Empowering women

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Salvation Army representatives play significant part in United Nations conference.

Conference delegates (from left): Major Victoria Edmonds, Major Kathleen Calvo, Lisa Thompson and Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan

Salvation Army representatives recently took part in the 52nd United Nations (U.N.) Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York, N.Y. The theme of the event was “Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.”

During the first week of the conference The Salvation Army presented a session on human trafficking, led by Lisa Thompson, trafficking coordinator at U.S. National Headquarters, with Major Kathleen Calvo (U.S. Eastern). During an overview of the trafficking problem, Thompson reminded the audience that trafficking occurs not only for the sex industry, but also for reasons including slavery, organ replacement, arranged marriage and economic challenges within families. The presentation highlighted how The Salvation Army is developing a response in interventions worldwide.

Calvo also related interventions in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which included a citywide effort to return girls who had been trafficked to their homes. She explained how girls are brought to The Salvation Army, and how the Army is able to work with the police force and the Anti-Trafficking Task Force of Atlantic City. The attendance at this session was more than 90, with standing room only.

In the second week of the conference Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan, international director for social justice, and Thompson conducted a session entitled “Why Women Weep.” MacMillan introduced the theme with an historical overview of Salvation Army intervention, and Thompson presented reasons why women are weeping today. She talked about “missing girl” phenomenon, female genital mutilation, abuses in marriage, child marriage, polygamy, physical suffering, fistula, breast ironing, physical assaults, self-injury/cutting, acid burning, domestic violence and rape. The session included reminders that the media still practices dehumanization/objectification using the female body as a commodity. A spirit of interaction emerged during discussion, with an opportunity for the Army’s International Social Justice Commission to develop next steps in becoming a voice for “women who weep.” One notable conclusion was in reference to men becoming spokespersons on this issue. More than 60 people attended this session.

MacMillan led devotions on March 6 (during the second week), which also recognized International Women’s Day. The devotional team included MacMillan, Major Victoria Edmonds, Dorothy Gates, Lorena Lance, Captain Michelle Dressler, Captain Margaret Davis, Captain Soo Kim, Captain Lori Laidlaw, Major Kathleen Calvo and Thompson.

The devotional theme was water, a core issue of the U.N. agenda. MacMillan spoke about the woman at the well. The team contributed through a women’s brass ensemble, women’s music selections, a vocal solo by Davis and sacred dance by Kim. This diverse presentation of the gospel was well received. Next year, the request is for The Salvation Army to conduct devotions in the first week of the conference for a greater profile.

From an international news release.

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