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Poverty has a ‘woman’s face’ UN summit told  

12 April 2024

Anglican Communion News Service

The Anglican delegation

The Anglican delegation

ONE in ten women globally lives in poverty, the United Nations has said. Women are also more likely than men to be displaced during conflict, to suffer hunger and sexual violence, the worst effects of climate change, and a lack of access to health care.

The latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, held in the United States last month, focused on eliminating poverty, which, Anglican women present said, has a “woman’s face” around the world.

Members of the Anglican Communion, and volunteers including church leaders from Burundi and Pakistan, attended the 68th Commission in New York. The Commission attracted criticism for the election of a Saudi to chair it. Human-rights organisations said that Saudi Arabia’s record on women’s rights was “abysmal” and “a far cry from the mandate of the Commission”, but the election was unopposed.

The Anglican Communion Office did not comment on the election, but said that it welcomed the agreement achieved by the end of the ten-day meeting. “Amidst narratives of increasing global polarisation, the ability for countries still to come together shouldn’t be underestimated.”

But it said that, if the agreed conclusions of the Commission were to be implemented successfully, then “communities of faith are essential”.

“We need to see action through our governments and our churches,” it said.

In a joint statement published ahead of the Commission, the Anglican Communion and the Mothers’ Union said: “Poverty has a woman’s face. Women and girls, particularly indigenous women, widows, women of colour, women living with disabilities and in rural contexts — are disproportionately impacted by economic poverty and its consequences. So often, these women — who are seen, heard and valued by God — are ignored or harmed in our families, communities and systems. We recognise and repent of the fact that this has also been true inside our churches.

“Poverty may have a woman’s face; but transformation also can. There is ample evidence at local level, including through the work of Mothers’ Union, that women can deliver sustainable change in levels of poverty and gender relationships, through resilience-building, functional literacy training, and facilitating savings groups, working with men to see changes in the community over the long term.”

It called for governments to form partnerships with faith groups to provide funding for reducing poverty, gender-based violence, and education. Faith communities have greater trust and access into many communities, and can be partners in reducing poverty, they said.

The agreed conclusions of the Commission, however, make only one mention of faith communities, and say that “much more is needed to acknowledge that around 80 per cent of the world’s population” views issues through the lens of their faith, the Anglican Communion said afterwards.

The Commission’s agreed conclusions set out the reasons why women are disproportionately more likely to experience poverty, and highlight women who are most affected. The conclusions also call for reforms to financial systems, including debt relief to ensure that money is allocated to gender equality, and increased funding for women’s organisations.

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