Archdeacon Ellen Clark-King (centre) with other Anglican women who met at the United Nations in New York City to celebrate International Women’s Day
Conference Room B, one of the largest general meeting rooms at the United Nations in New York City, was packed with women on Thursday March 5 for the UN's celebration of International Women's Day.

It was a wonderful sight-and sound-with the room full of colour and conversation, a reminder of how impoverished our decision making bodies are when they exclude women from chambers of power.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is dedicated to building gender equality and, in particular, to promoting zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. The UN will, of course, be an even healthier institution when the wall of portraits of former Secretaries-General includes female faces alongside the male. Mr Ki-moon and others do bring the possibility of this day a little closer through working to eradicate violence against women and girls, identifying this as both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality.

Mr Ki-moon reminded us that "real men respect women", that only men can choose to change their behaviour and that "the time to change is now." The Australian slogan of the White Ribbon movement of men against violence against women and girls was greeted with great enthusiasm: "Not violent. Not silent."

Then, please God, some year soon we will have no more stories like that of an 18 year old Congolese girl raped by 4 soldiers and ostracised by her family or a 14 year old Liberian girl raped by five soldiers and then married to their commander. The world is a dangerous place for women, still the poorest of the poor and increasingly bearing the burden of HIV/AIDS as caregivers and as sufferers themselves.

The UN building in New York
The need to improve this situation and work towards the millennium development goals is recognized throughout the Anglican Communion. As Florence Akinoye of Nigeria said, the Anglicans' message of social justice is one that must be heard outside of the church, adding that she would advocate for that work when she returned home.

International Women's Day at the UN was a reminder of the needs and gifts of women across the world. In order for its message not to disappear I am hoping to establish a local branch of the International Anglican Women's Network-Canada in Vancouver.

This will provide a forum to look at the position of women in our communion and in the world, and to work together for ways to improve both. Please feel free to email me ( if you think you would be interested in becoming involved, or keep your eyes open for further information in the next few weeks.