U.N. commission changes Clinton woman's perspective
CLINTON—Cathy Manthei will never look at her daughter in the same way after attending the 58thCommission of the United Nations on the Status of Women.
While in New York City, Manthei met a woman from Sudan. The woman told Manthei that she and her daughters walk half a day to get water.
Some days the African woman cannot make the trip, so she risks the safety of one of her daughters.
“'I have to look around my house and see which of my daughters will be sacrificed,” the woman told Manthei.
In the Darfur region of Sudan, rape has systematically been used as a tool of war.
“My jaw dropped when she told me about this part of her life,” Manthei said. “Can you imagine? Something like that is not even on my radar screen. As I listened to this woman's story, I thought about my own children.”
Manthei of Clinton is a former employee of the communication division of the Walworth County Sheriff's Department.
Today she is a Presbyterian minister who is interested in social justice issues. After hearing the stories of women from around the world, she returned home with a different perspective.
“My world shrunk,” Manthei said. “Honestly, I never would have thought about a woman in Sudan. Now a day doesn't go by that I don't think about her.”
Manthei attended the U.N. commission, where some 6,000 representatives from around the world gathered to talk about critical issues related to gender equality and women's rights. They met for two weeks in March.
Among the topics they discussed were eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating AIDS and HIV.
They know that empowering women fuels economies and spurs productivity and growth. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched around the world, where women suffer violence and discrimination.
“Our focus was to listen to people's stories and to bring them home with us,” Manthei said. “The topics are huge, but we need to take small steps to reach the goals. There are so many things we can do in the world to make small differences for each other.”
She understands people experience compassion fatigue when so many good causes cry out for help.
Manthei suggests finding a way to make a difference close to home.
“The message is: Be aware of the needs of your neighbor,'” she said. “That is where it starts.”
Manthei applied and was chosen to attend the commission last year.
“It really is about advocating for human rights, which I have done much of my life,” she said.
Manthei has received invitations to speak about the experience. First, she plans a talk in May at Apostle Presbyterian Church, West Allis, where she is pastor.
“Once you've learned about the life of a woman in Sudan, the question is, 'What will you do with the knowledge?'” she asked. “When I got on the plane to go to New York, I was worried about not having anyone to do coffee hour at church. When I came home, I was thinking about places in the world that really matter.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org