Today is International Women’s Day. In years past I’ve posted a quick picture on facebook, smiled, and reminisced about the many women who have personally impacted my life. I’ve marveled at these incredible women who have birthed me, nurtured me, empowered me, challenged me, and loved me. I have dreamed of being like them someday. To have the power to teach someone as they have taught me. To have the courage to speak out as I have seen them speak out. And to have the perseverance and knowledge of self to stand confidently on my own two feet.
Today, on this International Women’s Day 2015, I find myself in a very different situation. I have spent the day in Harlem, NY at the Apollo Theatre with hundreds of other women and men discussing the rights of women around the world. I have marched across New York City streets and into Times Square alongside of other women and men as a public witness that WE NEED GENDER JUSTICE! And we need it NOW! Finally, I have come together with a group of congregation members, hunger leaders, clergy, and phenomenal children of God from the ELCA to share pieces of what the Young Adult Cohort is, why it matters, and what we are up to at the United Nations this week.
I am in awe of this day. I am in awe of what God is doing in this place, and in these amazing people. Finally, I am in awe of the huge opportunity that this place is to continue the journey of learning to teach, speak out, and stand confidently on my own two feet as a young female leader, and as a human being.
One of the individuals who spoke today was Dr. Gertrude Mongella, a former Under-Secretary General of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women. Needless to say, she’s a pretty big deal. One of the points she emphasized over and over again, was that while she loved being a leader, there will be a day in the near future where a new generation will need to take over. Her words were something like: “Mama Mongella will not always be around, and there is coming a day that another generation will need to come to the spotlight to lead.”
This resonated deeply with the gathered group of Young Adults I sat near during the session, and prompted conversation about the strong and broad shoulders that we stand upon as young women today. We have been lifted high by the women who have come before us, strengthened by the women amongst us, and encouraged by the children we see who will continue after us. Yet, there is still much work to be done. Gender equality has not been achieved in ANY nation in the world today, violence against women continues to be a worldwide epidemic, and women still fall far below the 50% mark of seats in worldwide leadership and/or decision-making bodies.
Today on this International Women’s Day, I do not sit on facebook, smiling, and reminiscing. I sit in a small hotel room in New York City, anxiously awaiting the official beginning of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I wait anxiously because I understand the importance of this time on a much different level these days. I understand that my sisters all around the world are being raped, beaten, oppressed, silenced and ignored every single day. I understand that this problem is not just somewhere else, it is in my own country, my own state, city, community, and church. And I, Jessica Obrecht, country bumpkin from Havre, MT have a seat at this great table, amongst great minds, warm hearts, and beautiful souls. What an honor, what a privilege, what a joy, and what a responsibility that holds.