Reflections from Ecumenical Women’s Orientation

Rachael O’Byrne of the  YWCA Great Britain particpated in the Ecumenical Women’s CSW orientation and training day at CSW 57. She shares her observations from the fellowship and  how glad she is that Organisations are creating spaces for key issues concerning women’s rights.

On Saturday March 2,  I joined the young women of the World YWCA’s delegation to attend the Ecumenical Women’s CSW orientation and training day. Ecumenical Women is an international coalition of church denominations and organisations which includes the World YWCA. Ann Tiemeyer, National Council of Churches USA, welcomed delegates and started the day by affirming that violence against women is deeply rooted in all societies, cultures and structures and asked delegates to reflect on women’s rights and religious liberty.

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Rachael O’Byrne

We were introduced to the Ecumenical Women’s CSW57 statement on violence against women and their key advocacy messages. We were reminded that although Ecumenical Women was made up of various differing church groups and NGO’s they would be united in the agreed language and key messages to be taken forward during CSW on protecting women’s human rights. This includes a united agreed language on sexual and reproductive health rights – I found this agreement really encouraging.

I was excited to listen to Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General for UN Women, who joined the orientation and gave her appreciation for the work of Ecumenical Women as a key organisaton among the NGO’s who attend and participate in CSW. Marie-Claude Julsaint, Global Programme Manager of the World YWCA, asked if Ms. Puri expected member states to be bold enough to form a resolution or statement on the elimination of marriage. All World YWCA delegates would be collecting signatures for a petition on ending child marriage during CSW, to be presented later in the week (to?). this was to be one of our key advocacy messages. Ms. Puri affirmed that child, early and forced marriage is a very serious form of violence and said that she expected member states to recognize  that child marriage is a form of violence and that it should be added to this definition. Ms. Puri encouraged the World YWCA to work closely on the issue with UNPF and aim for a resolution at the General Assembly. Marie-Claude gave us ‘new’ delegates a great lesson in conveying our key advocacy messages through asking questions to influential panellists.

Ecumenical Women commissioned artist, Mary Button, who has created the ‘Remembering Women in the Shadows’ banners and artwork which are being displayed in the UN Church Centre. Each day, Mary weaves the stories of women and girls, survivors and victims of violence into the banners so that their experiences and lives are remembered and recalled throughout CSW. Delegates at the Ecumenical Women orientation day were given copies of the ‘Shadows’ and asked to reflect on violence against women and girls and asked to write down a name of a story of violence so that their voices are not forgotten.

 This was my second day in New York, and as well as being an informative and interesting day for a CSW first timer, Ecumenical Women’s orientation day was truly inspiring and helped me prepare for the days to come.