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United Nations: An experience of a lifetime

By Staff | Mar 12, 2012

In her multiple roles as woman, wife, mother, educator, coach, and church member, Leah Johnson participated in an event hosted by the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City, recently. Johnson was sponsored by Church Women United and the National Council of Churches.

It was an opportunity that she wasn’t expecting, but she applied and was accepted. Thanks to her husband, the administration at Rugby High School where she teaches, and her church, who all supported her in participating in this special life experience, she was able to take a week off and fly to New York City to be a part of something much bigger than her world.

She was one of an ecumenical delegation of ten women from all over the United States to participate– along with more than four thousand ecumenical women from all over the world– in the 56th Commission on the Status of Women.

The commission’s task was to develop a set of agreed conclusions that offer priorities for member countries in their work to improve the lives of women everywhere, according to the website: ecumenicalwomen.org. Johnson has blogged on that website about her experience.

The theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women was “The Empowerment of Rural Women and their roles in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current changes”.

The focus was on young rural women with a few mentors thrown in to guide the process. Because she isn’t under 30, Johnson was one of the mentors for the group.

“I had no idea what I was going to before I got there, ” said Johnson. “In fact, it took a couple of days for me to absorb what it was all about.”

She met women from all over the world and heard their stories.

“Some people like me came to listen and learn,” said Johnson.

What she was reminded of was that change of any sort takes one person with an idea who is willing to keep trying.

Johnson went to one side session in which a woman from another country talked about needing land to grow things while at the same time maintaining the forests that were also important in her country. She talked about alternative methods that they came up with to deal with that specific challenge.

Johnson had the privilege of hearing Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, speak about her experiences in bringing peace to Liberia. Gbowee along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Tawakkol Karman received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” (Nobel Peace Prize website)

It was fascinating for Johnson to listen to this woman who had been through so much, but who was committed to leading a peaceful movement to end the Liberian war and all its devastating effects. Gbowee kept trying and she succeeded.

“I told her about the frustration teachers have with students who are apathetic to learning in this country,” said Johnson. “They don’t think education is important and they are supported by those around them in this belief.”

Gbowee pointed her finger at Johnson and said, “You may call it apathy, but the student has given up hope.”

“It changed my perspective (on the apathy issue),” said Johnson.

She is grateful that she got the opportunity to listen to these women from other countries all over the world. “I was reminded of the various perceptions there are from different areas.”

Johnson knows she will be processing her experience for a long time to come.

“I look forward to opportunities to share with others, ” said Johnson.

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