World Student Christian Federation Delegates Advocate for Women Everywhere
by Juliana Mecera
March 22, 2013—Honor killings, abuse of domestic workers, rape, discrimination, gender sensitivity training, war crimes against women and domestic violence were among the difficult topics addressed during the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-57).
Eleven young women, named as delegates from the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), were among those focusing on the theme of Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls around the World, during the 57th annual session. The General Board of Global Ministries provided financial support for the women from 10 different countries to participate.
On March 14, the WSCF delegates met with Global Ministries’ staff members to talk about what they had just experienced at the United Nations. George Howard of Global Ministries welcomed Christine Housel, general secretary of WSCF, and the entire delegation to the Global Ministries headquarters in New York for mutual learning and partnership building.
The women from Liberia, the Republic of Georgia, India, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Italy, Nigeria, Canada, Venezuela, Lebanon and the United States represented diverse Christian communions, including United Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Eastern and Greek Orthodox, non-denominational and Congregationalist. Energy and engagement flowed from the group’s global nature and from a common desire of WSCF and Global Ministries to work ecumenically for justice with partners around the world. Main themes lifted up during the session were a commitment to working across boundaries, examples of successful advocacy for women and a sense of an enduring hope for change.
The Global Ministries’ staff and the WSCF delegates both talked about the importance of words when addressing issues of justice.
Haley Mills, a United Methodist seminarian at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, was the WSCF North American representative in the delegation. She reminded the group “bad theology kills women” and noted that it is essential to have male colleagues involved when she carries out gender sensitivity trainings.
Masophy Kengoo Kashung of WSCF India spoke about the Indian Young Women Theologians Network. Young women collect their mothers’ stories and use the narratives as foundational for theological reflection and interpretation.
Ketevan Zazanashvili from the Republic of Georgia reminded the group that Christian tradition itself says all people are human beings, regardless of gender or race. She called understanding a gift given by churches that all can give back to their churches through efforts to work together for love and justice.
Karyn Lasei of New Zealand, representing the World Mission Commission, a Global Ministries’ partner organization, remarked that “positive change must come from within ourselves.”
Global Ministries works with partners and networks across the globe every day. Hearing from the WCSF women in person and learning about their specific endeavors in their home countries provided staff members with insight into local resources, context and possibilities for new partnerships. In turn, the women learned about the possibility of making new connections with United Methodist partners working in their home countries.
The young women expressed their appreciation for Global Ministries’ support and shared their plans for moving forward with their work for justice. They also asked, "How can I connect with The United Methodist Church in my country?" and "Can I be a young adult missionary?" Staff brainstormed ideas for potential missionary placement sites, discussed their projects and expressed their commitment to continuing to cultivate Global Ministries’ partnership with the WCSF.
Juliana Mecera serves as a program associate for the Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPARV).