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By: Rachel Chardon, Anglican Communion
The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW61) will focus on the Priority Theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, studying how to empower women economically by promoting the equality and accessibility of women to obtain an education, to enter the workforce, and to control their financial savings. For women and girls, an accessible education is an important component in obtaining competitive jobs with higher incomes. As more women earn money, families have greater combined household incomes that women can control. Women’s growing capabilities in spending coupled with access to savings accounts at financial institutions can help achieve faster economic growth. The changing world of work acknowledges the growth of women in the workforce and the lack of equality women face in obtaining high-level jobs, similar wages, mobility to formal work sectors, and economic independence.
When women and girls are solely responsible for household chores, they are more likely to work in low-paid and undervalued jobs that inhibit their participation in the formal workplace. Legal restrictions and spousal objections have repressed women’s economic opportunities and the types of jobs they can obtain. Amongst all major racial and ethnic groups, women’s economic equality is significantly lower than that of the median earnings of white men. Alongside the important facts outlined above, our delegates at UNCSW61 are also asked to report on any progress made (or challenges remaining) in their nation regarding the Review Theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.
By: Lori Kochanski, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/Lutheran World Federation, CSW Delegate
Entering this Holy Week I reflect on the sacred holy week I experienced as a participant in the events at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Every Good Friday I remember a little girl in the congregation in New Haven, CT, where I served as intern. As we were walking the stations of the cross and listening to the story of Jesus she pulled at my hand and asked THE question: “why did he have to die if he didn’t do nothing?” In a neighborhood where she witnessed violence every day she had grown used to understanding the consequences of life on the street. She could not reconcile the innocent Jesus dying the same death as the drug dealers.
The question still goes to my heart and names the tensions in my own believing. For me this is where faith is more important than belief. Here is where I hope it is true that God can take my anger and questioning in the face of the world of injustices. Because after the holy week in New York of sacred walking and listening I hear echoes of the same question a little girl asked a long time ago: “Why do girls and women have to die every day? They have done nothing except be born.” If Jesus died so that we are free then why are there still women and girls dying at the hands of violence and persecution.
My prayer right there is to find the places where hope can rise at intersections of suffering and pain. In the rising I believe we will catch a glimpse of the promise of Christ rising from the dead. This place of hope is constructed by the power of people to lament realities that only serve to harm another through misuse of power. Hope takes flesh when we lay down our own swords and reach out to our neighbors in order to create a vision of humanity that includes both justice and freedom. Hope is born from truth of reconciliation. And it takes time and deliberate plans and collective advocacy.
As global partners in achieving the sustainable goals set out for the world by the United Nations we must hold each other accountable to our actions and inaction. We also must be willing to keep noticing the things that cause greatest harm, in particular harm to those who are most vulnerable. To be more specific – women and girls.
Today, it is very easy to act as if the time at the United Nations was a dream, a parallel reality I can step out of and forget. So for as tired as my brain was last week, I pray to become even more tired in my purpose and prayer of how to be of continued use in my own context. I pray my vocation meets my call and a vision is revealed. I trust there will be partners in the journey that it may be so.
Yet, we still have so far to go and so much to learn. We have to find our place in the order of things. Because…well, because promise. Because, grace. Because, freedom. Because, faith.
By Mavis Duncanson, Association of Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand, CSW Delegate
Wednesday (3/16/16) started with worship where I heard the story of a rice farmer in Korea. At a time of economic hardship global aid agencies sent large volumes of rice at a low price so that the people could eat their staple food. Which meant the price the farmer could get for his produce was seriously deflated, at the time that his fifth daughter was born. Only a son could inherit his property, and he needed a son to grow up and work the fields, yet every child was another mouth to feed, and he wanted his children to have a warm, secure life free from hunger. He made the difficult, so difficult decision to allow his beloved daughter to be adopted far away to the United States of America. She was loved deeply by her adoptive parents and well provided for, growing in grace and stature and telling this story as she led in worship on Wednesday.
Later in the day women upholding faith, family and motherhood shared what they had done to make a difference for those less fortunate. With seemingly boundless love and energy teams of people are ensuring that dolls are being sewn and dressed, booklets coloured in and bound, foam shapes cut out so that children can learn to distinguish circles from triangles, stars from squares. The passion and enthusiasm were undeniable. Provision of washable sanitary towels to girls who previously sat in their bedrooms on a piece of cardboard and training of midwives to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality will undoubtedly have a positive impact on gender equality. Yet I couldn’t help wondering to what extent women like me, women of privilege, sending item after item to children perceived as being in need might not undercut development of local solutions to local issues or put local manufacturers out of business.
In a third event a speaker from the floor reminded me that violence takes many forms, and that corporate violence taking land and testing agricultural chemicals is often backed up with the power of legal strategies and even military intervention when women and girls stand up for the right to clean air and water in their communities. In my own country Aotearoa New Zealand we know the long term effects of alienation from land for tangata whenua (the people of the land). How can private corporations be held to account when their need for product development undercuts local economies and directly impacts health and education?
As I reflect I realise that all this undercutting can be framed as coming from a positive motivation: to avoid starvation in a country in dire economic circumstances; to provide special items to needy children and find personal joy and fulfilment; to develop fertilisers and pesticides that can make agriculture more efficient. But it can also be framed as philanthropy without partnership or corporate exploitation. Thinking of our pivotal scriptures this week the starting points were entitlement to inheritance and sharing of resources. Moses affirmed the rightness of the daughters of Zelophehad having the inheritance that was theirs. They were the ones to decide what crops to grow and stock to raise. And the widow of Zarephath did not receive a delivery of bulk discounted oil. Rather she poured out what she had and found that it was more than sufficient. So somehow we need wisdom to distinguish paternalism from partnership, self-fulfilment from solidarity. I pray for that wisdom.
Written by: Holly Hanitrinirina Sthela Gun, Lutheran World Federation, ELCA International Leaders Program, CSW Delegate
The Commission on Status of Women (CSW) is always a life changing event for me, and I am hoping that it does the same to all people who join this event. It is a way to engage with your own country. Any CSW conference is a new experience. The more you listen to others’ stories – the more you learn, the more you speak – the more you advocate. The more you engage in discussion, join meetings, you help the grassroots voice to be heard.
In CSW 60, I was able to engage and be in discussion about the status of women and the policies in which my church stands, as well as in discussion regarding a proposition that the church wants to bring to the table, with my Mission at the United Nations (Madagascar) and government representatives. This ability to be in consultation with them helped the voice of the church to be heard. Because of this, when they make decisions, I hope they will consider the importance of those voices.The government itself will never be able to reach any goals by themselves. They need collaboration with other sectors.
Being a participant in this Commission on Status of Women has shaped me to be more of my church, to help other voices to be heard. I think anyone who takes part in CSW should be responsible to share their experiences. The only job you do in the United Nations is representing the voice of your brothers and sisters.
Written by: Mavis Duncanson, Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand
I was privileged to be able to observe and listen to this high-level event which was organised by the OECD Development Assistance Committee Network on Gender Equality, and the Missions of Switzerland, France, Peru, Morocco, Italy and Fiji in partnership with others. At the very start we were reminded that this conversation could not be more timely nor more urgent, especially in light of the recent catastrophic damage experienced by the people of Fiji. Although women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and are also drivers of effective action, an OECD review in 2013 found that gender equality was targeted in only 29% of DAC members’ bilateral aid for climate change action. It is encouraging to learn that private sector funders of climate change action have been very strong in seeking gender equity training, and including gender equity in their proposed projects. I hope this will lead to better results in future OECD audits and that more organisations will follow the example of Green Climate Fund which has mandatory gender analysis in funding applications. The interrelatedness of the SDGs and need for explicit links between CSW60 and COP22 was highlighted in the report from Peru that adolescent girls from rural areas are increasingly subject to sexual violence as El Nino weather patterns badly affect rural areas and changing social patterns increase their exposure to harm. The association between climate change and violence against women and girls is well established and the panel also noted that in Vanuatu there was a 300% increase in sexual violence after Cyclone Pam. Women are at the front line of climate change crisis and solutions, and action must be informed by their experience. With the panel my hope is that women will be right at the heart of the process to translate political commitments into effective gender-responsive climate solutions.
Written by: Sarah Roure, Programme Officer -Brazil, Christian Aid, Member of ACT Alliance
On March 12th, I joined a number of people at the Salvation Army for the Ecumenical Women orientation meeting. I didn´t expect the variety of women that I found there: women from different parts of the world, different churches and denominations, but the same dedication to the Kingdom of God and it values.
To meet other women of faith and women from various faith-based organizations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and committed to the right of every women to live a life with dignity was the best start to my first time at the CSW.
The challenge to women´s empowerment and sustainable development has to consider the key message of the SDGs of leaving no one behind. More than just a long list of goals, the agenda was shaped considering that message.
This day was filled with strong messages about inequality and the important role of FBO´s in making possible that no one will be left behind. If every creation belongs to God then all creation is entitled to a sustainable and good life. If it all belongs to God, then no one should be left behind.
Author: Lisa McDonald, Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In response to hearing about human trafficking one women shared with me how a group of women from her church go to the streets and minister the gospel of Christ to those caught up in prostitution. She shared how a simple special bag of feminine products literally had a young women to come off the prostitution stage just to make sure she had her own care package WOW! Loving the lost in simple ways is key! People need to see and feel the concrete love and care of Jesus, they need the GOSPEL.
Unfortunately we heard about a child marriage practice of a 13 year old to a grown man that died 4 days after her injuries – just breaks your heart- such evil. Sexual child abuse legitimized as marriage. Our response at the meeting: who is marrying children to men? We must work to end this atrocity!
As we sang songs ” It all belongs to you Lord”, I couldn’t help but to be horrified and wondered how can we make the words of Jesus come alive that says …. occupy until I come? Luke 19:13.
A prayer: Lord let this be the year that the people of God everywhere come together and share the gospel of Jesus Christ , bringing light to darkness. We are His hands, His feet – use us to transform lives and rescue those in danger and those suffering and pleading to be helped. In Jesus name. Amen.
Click here to read the 3rd Edition of our Advocacy Guide to prepare for your time at CSW 60. Can’t join us at CSW 60? That’s okay! This guide provides useful background, stories, and resources for all around the world working towards achieving gender justice.
Begin your days in worship, and join EW in a number of our parallel events during CSW60! Don’t miss out on the following:
Daily: 8:00 AM Ecumenical Women Morning Worship @ CCUN Chapel
March 14th, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Opening Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
- 1:00 PM “Developing a Common Feminist Faith Discourse to Achieve Gender Equality”, Baha’i Centre
- 6:15 PM “Engaging Men of Faith to be Champions in the Fight to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, Boss Room
- 6:15 PM “Breaking Cycles of Poverty through Education: Models from Presbyterian Churches” CCUN, 10th floor
- 7:00 PM “Unbind and Let Go: Mobilizing Faith Communities to Combat Human Trafficking” Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Ave
March 15th, 2016
- 8:30 AM “Striking to our Goals: Scholars and Donors as Agents on Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development”, CCUN, Boss Room
- 10:30 AM “Empowering Women to End Hunger”, CCUN, 2nd floor
- 12:30 PM “Forced Migration, Human Trafficking, and Child Armies: How ISIL is Exploiting the Conflict in the Middle East”, CCUN Chapel
March 16th, 2016
- 10:30 AM “How Will You Join Rural Women in Implementing SDGs?” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 11:30 AM “Engaging Faith Communities to Implement SDGs” UN Conference Room A
- 12:30 PM “Faith at the Crossroads of Sustainable Development and Sustained Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, 10th floor
- 4:30 PM “Sustainable Development: The Powertool for Women and Girls” The Salvation Army, 221 E 52nd St., Auditorium
- 6:00 PM Ecumenical Women Advocacy Dinner – CCUN, 2nd floor
March 17th, 2016
- 8:30 AM “Empowering Women Refugees for Successful Integration into the United States Society through Quality Education” CCUN, Boss Room
- 8:30 AM “Changemakers – Leadership Strategies to Increase Maternal Health Awareness, Education and Improve Outcomes of Pre/Post Pregnancy Care” CCUN, 10th floor
- 10:30 AM “Empowering Women in Migration: Development Justice and Government Accountability for SDGs” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 10:30 AM “Women’s Leadership in the Korea Peace Process” CCUN, Boss room
- 10:30 AM “Women, Peace, Security and Sustainable Development” TCC, room 2
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
March 18th, 2016
- 10:30 AM “Women and Urbanization: Celebrating their Leadership in Ensuring Sustainable Development” CCUN, 2nd floor
- 6:15 PM “Women of Faith Leading Change” CCUN, Boss room
March 21st, 2016
- 12:30 PM “Feminist Theological Resources for Engaging Gender-Based Violence” CCUN, 10th floor
March 22nd, 2016
- 12:30 PM “Women, Drugs and Development” CCUN, Hardin room
- 4:30 PM “The Dynamics and Challenges of Assisting Human Trafficking Survivors to Take Control of their Lives through the Combined Efforts of NGOs and Governmental Agencies” CCUN, Hardin room
March 23rd, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNSCW Closing Eucharist, Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
- 6:00 PM Ecumenical Women Advocacy Dinner – CCUN, 2nd floor
March 24th, 2016
- 12:10 PM UNCSW Closing Eucharist @The Episcopal Church Center, Chapel
Hello Friends! Please join us at the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) this year!
