For two weeks in March 2006, 67 women from every province in the Anglican Communion, with 50 of our ECUSA sisters from around the USA, gathered in New York. Together we formed the Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) delegation at the 50th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).
In celebration of the diversity within our Communion, we worshipped daily, using prayers and songs from around the world, and our Lord’s Prayer was heard in a myriad of tongues. In recognition of our shared concerns and difficulties we attended the UNCSW and the parallel and NGO side events, sharing with our sisters from other faith and non-faith based NGOs, taking part in and leading discussions and caucuses and contributing to the final UNCSW conclusions. With renewed commitment to furthering the status of women in our Communion, we met to discuss ways in which we as individuals, and we as a whole can work together to ensure all voices are heard, and no-one is left behind.
The two themes of the 50th session of the UNCSW dealt with women in decision-making and women in development, issues that lie at the very heart of our Anglican Communion. Stories from around the Communion illustrated its important role in creating enabling environments for all women in health, education and work, including Church-run health services, literacy classes and wealth creating programs. When women in leadership and the church were discussed, we were reminded that our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces, make up half of our Communion, and our, fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers uncles and nephews make up the other half: one side cannot function properly without the other.
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) Resolution 13/31, calling for equal participation of women in decision-making, was discussed in depth and the importance of implementing this resolution was reinforced. The women of the Anglican Communion are willing and able to take up the challenge of achieving ACC 13/31 and want to work with their provincial leaders to ensure the resolution is achieved in a sustainable and respectful manner.
Additionally, the provincial delegates took the opportunity to adopt a new structure, vision statement and steering group for the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN), a network of the ACC. An eight-member Steering Group was created: seven women were elected: Lisbeth Barahona (IARCA), Esperanza Beleo (Philippines), Priscilla Julie (Indian Ocean), Joyce Kariuki (Kenya), Helena Mbele-Mbong (ECUSA), Alice Medcof (Canada) and Meagan Morrison (Australia); Charmian Paterson was designated as the Mothers’ Union member. Jolly Babirukamu (ACC Standing Committee), Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea (AUNO), The Rev. Margaret Rose (ECUSA Women’s Ministry) and Kim Robey (Secretariat) are the current ex-officio members.
And if this wasn’t enough, we had time to talk, laugh and cry as friendships were created and renewed, friendships that will strengthen the work of our Communion and the future of both men and women the world over, and ensure that the Love of God is known among all peoples.