Members of the Anglican Communion official delegation to the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women pause for a group shot. The Rev. Canon Alice Medcof (third from right in the back row) represented Canada. Submitted photo

Anglicans push for gender equality at UN commission

Highlighting the global struggle for gender equality, Canadian Anglicans joined counterparts from across the worldwide Anglican Communion at the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) from March 9–20.

A group of eight Canadian Anglicans comprised of six women and two men, including one bishop, travelled to New York City for the UNCSW. Along with their participation at the UN discussions, they attended parallel events organized by the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN).

The Rev. Canon Alice Medcof, a member of the Canadian Anglican group who has attended the UNCSW each year since 2004, was also the Canada representative on the 19-member ACOUN international delegation, which included Anglican women from Myanmar, Japan, Brazil and Papua New Guinea, among other countries.

“It was quite thrilling…to have women from parts of the Communion where Anglicanism is perhaps two per cent or eight per cent of the population,” Medcof said.

Three dioceses from the Anglican Church of Canada were represented among the Canadian group, which consisted of Bishop Michael Bird, Susan Bird, the Rev. Canon Sharyn Hall and Fred Hall from the Diocese of Niagara; Judy Dickson, Maria Jordon and Medcof from the Diocese of Toronto; and Dr. Jane Clelland from the Diocese of British Columbia.

The UNCSW included approximately 400 discussion groups, with members of the Canadian Anglican group able to attend a maximum of four events each per day based on their interests or area of expertise. Each of the eight members will write about their experiences as part of a group report that will be submitted to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

This year’s UN commission marked the 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was accepted globally in 1995 and called on governments to raise awareness about women’s place in society and pass legislation to promote gender equality.

In affirming the Beijing Platform, the UNCSW urged governments to work toward the goal of complete gender equality around the world by 2030.

“The request was that governments…continue to include women in the discussions and work towards a society where women gain equally with men the good that society has, like equal food, equal pay for equal work, [and] the opportunity to participate in decision-making,” Medcof said.

Other issues impacting women that the ACOUN international delegation identified as emerging from the commission were gender-based violence, climate change, human trafficking and slavery, statelessness and birth registration.

Meanwhile, the events organized by the Anglican Communion Office at the Episcopal Church Center included presentations by World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda as well as Archbishop Sir David Moxon, emissary to the Holy See for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

In his remarks, Moxon focused on the issue of human trafficking, which now earns more illegal money than the international drug trade. He spoke in detail about the Global Freedom Network, an organization with an interfaith leadership dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Confronting human trafficking remains a focus for Medcof, who will attend a forum in Toronto on April 28 organized by the FCJ Refugee Centre, Human Trafficking and LGBTQ+ Community: Breaking the Silence and Mobilizing Support. She invited fellow Anglicans to attend the event, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the 519 Church Street Community Centre. Registration is $10.

Anglicans interested in getting more involved in women’s issues may contact Medcof at [email protected] for more information.

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