Poor also have dignity, UMW speakers say


By Linda Bloom

United Methodist News Service

ANAHEIM, Calif. — 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 Relief Network.

“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 technocrats.”

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 everyday life.”

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 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.