Sr Suzette Clarke writes from Australia about our involvement in UNANIMA International. "This year UNANIMA International (UI) is celebrating its fifteenth year. The Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of Australia took a joint membership in 2011. Sr Pat Kenny was our inaugural board member for 4 years and now I am the board member until 2018.
UI is a coalition of 21 congregations of women religious. We number about 2,200 and are on all continents. Our vision is to work for justice at the international level in the United Nations (UN), to effect systemic and structural change in accord with the social teachings of the church and to engage in advocacy, education and action in our special areas of concern:
- women and children, especially if they live in poverty, are sold as slaves or are migrants or refugees
- the human right to have water and sanitation
- the environment and especially how climate change affects women and children
- the rights of Indigenous Peoples and their lands and water, especially the effects of mining and fracking or coal seam gas mining.
UI is an NGO (non government organisation) with UN status. Such NGOs have been described as:
- the UN’s “window to reality” by a recent UN President
- the UN’s “conscience” by John Paul II
- watchdogs, reminders, teachers, resources, “boots on the ground” and instrumental in shaping our global framework especially on women’s empowerment.
UI activities at the UN and in New York include:
- interventions, writing submissions and lobbying
- participating in rallies and walks
- participating and organising side events at the UN for Congresses such as the Congress on the Status of Women (last March 3 of our Sisters came to New York for this Congress)
- give Justice Awards to “Women of Courage”
- host Interns for a three month internship with UI
UI plans and hosts events in other countries. Some of our Sisters attended the Kenya and Ghana Trafficking Workshops. Members of UI attend UN Meetings such as the Climate Change Conference in Paris.
UI has taken on the UN 2030 Agenda, commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals and everything we do is included in these goals.
Women of Courage
Each year UI gives 2007 a Woman of Courage Award to someone who embodies the qualities essential for the advancement of women everywhere: solidarity, a passion for human rights, commitment, and courage in the face of power which threatens life.
Criteria for selection of awardee are:
- that the awardee be a woman, but not a member of the member congregations
- that she has displayed courage through her actions in the face of adversity: government, popular opinion, leaders
- that her actions reflect and support the values and principles promoted by the UN
- that they relate to one of the major areas of concern for the UN
- that there be the possibility of media coverage