as presented by EW member Verónica Biech, Argentina

It is my honor to speak on behalf of the organizations of Ecumenical Women at the United Nations; we are an international coalition of faith-based organizations working for gender equality. Today, churches and faith-based communities are deeply concerned about the financial crisis further exacerbating gender inequalities and denying women’s financial empowerment.

The financial crisis has led to the decline in export and government revenues, domestic and foreign investments, migrant remittances, and official development assistance; overall, this has negatively impacted women’s advancement.

In the developing world, women make up the bulk of the workforce in export-oriented industries that take advantage of cheap labour. This makes women especially vulnerable to unemployment as global demand for goods and services contract. Women already work in unremunerated capacities in areas like care-giving, and we are deeply troubled that with pay cuts and the rise of lower paying jobs, existing meager remunerations may be further decreased. Even in the financial crisis, churches affirm how unpaid care-giving contributes to the economy and we urge that it be measured and remunerated.

Women also comprise of a growing number of migrant workers. In the wake of the economic recessions affecting their host countries, migrant remittances that augment household incomes of many families in low-income countries are expected to decline. This could have dire consequences for children’s food, education, shelter and access to healthcare.

Unfortunately, there is little that financially protects women during economic uncertainties. As part of structural adjustment programmes imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions in the 1990s, social safety nets have been gradually dismantled. As a result, many women and their communities now have little access to basic social services that could have ameliorated the adverse socio-economic impacts of the crisis.

For Ecumenical Women, genuine development is one that fosters just, equitable and caring relationships. Equality between women and men of all races and classes is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice; it is a fundamental prerequisite for development and peace. Due in large part to the efforts of pioneering UN conferences on women, there is now growing acknowledgement that development cannot be attained without gender equality.

We affirm that women are also part of the solution to the global financial crisis. It is critical, therefore, that women are intentionally, strategically and systematically involved in the discussions and decision-making processes around the global financial crisis.

To this end, Ecumenical Women offer the following recommendations:

  • Democratize global economic governance structures, including through women’s representation and participation;
  • Strengthen global regulatory frameworks to protect women in the workforce and by ensuring the international institutions’, governments’ and corporations’ adherence to human rights, labour standards and environmental agreements; and
  • Implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;

  • Ensure that care work is recognized and remunerated, incorporate women’s contribution in care-giving and its role in the economy, and assess the value of unremunerated work and reflect it in its official accounts; and
  • Strengthen the gender equality architecture at the UN and other international financial and trade institutions.

Thank you.