A ViewPoint by Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Ph.D.
The theme of this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) was Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. This theme stirred my thinking because I don’t typically link “economic” and “empowerment.” When I see the word “empowerment,” I usually think of equal rights and education instead of economics.
I must acknowledge my ambivalence toward money. Growing up in church and at home, I heard more negative than positive messages about money. For example, I learned “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). My family encouraged me to choose a vocation with the priority of helping people rather than making money.
Although I still believe these messages, the UNCSW reinforced other messages I’ve been getting more recently about money. Lately I’ve had conversations with family members and friends about investing and using financial resources to support organizations we believe are doing wonderful work to help people. Then I walked into sessions at the UNCSW and realized I was there not only for the economic empowerment of other women, but also for my own economic empowerment so that I can best support organizations I care about, like Equity for Women in the Church and Christian Feminism Today.
Often organizations doing the most good have the least money, while organizations doing the most harm, like the National Rifle Association, have the most money. While I was attending the UNCSW, I saw news flashes about the administration’s proposed budget, which includes slashes to Meals on Wheels and other human services, the Environmental Protection Agency, programs to end violence against women, National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, medical research, housing, and education, and includes increases to military spending. So the messages kept coming about the power of money for good or harm and the connection between economic empowerment and equal rights for women.
Money has power:
- Money has power to give women the education we need for equality in the world of work.
- Money has power to give women the healthcare we need for ourselves and our families to thrive.
- Money has power to meet physical needs for nutritious food, clear water and air, safety at home and on the job, and decent housing.
- Money has power to help meet women’s emotional needs for healthy and safe relationships and financial independence to leave unhealthy, harmful relationships.
- Money has power to meet women’s spiritual needs for faith communities and organizations that value women’s gifts, and that includes the Divine Feminine so that we experience our sacred value.
Women do 70 percent of the world’s unpaid work, and women’s paid work brings an average, globally, of only 60 to 75 percent of men’s wages. So how are women going to increase our economic power?
At the UNCSW women and men in small and large groups discussed women’s economic empowerment. Sessions included:
- “Accelerating the Impact of Women’s Empowerment Programs: Leveraging Multi-Sector Collaboration and Resources” (a panel discussion focused on bringing private, public, and social sectors together to invest in improving the livelihood of women)
- “A Purple Economy Complementing the Green for a Gender Egalitarian and Sustainable Economic Order” (Purple comes from the symbolic color adopted by the women’s movements in some countries. A panel explored ways a purple economy accounts for the value of caregiving work and is organized around an egalitarian redistribution of the costs of care between households and public services, between women and men.)
- “The Changing World of Work: Views from the Bench” (Eight women judges from five continents discussed economic empowerment issues resolved by courts: employment disputes, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, maternity benefits, vulnerable workers, and human trafficking.)
- “Organizing to Keep on Moving Forward” (Women discussed collaborating through our various feminist organizations to increase our economic power and to translate our passions into actions.)
- “Countering Xenophobia: The Social and Economic Contribution of Migrant Women” (This session explored how the increase in xenophobia limits the contribution of migrant women and ways to promote social and economic inclusion of migrant women at the local and global levels.)
- “Strategies to Transform: Empowering Women for Economic Rights” (A panel discussed ways women can hold countries accountable for establishing economic rights for women.)
- “Securing Women’s Land Rights: Essential to Build Women’s Economic Empowerment”
- “Empowerment through Education: Women’s Participation in Decision-Making Processes and Economic Life”
- “Transformative Politics and Women’s Leadership”
It was empowering to connect with women and men from around the world who are doing vital work for women’s economic empowerment inextricably linked to our overall empowerment. In group discussions and in one-on-one conversations I had the opportunity to talk about the amazing work of Christian Feminism Today and Equity for Women in the Church and to explore ways to collaborate with other organizations empowering women.
At the UN Commission on the Status of Women many voices sounded the call for the establishment of a global feminist economic order in theory and in practice. I left inspired to contribute to this new feminist economic order and believe it can become reality. I came away with new messages about the power of money to do good in the world.