Representatives from Howard Payne University were among those in New York City recently for the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Thanks to the Baptist World Alliance, two HPU faculty members, two students and a recent graduate were able to attend the UN conference among diplomats and other leaders from around the world.
HPU representatives included Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies; Jennifer McNiece, assistant professor of government and director of international studies and academic travel; Elizabeth Allen, senior cross-cultural studies major from Brownwood; Rebeca Puente, senior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence social science major from Waskom; and Jessi Jordan, a 2015 HPU graduate now studying at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Commission on the Status of Women helps shape global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Through her connections with the Women’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance, a fellowship of Baptist conventions and unions from around the world, Dr. Maxwell received five conference passes. Others representing the BWA included female leaders from each continent and representatives from 14 countries.
“The conference discussed what life is like for women around the world,” Dr. Maxwell said. “It was eye-opening to learn about issues that many women face and a great opportunity for our student leaders to discuss issues related to women. Learning about these topics alongside outstanding Baptist women from across the globe was an invaluable experience.”
Puente, who is preparing for a career in law, spoke about the opportunity to meet with leaders from around the world.
“At one of the events, I sat next to the Minister on Gender Equality for Iceland and listened to him talk about the work he’s doing for gender equality in his country,” she said. “At another event, women parliamentarians from around the world told us about their experiences facing violence in their countries because they are women in politics.”
As Christians at a largely secular conference, the HPU group members were tasked with considering how their faith speaks to such issues. Together with leaders from the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, they prayed for the women of the world and discussed how the love of Christ motivated them to serve women in need.
“Our students, who are moving toward careers in ministry and law, were able to think about how they can be Christian leaders in today’s society,” said McNiece.