A range of faith group representatives are attending the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, from 1-12 March 2010.
Among them, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has brought people from around the world to this year's CSW. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), New York, hosted the delegation. Both organisations have done this for the past 15 years.
On the 15th anniversary, the commission reviewed the member states' implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted in 1995 at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. The Beijing Platform for Action specified issues that were considered necessary to women's advancement in the 21st century.
The issues were women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women, women in armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, human rights of women, women and the media, women and the environment and the girl child.
"Delegates come to learn about the process and bring their grassroots experience and faith-based perspective on gender equality issues that are of concern to the UN," according to Christine Mangale, LOWC assistant to the director.
"Our passion for gender equality and women empowerment brings us to CSW. This direct advocacy to member states makes a huge difference in framing the current discussion," Mangale said.
Rozella Poston, a seminarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) and a CSW delegate, said the commission is important because of the opportunity to gather a variety of people concerned about human rights as they pertain to women's issues.
Participants "have a shared experience that brings together diversity of thought, diversity of geography and diversity of faith traditions, and not just enhancing our witness when it comes to the status of women in the world." LTSP is one of eight ELCA seminaries.
"One of the issues I heard a lot was domestic violence and the role of preachers. I have never heard it preached anywhere I have been. I think that is something a preacher should do. It makes a huge difference," said Megan Hunt Fryling, LTSP seminarian and conference delegate.
Both Poston and Hunt Fryling said attending the commission has been an educational experience.
"As a whole, it has had a huge impact on me," Hunt Fryling said. "There is so much I personally don't know. It has taught me I need to go out and make an effort to learn more about these things and get involved with the women in my community."
"It is my hope with events like CSW and all the partner events that we as a church communicate to our members and our constituents, that this is 'an opportunity for you. There are resources and education for you.' Let's build a way of thinking and talking about this together that is helpful, hopeful and transforming," said Poston.
"The CSW raises international awareness and is essential in keeping the issues toward the forefront. The event continues to identify multi-faceted, current topics as they affect women and girls," said Mikka McCracken, intern for the ELCA Justice for Women programme and participant at CSW.
Although member states have made marked successes since Beijing, there is still much to do especially with implementation, according to McCracken.
The CSW was created in 1946 by the UN Economic and Social Council to recommend and report for the council on the promotion of women's rights in the political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.
Following the Beijing Conference in 1995, the UN General Assembly mandated the commission to regularly review the areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action and develop its role in including a gender perspective in United Nations activities.
Information about the UN Commission on the Status of Women can be found at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing15/index.html
Information about ELCA Justice for Women can be found at http://www.ELCA.org/justiceforwomen