Women’s Economic Empowerment: UN Commission on the Status of Women

CSW bannerThe 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.

CFT at UNCSWAlthough I still find truth in 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.
  • Ÿ Money has power to give women the healthcare we need for ourselves and our families to thrive.
  • Ÿ Money has power to meet other physical needs for nutritious food, clean water and air, safety at home and on the job, and decent housing.
  • Ÿ Money has power to help meet women’s emotional needs for healthy and safe relationships and financial independence to leave unhealthy, harmful relationships.
  • Ÿ Money has power to meet women’s spiritual needs for faith communities and organizations that value women’s gifts and that include 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 60-75 percent of men’s wages. So how are women going to increase our economic power?

sessionsession1circle croppedAt 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, 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”

me with bannerIt 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 to believe it can become reality. I came away with new messages about the power of money to do good in the world.

 

Originally published on Christian Feminism Today.  Reposted with permission.

 

Posted in She Lives! | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day 2017

InternationalWomensDay-landscape copy 2

beboldforchange-iwd2017March 8 people around the world celebrated International Women’s Day. This year’s theme, “Be Bold for Change,” emphasized changes needed for women’s equality in the workplace. The International Women’s Day color has traditionally been purple, but this year it was red.

pictured with my sister, Dr.  Anne Morton

pictured with my sister, Dr. Anne Morton

I celebrated International Women’s Day at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, where a Memorial Resolution, honoring my mother, Eva Aldredge Henley, was read and adopted. This memorial felt especially appropriate on this day because Mother was bold in working for change and her favorite color was red. I wore red to honor her and all the women who boldly labor for women’s rights.

International Women’s Day called attention to continued gender discrimination in the world of work. Women do the majority of unpaid work, putting them at a disadvantage in the economy. Much of the work my mother did all her long life was unpaid, even though she had 3 university degrees, exceptional leadership skills, and a strong work ethic. She faithfully served church, home, and community without pay. This video about unpaid work reminded me of her.

Even in paid work, women are over-represented in jobs with the poorest compensation. There is an urgent need for expanding employment opportunities for women, for removing discrimination women face in the workplace, and for equal pay for women. The average wage gap between all women and men in the US is 23%, rising to 40% for African American women and 44% for Latinas.

pictured with Congresswoman Victoria Neave

pictured with Congresswoman Victoria Neave

capitolOn International Women’s Day, I also had the privilege of meeting with Congresswoman Victoria Neave, who represents my district. She is one of only 36 women in the Texas legislature out of 181. Congresswoman Neave and I talked about her efforts to increase the representation of women and about her efforts on many issues of importance to women and to all Texans.

GenderEqualityInternational Women’s Day focused on the big vision of a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030. Key steps that the UN initiative listed include:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

International Women’s Day called on all people to help create an inclusive, gender equal world that will bring great benefits to all.

History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a global dimension for women in developed and developing countries. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the celebration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

In 1909, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

In 1911, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time. More than one million women and men attended rallies to demand women’s rights to vote and to hold public office, and women’s rights to work, to vocational training, and to an end to discrimination on the job.

In 1995, The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

Sadly, many of the rights women demanded at the first International Women’s Day in 1911, reaffirmed and expanded in 1995, still have not been realized.

Call for Fifth World Conference on Women

For the past several years, many people have been calling for a Fifth World Conference on Women to build on the momentum of the 1995 Beijing Conference and to bring the energy of the millennials and the experience of the boomers together in a world-changing 21st Century World Conference on Women. The goal of this Fifth World Conference on Women is to bring what mothers universally want for their children to everyone: a peaceful world, good food, air, and water, universal education, medical care, the chance to develop and grow physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

hands2

 

 

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Comments

“Nevertheless, She Persisted,” Song for the Movement

PersistedRecently Senator Elizabeth Warren had an experience most women can identify with. She was told to sit down and shut up. In opposition to a cabinet appointment, she was trying to read a Coretta Scott King letter. A little later, three of her male colleagues were allowed to read this letter on the Senate floor.

In silencing Elizabeth Warren, the Senate Majority leader said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Women all around the country related to her experience, and we took up the rallying cry, “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”

I began thinking of women who have persisted in spite of efforts to stifle them, and I wrote this song “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to the tune of “I Shall Not Be Moved.” You have my permission to print this song with my copyright at the bottom and/or to use the song in any venue.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

She persisted, she persisted still;

she persisted, she persisted still;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Miriam, the prophet, led the Israelites;

she got little praise for her part in the flight;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Mary Magdalene gave witness to the Word,

yet they tried to keep her voice from being heard;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Sojourner Truth claimed her prophetic voice,

yet they tried to squelch her, take away her choice;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Madame Curie found the cures to many ills,

yet they tried to question her scientific skills;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Congresswoman Chisholm ran for President,

yet they said she knew not what the office meant;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Katherine Johnson’s figures launched us into space,

yet they undermined her gender and her race;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Senator Liz Warren spoke truth with all her power,

yet they tried to hush her in the crucial hour;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

She persisted, she persisted still;

she persisted, she persisted still;

nevertheless, she persisted boldly;

she persisted still.

 

Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton                     I SHALL NOT BE MOVED

 

Miriam, the prophet, with brothers Moses and Aaron, leading the Exodus; image by Pam Allen

Miriam, the prophet, with brothers Moses and Aaron, leading the Exodus; image by Pam Allen

 

Mary Magdalene; image created by Melody M. Stevens, Colette Casburn Numajiri, and David Clanton

Mary Magdalene; image created by Melody M. Stevens, Colette Casburn Numajiri, and David Clanton

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

 

Madame Marie Curie

Madame Marie Curie

 

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Comments

“We Will All Resist,” Song for the Movement

photo(2) copytheaterThe movement that rose up after the Women’s March inspired me to write “We Will All Resist” to the tune of “I Shall Not Be Moved.” I offer this song for you to sing at rallies, marches, or other events. Just as singing has empowered the Civil Rights movement and the Labor movement, I believe that singing will help empower this new movement.

You see that “We Will All Resist” focuses on moral issues, and does not name people. These issues are all connected, and their order in the song does not indicate order of importance. When you sing this song, you can change the order to fit your event and/or add stanzas with other issues. I do ask that you not put names of people in the song, but keep the song focused on moral issues.

You have my permission to print this song with my copyright at the bottom and/or to use the song in any venue.

We Will All Resist

We will rise up; we will all resist;

we will rise up; we will all resist;

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Equal rights for women will not be denied;

equal rights for women will not be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Justice for all races will not be denied;

justice for all races will not be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Justice for all genders will not be denied;

justice for all genders will not be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Immigrants will not be ever turned away;

immigrants will not be ever turned away,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Rights of workers will not ever be denied;

rights of workers will not ever be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Care of Earth will never ever be denied;

care of Earth will never ever be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Public schools will not be ever undermined;

public schools will not be ever undermined,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Healthcare rights will never ever be denied;

Healthcare rights will never ever be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Travel bans will never ever be the law;

travel bans will never ever be the law,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Women’s voices will not ever be shut down;

women’s voices will not ever be shut down,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Human rights will never ever be denied;

human rights will never ever be denied,

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

We will rise up; we will all resist;

we will rise up; we will all resist;

for we will rise up stronger all together;

we will all resist.

 

Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton                     I SHALL NOT BE MOVED

resistequalityresist_together

Posted in She Lives! | 4 Comments

St. Hildegard’s Community

The Sunday following the Women’s March in Austin, Texas, I had the joy of worshiping with St. Hildegard’s Community. It was just what I needed to strengthen my resolve to work for justice and to give me the spiritual power so necessary to this work.

Rev. Judith Liro

Rev. Judith Liro

Rev. Judith Liro, pastor of this community, led the inspiring service, beginning with this Collect:

Christ-Sophia,

Empower us to step out:

To denounce evil,

To resist with courage and imagination;

To announce the good news,

To live with kindness and compassion. —Judith Liro

Judith gave a creative, prophetic interpretation of the Gospel reading, Matthew 4:12-23, connecting it to our current day. She challenged us to follow Jesus in fulfilling our mission in the world in this crucial time. Just as Jesus proclaimed good news and brought healing to people in troubled times, so can we.

Hope and encouragement also filled my spirit through a reading Judith chose from She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, by theologian Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J. These words, written in 1992, seem even more relevant today:

"Sophia" by Mirta Toledo

“Sophia” by Mirta Toledo

The radical transformation of crushing structures and murderous situations does not happen automatically but only through human effort that through active nonviolent resistance struggles for justice and against suffering. In the midst of this agony, Spirit-Sophia who loves people teaches the ways of justice and courage. Like a midwife she works deftly with those in pain and struggle to bring about the new creation. . . . Wherever she moves, there awakens modest and even bold engagement against the principalities and powers that crush and oppress. Wherever she succeeds, structures are transformed and liberation and community gain a foothold. The Spirit’s renewing power thus manifests historically in shaping the praxis of freedom, those myriad forms of people’s struggle toward more peaceful and equitable circumstances, a stunning example being women’s struggle against sexism.

For some this means the call to utter the dangerous, critical word of prophecy. . . . Inspiring the denunciation of evil, the announcement of the good news of freedom, and courageous efforts of resistance and imagination to bring it about, the Spirit’s renewing presence is always and everywhere partial to her beloved creatures suffering from socially constructed harm, working to liberate oppressed and oppressors from the distorted systems that destroy the humanity of them both. Like a bakerwoman she keeps on kneading the leaven of kindness and truth, justice and peace into the thick dough of the world until the whole loaf rises. (pp. 136-137)

Printed in the worship service program was another excerpt from Elizabeth Johnson’s book She Who Is:

"Sophia, Divine Wisdom," by Mary Plaster

“Sophia, Divine Wisdom,” by Mary Plaster

An even more explicit way of speaking about the mystery of God in female symbol is the biblical figure of Wisdom. This is the most developed personification of God’s presence and activity in the Hebrew Scriptures. . . The biblical depiction of Wisdom is itself consistently female, casting her as sister, mother, female beloved, chef and hostess, preacher, liberator, establisher of justice. . . she symbolizes transcendent power ordering and delighting in the world. She pervades the world, both nature and human beings, interacting with them all to lure them along the right path to life. (pp. 86-87)

The communion liturgy included Carolyn McDade’s hymn “O Beautiful Gaia,” imaging the Divine as “Ancient Sophia,” and J. Philip Newell’s version of the “Prayer of Jesus,” titled “Ground of All Being,” balancing the images of “Mother of life” and “Father of the universe.

 

The service closed with this blessing, which we spoke in unison:

May Holy Wisdom, kind to humanity,

steadfast, sure and free,

the breath of the power of God;

may she who makes all things new in every age,

enter our souls, and make us

friends of God and prophets. — adapted from St. Hilda’s Community

I left the St. Hildegard’s Community service feeling renewed and empowered by Wisdom Sophia for the work she has called me to do in the world.

 

On the website of St. Hildegard’s Community, beneath the name of the community, are the words “Radically Inclusive.” The mission of the community is also on the website:

St. Hildegard’s is a transformative, intentional, contemplative/active community in Austin, Texas. The whole of our life—our liturgies, music, retreats and the community itself, as well as our Servant Leadership School—is the primary justice ministry we offer to all who are seeking. The use of expansive, non-hierarchical language in our liturgies and music, and our shared creativity creates peace and comes from a deep theological commitment. With our words and our actions, we consciously seek to embody a vision of God’s dream: a culture of non-violence, using collaboration and partnership to express our talents and gifts and to exercise community discernment. We seek to empower and support each member to follow and develop his/her personal call for the healing of the world and also nurture initiatives that emerge in the community.

 

pictured before the Women's March with some in St. Hildegard's Community: Judith, Sarah, Wyatt, and Francesca

pictured before the Women’s March with some in St. Hildegard’s Community: Judith, Sarah, Wyatt, and Francesca

with Judith LIro at the Women's March, as crowds dispersed, handing out Christian Feminism Today brochures

with Judith LIro at the Women’s March, as crowds dispersed, handing out Christian Feminism Today brochures

 

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Comments