The 60th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations included BVMs Sara McAlpin (Philip Mary) and Mary Martens (Loras) among the 56 delegates attached to the Loretto Community non-governmental organization (NGO) that BVMs help support. Sara and Mary participated March 13–17 with approximately 4,100 representatives, mostly women, who came from every part of the “global village.”
Sally Dunne, Loretto co-member and NGO representative, welcomed the high school and college students with a pizza party in the hotel. The students had an orientation to the CSW event the next day, while Sara and Mary attended Consultation Day for the “civil society” input.
During the days following, conference participants chose sessions of interest from among a variety of presentations by knowledgeable speakers. The titles alone were suggestive of values held dear by BVMs and associates:
o Women’s Leadership in Community-led Development
o Strategies to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls
o Empowering the Excluded and Marginalized
o Women’s Leadership and Peacebuilding through Muslim and Jewish Sacred Texts
o Art, Poetry, Film as Tools for Women’s Resilience, Empowerment, Bonding
o Empowering Women Refugees for Successful Integration into U.S. Society through Quality Education
o Human Trafficking and the Interplay Between Systemic Oppression and the Individual Life Course
The meeting concluded March 25 with U.N. member states committing to “gender-responsive” actions with stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing. The agreed conclusions urge this comprehensive approach by all member states through implementation of 17 sustainable development goals. With women and girls becoming fully engaged with men and boys as agents of change and allies, the goal is elimination of all gender-based discrimination by 2030.
Mary added a retrospective, “I was enriched through my encounters with international women (and men) of strength and purpose. There was a Woman of Distinction awardee, the keynoter from Nepal who spoke on “Mother Sister Daughter: The Violence They Face.” Others were involved with NGOs like Working Group on Food and Hunger at the U.N., or members of professions like the International Sociological Association, or a group like the Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans. Whatever their affiliation, all are working toward sustainable development goals in a peaceful world wherein the human rights and dignity of every person are respected.”
Sara reflected, “For my first experience at this CSW event, I was fortunate to have Mary as an extremely knowledgeable guide through a very full week. Numerous, vibrant sessions gave a new and challenging meaning to the word “global” for me. I was struck more than once by the reality that because my individual world is very small, it takes ongoing effort to avoid becoming narrow and limited. Modest perspectives were inevitably expanded at this international gathering by the variety of countries represented, cultures revealed, issues discussed, successes and failures explored.
“Both individual worlds and the global world were linked in certain desires expressed repeatedly in various presentations: what women (and all marginalized people) want is to have their voices heard; gender equality and empowerment are essential for equitable decision-making; education is fundamental; inclusivity must replace marginalization. These and other goals were firmly supported by a common belief: change is possible. Witnessing so many people dedicating their gifts and efforts to these concerns gives rise to another belief: There is hope!”
—Mary Martens, BVM
and Sara McAlpin, BVM