Achieving ‘lasting change’ for girls and women

It was a small article, condensed to a one-paragraph news brief inside the Sept. 15 print edition of The New York Times. The United Nations General Assembly voted to “create a new, more powerful agency for women,” Reuters reported.

At a time when Afghan girls literally risk their lives to get an education, when more than 60 percent of those in sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV are women, when women and girls around the globe fall victim to slavery and prostitution rings, such an agency obviously has work to do.

Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. Secretary-General, hit the mark when he responded to the Sept. 15 decision to create this superagency for women. “Only by standing up for fundamental rights everywhere can we expect to achieve lasting change,” he said.

Through its agencies and area church bodies, The United Methodist Church has worked for years to support such rights, as witnessed by its Book of Resolutions. But the church itself is not immune to discrimination against women, as our denominational surveys on sexual harassment have demonstrated.

Despite repeated attempts by some to abolish the church’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the agency is still needed: for its leadership role on church policy and its ability to offer a sounding board for the concerns of women in the church. Just ask my former news-writing colleague, Garlinda Burton, the commission’s top executive, who frequently receives calls for help from individual women.

The commission is meeting this week in Evanston, Ill. As part a continuing effort to reflect the global nature of the denomination, the group’s vice president, Chita Millan, will lead a discussion about lay women and clergywomen in her own country, the Philippines.

We must continue to pay attention to how women and girls are treated — both in the church and in the world.

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