Struggle and triumph
International Social Justice Commission co-hosts UN conference.
by Warren L. Maye –
The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission, directed by Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan, co-hosted the United Nation’s 54th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 54) from Feb. 27-March 12. For two days of the conference, nearly 1,600 women assembled at The Salvation Army’s Centennial Memorial Temple on 14th Street in New York City to celebrate a movement that began in Beijing in 1995 on behalf of women everywhere.
When the CSW 54 executive committee expressed a need for meeting space in the area, the Army was quick to offer its accommodations and support.
“Special thanks to The Salvation Army for their generous contributions of time, space, personnel, equipment, and unfailing support,” wrote the committee in its official publication CSW 54/Beijing + 15.
Women as well as men heard presenters from every corner of the globe discuss the implementation of the “Beijing Platform for Action,” 12 criteria formulated, in essence, as an agenda for women’s empowerment.
That agenda addressed the challenges brought on by poverty, the need for education and training, health issues, violence against women, women in armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms for advancement, human rights, the media, the environment and care of the girl child.
Among those who presented riveting messages of struggle and triumph were ISJC delegates Commissioner Hope Mungate of Zimbabwe and Major Mel Pierre-Fils of Haiti.
According to Lt. Colonel Geanette Seymour, senior policy analyst and intern program coordinator at the ISJC, the opportunity to serve CSW 54 delegates also made it possible for staff to interact with dignitaries from other nations. For example, MacMillian spent two hours with a parliamentarian from Sweden; and Daniel Alarcon, a research intern from Chile, enlightened a senator from Mexico about the Army’s work in that country and helped the senator connect with the territorial commander in Mexico.
Major Victoria Edmonds, Salvation Army U.N. representative in New York, met informally with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., to discuss an ongoing partnership.
As a demonstration of The Salvation Army’s global commitment to women in 120 nations where it currently ministers, a representative group of women officers gathered one morning in the chapel of the Church Centre of the United Nations and sang “They Shall come from the East,” a popular song written by John Gowans, retired international leader of The Salvation.
Call for changing conditions
It seemed fitting that the 13 days of meetings culminate with a speech from United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. As former First Lady of the United States, Clinton’s insistence that the violent and dehumanizing treatment of women and girls must stop resulted in the formulation of the “Beijing Platform for Action.”
On March 12, the closing day, as many as 700 women heard Clinton speak passionately about the daily contributions of women that are overlooked but nevertheless essential to maintaining a stable world economy and quality of life. She said that women are the providers of care that they themselves are not privileged to receive.
“Women are the majority of the world’s farmers, but they don’t own property; they are used as pawns in politics, commerce, and war. We stand with the women who wage a lonely war for us all!” Clinton said. “Human rights are women’s rights; women’s rights are human rights!”
Clinton challenged: “Our progress is measured, not by what is said at grand venues like this, but by how well we can change the conditions of women around the world.”