To register to attend UNSCW 60 with Ecumenical Women, beginning with our Orientation on Saturday, March 12, follow the link below.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a member organization of Ecumenical Women, had representation at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), which recently took place in Paris, France. Here, a resolution regarding international collective action to manage climate change was adopted.
Follow the link below to read more about the Conference, as well as some perspectives and experiences of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Christine Mangale, LOWC
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) launched today at a press conference the 2015 edition of the World’s Women Report on the occasion of World Statistics Day, celebrated October 20. The theme is “Better Data, Better Lives”. Speakers at the UN Headquarters launch were: Mr. Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Ms. Keiko Osaki Tomita, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and Ms. Francesca Grum, Chief of the Social and Housing Statistics Section, UN DESA.
The World’s Women Report is hailed as a “landmark on gender statistics”. The report is issued every five years, and the 2015 edition is the sixth report in 30 years. The speakers at the launch emphasized the importance of presenting empirical evidence that connects statistics and policy making. The report analyses the status of women based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action areas of concern. It looks at both the progress and gaps over the past 20 years.
The following are excerpts from the launch:
- Women marry later but child marriage remains an issue in selected countries. 1-4 women aged 20-24 in developing regions are married before they turn 18. The percentage is higher for Southern Asia (44%) and Sub Saharan Africa (40%) – often resulting in early pregnancies, limited opportunities for education and career and vocational development. For women of reproductive age, unmet need for family planning and lack of skilled attendants at birth have serious implications on mother’s health
- Education: Education has increased globally for girls and boys at all levels, yet enrollment decreases and gender gaps widen with education levels. Women are underrepresented in tertiary fields of studies related to science and engineering.
- Women’s access to labor market has stagnated – 50% of working age women in the labor force, similar to 20 years ago. The occupational segregation of women and men continue to exist in all regions. Women are working longer than men when unpaid work is accounted for (1 hour more in developing regions and half an hour more in developed regions).
- Women’s participation in leadership positions has increased, yet at a low pace: Parliaments – Women’s representation in lower or single houses of parliament was 12% in 1997 and is 22% in 2015. Executive Branch: Women’s representation among cabinet ministers was 6% in 1994 and is 18% in 2015. Most female appointed ministers are assigned portfolios related to social issues. Judiciary: higher up in the judicial hierarchy, women’s representation declines drastically. Only 19% of Supreme Courts have a female president.
- Violence against women: a global concern: 1 in 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. 2 in 3 victims of intimate partner and family related homicides are women. In most countries less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help of any sort. Less than 10% of women sought help from the police.
- 119 countries have Domestic Violence laws, 125 countries have sexual harassment laws, and 52 countries marital rape laws.
- Progress in most indicators monitored: yet, not enough progress/slow pace
- Wide disparities hidden in global and regional averages
- More data available, particularly on VAW (Some regions like Middle East, there is lack of data)
It was also pointed out that good governance is a prerequisite for good data collection. For more information, read the World’s Women Report, and download the very helpful infographics of each chapter of the report.
By: Nicholas Jaech, Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC)
Fifteen years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1325 – a groundbreaking resolution linking the experience of women to the agenda of peace and security. 1325 was the first Security Council resolution to address the disproportionate and distinct impact of armed conflict on women. This resolution notes the importance of women’s equal and total participation as active agents “in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building.”1
Yet, 15 years and six resolutions later, significant challenges remain.
On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in commemoration with the 15th anniversary of 1325, an open debate on Women, Peace and Security was convened by the UN Security Council to discuss the further implementation of 1325. In his opening remarks the Secretary-General reiterated women’s leadership in peacebuilding is a top priority and shared his personal commitment to seeing the resolutions implemented. His report on Women, Peace and Security highlights the following:
- A recent study of 40 peace processes showed that the ability of women to influence negotiations increased the chances of agreements being reached, was positively correlated with greater implementation and had a positive impact on the durability of peace (Par. 12).
- In 2012-13, the Development Assistance Committee of OECD spent only 2% of its $10 billion on gender equality objectives in its efforts to invest in developing economies (Par. 15).
- In 2013, economic recovery programs allocated only 4% of economic recovery spending to furthering women’s economic development (Par. 15).
- The global proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments has doubled from 11% in 1995 to 22% in 2015 (Par. 29).
In addition to the Secretary-General, Under- Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that the most under-utilized tool in peace building is women. She also introduced the Global Acceleration Instrument on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Engagement. This new fund will accelerate the implementation of UNSCR 1325, and as well as channel funds to women’s organizations working on peacebuilding.. Other speakers included Julienne Lusenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, stressed the importance of including women in all parts of the peacemaking process – from the village to national levels. Yanar Mohammed, also speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that peace will “never be established” in Iraq and Syria without the proper implementation of resolution 1325. She urged for more support for grassroots women’s organizations, And Alaa Murabit of the NGO Voice of Libyan Women, and also a member of the High-level Advisory Group for Global Study on SCR 1325 had three recommendations for the Security Council regarding women, peace and security:
- Conflict prevention is paramount to global peace and security. The UN should address underlying causes of conflict, as well as focus on justice, global disarmament, accountable media and fair economic practices.
- Need mechanisms to address crisis situations. Crises disproportionately affect women and girls, who are specifically targeted by violence. Current efforts are simply not working. The UN must create a formal and accountable protection mechanism for women in crises.
- Need for adequate resources for 1325. Specifically, there needs to be a removal of political structures that hinder funds from reaching on-the-ground efforts.2
All speakers echoed the sentiment that women are the key to the prevention of conflict and the central to the lasting-effects of peace building.
Directly after this opening segment, Resolution 2242 was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council (UNSC). This resolution was supported by a record 71 countries. It has two key outcomes. The first is that it outlines actions to improve the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325. The second is proposing a broader Women, Peace and Security agenda, including countering violent extremism, monitoring sexual violence within UN Peacekeeping forces, increasing the representation of women in governments and implementing the gender recommendations of a recently-released global study. Highlights from this resolution include:
- Urges Member States to increase the representation of women in decision-making bodies at local, regional and national levels, as well as in peace-making bodies. Member States are called to finance these efforts, as well as finance the efforts to educate people on the importance of the role of women in peace making (Item 1, Page 3).
- Further encourages Member States to produce national action plans that prioritize women in the process of peace making and conflict prevention (Item 2, Page 3).
- Urges the Secretary-General and other UN entities (specifically naming DPKO, DPA AND PBSO) to strengthen their efforts to integrate the needs of women and gender perspectives into their work (Item 4, Page 4).
- Expresses the importance of civil society organizations in the realm of Women, Peace and Security (Item 5C, Page 4).
- Urges DPKO and DPA to provide the necessary gender analysis and technical gender expertise at all stages of mission planning, implementation and review. This includes more cooperation between DPKO, DPA and UN-Women (Item 7, Page 5).
- Encourages steps to be taken by the Secretary-General to prioritize the appointment of more women to senior UN positions, as well as to further expand efforts to acquire a greater number of women in militaries and police deployed to UN peacekeeping operations (Item 8, Page 5).
- Expresses deep concern over the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and calls for trainings regarding the issue and thorough investigation on the matter (Item 9, Page 5).
The following day, Wednesday, October 14, “Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace – A Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325” was officially launched. This study is the product of the engagement of Member States, UN entities, regional organizations and civil society, including research institutes. During this official launch, Member States made financial contributions to the new Global Acceleration Instrument. Radhika Coomaraswamy, lead author of the global study, also expressed her opinions of the recently-adopted UNSC Resolution 2242. While she was overall supportive of the resolution, she had serious concerns about the mixing of women, peace and security and counter terrorism efforts. She noted the need for a clear, conceptual difference between the two, and that UN intentions towards civilians and military forces cannot be blurred.
Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator for the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a program partner of the International Civil Society Action Network, also had reservations, despite acknowledging the symbolic victory for women’s security. She was concerned about the lack of participation by civil society in the creation of UNSC 2242. Noting that no representatives of civil society had the opportunity to see the draft resolution before the open discussion on Tuesday, she declares: “I would like our colleagues in the Security Council, in governments and the U.N. to know that we, civil society are here to realize the full potential of UNSCR 1325. We are here to turn the promise of 1325 into reality.”
Cabera-Balleza adds: “The international community has to set its priorities right. We cannot wait another 15 years before we see consistent positive impact.”
We join in calling for a full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
For more information on the upcoming events commemorating UNSCR 1325 organized by some of the Ecumenical Women members, and other partners, please click here.
By: Nicholas Jaech
“Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.” – Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director
On September 27, a small group of representatives from civil society gathered to have an intimate and honest discussion with UNAIDS regarding the next 15 years of combating the AIDS epidemic. I attended this discussion on behalf of the Lutheran Office for World Community. In 2014, UNAIDS drafted and published the Fast-Track strategy, which details the pathway to ending AIDS by 2030. This strategy utilizes the 90-90-90 model, aiming for 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status having access to treatment and 90% of people on treatment having suppressed viral loads by 2020. Should this be successful, the strategy then calls for a 95-95-95 model by 2025. In 2030, HIV/AIDS will be so contained that it no longer can or will be considered an “epidemic.”
However, during this meeting, UNAIDS admitted to a funding gap – a $10-15 billion shortfall in the implementation of this “Fast-Track” approach. The under-prioritization of HIV/AIDS often leads governments to be unwilling to legitimately undertake measures to create new revenue specifically for AIDS.
This isn’t to say that national governments are completely shying away from funding the response to the current AIDS epidemic. At a high-level event at the UN held later that day, the United States of America pledged to fund the life-saving treatment for 12.9 million people living with HIV in 2016-17, as well as funding efforts to reduce HIV among girls in 10 sub-Saharan countries by 40%. Additionally, Malawi has pledged 14% of its GDP to HIV prevention, factoring out to $148 per HIV positive person per year. This funding comes in the form of the distribution of necessary anti-retroviral drugs.
But despite this investment, the $10-15 billion shortfall remains.
However, this budget shortfall was not the most concerning reality I heard during this meeting. I was shocked to discover the disproportionate extent to which the AIDS epidemic affects women and girls around the world.
As a young person who has grown up in the United States, the face of HIV and AIDS for me has always been gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM). This is due to both the disproportionate transmission of HIV and AIDS among gay men and MSM (19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population), but also the stigma and violent stereotypes placed upon gay men and MSM living with HIV/AIDS. Yet, when examining the new reality of the AIDS epidemic, we have to broaden our understanding of who is affected by this epidemic.
In 2013, statistics show that almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15-24 occurred among adolescent girls and young women. Globally, 15% of women living with HIV are aged 15-24, of whom 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa and adolescent girls are eight times more likely to be living with HIV than their male counterparts. Furthermore, transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than all adults of reproductive age.
In conjunction with all of this, women and girls experience serious violations of human rights. According to UNAIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 80% of women have not completed their secondary education, and one in three women cannot read. In South Africa, a study found that 30% of young female rape survivors were assaulted in or around their school. And in some settings around the world, up to 45% of adolescent girls and young women report that their first sexual experience was forced.
When we continue our own discussions on the advancement of women and girls around the world, the AIDS epidemic must be a central part of the conversation. The global face of AIDS is the woman: the black woman in the United States, the transgender woman in the Caribbean, the girl-child in sub-Saharan Africa and the sex worker in Southeast Asia. These populations are severely affected by the AIDS epidemic and are further marginalized in society when seeking treatment for the virus.
Our advocacy must reflect this global face of the epidemic. We as people of faith, when advocating for women and girls, have a moral obligation to insert the discussion of the AIDS epidemic onto the table. We have a moral obligation to lobby governments and the private sector to invest in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, because failure to do so will only perpetuate the marginalization of women and girls in our world. Let us do this through partnership, communion, solidarity, and most importantly, love. Work led by love is the work of God.
So what can we do, as followers of a loving and compassionate God, to bolster the efforts of UNAIDS to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030? We must begin by urging governments to adequately fund the Global Fund. We can also make donations to local HIV/AIDS organizations, for example, the ELCA HIV and AIDS Ministry, which has established a commitment to support the efforts of ending the AIDS epidemic. This support manifests in the training of pastors for HIV/AIDS counseling, providing necessary anti-retroviral medication to rural communities, and free offerings of HIV testing. We can also support our family, friends, and neighbors living with HIV by providing food, clothes, toiletries, and other specified items to local HIV/AIDS clinics, shelters, and organizations. This can also include volunteering one’s time and energy as well. These two simple yet significant actions not only contribute to efforts to end the epidemic, but also illustrate our ability to manifest God’s love in our daily lives. As written in 1 John 3:17-18 – “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? …let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” – we are called to love and support those around us. This has to include those living with HIV and AIDS.
For further reading on combating stigma against key populations, see UNAIDS publications here.