New York, and it is one of the largest gatherings of women globally.

Last week, during an opening-day coffee, Episcopal delegates welcomed the delegation from the Anglican Communion, led by Martha Jarvis, the Anglican Communion permanent representative to the United Nations. Together the delegations hosted a Eucharist that day at the Chapel of Christ the Lord in the Episcopal Church Center.

One delegate, the Rev. Lilo Rivera from the Diocese of Long Island, was able to attend the opening session at the U.N. headquarters that included remarks by Secretary General António Guterres. He told the assembled delegates and guests, “Our world is going through turbulent times, and women and girls are being hit hardest in conflict zones around the globe. Women and girls are suffering most from wars waged by men.”

The breadth of the delegation’s work is highlighted in information provided to Episcopal News Service by Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, and posts to The Episcopal Church and the United Nations Facebook page.

Every day, Episcopal delegates spend time observing official UNCSW meetings in person and online, as well as advocating for the priorities outlined in the presiding bishop’s statement to the UNCSW, which he submitted in October as part of the formal process for nongovernmental organizations.

The delegation also has been gathering for daily worship in the Church Center for the United Nations with Ecumenical Women at the U.N.

On March 13, some of the delegates joined in a pilgrimage of lament for Gaza, as they and others wore black as they circled the block in front of U.N. headquarters 25 times to recall the 25-mile length of the Gaza Strip. They also took part in the weekly “Thursdays in Black” campaign of the World Council of Churches, wearing black to highlight the problem of gender-based violence.

Along with others, delegates gathered on March 15 to watch a webinar, “The Africa Six: Pioneering Anglican Episcopal Women Leaders Transforming Poverty in Africa,” that was cosponsored by the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. It featured six Anglican women bishops serving in Africa: Bishop Filemona Teta of Bom Pasteur, Angola; Bishop Vicentia Kgabe of Lesotho, Southern Africa; Bishop Dalcy Dlamini of Eswatini, Southern Africa; Bishop Elizabeth Awut of Rumbek, South Sudan; Bishop Rose Okeno of Butere, Kenya; and Bishop Emily Onyango of Bondo, Kenya.

The delegation also has met with government officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, Cuba and Brazil to share the presiding bishop’s proprieties and learn more about those nations’ needs and.

After returning home to Los Angeles after being in New York for the first week of the gathering, delegate Faith LeMasters said in a blog post  that her time there had been “nothing short of a roller coaster” as she learned more about the extent of suffering experienced by women and girls around the world.

She had learned the most about gender equity intersecting with environmentalism and women in agriculture, she said. “I had no idea that, on a global scale, so many women worked as farmers and relied on the agricultural industry for stability and income,” she said. “On the same hand, I didn’t realize that climate change impacted women at a much greater rate than men.”

Long an advocate for women and girls facing exploitation in the garment industry, LeMasters said that after learning that up to 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, she will “shift some of my work toward advocating for initiatives to combat climate change.”

Along with Main, assisting the delegates are former Episcopal UNCSW delegates the Rev. Annalise Castro Pasalo and Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar.

The UNSCW ends on March 22, and the delegation will have an online wrap-up meeting on March 25.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.