Introduction by Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries:
Every year, right around International Day of Women on March 8, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women convenes for two full weeks at the UN building in New York City. More than 7,000 representatives from NGOs and an assortment of individuals simply interested in breaking the chains of oppression for women worldwide gather from many nations to share information and network with one another. There are hundreds of workshops and panel discussions offered at the Parallel Events sponsored by NGOs and faith groups. These are free for anyone to attend. For the fifth time as executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, I made my way from Philadelphia to the United Nations plaza in New York City to meet a world of women and to learn about successes and challenges in the work to empower women and girls at every level.
I took with me Thaw Eh Moo, a Karen Baptist woman from Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), who had just recently arrived in the U.S. for her first visit. A religious educator and an active volunteer with women’s ministries in Myanmar, Thaw Eh Moo was in the U.S. to do a 10-week internship with American Baptist Women’s Ministries at Valley Forge. I was excited that her presence at the Commission events would add a voice from Myanmar.
Reflections by Thaw Eh Moo, American Baptist Women’s Ministries Intern:
It had been hard to leave my motherland and come to another place where I had never been. I was full of worry to face the differences. I took courage from God to leave my comfort zone and to meet new experiences.
The doors have already opened for me to see new things. I will never regret stepping into these new experiences because it represents a blessed new beginning for me that will also result in a blessed future for the women in my community.
At the UN Commission on the Status of Women, I saw how new windows have opened for women all over the world. I heard the voices of different women. I heard the inner voice in myself, too. The forums I attended that day gave me some new insights for the women in Burma. I listened and related the new learnings to my country’s context. Two of the forums were: 1) Future Directions to Ensure Health and Mental Health for Girls and Women, and 2) Defying Extremism: Gendered Responses to Religious Violence.
First, I was challenged to think about the importance of mental health for women in my context. Most of the women in my country assume the role of nurturers and caregivers. If we want to have strong caregivers, we need to care for their sound mental health. There are many orphanage centers and boarding schools in my country. At these places the children are dependent upon the care of dorm directors, caregivers, mentors, and other leaders. I want to do a mental health assessment of caregivers who work with children who have experienced trauma in their lives. If these caregivers and leaders struggle with mental health issues, we can help them.
Second, I received new insights about reading the Bible through women’s eyes, with liberated minds. One of the presenters said that the Scripture should not be for death, but for life. Because my hobbies are reading and writing, I want to write some articles related to women and the Bible, focusing on the gender issue.
Finally, I hope I can bring some women from Myanmar to this Commission on the Status of Women next year so that together we can raise our voices to improve the lives of women in Myanmar and throughout the world. If we don’t raise our voices, who will hear us? If we don’t raise our voices, we might not even hear the cry that begins within us.
Women! It is a privilege to hold tightly to God’s hand and never be afraid or worry about your entering new places because God has already opened the windows for all of you. Let’s start stepping into the blessed future.
Virginia Holmstrom serves as executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Thaw Eh Moo served as intern in American Baptist Women’s Ministries from March through May of 2015. Thaw Eh Moo is a lecturer at the Myanmar Institute of Theology in Yangon, Myanmar, a curriculum writer, leadership trainer, youth and children’s leader, Bible study teacher, and serves in ministry with women in Myanmar.