At the beginning of March, I had the opportunity to visit the VIVAT International office in New York City and participate as a VIVAT representative in the first days of the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67.) As the JPIC animator for the US Region of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and a recent participant of the VIVAT USA core group, I gladly accepted this opportunity to learn more about VIVAT International (VI) and our role as an NGO at the United Nations. I set out on the journey from Pennsylvania to New York City with 4 purposes in mind for this visit all focused on better understanding:
- to meet with the VIVAT International representatives to better understand how VI operates
- to see first-hand and better understand how the UN functions
- to understand how VI as an NGO is inserted into the UN process and its impact
- and most importantly for me, to understand better how we, Adorers of the Blood of Christ as a member congregation of VI, have active and intentional participation in VI at all levels
As I arrived, I was met by Sr. Marides Santos, SSpS, of the VI team. Immediately we set off for the UN, where we met the other member of the New York team, Fr. Paul Rahmat, SVD, who graciously helped me maneuver the first step of the UN process, acquiring my official pass that would allow access to the UN building and the activities at the CSW67. The activities that I participated in included:
- teen orientation organized by the Working Group on Girls, a great introduction to the energy, enthusiasm and commitment that happens during the CSW and the sense of hope as young leaders shared together
- observed sessions held in the general assembly hall during which over 100 ministers/ambassadors from different countries gave their presentations, as I noted that each elaborated on the many ways and programs their country has put into place concerning gender equality and empowerment of women, I only ask, if every country is doing so many wonderful things as noted, why are we women still in the situation and struggle where we are today?
- side events focused on responding to more specific issues, the March 8 UN observance of International Women’s Day, outdoor chalking of messages, rally for women’s labor rights, and encounters with women from all over the world…committed, energetic women activists doing innovative and inspiring things where they are
And along with the activities within the UN, I had the opportunity to meet and share time with the two VI representatives in the New York office. Besides helping me to successfully navigate the myriad of UN processes and activities in my first UN visit, we also had extensive conversations about VI, its structure and function, and how the 11 member congregations do participate and can participate even more at the different levels. Near the end of my visit, we took some time to explore my initial learnings from the experience:
- even though I have had uncertainties about the effectiveness and the impact the UN can have, I saw that to make a difference in the world, each component or each level has its part of doing; the UN, the NGOs at the UN, civil society, local groups, we member congregations in the areas where we are in mission and ministry
- the process of effecting changes at the UN level is very slow and arduous but necessary. Therefore, it is important for NGOs such as VIVAT International to continue to advocate at this level. We cannot depend only on the governments to make change
- some changes that are needed are more urgent. It is also important for those on the local level to act decisively
- as member congregations of VIVAT International, it is important for all of us to be involved in the different levels and also that there be an opening that allows for involvement
- much more was learned from this experience, and I am sure the learning will continue, but what I can share today is the VIVAT International representatives welcome with open arms and are very willing to assist others to learn and help that VI may continue to have a positive impact.
I am grateful to Marides and Paul for this opportunity and experience, and now the next part of the journey continues as I share within my own congregation the learnings, calling each of us to participate in the way we can to move toward that beautiful order of things.
Dani Brought, ASC