By Anita Coleman
On my first day at United Nations’ headquarters in New York, I took a guided tour. I was in New York to participate in the Presbyterian delegation to the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. I was particularly struck by the display on disarmament with its bold quote by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon: “The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.” I simply could not forget the electronic display of daily military expenditure worldwide, more than $1.5 billion daily.
On Thursday, March 17, at the Commission’s session on addressing data gaps and methodology issues in the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, I heard startling statistics and stories. Most national and international agencies only collect data for women who are 15 through 49 years old (childbearing age). Yet, women over 49 years of age are the largest demographic group (24 percent) of women in the world.
The experts and member states represented on the panel urged CSW60 participants to recommend removal of the discriminatory upper age limit and extend the lower limit below 15. Disaggregation of data showing age, gender, ethnicity and other variables is also needed, they said, as is examining the intersectionality of gender, class, age, health and other categories. More women than men suffer elder abuse. Women with low incomes and those with dementia are even more likely to suffer elder abuse.
Data collection in conflict zones stops when women reach 49, but their suffering does not, as they continue to suffer multiple forms of violence. Finally, I heard about the cross-cutting nature of violence against women. There is an insidious link between domestic and military violence—military prostitution, trafficking and sexual slavery; random and strategic rape; impregnation as ethnic cleansing; sexual torture; sexual violence within the organized military and domestic violence in military families; domestic violence and murders of spouses by combat veterans.
It was on my last day that I saw the sculpture Non-Violence. Also called The Knotted Gun, it is a photo-op that few visitors to the UN miss. It is situated on the plaza near the small security building that visitors must go through before they enter the conference building. I had walked by it every day, several times, and had never noticed it. Knowing it was my last day at the UN, however, I was relaxed, consciously trying to see with new–old eyes all that I’d missed. It was only then that I noticed the dramatic gun.
What are you not seeing today? How do you stay grounded and humbled, yet striving for justice for all?
May the Lord bless you . . . and give you peace (Num. 6:24).
Anita Coleman is an independent scholar who lives in Southern California with her husband and son and their cat Smokie. An active member of PW in the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, Anita is developing the Antiracism Digital Library and Thesaurus with a grant from the PW Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. This was her first visit to New York City, the United Nations and the Commission on the Status of Women. Anita’s books are on Amazon. Other writings of hers can be found on the Presbyterians Today blog, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.