Poor also have dignity, speakers tell Women’s Assembly
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Fay Bennett (right) and Gloria Thompson (center) fill out "money transfer request forms."
May 8, 2006
By Linda Bloom*
ANAHEIM, Calif. (UMNS) — The feminization of
poverty is not an abstract concept for Wahu Kaara.
“You are talking about my mother, friends, sisters, aunties and neighbors,” said
the Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder and coordinator of the Kenya Debt
“Real women with names, homes and addresses and who have no real hope to
ascertain their dignity due to the extremes visited on them by conscious
decisions, made by conscious people, but shrouded in the myth of bureaucracy and
Kaara was the May 5 keynote speaker at the 2006 United Methodist Women’s
Assembly. She is a candidate in the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections and the
ecumenical program coordinator for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals at the
All Africa Conference of Churches.
On May 5, assembly participants took action to urge the U.S. Congress to make a
“money transfer” in the national budget to assist women and children. They also
heard from Silvia Regina Lima e Silva, who deplored the proposed fence between
the United States and Mexico and called increased border patrols “a
manifestation of a growing racism and xenophobia which are becoming part of
Calling the state of today’s world “poignantly unjust,” Kaara noted that “the
values that dictate our pursuits in life are in total negation of our relation
with God” and are driven by profit. “We have sacrificed ourselves at the altar
of money and earthly possessions,” she said.
Women must speak “with unflinching courage” on such injustices as quantifying
life in dollars, keeping track of human misery through statistics, subjugating
others to economic and military might in the name of peace, and dividing the
world into “haves and have-nots,” according to Kaara.
“The women of the world must take the lead once again and loudly proclaim that
we are no longer going to die but live for our world,” she declared. “And this
clarion call must resonate from Anaheim to Athens, Nairobi to Nebraska and
London to Lagos.”
An immediate response to that challenge came as assembly participants filled out
a “money transfer request form,” asking Congress to create a “budget for
justice” by transferring money from military spending, tax cuts for the wealthy,
nuclear weapons and federal crop subsidies for the wealthy to education,
training and social services, health care and affordable housing, foreign
aid/development funding and environmental
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Silvia Regina Lima e Silva leads Bible study during morning worship at the 2006 United Methodist Women's Assembly.
“We call for a national budget with sufficient funds to affirm the dignity of
women, children and their families while ensuring defense and security,”
participants said in their assembly action. The money transfer forms were
collected to be delivered to Congress.
Breaking down walls
The loss of dignity for the “have-nots” also was addressed by Lima e Silva, a
Brazilian and professor at the Universidad Biblical Latino Americana in Costa
Rica, during the Bible study.
“The gap between the rich and the poor is now visible in walls — walls that are
going up to separate the north of the rich from the south of the poor, like the
wall between the United States and Mexico,” she said. Her presentation was
translated into English by Lourdes Belen Garcia.
Violence faced by women “is becoming a permanent threat to life,” enough so that
the word “femicide” should be “placed in the dictionaries and brought to the
attention of the news media,” Lima e Silva added.
Words from Isaiah allow for reflection on suffering and the insensitivity that
leads to an indifference to the suffering of others. “We put up walls and
barriers that distance us from those situations and those people which
constitute a threat to us and to the society in which we live,” she said.
Other walls “speak of intolerance and of the inability to live together,” Lima e
Silva pointed out, citing the barrier wall built by Israel to separate the
country from the Palestinian territories as an example.
She urged the assembly participants to use their strength and energy from God
and “send it to different parts of the world. This is the force, the strength
that is capable of breaking with indifference. This is the force that is capable
of bringing down the walls.”
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or