EPPN urges support of U.S. foreign-policy changes to empower women

Episcopal Relief and Development commemorates International Women's Day March 8
March 6, 2008

The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is calling on Episcopalians to mark International Women's Day March 8 by contacting their United States senators and representatives to urge them to support the bipartisan Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive (GROWTH) Act.

An EPPN alert, which is emailed to more than 21,000 Episcopalians and religious advocates, said the legislation H.R.2965 and S.2069, "would reshape U.S. foreign aid and trade policy" because the act would:

  • Provide funds to help women start and grow their own business;
  • Provide training and education to women to improve their wages and working conditions;
  • Ensure that U.S. trade policy is beneficial to women and families living in poverty; and
  • Enhance women's land and property rights by prompting U.S. development agencies to work with women and organizations in the developing world addressing these disparities.

"Investing in women is the surest way to end global poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," the EPPN release said. "The GROWTH Act puts U.S. foreign policy on the right track toward exactly the kind of change that's needed to achieve the MDGs."

In Resolution D022, passed at the 75th General Convention, the Episcopal Church committed itself to helping the world achieve the MDGs " in fulfillment of our Baptismal Covenant and as an expression of the hunger of this Church for far deeper communion with all of God’s beloved."

The Episcopal Church delegation to the March 2007 Towards Effective Anglican Mission conference in Boksburg, South Africa, said at the end of the meeting that as a people of faith, "it is our faith in the risen Christ that roots our ministry in God's mission to meet the MDGs and to go beyond."

Solutions like property rights and investing in women's businesses are simple, but ultimately life-changing, EPPN said.

"One line on a property deed can be the difference between poverty and hope for a woman and her family," Shade Bembatoum-Young, a Nigerian woman, told EPPN.

The network's release notes that women account for 70 percent of people -- or 1 billion -- living in extreme poverty around the world. They also perform 66 percent of the world's work and receive less than five percent of its income, EPPN said. Women produce half the world's food but own one percent of its farmland.

"Investing in women means investing in families, communities, and nations," EPPN reports Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as saying in connection with the declaration of International Women's Day.

EPPN is not the only Episcopal Church organization considering the role of finances in the promotion of gender equity.

Anglican Women's Empowerment's (AWE) on March 1 concluded a week-long series of activities geared toward the Anglican understanding of gender equity and its relationship to human and social development. The week culminated at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City with a panel presentation on the theme "The Intersection of Faith and Politics: Financing for Gender Equity."

AWE includes representatives of the Anglican Consultative Council Observer's Office to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). This year's 52nd UNCSW gathering, themed "Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women," concluded on March 7 at United Nations headquarters, in New York City.

To get involved with Episcopal Relief and Development’s work with women in the developing world through micro-credit click here.



Episcopal Relief and Development commemorates International Women's Day

[ERD] Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) commemorates International Women's Day 2008, on Saturday, March 8. As women and their children make up the vast majority of the world's one billion people living in poverty, ERD is especially committed to working to achieve Millennium Development Goal 3 -- promote gender equality and empower women. By implementing innovative programs around the world that address basic needs by promoting health, fighting disease and creating economic opportunities, ERD's programs directly benefit women and their families.

The encompassing poverty that shackles the lives of poor women comes in many forms. For Elena, an indigenous Aymaran mother of three in the Puno region of Peru, poverty meant living on less than $1 per day and struggling to care for her family without the help of her husband, who suffers from alcoholism. Elena sold food to support the family, but had to spend much of her earnings renting a boat to reach her customers. The family could barely make ends meet and did not have money for the children to attend school.

When Elena learned about a micro-finance program sponsored by ERD, her journey of transformation began. The Ecumenical Church Loan Fund is supported by ERD's partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Peru. Together with other borrowers in her community, Elena formed a community bank and was given a small loan that enabled her to purchase her own rowboat. Immediately her profits increased and not only has Elena repaid her loan and expanded her business, but her children are now attending school.

"When women are empowered to make informed decisions about health, education and nutrition in the household, whole economies are uplifted," said Abagail Nelson, vice president for programs at ERD.

To help make the world a better place for women and their children, make a contribution to Episcopal Relief and Development, online here, or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.