Anglican Women's Empowerment's (AWE) week-long series of activities geared toward the Anglican understanding of gender equity and its relationship to human and social development, culminated on March 1 at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City with a panel presentation themed "The Intersection of Faith and Politics: Financing for Gender Equity."
"Only when God's gifts are fairly and justly distributed for the welfare of all creation will peace come on earth," said Phoebe Griswold, one of the founding members of AWE.
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," will conclude on March 7 at United Nations headquarters, in New York City.
In her opening remarks, Griswold said that in order for equity to happen, women must be an "equal part of the decisions made about allocating resources."
Panelists included: the Rev. Dr. William J. Danaher, Jr., Episcopal priest and associate professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology in the John Henry Hobart Chair at the General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New York City; the Rt. Rev. Dr. Probal Kanto Dutta, Bishop of the Diocese of the Durgapur in the Province of Northern India; and Dana Dakin, founder and president of Women's Trust, Inc, a nonprofit organization that supports programs to empower women and girls in the developing world through microcredit, education, and healthcare.
Diane Eynon, director at the Institute of Executive Education at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, served as moderator.
"Given the good news of the abundance of the gospels," she asked: "What are the obligations of religious institutions, civil society and individuals in ensuring that women have equal access to resources and what steps have you, your church and/or government taken to ensure women have access to these resources?"
Equity not the same as authority
Focusing Mark's Gospel and the story about the woman with the issue of blood, Danaher said that, "Jesus was unafraid to be touched by women."
"All of this has relevance today because the woman is a disciple of Jesus," he stated. "Jesus is the pivot around which she enters back into society whole and complete. We have a chance to meet Jesus the same way that Jesus met that woman.
"One of the ways in which we work for gender equity is by creating initiatives in which basic capabilities can be given to women so that they can enter into society whole and complete," said Danaher.
He cited Martha Nussbaum, an American philosopher and the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, who said that "equity is not the same as authority, and that we sometimes have to devote initial resources so that those historically disadvantaged and oppressed can have a chance to develop."
Dutta spoke on the manipulation of Bible passages that "make women second-class citizens."
He said the church has been a "powerful instrument in oppressing women" and that it is time for men to repent.
Dutta said his diocese is focused on changing that mindset through building orphanages and helping to create micro enterprises. The rationale for the emphasis being on the girl is that through her "the family should be transformed," he said.
Describing how at the age of 60, wanting to make a difference, she headed to Ghana, West Africa and began a micro-lending organization, Dakin noted the "one person can make a difference" mantra.
"Access to capital empowers women," she said.
Dakin, like Dutta, spoke of the investment in women as an investment in family and said that "relationships lead to continuity and continuity leads to trust."
Joining the panelists for feedback were Liliana Cisneros, AWE, Nicaragua; the Rev. Eleanor Ellsworth, AWE, San Diego; Florence Akinkoye, AWE, Nigeria; and Virginia Davies, Esq, New York.
"What I learned from the panel is that as Christians we have the responsibility to work toward social justice," said Cisneros. "We need to determine where the need is. Statistics show that women are the poorest of the poor."
Ellsworth said she was excited that Dakin was reaching out to women saying "you can do it."
"I think the problem is that most people just don't know how to get started," she explained. "I feel if you could give people ways in our parishes and dioceses like you have done, the domino effect happens."
Akinkoye said she was "thrilled" by Dutta's admission of the role that men in the Church play in the oppression of women.
"I look at this from the perspective of how do we get women first into sustainable businesses and then how do we get women into the real mainstream of finance," said Davies.
She suggests that the Anglican communities "share information" and build a "technology-based network."
"It not only builds better businesses, but a better Church," she said.
Also at the Trinity event, AWE publicly announced the development of a Gender Budgeting Tool Kit that will explain the theology, theory, history, and tools for financing for gender equity and the empowerment of women. During the past week, gender budgeting sessions provided the opportunity for Anglican women to give input.
"I am so grateful for the powerful voices of the women who come here from around the world and teach us what it means to empower women," said the Rev. Margaret Rose, director of the Mission Leadership Center for the Episcopal Church. "We learn to work in mutuality and solidarity in ways that we are not always able to do when we are not gathered face to face. It is an incredible sharing of resources and gifts."
The event can be viewed in its entity here.