Mother's Union General Meeting, Villa Marina, Douglas, Isle of Man
24 th June 2004
Annual Theme: International Year of the Family – Building Relationships
Talofa (Samoa), Kia Ora (Aotearoa/NZ), Malo e Lelei (Tonga), Fakalofa lahi atu (Niue), Ni sa Bula Vinaka (Fiji), Namaskar (Hindi), Kia Orana (Cook Islands), Ia orana (Tahiti), Malo Ni (Tokelau) Aloha (Hawaii). Greetings.
I feel very privileged to address you after learning about the wonderful work that the Mother's Union has done and is continuing to do to save lives in our world and to empower your sisters the world over to be better care-givers. As members of the Mother's Union in the Anglican Communion, you have made many mothers better people and more effective teachers of families especially in the developing countries where the poorest of the poor are found. Your wonderful work in 71 countries has made me proud to be born a woman and to be an Anglican. As your Anglican Observer at the United Nations, I wish to congratulate you for acting out your faith in a way which has greatly promoted the visibility of the Anglican Communion internationally.
When addressing you last month, Mrs. Jane Williams articulated much of the views of many sisters in the world who proudly admire your serious commitment to Christian family life as laid out succinctly in your Aims and Objectives. I therefore feel very inadequate to be addressing you in the wake of that wonderful address by Mrs. Williams, who walked you through some very difficult perceptions about the family whilst also making some practical recommendations for the Mother's Union and the Anglican Church in building relationships with other Faiths and all of God's people for the good of all.
I admit to my short-comings of not knowing much theology and I have not had time to purchase, let alone read for my own education, as some of you have, the book entitled “ Sex and Love in the Home ” by an American Roman Catholic David Matzko McCarthy. Its title inspires me to read this book, since this could be a different discussion about sex, the very topic that has become the pre-occupation of our Church over the years. Thank you Mother's Union for attending to the much more important issues, spending much of your resources daily to attend to the life-and-death issues of our Anglican Communion and the world. I salute you for that commitment to your world-wide ministry.
Though I feel inadequate for this address, I can humbly tell you that as a Mother of 9 children and 19 grandchildren, I know the value of being a good Mother, the value of loving a child, and what influences the relationships within a family. I was referring to my nuclear family. The Samoan concept of the family however, is not limited to a couple and their children as is the case of the western world. Our extended family under our Mataism or chiefly system requires a person to work as hard as possible to earn as much as possible to be shared with as many people as possible – and the number of these people may range from a couple of hundreds in a village to thousands around the country. Therefore, a good Samoan can never be rich as they do not invest in the Bank but in their family – no one dies alone, no one needs to be hungry, someone will give you food and no one is homeless, shelter is provided if needed.
My extended family bestowed me with the chiefly title Taimalelagi some years ago, a title that I inherited from my great grandfather who received Christianity into my country in 1830 from the London Missionaries Society. As a chief, I continue to contribute to the well-fare of my family, my many villages, my Anglican parish and my country. God forbid that our Samoan values will change. I am very pleased to tell you that my government is making sure that our cultures and traditions continue to respect these good Samoan attributes.
I hope that I have now convinced you that I do have a tinny bit of relevant background to address the affairs of a family and the importance of building relationships for the good of all.
However, I am not here to tell you about my life history, and since “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” I must attempt to justify the expenditure that brought me across the pond to be with you today.
Since I have been asked to talk about Child Poverty, I thought it appropriate that we should look at some definitions and appropriate stories.
1. What is Poverty?
According to researchers of Princeton University in New Jersey , Poverty means - not having enough income to pay for basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. Poverty, I feel, is a family attribute. If a family is poor according to this definition then everyone is poor. This simple definition is also applicable to the developing countries. In these countries however, being poor is not a choice and people make the most of what they have, building up their resilience to the outside forces. Despite this hardship of impoverishment in material things, the people of the developing countries are not impoverished spiritually, which is the main strength that keeps them going. The Church has a role in encouraging them to continue in the Faith.
For a long time, many countries in the Pacific especially Samoa , rejected any reference to poverty being present there. Poverty was thought of as a concept describing impoverishment in traditional wealth and especially food for consumption. The success of any event is measured in terms of food baskets, cooked pigs of various sizes and wealth in terms of fine mats (and tapa), kegs of corned beef, whole carcasses of beef and cartons of tinned fish that are shared as gifts to take home following a big feast. This is where all the investments go as alluded to in my introduction.
My country was the first one in the Pacific to be declared in the 1960s, as a least developed country (LDC) and remains to this date in the same economic status, though a few other countries became LDCs since the 1980s. The LDC status exempts these countries from paying higher financial contributions to regional institutions and the United Nations, which angered one Prime Minister who did not see any justice in such a concept by remarking “I have yet to see a thin Samoan.” In Samoa , we have many big and happy people, the bigger and larger – the happier. They get praised as happy people. Being thin is frowned upon as being undernourished and having the look of being stressed out. So people go to the gym to get stressed out and not stretched out.
You my dear sisters in your respective countries and in the western world may have a different definition and yardstick for measuring poverty. In my observation there is much wealth in the western world, yet there exists amongst the rich, the poorest of the poor as well.
To me “Poverty” therefore means being impoverished by lack of access to clean water and sanitation, education, good health programmes, food security, shelter, and, a safe environment for survival and the preservation of Human dignity. Extreme poverty is the root cause of much evil in the world, luring hungry people into armed robbery, prostitution, and to being extremists and terrorists to name a few of its resultant ills.
The United Nations Programme (UNDP) has drawn attention to “Poverty” as the main link between development and freedom, - poverty as the deprivation of the basic capabilities rather than merely as lowness of income. This gave rise to the main focus of UNDP work since the 1980s as “people centred” development and the publication of Human Development Reports with annual indicators to measure the capacity of a country to eliminate poverty through sustainable human development programmes. Being a former employee of UNDP for 25 years, I am a strong believer in this “people centred” approach to development. I fully agree with the notion that Development is the new name for Peace and freedom. I would commend to you, the UNDP website for additional guidance on its programmes and I know the Organization will find the Mother's Union an effective partner in its development initiatives.
2. Women as the most vulnerable group and the most effective agents for Change :
The economic situation of any country impacts either positively or negatively on those whose traditional role is care of the family. In the majority of cases, such a role often falls on the woman, who has inherited the feminine side of God and is also more responsible for the family well being. “Feminization of Poverty,” was a term introduced to the Anglican Communion during the initial stages of the International Family Project. As consultant for the project, I was given a lot of background reading for my assignment and one of the case studies I recall, was about the feminization of poverty in Canada.
Chairing the first meeting of the project in 1987, which lead to the establishment of the Inter Anglican Family Network (IAFN), I got to hear many stories concerning the suffering of solo mothers, who were also heads of families due to their either being abandoned, or being divorcees or widows as well as non-planned and teenage pregnancies. These women received very little assistance for their welfare from their respective governments (or the churches), except from compassionate programmes of civil societies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Mother's Union . It is believed the western countries have developed several measures including tax exemptions, lower rental rates and special housing to support the needs of women in such situations. Though helpful, such measures are still not adequate, as there are still many people collecting food parcels from the church food banks and soup kitchens. Most of these people are caring mothers.
As I alluded to earlier, Economic and Social changes have affected the role of women in the family. Women through their concern for the family, especially for children, had to take up work and employment for basic needs; some had to resort to prostitution for their livelihood. In the developing countries the men take up employment in the cities whilst the women grow the food crops, harvest them, tend to the children and cook the food for the household, plus many other duties for the community. As if that is not enough, women must also prepare for what you westerners refer to as the bedroom acrobatics. It is therefore sheer nonsense to refer to housewives as unemployed. They do not just work full time at home but sometimes they have to work elsewhere to subsidize the little money they may receive from their husbands, who often turn up drunk, and may have lost their wages through gambling or other deviations of behaviour. I've heard of husbands looking for sex elsewhere – the reasons were, “she was too tired; if looks could kill; she looks so ugly and forlorn; or, she is not the pretty woman I married.” For the sustenance of the family the over-worked care-giver in the home has to sweat to find the food for her children and the whole family.
