While most Episcopalians prepared for Easter in their traditional ways, St. Mary’s, Arlington, parishioner Diane Wright spent her Holy Week at the United Nations interacting with women from around the world, and thinking about the challenges women and girls face daily and what people of faith can do about it.
“All women of faith are committed to working together,” she concluded after representing The Episcopal Church at the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in mid-March. One of 19 women (including four national church staff members) on the delegation, Wright said the experience reminded her that she “was part of a larger church. … It’s not just about your faith journey. The journey is happening all around you.”
Wright, who has attended St. Mary’s with her family since the early 1990s, has participated in women’s ministries in the church for more than 20 years, ranging from diocesan leadership in the Episcopal Church Women to parish mentorship of junior high girls. A former lawyer and high school teacher, Wright said that serving as a delegate blended her longtime interests in women’s issues and international human rights law.
It was a busy two weeks for Wright, who observed formal commission proceedings, met with delegates of nation-states such as the United States, Honduras and Haiti, and attended so-called “side events” on issues ranging from human trafficking and violence against women to her particular interest of empowering women economically.
But perhaps her most memorable experience was the deep interactions with other women of faith, including those from the Anglican Communion. In her conversations with her Anglican counterparts, she sensed that the women wanted to get past the recent “bickering” over sexuality in order to tackle other priorities. And the common cause in support of the U.N.’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which target gender inequality both directly and indirectly through such issues as clean water and quality education for all.
“Being there for two weeks engaged my inter-activist,” said Wright, who added that she was still processing her experience in New York, including her next steps. One might be exploring the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a treaty considered an international bill of rights for women passed by the U.N. in 1979 and supported by a number of American cities – although never ratified by the U.S. government.
Other avenues might include advocating for pay equity for women clergy, as well as a potential series of workshops about women in the larger economy. But whatever form such education and outreach will take, there will be some sort of takeaway, some way for others to get involved, as Wright continues to do, and “make a difference.”
By: Gordon Mantler
Applications accepted for Episcopal delegates to March 2017 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, The Episcopal Church, Office of Public Affairs