(originally posted on episcopal-life.org 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.
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.