I spent four days in a place I didn’t belong – the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (CSW59). It’s a two-week event where dignitaries, politicians and international organizations, men and women of every color and language, from around the world gather at the UN to discuss gender justice.
My contribution? I listened and learned.
Several years back Steve was invited to the White House for a discussion on “faith based initiatives.” At the door – as he was leaving I reminded him, “You have so much to bring to the table.” Later he called and calmly stated, “I got nothing. The people walking these halls are brilliant. I’m here to listen and learn.”
That’s how I feel while I’m at the this annual gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New york.
I just listen and learn, if I could only find the place where they are speaking. The UN is a sprawling complex that’s not well labeled and with few workers to advise lost souls like me. When I finally find my room, well – sometimes it’s already full. Most of the time I squeeze in and sit crisscross applesauce on the floor (in my long black skirt!)
A male Albanian official spoke on government policies promoting gender justice such as social welfare checks given to mothers only. It seems when men received the checks they spent the money on booze or gambling, women spent it on clothes and food. “So the checks need to follow the women.” The question was raised that this might put women in jeopardy (in Albania 1 out of 2 women experience domestic violence in their life time.) His response, “We have found the opposite. Men have more respect for women with money and power.”
He and others continued to stress the need for us to “worry less about strategy and instead focus on implementation at the village level.” What happens at the UN is only as good as it’s trickle down effect in the local community. And there I was – in the middle of the big REALLY BIG – and sweet Jesus was talking to me, through an Albanian, about the small things. The Marcella Project may be unknown by most but there it was -in bright neon letters in my head- our work of ennobling women. I believe our work is all about change, of hearts, minds, thinking, tradition, at the village level, practical change.
An Indian woman shared how her village campaigned young boys in order to raise awareness about the tradition of child brides. Once the boys were aware of the bondage it placed on young girls they began to argue with their parents about selling off their sisters as child brides. The boys became the girl’s allies; change of heart, mind, thinking and tradition in the village, in the home.
Men and women as allies not enemies was a common thread at CSW59.
Every group spoke of intentional ways to get men and women working side by side. Men challenged men “to use their positions of power to promote women” in leadership roles at the village and parliament level. Women were reminded not to shame men for the atrocities done to women by men. They said, “Men will disassociate themselves with images of men being violent.” If we want men on the team we need to inspire not guilt them. If I’m honest sometimes after hearing the atrocities I want to scream at men, “What is wrong with your gender?”
I was reminded of how I train women to preach; to not use words that condemn but rather words that inspire. Oh yes, I needed that small voice reminding me. I’m wondering how this plays out for TMP? How do we get men and women working together ennobling women through Scripture based teaching, training and dialogue?
Women who are dehumanized in particular societies are told they can’t do this or they can’t do that; their voices are silenced. We know that cultures are healthier when women’s voices are heard (in the family, community of faith, city and state). I know from my doctoral studies that women in the evangelical community are less apt to speak up about bible or theology when a man is in the room. They defer to the male voice. I also know empowerment comes when we hear our voice engage Jesus and his Word. So how do we welcome men’s voices at the table while hearing women’s voices too? Allies not enemies. I know it will take both genders in order to fully transform the way women view them selves and the way the Church views women (so that the church can get at what’s happening to girls and women around the globe.) Lord show us how.
On May 1-3, 2015 men and women will convene to have a conversation about the Blessed Alliance. If you want to explore this concept further join us at the The Marcella Summit.