Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2011, Washington, DC, March 25-28, 2011
Security and Economic Justice: What's Gender Got to Do with It?"
Ann Price, Social Action Coordinator, Baltimore-Washington Conference
United Methodist Women
More than 700 persons from the national faith community gathered
at the Double Tree Hotel, Crystal City, Virginia, March 25-28,
2011, to discuss, learn, and share experiences related to domestic
and international security, development, and economic justice,
with an emphasis on impacts on women. The United Methodist
Church, including the Women's Division of the General Board of
Global Ministries, is a sponsor of this ecumenical event.
Several interesting and spirit-filled worship services and
plenary sessions helped to unify thoughts on our justice-related
responsibilities and accountabilities within the world community.
Workshops were available in eight categories: Africa,
Asia-Pacific, Domestic United States, Global Economic Justice,
Latin America, Eco-Justice, Middle East, and Peace and Global
Security. Advocacy was a recurring theme in workshop sessions
and in jurisdiction and state workgroup breakouts.
Participants spent the last day on Capitol Hill in visits to
legislators to gain support for several legislative initiatives,
which are indicated below. Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2011 ended
on Capitol Hill with a prayer vigil for our country to bring
attention to the implications of proposed federal budget cuts
and what the cuts reflect about us as a people of faith.
What is the status of women in the world today? In the United
States and around the world, women do not enjoy the same status
as men economically. For this reason, women are too often
exposed to some of a society's worse ills. This includes the
impact of global challenges that result from climate change,
food insecurity, natural disasters, and various ethnic, cultural
and societal issues. In too many settings, women must endure
genital mutilation, child marriage, and blatant discrimination,
among other atrocities. The world's billion hungry people
are mainly women and children. Women are among the largest
growing segment in US prisons today. They often lack education
advantages, many work in low paying, service positions, and
too many are paid less than men working in the same positions.
Women also experience inordinate amounts of sexual, physical,
and verbal abuse. And, the world community has become a much
smaller place when one considers the enormous impact of human
and sex trafficking on women and girls worldwide, along with
the many consequences of immigration.
The issue of women's rights is the single most important
human rights issue in the global arena today. Over the past
half century, the role of women has begun to change in many
places worldwide. Becoming leaders in their countries, women
are joining social movements that support efforts to enhance
their roles within their communities. They are documenting
abuses and using communications technology to connect with
others internationally. And, women are moving into the area of
development within their countries. Importantly, in many areas,
women are engaging international institutions to pressure their
governments to uphold their fundamental rights. Having said
this, we note that a tremendous amount of work remains to be
done around the world to improve the status of women.
Why do we care? As members of the faith community, our
responsibility is to stay focused on the issue of social
justice for all. Embodied justice refers to the honoring of
the bodies of others, a thought that gives rise to justice as
seen through the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ,
thus our responsibilities reflect his ministry among the poor
and society's most marginalized persons. With this in mind, our
role becomes clearer in a global context. Our charge is to be
the justice-centered focus for the poorest, most uneducated,
unloved, and otherwise disadvantaged persons among us, who
are too often women and children. When women suffer, the
entire community suffers! United Methodist Church documents
that provide guidance for our social justice orientation and
actions include the Social Principles of the United Methodist
Church, the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions. The
Scriptural imperative to love one's neighbor as oneself goes a
long way in the social justice arena!
What can we do? Advocate, advocate, advocate! Storytelling and
relationship building are central to social justice advocacy.
It is important to know and understand the issues, as only then
can we help resolve associated problems. Along with background
research, both the hearing and retelling of stories help ensure
the larger community is aware of the impact of the issues. Both
also help justify the allocation of resources; support changes in
laws, policies and procedures; and educate community leaders to
foster beneficial changes for all. Successful advocates pursue
working relationships and build coalitions with legislators;
local, national and world leaders; similar interest groups;
members of the faith community, and other advocacy organizations.
It is also imperative that we, as advocates, participate in public
witness activities, e.g., rallies, prayer vigils, testimonials,
and e-mail, letter writing, and other such campaigns.
Traditional beliefs and customs notwithstanding, remedies in
almost any setting require the availability of adequate resources
(healthcare, food, housing, education services, others) to
enhance living conditions for the world's women and children.
The legislative emphasis of Ecumenical Advocacy Days focused
on several programs, initiatives and resources that serve the
poor and vulnerable persons among us. Specific legislative
- Re-authorize and fully-fund the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):
Provides federal resources for community responses to violence against
- Enact the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA): Would
make stopping violence against women and girls a priority in United
States diplomacy and foreign aid to help end brutal violence against
girls and women that afflicts countries worldwide.
- Fully fund, in the 2011 and 2012 national budgets, programs that
serve women and families (especially those struggling with poverty here
in the United States and around the world) at or above FY 2010 levels.
- Support the forgiveness of debt to the US of underdeveloped nations
to enhance their within-country funding, to help them improve services
and communities for their citizens and residents.
Finally, women are the glue that holds families and communities
together. And, as Secretary of State Clinton has noted, when
women receive needed help and support, "they flourish, their
children flourish, and so does the greater community."
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise
her in the city gates. Proverbs 31:31