From Gender Equality to Ecologically Sustainable Future: Reflections from The Grail, The Loretto Community, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Nerinx Hall High School

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Introduction:

Originally, a session of Intergenerational Conversation Circles was meant to take place at the annual Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Forum (March 9-20, 2020) of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women which had as its theme the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and its outcome documents, the Beijing Declaration and Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). The 25th Anniversary of Beijing is being marked by UN Women with a campaign called, Generation Equality: Realizing women’s right for an equal future, bringing together the next generations of women’s rights activists and gender advocates, and those who helped develop the BPfA twenty-five years ago in a series of meetings throughout 2020 beginning with the CSW. Mexico and France are acting as co-sponsors of Generation Equality events.

Due to the threat of the coronavirus and COVID19, the CSW in its usual form never took place. Because of the postponement of the CSW, most parallel events, such as this one, were held on online platforms. After witnessing an event from The Grail featuring the narratives of young women from Uganda, Mozambique and Mexico, Loretto at the UN with assistance from the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Loreto (IBVM) was inspired to refigure the themes of Generation Equality and the Intergenerational Conversation Circles into an impromptu webinar; featuring the voices of four young women from The Grail, Sisters of Loretto, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa (BVMs) and students from Nerinx Hall High School. Our event aired on March 11, 2020 with the purpose of fulfilling the original goal of the Intergenerational Conversation Circles: to give space for both younger and older generations of advocates for gender equity to raise their personal narratives and engage in intergenerational dialogue. What follows is some further context.

Background:

The Intergenerational Conversation Circles that this webinar was based upon were formulated and sponsored by the Working Group on Girls, Loretto Community and Grey Panthers in order to bring various generations together to compare and contrast perceptions of the 6 Action Coalition themes as announced by the Generation Equality Forum.  

Action Coalitions are global, innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships that will mobilize

governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector to: catalyze collective action; spark global and local conversations among generations; drive increased public & private investment; deliver concrete, game-changing results across generations for girls and women. They were formed through consultations with civil society, government and other actors and based on human rights principles. 

The impetus for the formation of Action Coalitions was to progress the goals of the Generation Equality Forum; which aim to radically progress the mobilization of Sustainable Development Goal 5, (gender equality) as well as to revisit and update the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (the most progressive blueprint for gender equality). 

Four world conferences on Women have been organized by the UN.  These conferences have taken place in Mexico City in 1975; Copenhagen in 1980; Nairobi in 1985; and Beijing in 1995. The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was a turning point for the global women’s movement. Over 17,000 participants attended, including 6,000 government delegates, 4,000 accredited NGO representatives, many international civil servants and about 4,000 media representatives. Sisters of Loretto Mary Peter Bruce, Maureen McCormack and Marian McAvoy were among those many participants. BVM sister Rose Mary Meyer was also a participant. A parallel NGO Forum took place near Beijing in Huairou, which gathered over 30,000 people. The outcome of the conference, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, was adopted unanimously by 189 countries. This agenda, according to UN Women, is considered “the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights” and “the key global policy document on gender equality”. 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA). 

In 2020, UN Women and the Commission on the Status of Women aim to undertake a review and analysis of the implementation of the BPfA and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. It has called for national and regional-level reviews, the outcomes of which will feed into the 2020 review to be undertaken by the Commission. The Loretto Community continues it’s tradition of involvement in advancing the rights of women and girls by welcoming delegates each year to the Commission on the Status of Women. In honor of the 64th annual Commission on the Status of Women and the celebration of 25 years since the adoption of the BPfA, The Loretto Community had registered nearly 40 participants to take part in the delegation. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, much of the delegation could no longer attend in person. 

This webinar aims to celebrate regardless; bringing to light narratives of sisters who had attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, girl advocates from Nerinx Hall High School (a Loretto founded highschool) and young activists from The Grail. The Loretto Community, IBVM, BVMs and The Grail have long been focused on empowering women and girls and transforming patriarchy, in pursuit of a more just and peaceful society. In this event, we have brought together local and global efforts to showcase the needs and work of those fighting for gender justice. 

The event begins with an overview by Beth Blissman and Amy Maltz of the global links to the Beijing commemoration and the BPfA. Bringing back first-hand narratives, panelists from The Loretto Community and BVM Community provide first-hand knowledge and analysis from their experiences in Beijing followed by a panel of Nerinx Hall High School students who present their analyses on the recent report by UNICEF, UN Women and Plan International on 25 years of progress on girls’ rights. The event concludes with a panel of young women from The Grail who bring to light their experiences and advocacy work as girls and young women from Mozambique, Uganda and Mexico. Cross-generational dialogue is provided in the form of question and answer sessions throughout the event. 

Speakers (in order of appearance):

Loretto at the UN:             Beth Blissman, Amy Maltz

Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Loreto:         Francesca Torcasio Barberis

Sisters of Loretto: Mary Peter Bruce, Maureen McCormack

Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, IA:   Rose Mary Meyer

Nerinx Hall High School: Sadie Strelow, Isabella Blake, Meta Stephens, 

Clare Neill, Kara Munz, Beth Buchek, Jennifer Staed

The Grail: Liria, Marlene, Abida Jamal, Noella Nakabuye,

Carolina Nava, Mary Kay Louchart, Sharon Joslyn

Three actions to take:

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A big thank you to our speakers for sharing their experiences and an even bigger thank you to Francesca Torcasio Barberis for her technology artistry that made this possible!  Here is their contact information if you wish to engage with them further:

Amy Maltz and Beth Blissman – Loretto at the United Nations

Social Media:

Website: www.lorettoattheun.org

Email: 

Francesca Torcasio Barberis – Youth Representative – Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Loreto (IBVM)

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ibvmunngo

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ibvmunngo/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ibvmngo

Website: http://ibvmunngo.org

Email: ibvmunngoyr@gmail.com

Mary Peter Bruce (SL) and Maureen McCormack (SL) – The Loretto Community:

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorettocommunity/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorettoNews

Website: www.lorettocommunity.org

Rose Mary Meyer (BVM) – Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bvmsisters/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bvmsisters

Website: https://www.bvmsisters.org

Nerinx Hall High School

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NerinxHall/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nerinxhall/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NerinxHall

Website: https://www.nerinxhall.org

The Grail

Website: https://www.thegrail.org

Some helpful resources that were mentioned throughout the webinar: