By STEVEN WILLIAMS
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Two Illinois members of the Grandmothers Circle of the Earth Foundation are getting a chance to take part in the United Nation's 58th Commission on the Status of Women.
Monica Thompson of Quincy and Susan Stanton of Nauvoo are attending the commission, which runs from Monday to March 21 at the UN's headquarters in New York. Thompson said they will return March 17.
The GCEF was created in 2009 to promote a grass-roots initiative made up of indigenous women, called grandmothers. Stanton is the CEO of the foundation and a descendant of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroqois Confederation.
"We're kind of like a resource that gathers women, men and children into working groups to create healthy communities worldwide," Stanton said.
Thompson said the commission gives them an opportunity to address some key issues that women face in society today.
"There's trafficking of women and young girls," she said. "There's gender inequality. There's the infant and maternal mortality rates. Do you know where the United States stands? Down at the bottom. For an industrialized country that's not very good when other countries are way above us."
The United States ranks 137 out of 224 countries in maternal mortality rate and 174 out of 224 countries in infant mortality rate. The higher the ranking, the higher the occurrence of death in childbrith. The United States ranks behind other industrialized countries like Canada, U.K., Germany, France and Japan.
"We have a tendency to believe that all these bad things happen somewhere else and they don't," Stanton said. "They happen right here."
The Commission on the Status of Women is a global body committed to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Stanton attended last year with one other delegate from the GCEF. It received four delegates this year, Thompson said.
She said in the last four years the GCEF has probably met with more than 10,000 women all over the world.
"I think it's vitally important to have a conference like this on women and girls," Thompson said.
The foundation is hosting two events during its time in New York -- a film festival on March 7 and a Peace Symposium on March 15 that is co-sponsored by the International Public Policy Institute and Saint Joseph of the Holy Family Church.
Stanton said progress for women requires them to take a lead in solving problems.
"It means not being afraid to say what it is I think my family needs," she said. "And not feeling that I'm not going to be heard."
For Thompson, it will be her first time in New York since she flew into the city in the 1980s. But this time she will spend a bit more time in the city and do something she loves.
"It means the world to me to be able to do this," Thompson said. "I'm very excited, honored and humbled to be able to go to New York and be there to hold ceremony and speak on the behalf of women."