There are many stories of hardships in the lives of women every where – even in the lands of plenty and affluent of the western world. However, in the western world, whilst you get to have much at your finger tips, women of the developing world often have to walk many miles to fetch water, some times from a tap installed by thoughtless men, that was much higher than the height of a woman, or a well drilled at the foot of a very steep hill. As if that is not enough labour for the day, she would need to go to the bush to collect firewood to cook the family meal. After all that they are not allowed to get tired for sharing the bed with the drunken husband.
The feminization of poverty is even worse in the case of a widow in Africa . Being a widow for 11 years this month, my eye was easily drawn to the story in last week's NY Times on “ Africa 's Homeless Widows.” It goes like this:
“Women feed Africa . They grow 80 percent of the continent's food, yet the land they cultivate is not theirs. Women own only 1 percent of the land in sub-Saharan Africa . Tradition says that when a man dies, his property passes to his adult sons or brothers. The widow and her children are often evicted and left destitute.
These inheritance customs have long taken land away from those who cultivated it and helped to impoverish the most vulnerable women and children. But AIDS now magnifies the problem. Since men are dying younger, they often leave no sons old enough to inherit their property and thus save the family from homelessness – so more widows are evicted. In some countries discrimination is in the law. In Swaziland , for example, women are lifelong legal minor and cannot own property. Many countries place barriers to women's inheritance or property. But even in places like Ghana and Zambia , where the formal law protects women to some degree, the dispossession of widows is widespread. Changing laws, then, is only one step in fighting the practice.
Traditionally, women lack rights but are supposed to be protected by their fathers, and then by their husbands. And brothers who inherit a dead man's property are supposed to assume responsibility for the deceased brother's widow and orphans. But increased desperation, fueled largely by AIDS, has made a great number of families disregard this obligation. Instead, brothers often violently evict the widow. Sometimes a widow returns from a mourning ceremony to find someone else's lock on her door.
Reforming inheritance practices has been a focus of the women's rights movement in Africa since it began about 20 years ago. Campaigners have been able to change some legal codes, but such changes have brought little help. Laws often specifically exempt family matters or do not apply to marriages outside the formal legal system. National laws are rarely known, let alone enforced, in rural Africa . A desperate widow is unlikely to challenge her husband's relatives, who may remain her only hope for handouts.
Helping widows requires more than rewriting legal codes. Educational programs are necessary to encourage men to question the commonly held belief that if women are allowed to inherit property, wives will be enticed to kill their husbands . Women's groups have had some success working with tribal chiefs and training mediators; they have founded groups of village women who counsel new widows on ways to protect their homes and guard their belongings while mourning. Governments have left the task of village level education to women's organizations, but these lack resources. It should be a government's job not only to improve its laws, but also to ensure that they are upheld.”
This story has articulated a lot of the stories shared by the Mother's Union members that attended the IAFN consultation in Nairobi last year. The Consultation made a lot of recommendations which also suggested several ways to empower women in their tasks as care-givers of families.
3. The Impact of Poverty on the Children and the family
My children have always reminded me that they did not come into this world on their own volition and that is why I should remain responsible for some of their hardships, even though they all are married, except for the two younger ones, and have families of their own. I would point to a big poster that my husband bought from his travels which says “Live longer to be a pest to your children” and, that is why I am still around. Now the father is gone, my children especially my daughters when seeing that poster would remark that they have learnt a lot about the labour laws and, I should have been sued for child labour as they were put to work without compensation to do the washing, ironing, tidying the house, picking up the rubbish and getting to cook and serve us parents.
For economic reasons, I had to work to earn a living and pay for my children's needs. However working for the United Nations and meeting many deadlines, entailed longer hours. Of course when the mother has to work, alternative arrangements have to be made for family requirements and the children are very often neglected – opened to abuse and so forth.
It was a real privilege to share many stories last year in Nairobi during the Consultation of the Inter Anglican Family Network. I shared my own story as well on the study I undertook to look at the situation of the families in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It was a painful experience to observe and hear the stories of children being abused in the family. I was at the Anglican Family Centre in Wellington and watched from behind a glass screen a family talking about their problem. This was due to sex abuse within the family – between the husband and the wife's niece from Samoa and between other relatives and the couple's children.
In Samoa , we have a saying “ole au o matua o fanau.” It is synonymous with referring to a child as being “the apple of the parent's eye.” Many Samoan parents for wanting of a better life for their young children would send them to New Zealand for education. The relatives in New Zealand would willingly accept them from a sense of duty to those left back in Samoa , to carry the burden of looking after the family responsibilities. However, what is not known to many, the couple and their 5 children and 7 other people stayed together in an over crowded state house of 3 bedrooms. The family constantly received visitors for church events, community events and for fundraising either for a new church building, a family guest house or a school in Samoa . The husband was on a welfare benefit and there was very little money for the keep of 15 people. Thus the wife had to go for a cleaning job elsewhere to earn money.
The husband often went to meetings, came home drunk and sexually abused the niece from Samoa and there were many other goings on within the house. The wife found out about the niece and threatened to leave. The children complained that there was never enough food and had to compete with others for soda from the fridge and the parents never had time to talk to them and were beaten and abused.
The priorities for the parents were the church responsibilities and sending money home for the faalavelaves (family events for weddings, death, new buildings or repairs of buildings). The neglect of children in this case also made them vulnerable to drug pushers, alcoholism and violent beatings in the family.
It was in the process of this study that I questioned the western practice that made our people attracted to the “Handout syndrome.” Our culture is always reciprocal so that what is done to you or for you has to be reciprocated by a favour either of the same value or even higher. It was not in the case of receiving welfare benefits and many Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand thrive on this. This money is either used to gamble or drink or sent home to relatives at the expense of the welfare of the children. What can welfare states do to make recipients of the welfare assistance rethink the appropriate use of what they receive?
I was going to share more stories here but since my sister Angela Byram, is the Mother's Union representative on the Executive Board of the IAFN, she maybe the better source for more stories or you may wish to visit the Network website to study these stories for yourselves and how Mother's Union could help build relationships that will save lives in the future.
The consultation in Nairobi really convicted me about the way I raised my children as a young full time working mother. It was during this consultation that I wrote two letters to Samoa .
One was to my Prime Minister concerning the need of keeping our Permanent Mission office in New York and not to move it to Washington; the need to have Samoans working in international positions of United Nations (we do not have any); and, the need to send our people to assist the UN Peace Keeping forces. At the time we had members of our police force working as police officers in East Timor . It was early this year that our government sent for the very first time, a contingency to be UN Peace Keepers. For a country with a population of 160,000 people, I think sending about 20 men and women to be Peace Keepers in Liberia , is quite a substantial contribution.
The second letter was To my children from Resurrection Garden , Karen, 20 June 2003 : in which I said, “Today the Consultation talked about Violence against children.
Was it intentional that I be here to listen and contribute?
Or to listen and remember where I failed as a mother?
It was recognized that violence happens in many forms of abuses.
These can be Child labour; belittling & dehumanization of a child and denying them of their being in the home, the church and society. These resulted in dwarfed development; lack of self-esteem; perpetuation of abuse; alcoholism and other delinquent behaviours!!”
I also recalled in the letter when I had to leave my toddler daughter in the care of my young delinquent niece whilst I went to work. My niece eloped and left my daughter next door with carpenters building our neighbour's new home.
We neglected our duties as parents as we preferred to attend to our duties to others when caring for our own children should have been our priority. My young toddler could have been sexually abused by the men next door. In the same letter I also apologized to my eldest daughter (and she loved this) for all the chores that she needed to do, cooking, and getting beaten and blamed for the faults of the many other relatives staying with us. Very often I took my anger out on my dear children.
Call it self-pity or what, (I said in the letter), but one thing I knew, never again would I allow that to happen, as I do not want my two dependent children of 16 and 12 and, all my grandchildren to grow up being abused or to be denied of their rights to voice their opinions on family affairs.
One of the hardest problems of being your Anglican Observer at the United Nations, is living so far away from my children as it takes about 18 hours to go home and since they are about 7 hours behind New York, I do not get to talk to my young children as often as I would love to.
4. The work of the Anglican Observer and the Mother's Union
4.1 The work of the Anglican Observer
I have brought for you to keep and to make sure you do remain in touch with me, copies of my office brochure. My work in representing you all at the United Nations, entails lobbying the Government Representatives, UN staff and working with other NGO partners to promote the concerns of our Anglican Communion for the good of God's people in the world.
The Anglican Consultative Council got accredited to UN as a partner in Development; Disarmament; Freedom of Faith and Religion; and, Environment. Over the years these were further broken down to cover many areas of the United Nations work.
The Anglican UN Office (AUNO) due to limited resources (financial and personnel) needed to concentrate on six areas only in order to effectively serve the Anglican Communion. They are of course cross-thematic areas, which do pick up the original concerns as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are described in the small flyers given out to you. The six areas of focus for the office are:
i. Women - to make sure that the policies of the UN states do include a strong gender perspective, and are based upon universal Human Rights. Women's issues do not affect only women; they have profound implications for all humankind and of course the family . In most countries, Women remain the invisible and unrecognized backbone of agriculture (and of the church too), and remain hostage to the feudal traditions. The Administrative structures have not shown adequate sensitivity to rural women's needs in the developing countries and the programme of Action for the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the USA has yet to ratify. Since 2002, the office coordinated participation at the annual sessions of the UN Commission on the status of women to draw attention to the UN plan of action to mainstream gender issues into all development initiatives. In 2003 the office delegation issued a statement focussing on Violence against women and also chaired a side-event on the same issue.
Preparations for the 2004 were pursued vigilantly with the assistance of the ECUSA Women's Ministries and Mrs. Phoebe Griswold. Many of the events the office hosted in March are reported on the websites of ECUSA as well as our Office website. One of the more popular events was “Women's Stories of Inclusion and Exclusion from the Abrahamic Traditions' Sacred Texts and their Application to Contemporary Issues – the three speakers were, of the Islamic, Judaism and Christian Faiths. Mrs. Jane Williams also addressed many women in New York on the Theme of “Blessed are the Peace Makers – Anglican Women as peace builders in faith and action.” The Mother's Union work has shown many tangible results of Anglican Women building relationships and building peace through faith and action.
ii Children ; The period of 2001 to 2010 has been declared by the governments of the United Nations to be the Decade for a Culture of Peace and non-violence for Children of the World. The office coordinated the participation of an Anglican delegation in 2002 at the Special General Assembly for Children issues. The children openly stated their need to develop a world fit for Children and a plan of action was developed which was adopted fully by the Anglican Consultative Council in ACC 12 when it met in Hong Kong in 2002. I made sure last year in Nairobi that IAFN network members would be committed to monitoring their government policies concerning the rights of the child.
The Network members were also committed to informing the Observer on issues that need the United Nations intervention in their respective countries. The summer intern of my office is presently compiling a report on the implementation of the requirements of the decade and I will duly share this report with the Mother's Union .
Last year I addressed the young people at the ECUSA General Convention and sensitized them to the need to advocate for the Convention for the Rights of the child (not yet ratified by the US government) and also encouraged the young people to be proactive on UN issues. Over 40 young people signed up for a UN visit for an appropriate programme this year, under the joint supervision of the Observer and the Director of Youth Ministries of ECUSA. It is hoped that young people of other Provinces will join this programme next year, which will provide access not only to the UN and other Agencies in New York , but also to the government missions and personnel who will address our young people.
iii Sustainable Communities (or sustainable development) especially environment issues (with some focus on trade, poverty and international debt as and when time and resources permit).
