Keira Constable

Student links in to women's justice movement

Keira Constable remembers when she first felt the need to fight against injustice. She was four years old and her aunt had introduced her to a Rwandan university student who escaped the 1994 genocide. The student told her that in Rwanda, people were killing other people because they belonged to a certain group.

Keira Constable
Keira Constable

“Oh,” said the child. “I’m going to stop that one day.”

Now 20, Ms. Constable has found a place where she can work for justice: the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN), which represents the concerns of 40 million Anglican women to the leaders of the Anglican Communion. In Jan. 2011, Archbishop Fred Hiltz appointed her as “provincial link,” the Canadian head of this global movement.

As provincial link, Ms. Constable has two main responsibilities: reporting Canadian women’s concerns to the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and helping Canadians become aware of women’s justice issues internationally. She does this in connection with other Anglican groups in Canada, including the Mother’s Union and Anglican Church Women.

Ms. Constable first connected with the IAWN in 2009, when she was invited to represent Canada at a Hong Kong conference on human trafficking, organized by the Office of the Anglican United Nations Observer. This was an exciting trip-her first to Asia-and she met many women in the IAWN network who taught her about human trafficking in their home countries.

“It had a huge impact on my studies and how I perceive life,” said Ms. Constable, a third-year student at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que.

When she returned to school, Ms. Constable kept the momentum going. She organized a “Not for Sale  Sunday,” a liturgy designed to raise awareness about human trafficking. She also found opportunities to research human trafficking through her course work in politics and international relations.

Her passion has inspired others. “When I talk about human trafficking with peers and friends they say, ‘what can we do about it?'” she said. “I think women’s rights are more visible to us now and we want to do something about it. Hopefully we will be the generation that will get up and act.”

Ms. Constable’s work will build on the activism of her elders, including the Rev. Canon Alice Medcof, a retired Toronto priest and a current IAWN steering group member.

In 1996, Ms. Medcof helped found IAWN and define their initial goals. IAWN wanted women’s voices to be heard at every decision-making body in the Anglican Communion and for any money spent to be analyzed through the lens of gender. They also wanted the Anglican Consultative Council to say that they support the elimination of all violence against women. Ms. Medcof says progress has been made on all these points.

The outgoing IAWN-Canada provincial link is Elizabeth Loweth, a recent recipient of the Anglican Award of Merit, and former executive director of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews as well as the Canadian Center for Ethics and Corporate Policy.

Already Ms. Constable is adapting the provincial link position to her own strengths. She is establishing an IAWN-Canada presence on Twitter and Facebook, and is preparing to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2011, where she plans to forge further links with other groups working for women’s rights.

If you are interested in connecting with other Anglicans who are interested in women’s justice issues, email Ms. Constable.

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