Listening – exchanging – learning from each other – to empower women!
The main burning issue reported at the 2019 Women’s Pre-Synod of Mission 21 was the vulnerability of women who do not have access to their basic rights. The Women’s delegates of the online Synod 2020 report that COVID-19 pandemic worsens the situation.
How is the worsening of access to basic rights experienced?
- Women’s health: The pandemic hits especially hardwomen in the health sector and women who work in the informal sector such as traders in markets. They had no other choice but to continue working. This impacts mental health since there was an increase in fear and insecurity, and no time for rest and self-care.
- Government level: Many governments did not provide enough assistance to ease the impact the pandemic had on people’s lives. For example, despite warnings, domestic violence increased in the African, Asian and Latin American partner countries and many women and girls were not protected.
- Community Level: In Latin America, the power of drug traffic networks increased and weakened supporting organizations and networks in slums. Thus, these networks are controlling a big sector of the population.
- Economic and social status: The income of women droppedbecause they can no longer operate their businesses. Migrant women in Asia were forced during the pandemic to return home without salary. Hunger has risen as a new burning issue in Latin America, affecting a growing number of women and their families. In Europe, unpaid care work continues to be undertaken mainly by women.
- Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and feminicide: continue to be a burning issue experienced by women on every continent and has increased during the pandemic. For example, Paska A. Nimiriano (African delegate) reported that in May 2020, a 20 years old girl was beaten to death by her brothers for rejecting the man the brothers wanted her to marry and insisting on the one she was expecting a child with.
Achievements and good practices
- In the African partner countries, more women have been appointed as leaders. Gender equality and equity have improved in Africa. Some women could not read and write but they can now and value education. The distribution of tasks at home is more fairly balanced.
- In Indonesia, more churches give training on handling gender-based violence. There is an increased awareness to build service centres for women who are victims of gender-based violence. The network of female theologians in Indonesia PERUATI, together with women and men from other organizations, held a demonstration urging the government to immediately pass a bill for the elimination of sexual violence.
- In the Latin American partner countries, a good practice is to maintain training spaces on how to deal critically with fundamentalisms: In these training spaces women with different experiences of life, work, and beliefs are found; hence it is an opportunity to break stereotypes. A central aspect is to question certain learnings reaffirmed by religious mandates that naturalize gender violence.
- In Switzerland, women demand gender equality under the motto “Salary! Time! Respect! Now more than ever!”. On 1 July 2020, Switzerland changed its Equal Opportunity Act to improve equal pay for women and men. Companies with more than 100 employees must carry out internal wage equality analyses.
- The women network of Mission 21 participated in the international campaign “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” and in the campaign of the World Council of Churches “Thursdays in Black” which is about showing respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence, and encourage others to join them. The solidarity action “I walk with…” of Mission 21 rose awareness to the increasing number of feminicide (murder of women because they are women) in Latin America.
- There is a continuous need for education on respecting World Health Organisation WHO’s and governments’ rules concerning COVID-19.
- The African partners experience problems when advocating for gender justice with traditional, religious, and government leaders. There is a big need in holding educative talks on rape issues, and in preventing that under-aged girls are married off.
- A big challenge for Asian partner countries is the strong patriarchal way of thinking in Asian societies, including in Asian churches.
- In Europe, the number of women in leadership positions is still far lower than that of men, they get lower pay than men, and do most of the (unpaid) care work.
- The Latin American partner countries need to reduce gender inequalities and fight hard against religious fundamentalisms. In the midst of crises, it is urgent to open spaces for reflection, analysis and re-reading of biblical texts that are liberating.
Call to the Mission 21 Synod 2020
We call upon Mission 21 and its partner churches and partner organisation to support women’s access to their basic rights.
Walk with us…
… Towards a world without rape, sexual assault, forced marriages and the murder of women!