In the 1970's, the urgency and global scale of environmental destruction (e.g., water and forest degradation, climate change, toxic wastes, the loss of soil, and species-extinction) prompted the United Nations to initiate a bold diplomatic and policymaking process. This would change how member states as well as UN departments and agencies would see their future work.
Organized around the concept of “sustainable development,” their efforts culminated in the 1992 Earth Summit and its policymaking document known as “Agenda 21.” Subsequent follow up to global conferences and summits over the last decade emphasized the significance of sustainable development for poverty eradication, women's rights, population, trade, urban growth, food and agriculture, and virtually all areas of critical concern to the UN and member states.
The Office of the Anglican Observer has been an active participant in this policymaking process on many levels of the UN's work since 1992. In 2002, we convened the Global Anglican Congress on the Stewardship of Creation in South Africa -- the first church-based conference to address the meaning and urgency of sustainable development and the environmental crisis on a global scale.
We are committed to educating and organizing leaders in all Provinces of the Anglican Communion and to advocating on behalf of Sustainable values as this critical debate continues at the United Nations. We will soon launch the report of the proceedings of the Congress “Healing the Earth,” for the use of the Anglican Communion and interested partners including the Mother's Union and UN.
iv Human Rights Issues : The office has joined the NGO committee on Human Rights and in addition to those mentioned earlier, will work closely with the Inter-Anglican networks (especially Peace and Justice) to advocate for the Human Rights issues either through the United Nations or through the ECUSA office in Washington.
A committee of mostly retired Anglicans was established in 2002 to work with the United Nations offices in Geneva and Europe to deal with appropriate issues including Human Rights issues with the Geneva-based UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
v. The Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Another Human Rights Issue. Many governments, especially in the Americas , Europe, Australia , NZ, Africa and Asia , have recognised that Indigenous Peoples have been denied much of their rights to exist and rights to their lands, traditions and cultures. Many have now recognized that Indigenous Peoples knowledge of environment conservation are much more practical and can save a lot of expensive researches. This area of focus is the legacy of the very first Anglican Observer and needs to be continued and supported. AUNO supported and advocated for the Indigenous Issues in the First Permanent Forum of Indigenous People (May 2002), the Second one (2003) and the Third Forum in May this year. The office has been hosting all the meetings of the NGO Working Group for Indigenous peoples, which continues to regard the office as their home base.
vi. Economic and Social Security Issues for Countries under Conflicts: On behalf of the Anglican Communion, AUNO has advocated for Peace in the Middle East (including Iraq ); Sudan ; the Democratic Republic of the Congo ; West Africa; and, the Solomon Islands . Advocacy was done through discussions with the responsible personnel in the UN Department of Political Affairs; Security Council personnel and Ambassadors; Permanent Mission Staff; Press Releases and Statements for press conferences and Panel discussions with key personnel (Government, UN and appropriate NGOs). The office also hosts meetings of the NGO Working group for the Israel-Palestine; the Working Group for Iraq and, sometimes for the African groupings. Since 2002, the chairman of the African Team (in ECUSA) receives a UN pass through the office to advocate for African Issues either directly or through the Washington Office.
Part of my post description specifically requires me to work closely, where appropriate, with the various ACC networks and since last year I was determined to include a much closer linkage with the Mother's Union .
In 2001 I participated and addressed the meeting of the Anglican Peace & Justice Network (APJN), which is linked directly to the fourth mark of the ACC Mission statement and my work at UN. I am also working very closely with the ACC Task Force on Trade & Poverty, which is being funded by the APJN. This special Task Force held its first meeting in September 2003 under the Chairmanship of the Primate of Southern Africa and is being coordinated by Mrs. Helen Wangusa of Uganda .
I also attended the meeting of the Anglican Indigenous Peoples Network (AIN) and was the facilitator of the Women's group – it was the first time the Network gave recognition to the important role of women in the Christian family. These reports are on the AIN website.
I wish to highlight here our endeavours to revitalize the International Anglican Women's Network (IAWN) which has been dormant for some years. Anglican Women representing ACC was a substantive presence at the March 2004 session of UNCSW, in addition of course to the Mother's Union delegation. This granted us the opportunity for the IAWN coordinator and AUNO to also promote the Network.
