March 9, 2020, United Nations – Women have seen great progress in their rights through the years, but much work still needs to be done toward gender equality and empowerment.
That was the assessment of Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican representative at the United Nations, as she contemplated the status of women ahead of March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day.
Since being selected recently by the Dominican Sisters Conference to fill her new position, Sister Durstyne has been involved with the Commission on the Status of Women, a UN organization established by the Economic and Social Council to promote women’s rights and to monitor their status throughout the world.
The Commission’s annual two-week session – which includes official meetings and public “side events” of workshops, presentations, and other events to explore the status of women – was scheduled for March 2020. The session was canceled to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The 64th session would have marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, the fourth world conference on women, which set forth a platform and a number of areas of concern to be addressed worldwide. These included the “persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women,” unequal access to education and training, violence against women and the effects of war on women, and “lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women.”
In the past few months, in preparation for the sessions, commissions of women have been studying the Beijing Platform to see if new language needs to be added, Sister Durstyne said. “Twenty-five years ago we weren’t talking about the climate,” but now the climate crisis needs to be discussed in light of its impact on women and their families, she said.
Sister Durstyne has seen progress in the status of women. “Just look at our political situation in the United States,” she said. “We don’t have a woman president yet and I’m not sure we will in 2020 – but maybe in 2024.” Yet, the performance of the female candidates for nomination by the Democratic Party showcased their “amazing abilities,” she added.
But Sister Durstyne sees the need for much more progress for women in the United States and around the world and noted that women have made varying levels of progress in different parts of the world. “I think all women want the same thing in many ways, but how far do they have to go? How close are they to getting gender equality in Vietnam or Latin America?”
Sister Durstyne hopes for a more sustainable world, including economic sustainability. “Economic sustainability will come from gender equality,” she said. “We still have to raise the level of women’s status in the world, wherever they’re coming from, and see that their hopes and desires are recognized and held up so that change can happen in our world. Change can’t happen with over half the population in the world excluded from engagement with civil society.”
Women’s overall status is affected by their economic status, Sister Durstyne said, noting that homelessness at the global level involves more and more women. “The fact that women have a responsibility for their families is a huge aspect” of their need for economic equality, she added.
Sister Durstyne also sees the need for women to be affirmed in their leadership roles. Women and men “have to honor one another’s leadership roles and competency,” she said. She gave the example of the Catholic Church, which “needs to strengthen its relationship with women and call on more women in leadership.”
The various congregations of women religious present at the United Nations – Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of Charity, Daughters of Charity, Dominicans, and Franciscans – are serving as a model of leadership development for young women, Sister Durstyne said. “We’re all here because we want to promote the leadership of women,” she said. “We’re doing it by inviting young interns to work with us, helping young women to see what contributions they can make to the sustainability and development of all people – not just women.”
nice article and good work promoting women.