Monday, March 29, 2010

Episcopal young adults at UNCSW look to create a new Beijing

by Karen Longenecker
(originally posted on on March 12, 2010)

In 1995 women from all over the world traveled to Beijing for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Their dedication and labor resulted in the adoption of what is now known as the Beijing Platform for Action, a social justice platform for work towards a more equitable world for women and girls.

In 1995, I think I was learning how to dance the Macarena and trying to catch the eye of just about any boy that would look my way. I was, after all, in the seventh grade.

In 2000 the UN had its five-year review of the Beijing Platform to assess progress, evaluate country reports, identify new problems and create solutions for women across the globe still facing poverty, discrimination and unequal access to resources.

In 2000 I was just beginning to freak out about where I was going to go to college. In 2005 as the UN had its ten-year review of the Beijing Platform, I was about to graduate from college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

This year was the 15-year review of the Beijing Platform and as part of the Episcopal young adult delegation to the UN's annual meeting of its Commission on the Status of Women, I was there.

A UNCSW delegates said that one of the greatest things about being a young adult is that we are both learning and feeling the world -- feeling passionate about our place and work in the world, and still learning at the same time. The learning began in 2009 with the Episcopal Church's first young adult delegation to the UNCSW. We learned how to advocate towards a more sustainable platform for care giving in the context of HIV and AIDS. Most importantly, we began to see the relationship between the church, the UN, social justice and our own faith.

This year, the Office of Young Adult Ministries sponsored a group of ten delegates to attend the 54th UNCSW meeting, which included the 15 year review of the Beijing Platform. The platform encompasses every issue that women still face in the world and can feel overwhelming, but hearing about it on a personal level is an experience nearly impossible to capture in words.

Imagine listening to a woman from Malawi who works for better access to reproductive health care, or a woman from Palestine who lives in a conflict zone and is a target for violence. Imagine a woman in Mexico who makes one-third the salary of her male counterpart and who lives in a country where women are murdered or trafficked in massive numbers every day. Or imagine a woman in the U.S. who is constantly bombarded with negative sexual images of her body, its purpose and value in her culture and who is supposed to be sexually liberated and certainly not a feminist. These women, and so many more, and their male allies and supporters make up the global face of the reason for the Beijing Platform.

The Young Adult Delegation attended the UNCSW for the first week of the March 1-12 meeting. Each of the nine women and three men chose an area or a couple of areas of the platform that we were passionate about and identified events those interests. We networked with other organizations, formed partnerships and expanded on the work being done at the UN. Our interests varied from women in conflict zones, woman and health, the rights of the girl child, violence against women, women in leadership, human rights of women, and women and education.

Together with young adult delegations from the World Council of Churches, the World Student Christian Foundation and the National Council of Churches, a group of nearly 40 people participated in an event titled A Rapper, A Rabbi and a Radio Host to discuss access to meaning-making and the institutions and authorities that are given power to assign meaning in a society. One of the three panelists was Garrett Braaf, aka G-Quinn, who is a Christian rapper and an Episcopal Church young adult delegate.

We also formed intergenerational partnerships with other delegates from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. In order to continue the work of the Beijing Platform, it is necessary to partner with and learn from those who have gone before us, the women who were in Beijing and have been working ever since. If we are to continue with this work, we must learn from those before us in order to educate those after us.

The delegation left the UNCSW with the hope of bringing the work being done across the world and presented at the United Nations to their local communities. For some of the delegates, this means beginning what is known as a Beijing Circle, a sacred space where women listen to each other's stories and move towards action in their home communities.

For other delegates this means empowering young girls to understand their bodies and have a positive body image. Other delegates choose the sometimes-unrewarding work of spreading awareness that there are still women's issues in the world and certainly still in the church.

For all of the delegates, we came home inspired to have experienced the relationship between our church, global politics, social justice and our faith. Through this relationship and through our relationships with each other, change is transformative and equity in the world not just a hope, it is the agenda.

-- Karen Longenecker was a member and co-convenor of UNCSW Episcopal young adult delegation to the 2010 UNCSW. Jason Sierra, the Episcopal Church's officer for young adult and campus ministries, was the other convener.

Read more Episcopal News Service coverage

Friday, March 5, 2010

Amani Iwe Nawe

by Brede Eschliman, Diocese of Connecticut

The best part of my day (other than the meeting the presiding bishop, which was incredible) was an unexpected conversation. We had a debriefing and dinner with Ecumenical Women, and we were supposed to discuss advocacy points in small groups while eating. The small group I was in was not gelling at all. People didn’t really want to talk, and the discussions that did happen seemed very forced. After it became clear that we weren’t going to have a conversation as a group, everyone struck up personal conversations with their friends instead. I introduced myself to a woman who hadn’t talked the entire time and looked really bored, and it quickly turned into an amazing conversation. The woman, whose name is Grace, teaches at a university in Tanzania and had been to the CSW before. She told me a lot of really interesting things about Tanzania—I had to resist the temptation to pull out a notebook and pen. One of the most intriguing things she told me was that, in her opinion, using Swahili rather than English to conduct governmental affairs may hurt Tanzania. As a developing country, Tanzania receives assistance from other countries, many of which use English. She thought that the language barrier between Tanzania and the countries supporting it prevented Tanzanians from fully utilizing the resources offered. She suggested that Tanzania should emphasize English until it is more developed, then return to Swahili.

The content of the conversation was not what made it so wonderful, though. I really felt like I connected with Grace and was genuinely engaged in the conversation rather than making small talk. There was one point when she mentioned the difficulty rural children have learning English when their parents don’t speak English at home. I mentioned I had the same difficulty with Spanish, and she laughed and shook my hand in a gesture of understanding. We laughed a lot. The best part of the conversation was when she taught me some Swahili. When I lived in South Africa last summer, my favorite part of the Anglican services was always the exchange of the peace in three different languages (isiXhosa, English, and Afrikaans). Grace taught me to say “peace be with you” in Swahili too: Amani iwe nawe. We said that to each other when we left the debriefing later that night, and it was one of the most genuine and joyous exchanges of peace I have ever shared.

Darse Cuenta

by Karen Longenecker, Diocese of San Diego

The last blog I wrote about was rather obscure. I talked about the body and how one day equality will be an erotic experience. I don't know yet if I totally know what that means but in true divine style, the next day brought more clarity to me. Andrea has already wrote about the speaker who was the president of Union Theological Seminary and I wish to continue a bit in that train of thought.

After my thoughts about equality physically exisiting in our bodies, not as some abstract concept we lobby for that exists outside of us, I wanted my body to have a place in this conference. The speech by Selene Jones made that possible. In short, her message was that feminism has to go as far as to reach into empowering the basic motions we move through each and every day with our bodies. She talked about our labor, the labor of women in the global neoliberal market network, the labor of women in the hidden and more profitable exploitive markets of sex trade, drug trade and other black market commodities, the labor of women in regional and community trading and the labor of women as they move through the home and the earth. I finally felt like this movement, and myself, and myself inside of this movement had meaning. I had both my roots and my wings. The image of the empowerment of the body reaching up from the earth and down from the overarching global markets that not only oppress and demand so much of us, but that whether we like it or not control even our body, our sex and our intimacy. She brought meaning into where I understand it best, and she took it out of me into where it is needed most.

There are other things, many things, that have inspired me this week. I heard a man talk about sex trafficking and how laws in the US need to change to criminalize those that demand the supply, not criminialize those that provide the supply. More simply put, don't criminalize the victims but criminalize those that create the system in which they are exploited, destroyed and stripped of their dignity. I was entirely too emotional to stay for the entire presentation and I had to leave. This week has made me realize how much I try to run from things that are painful to me so that I can continue to appear strong, and the appearance probably only matters most to me and not others.

This week made me realize that I still have energy and passion for the work I am dedicated to doing - graduate school has made me feel like an apathetic academic. This week makes me feel like a passionate woman who can utilize academia for the benefit others.

This week made me regain my faith in men. I've heard amazing things from the very few men that are here and the way in which they see the women's issue in the world.

This week made me remember how much I love and thrive on diversity, advocacy and a sense of a spritual home. I remembered for the first time in a long time that without the sense of a spiritual home, my work feels empty. I remembered what it feels like to see a divine force work in and among those of us trying to be faithful.

I think I have regained my faith.

Personal Frustration and Group Gain

by Jasmine Bostock, Diocese of Hawaii

So, today was one of extreme highs and then extreme lows. In the morning, we met with the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori. She pretty much has rockstar status for me, a young woman feeling called to ordination in the Episcopal Church. I so appreciated given the time we were given, and I really liked her honesty in answering the questions we posed to her. We didn't shy away (though we were respectful) from the hard questions, and we really pushed her. The question I asked was, "What are the strengths of young adults, and how can we leverage them to the advantage of this womens movement?" She replied that one of the gifts of young adults was our questioning of the system, and our persistence in getting a satisfactory answer. After we met with Bishop Katharine, we also had the honor of meeting with the Canon to the Ordinary (which is like the vice president to the president). He spoke with candor about everything under the sun. I especially appreciated that he shared with us his frustrations as he went through the discernment process, because he was always told that he was too young. I have felt called to ordination since I was seven years old, and already my age has been a barrier in the beginnings of the discernment process. I am told I am too young much of the time, and it was great to get his advice on how to deal with that. However, my afternoon took a slight turn for the worse. I had to go to the Swiss Consulate, to process a visa. After I finally found it, in a completely unmarked building, I was told they were on lunch break. When I came back at 2, I was told they only process Visa's in the morning. So, I wasted an afternoon and I will have to go back tomorrow. Through my personal frustrations, though, I have so loved being with this group of young adults. I cannot express how important they are, and have been, through the time we have shared together. I am filled with Gods love in my heart.

The Difference that Christ Makes

by Ruth Lindsay, Diocese of Arizona

I have been involved in secular activism for quite a few years. Passionately political and ardently feminist, I have struggled throughout my young adulthood to live out my values and give back to a world that has given so generously to me. But passionate commitment was never enough to render my involvement personally meaningful or sustainable, and I soon developed a consistent pattern of engagement, disengagement, recommitment and again, exhausted disengagement. But my experience here at the UNCSW as part of a faith-based delegation has been radically different. As a recent convert to Christianity, coming from a thoroughly “secular,” basically agnostic background, I have been trying throughout the week to articulate the profound differences I have experienced between secular and faith-based activism. While my background positions me well to speak to these differences, I still struggle to find the words or a conceptual frame that encapsulates them. I think I struggle largely because many of these differences relate back to something basically indefinable: faith in God and in God’s power to ground and orient our relationships.

I of course cannot speak to the diverse realities of secular groups dedicated to social justice, and it is evident that there is no shortage of passionate and dedicated secular people who are just as committed to social justice as any Christian activist. And activist circles remain one of the very few contexts in the secular world where one can experience community. But without a clearly articulated faith commitment, and without the resources of ritual, I have found secular activism mostly discouraging and all too often negative. Working with the Episcopal delegation and the Ecumenical Women’s Council has been the polar opposite: even though we have had 13-hour days, I feel energized rather than exhausted; although I have learned of hardships I cannot imagine, I feel hopeful rather than discouraged; while I have encountered bureaucracy and barriers, I feel confident rather than despondent.

Today we had the privilege of meeting with the Presiding Bishop as well as her presiding Canon. Leading us in closing prayer, Canon Robertson offered thanks to God for the talents and gifts of the people congregated in the room, but he also thanked God for our weaknesses. I have never thought to invoke my own myriad weaknesses as an element that may help us to work for social justice. Weaknesses had always been targets for self-improvement, which, when I inevitably failed to overcome them, I ran away from shamefully. But our weaknesses are our strengths, because they remind us of our essential and unavoidable dependence on one another. Our Christian tradition, drawing on the example we have in Christ, helps us to recognize our short-comings, accept them, and find our complements within community.

We as Christians call on God to ground our relationships through our ritual expressions of worship and prayer; practices which, from a secular perspective, seem bizarre or to some even primitive. Why does it make such a difference to gather every morning in community, sing songs of praise and reflect on scripture? Why should a meeting proceed differently simply because it is opened and closed with prayer? After all, plenty of secular groups in which I have been involved with work hard to cultivate community and take the time before and after meetings to reflect and encourage. In my past, I thought Christian prayer delusional – instead of talking to each other, Christians were addressing something that, I was sure, was not even really there, or in any case not listening. But directing prayers, hopes and fears toward our God is to give them over to a power immensely more important and meaningful than ourselves, and it leads inevitably to the conclusion that we are not simply praying to space. God is here, God is with us, God works on our hearts and fortifies our souls, and God makes our work meaningful, sustainable, and transformative.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Place and a Voice

by Garrett Braaf, Diocese of Southeast Florida

So I arrive in the morning of February 26. As I got settled into my room, a question suddenly hit me like a freight train: WHY IN THE WORLD AM I HERE?

A wave of fear and disappointment swept over me as I pondered my answer. I knew NOTHING about the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women! Sure, I felt honored to be chosen as a Young Adult Delegate along with some other young adults that had very impressive backgrounds. But honestly, I felt immensely intimidated and amazingly unprepared. "What is my place in an event with a predominately female attendance? Are of any of the other delegates going to like me?" These were just a few questions that were looming around in my mind.

My intimidation was quickly dissipated when I began getting to know the other delegates. I already was acquainted with Keiji and P’Tricia from meeting them at the Young Adult Festival at General Convention in California last July. Everyone else I met for the first time and as time progressed, I became friends with everyone. They were all very cool people to vibe with. We were all able to joke around with each other and yet also knew when it was time to be serious and supportive of eachother.

I learned a lot of startling facts about issues concerning women in the faith such as violence against women, women’s rights as decision makers, incorporating women in all their economic, social and racial diversity, etc.

The majority of the time spent here with the delegation was that of a self-discovery process. I spent lots of time in self-reflection, asking myself, "What role could I possibly play in this entire 'women's-status' movement?"

I DID however found myself leaning towards the standing up against violence towards women. I have a loving mother, an amazing grandmother, 2 wonderful younger sisters and a number of Aunts and I will go the distance to ensure that they NEVER have to face that kind of treatment and therefore I do emphasize for the women that they currently face this in their lives.

Then it hit me. I realized that as a male, I can step up and address my fellow men on what steps to take towards ending impunity and violence against women. Furthermore, in doing so, I can stand in the forefront as an example of how men should treat women.

Facing the Body

by Andrea Bardelmeier, Diocese of New Jersey

Wednesday, March 03, 2010- Our fifth full day at UNSCSW.

I woke up from a Tylenol PM induced sleep this morning after spending some much needed down time yesterday evening after a great day. Several of us had attended a key note address by Sarine Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary, where she spoke at a Religions for Peace panel. One of the central images she used to convey her evolving beliefs about the feminist agenda is the active body; that we must understand ourselves as embodied. She spoke about how we need to pay attention to our bodily actions as we analyze the ideas that we would like to be shifted. As we review our progress in accomplishing the 12 platforms of from the Beijing Conference, we can see that some of the targeted efforts at equitable health care and education have not actually contributed to the economic or political advancements for women that we had hoped for. Jones’ critique of our approach in the 15 years since Beijing is that we have not focused enough on what women are doing day to day, the realities of their embodied existence. Instead, she said, “We must turn our gaze to those who with no great action are constantly reconstituting the world.” She broke it down into a powerful image which divided the world into several concentric circles of which the world economy, trade, social networks, were all visible. At the bottom of these rings, almost at the level of the roots and humus on top of the earth, lies the cooking, the laundry, and the “wiping of spit from a grandmother’s mouth”, the forgotten work of dedication and love that is provided by women around the world each day and night. In her view, the new feminist agenda should consider how these bodily activities inform our goals and work on this level to change perceptions and actions.

I am trying to work with what she has said here because I think there is some truth in it. At the talk, and even now, it seems quite lofty to me, yet I am still thinking about it two days later. This idea about the importance of our embodiment is of special note to me because I have been sick for the past three days. My body has given out on me at just the wrong time. The emotional and spiritual storm this conference has caused in my body has created a literal sickness in me. Old wounds from have been opened, making me remember the heavy burden of sexism and, even worse, the many traumatizing stories of other women’s experiences that make me feel powerless, they are too much for me to comprehend. All of this to say, I agree that there is something we have miscalculated about how deeply our embodiment is connected with our mental, spiritual, emotional (and maybe political) health. I don’t really understand it, but I think she is on to something and I would like to explore it more….

Translating a Smile

At this point in our week, I feel so physically and emotionally drained. I have forgotten what "well rested" felt like. I just want to take in as much as I can, yet my days are getting harder and harder to get through. The thought of going home makes me sad now. How do I take back what I have experienced here? How do I leave such a tight knit community and city that leaves me longing for so much more?

Yesterday, for the first time since being in NYC, I went to a Eucharist at 815. Although I have loved every minute of all the different worship opportunities I have experienced thus far, this one service for me was like going home. It may have been a slightly different service in a different sanctuary but it was home.

One of the biggest obstacles I have faced this week is the language barrier. This is most definitely a world-wide commission with delegates spanning the globe. For instance, there is another delegate with World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) named Rosina from Argentina. She seems like such an amazing person and the people who have had the opportunity to interact with her say the same. I feel saddened by the fact that I cannot speak Spanish and she cannot speak English. There are so many barriers like this we each face on a daily basis but do we let them get in our way or do we overcome them? I find myself going out of my way to wave and smile at Rosina to let her know how much I care that she is here….she, as well, does the same because something as simple as a smile and sharing a laugh is definitely universal.

“My peace I give you, my peace I leave you, trouble not your hearts. My peace I give you, my peace I leave you, be not afraid.

Christ’s Peace,

Lauren Wainwright

Just the Facts (Digest Later)

by Keji Fatunde, Diocese of Michigan

Today and yesterday, I got to meet with each one of the delegates on their own terms. And it was amazing!!! It was really fulfilling and it is interesting to evaluate whether people are making a conscious effort to make you feel uncomfortable or take advantage of your vulnerability and I’m happy to say I was able to let my guard down significantly without getting punched in the face.

But first, my UN Experience for the day.

Since we spent the entire night last night prepping for the rap session at the side event today, Garrett and I were late to the sessions this morning and it kinda sucked as we were still a bit tired.

Well, we spent some time sharing flyers and finalizing plans then we departed for the Salvation Army Building for the event at 1pm.

A Rabbi, A Rapper, and a Radio Show Host was an event focused around the contextual use of media in a cultural context and challenging us to think critically about the stereotypical roles of certain professions in our immediate society.

The rap session by G-Quinn (Garrett Braaf) was kickin as he told his story of how he decided to get into positive rap music and then did a rap about “Transforming Lives”. Video to come!

It was the most amazing thing ever and Facia Harris (the radio show host) was awesome with her vivid portrayal of the plight of women in Liberia and how she organized her programming to further educate and bring awareness to said plight.

The Rabbi was female and gave examples of ways in which she was expected to fulfill her role as a rabbi the same way as a man would and what challenges she faced as one who wasnt the conventional face of a Jewish religious leader.

We also attended the debriefing of the CSW women and the ladies requested that he give them a rap to round up their session and it was very well received again! Sold out CDs. I am still impressed!

I apologize if I’m not re-analyzing a lot of the ideas and concepts learned in these sessions so far, but my goal is to gather all the facts here and then go home and digest all this info to the best of my ability. I am a philosophical person at heart, but the worst kind of analysis is that which is rushed both in processing and delivery. Alrighty!…

To meet the other delegates through Keji's eyes, visit his blog.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Go Out and Set the World on Fire

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Peter Gabriel’s song “Biko”. The lyrics describe my feelings about the UN CSW well: “You can blow out the candle, but you can’t blow out the fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind just blows them higher.” I love these words because they emphasize the importance of working together to combat injustice. Individual women can face enormous barriers, but when they share their stories with others, they share their passion and determination too. Everyone from our delegation has felt the emotional intensity of addressing the barriers that women face globally. These emotions can seem like a burden, but they connect us to the people we’ve met and to their causes. Even if society oppresses one woman (metaphorically blowing out the candle), other women can maintain her spirit and goals (keeping the fire going).

Today I was very moved by the speech of a lesbian activist from Uganda. The most striking thing about her was her response to the recent bill against homosexuality; rather than retreating in the face of possible imprisonment or death, she is working to increase the visibility of the LGBT rights movement in Uganda. When the government attempts to outlaw her identity, she asserts herself even more strongly. I have no idea what will happen to her, but her sharing of her story at the CSW (to an absolutely packed room of people, nonetheless) ignited a fire that reaches well beyond her own flame of resistance. This example is one of many. During every minute of this Commission, women are sharing their stories and lighting fires of solidarity. As important as institutional action is, this solidarity gives me hope where institutions fail.
Brede Eschliman, Diocese of Connecticut

A Prayerful Week of Learning

My favorite encounter each day is the interaction with other people from other countries. Sometimes good and sometimes maybe not so good. But the encounters in and of themselves is what teaches us, as a group, so much about ourselves as individuals and also Americans. As an episcopal young adult delegate from Alabama the favorite thing I hear everyday is how hilarious my accent is. I think I pride myself in my accent because it represents who I am. Another way in which many delegates at the CSW represent themselves is in terms of what they wear. This in and of itself is often a story screaming to be heard. Are we willing to listen? A member of our delegation likes to spend an hour getting dressed and picking out the right outfit...matching jewlery, clothes, and even eye glasses...but what does this mean? I think it shows preparedness, organization, and thoughtfulness. So how do we see each other in terms of our own culture let alone people from other countries? Coming from a small town, being able to interact with people from so many different cultures, backgrounds, races, and ethnicities has provided me with a golden opportunity to examine who I am and where I come from.

I feel as though I have become so close with our group so very quickly. Not only the chance to spend time with other young adults, but other young adults that share a common belief as Episcopalians but also a goal and vision in terms of gender quality. No matter where we come from and how different our lives are on a daily basis, the opportunity to come together as a group has meant so much to me.

I am so thankful and prayerful for this week and I hope you all can be too. Not only for ourselves, but for the work that will continue to grow long after this experience.

Christ's Peace,
Lauren Wainwright, Diocese of Alabama

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Cup Overflows

by Hanna Kang-Brown, Diocese of Los Angeles

In NYC, I am surrounded by a cacophony of noise and movement. Buildings filled with people rise on all sides of the street. People rush to and fro. Cars are merging, and trucks are honking. I am surrounded by people with countless agendas, and it feels easy to feel insignificant. Yet my heart is burning and alive with the pain of women around the world, and I do not feel alone or insignificant. I'm learning that this is what social action with faith looks like. It is dynamic and ever present, painful yet hopeful, healing and renewing.

Today, I went to the opening plenary session at the UN and although I was in the overflow room next door, I was in awe that I got the opportunity to sit in that familiar room with chairs and microphones and desks lined in semi-circles. I saw African female deputies and delegates speaking with passion and conviction about ending violence towards women. I experienced what it's like to be a part of an international body, and I committed to having a global perspective and not just an American one. Even though we were in the overflow room, there were men and women lined up along the walls until there was nowhere else to stand or sit. I myself was sitting on a stairwell next to African sisters. We were packed in and you could sense the desperate delight of women willing to stake their lives on fighting for women's rights. I was reminded of the story of the lame man who was lifted down through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching because there was no other way to get inside the packed house. The building could not contain all who wanted to sit and listen, and I yearned for all my brothers and sisters out there who want to be a part of the conversation to be allowed inside.

I never imagined that I would come to the UN as a delegate with a church. But I would not have it any other way. The faith community here is articulate and strong. I see now how faith can work with social action to breathe life into it, to give it resources and values, to provide courage, strength, and healing. I'm seeing a new way of strong female leadership here--one that is clear and present, assertive and persistent. My cup overflows.

Equality Re-imagined

by Karen Longenecker, Diocese of San Diego

Coming back to UNCSW this year has already proved to be a profound and moving experience, and its only Monday. I was here last year and while I keep trying not to compare, it is rather inevitable and I find myself being so delighted with different opportunities this year that make things very rich and heavy and I also miss having the new eyes to find events fascinating and moving, instead of slightly tedious and tiring at times.

Still the same, this year brings with it a weight that I don't recall feeling last year. I spent this afternoon in an event around organizing the North American Network of Religions for Peace, a movement of women of faith that advocate to eliminate violence against women across the world. The panel was amazing, fabulous, incredible, all of the above, and while I won't go into detail, I will mention a quote that really made me think.

It was: "One day equality will be an erotic experience."
All the women in the room chuckled a naughty, almost bedroom-ish chuckle, perfect.

It is my style to push the edge a bit, and I like this quote mainly because it makes you (and me) a little uncomfortable. Also though, our sexuality, as women AND men, is so intrinsically tied to all that we are learning here. The Beijing Platform covers a myriad of problems in all of our societies, most of which we can't even get our minds around. Being so overwhelmed makes me want to come back to what I do know, and what I do know, as Anne Lamott has said, is that the issue of being issued a body is just very strange. While I am here and while my mind is insanely busy with a million things, I miss the conversation that teaches me about my body as a woman, what it means to exist in a body and how our bodies can no longer be silent and passive.

Now I return to the quote. Equality, as much as it is thrown around, just might be much more powerful than we have given it credit for. This week, I am thinking of equality as something new, refreshing, something passionate, something sexual, something in our body that we urge towards. I am trying to fit equality into this business of living in a body and for right now, it feels like a good fit. Perhaps that makes you uncomfortable, and it should, but it is also how it should be.

Quickly I want to mention another thought I have to give credit to here. This delegation really amazes me. Having the privilege of being here a second time makes me constantly try to figure out what they are thinking, how they are processing, what they like, what they don't and on and on. And then when I get myself to be quiet, I realize how brave they are, how strong they are. I am thankful for them. They make me remember to be hurt, disappointed, angry, tearful, joyous, full of hope and openness and somehow that feels like going back to a person in me that I enjoy more, I certainly enjoy more fully. I give thanks for their faithfulness.

Know My Heart

by Jasmine Bostock, Diocese of Hawaii

Starting the day this morning, I was filled with anticipation of what the day would bring. Will I hear stories? Will I tell them? Will I be brave enough to introduce myself to someone and start a conversation? Will I be overcome with information? Our day started at 5AM, early enough to wake and dress, and get Starbucks from down the street, and pray with another woman from our delegation, who invited the group to join her in centering prayer (silent) for 15 minutes before we left every morning. This prayer was exactly what I needed, before I even knew how I needed it. My day would become such a mix of emotions and events, I needed to have the center that it gave me. We all met at 6:30 to go to the UN Church Center and run through the worship we created yesterday. I had a part in the message, about an obstacle I had overcome. I get really nervous public speaking, and I didn't want to cry, as I wanted the message to be one of strength (we were celebrating Miriam's leadership). The rest of my day was a mix of things--boring, scary, overwhelming, at moment incredibly touching with their honesty, exciting, resting, and most of all unexpected. I have more of a clear idea of what the sessions are like now, and I know a little bit about how to tell when an organization will push speaking points on you. I feel comfortable getting up and leaving a room, and walking into a new one. Through all of this, God kept me centered and He took care of me when I couldn't--even by forcing me into an unintentional nap! He knows me inside and outside, He knows my comings and my goings before I do, and He knows my heart. He knows how it breaks anew for each woman carrying the hurt of her country and her mother, and sister, and grandmother, and friends, and cousins, with her to this place called the United Nations. And His heart breaks alongside mine, as He gently takes the burden from my shoulders and from theirs, and turns it into friendship, sisterhood, solidarity, and advocacy. How amazing is our God!

Song Of Miriam

Today, young adults from around the world led morning worship for the Ecumenical Women delegations. We took as our text the Song of Miriam and led the diverse delegations in song, prayer, art and conversation. This song was composed by young adults as part of our Sunday gathering specifically for this worship. Here it is re-created by the young adult delegation at our daily worship.