Annual attendance at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been a major part of Big Ocean’s work since the organization was founded. Our aim is to connect with like-minded and like-hearted women in an interfaith and global effort to support one another and to defend faith, family, and motherhood. Since so many countries and cultures are represented at CSW, attendance helps us to expand our vision and get a global picture of what women are facing—their challenges and their triumphs.
Our delegation consisted of 31 women, eight of whom were high school and college-aged women who formed our youth delegation. Events we attended covered a spectrum of topics including reproductive education, trafficking, agriculture, and education. Everyone at CSW was trying to make the world better, but the ideologies informing that effort were not universal. Hearing about some of the things that are happening in the world as well as the causes that some groups are championing can be a heart-rending experience, but we were strengthened as we met brave women who are fighting for the same things that we are.
One of the biggest marks of Big Ocean is the manner in which we approach problems. At a presentation we did on Sunday night Carolina Allen said, “We have a choice to make. It is either to soak up all the darkness that there is or to shine brighter.” Our emphasis on reframing problems to find generative solutions helped us to shape the conversation at some of CSW’s major events. This reframing was evident in the events surrounding the #MeToo campaign. As we reach out to victims of sexual assault, our goal is to help them complete the healing process. It is paramount that the effort to maintain awareness not be done through fueling anger, which not only cannot be sustained, but also traps victims in a single stage of the healing process. For anyone who can say “me too,” there is darkness to wade through, but it does not need to last forever. With healing comes light.
This year the focus of CSW was on rural women. An emerging pattern was a push to homogenize rural communities. One example of this was the emphasis on bringing tech to rural peoples or bringing rural peoples to tech (i.e. moving them into cities). The problem with this approach is that it is a one-size-fits-all method which assumes that the conveniences and culture of populated areas are superior. From a Big Ocean standpoint, this conflicts with our model of powerful impact which seeks improvement by working from the inside out rather than the outside in. We relish the differences that make women and cultures unique, and we believe that there is divinity and power in our individuality.
At CSW we aimed to provide a platform for women whose voices are often lost in the cacophony of international discourse. On Saturday, women gathered and shared their stories at our Day to Celebrate Family. (These presentations are available to watch on our blog, links in our newsletter and Facebook page.) We also did over twenty video interviews with women talking about the issues that matter to them and to their communities. These will be appearing on our blog throughout the year along with additional written stories.
One of the women interviewed is a young Liberian woman named Mmonbeydo. After an event she walked straight up to our delegate, Maren, and said that she and the other women in her community have within themselves the power to find solutions to their own problems. Maren emphatically agreed and showed her our Big Ocean tenets, which encourage exactly that. Mmonbedyo connected with them immediately. She told Maren that the Lord led her to Big Ocean, and she has begun the process of setting up a cottage in Liberia.
Now that we are back home our true work begins. We have met so many bright stars and now we must link arms to create constellations so that hope will be written across the sky through our cooperation with our sisters around the world. We hope that anyone reading this will take time to reflect on her place within our global sisterhood. If you are not currently connected with Big Ocean through a cottage, please send an email to email@example.com so you can join our virtual cottage. Like the women we befriended in New York, you have Divinely-given power. The world needs what you have to offer!
Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel