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Lambeth Daily

Women's needs must be met to meet Millennium goals

The Millennium Development Goals will not be reached if the empowerment of women is not of the highest priority, according the Anglican Observer at the United Nations, Ms Helen Wangusa.

A report on the Millennium Development Goals from the United Nations published in 2007 shows that progress is being made in many areas of reducing poverty, increasing education, and developing global partnerships, the measures of women as participants in paid work, gender equality and empowerment, and maternal health, have been improving more slowly, if at all.

And yet women are integral in community building and alleviating suffering, Ms Wangusa says.

“If gender and women’s empowerment are not taken into account, we will not achieve any development, even with our MDGs as a framework,” she said. “If we look at the world through a gender filter, it will inform us of what needs to happen in all of our goals.”

Ms Wangusa will be addressing the rally following the Walk of Witness tomorrow in which the bishops of the Anglican Communion will walk from Whitehall to Lambeth Palace tomorrow. They will march as a symbol of their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and an expression of solidarity with governments on alleviating poverty and suffering.

She sees the Anglican Church as integral to achieving these goals, even in areas where conflict and antagonism towards the church complicates development efforts.

“We are there at the grass roots,” she says. “Before the MDGs, the church was there, working on them as part of our mission.”

Churches also have capacity to monitor government performance and governance issues, she said.

“What the churches can do is train church leaders in how to do advocacy around governments, in analysis, how we should interact with government leaders, and empower them and equip them with the skills that they need. [Then] our church representatives at the country level who belong to that state can do that, rather than us going from the outside to take over the role that they should be playing.

In Malawi, for instance, government programs have linked school enrolments with nutrition and health care, so that children are retained at school and their other needs are addressed. In Uganda, government programs have seen the infection rate of HIV/AIDS drop.

Despite the good stories, it is too early to celebrate yet, Ms Wangusa says. She says that the march tomorrow will help keep governments – and the church – accountable for the commitments they have made previously to the MDGs.

“Making promises in government is not legally binding,” she said. “But we come from a constituency that understands the role of promise keeping and accountability.”

- staff writer

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