The women of ECUSA are committed to advocating for the ratification of CEDAW (the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) by the USA and thus allowing for appropriate women's reproduction rights in that country. They are also committed to assist in facilitating the participation of women from other provinces in the CSW meeting next year and are also determined to continue their assistance to revitalize the IAWN. Jolly Babirukamu of Uganda and former National president of the Mother's Union , is focal point for IAWN at the ACC Standing Committee. Revd Alice Medcof of Canada is presently coordinating the Network and she wishes to work very closely with Mother's Union . She has my full support in that. Mrs. Phoebe Griswold, wife of the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, is a strong supporter of women's initiatives and, she asked me to convey to you all her very best regards and to ask you also for Mother's Union support for the IAWN. There are many areas where IAWN and the Mother's Union can build effective relationships for the work of the Anglican Communion around the world. It is also my strong belief that women working together, can continue to foster better relationships for a stronger bond of affection and of unity within our Anglican Communion.
4.2 Mother's Union 's work in Saving Lives :
I have already mentioned many of Mother's Union 's Work for saving lives before. Mother's Union's compassionate work has impacted countless individuals whose lives have changed because they have access to the means to limit their family size, avoid preventable pregnancy-related deaths, and protect themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections including AIDS. This area of work is more important to our collective future than ever before. Yet there is still much work to be done. It will be my prayer that many people will support the evidently commitment of the Mother's Union to improving the lives of women and men and especially children in our global village.
I thank you for your valuable programmes for the family. Sarah Kasule of Uganda proudly presented on two occasions where I was present, her work financed and assisted by the Mother's Union for Family Life. She did this during the IAFN Consultation in Nairobi as well as in March when she joined the delegation of my office to UNCSW. I wish to congratulate you also for the literature produced to empower women in many areas requiring the attention of a Christian Mother. The ripples of your educational programmes have touched many lives of the powerless and the poor families of many countries. I will encourage you to spread these wonderful programmes to the rest of the 75 million Anglicans in 164 countries. Please do not stop with your 3 million and more members in 75 countries. Your church needs you now, more than ever before to save lives around the world.
After saying that, I must plead with you to be kind to those of us women who cannot qualify for membership. Mrs. Pamela Lino of Tonga (God rest her soul – she passed away recently), was amongst a hand full of women in my diocese who were members of the Mother's Union . Most of us are members of the Association of Anglican Women (AAW) for the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia . Pamela tried her utmost best to promote Mother's Union and we were really sold on the Aims and Objectives of the Organization. But Lo and Behold, like other women I was not married in the Anglican Church, many of our members were divorcees but found sanctuary in the Anglican Church and several of our young mothers were not even married. So please, make allowances to accommodate other sisters of our Anglican Communion. I for one would have joined Pamela and still want to be accepted by the Mother's Union as a sister to you all and a member belonging to the Anglican Church.
In conclusion I wish to also tell you collectively that I took up the post of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations with much awareness and commitment to do as much as I could to find solutions to the hardships in the Christian families. My qualification for getting the job was “God's favour.” I was interviewed with highly academically endowed candidates but God favoured me. The Interviewing Panel of 7 men and 1 woman headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury was unanimous in selecting me. Hence I will do my very best to justify the appointment to wipe God's tears from the faces of those She created in Her image.
As we gather here today, to continue to plan for the implementation of the Mother's Union Celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of International Year of the Family and in your wonderful plans for Building good Relationships in the World, lets keep in mind the three things that is required of us by God as in Micah 6:8 –
Walk with love and care on God's earth;
Walk with vital awareness of God's comprehensive vision and purpose for creation;
Walk with awe and gratitude to ensure justice to the trees and rivers as well as the person next to you. They are not without purpose in God's vision.
We were all created and put by God on this Earth for a purpose – Jesus the Christ was born Human and died to redeem us. Jesus Christ left us on Earth but with the Holy Spirit there is YOU to continue His Mission in this World.
God bless you all.
Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea