Jewish tradition has articulated from its earliest formulation in the Torah, through such figures as Miriam and the daughters of Zelophehad, that women and girls play a crucial role in our communities. In addition, the book of Proverbs teaches us that “A woman empowered . . . is clothed with strength and honor. She smiles at the future. Her mouth opens with wisdom; the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:10, 25–26). Yet the current status of women and girls leaves them far from empowered. Women and girls make up 70 percent of the world’s poor according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and 96 million girls living in the developing world are illiterate. Additionally, one out of every three women and girls worldwide is physically abused, and half of sexual assaults worldwide are against girls younger than fifteen. Lastly, an estimated 14 million girls are married every year before the age of eighteen. A key solution is empowering women and girls. Yet, the international community is currently not putting the critical resources needed to accomplish this goal. The American Jewish World Service has played a pivotal role in bringing this situation to the attention of the American Jewish community.
Whereas the Rabbinical Assembly has a long history of encouraging empowerment of women and girls in our communities;
Whereas according to UNAIDS, young women aged 15-24 in sub-Saharan Africa are up to eight times more likely than men to be HIV positive; yet less than half of all countries dedicate resources specifically to women and girls in their HIV response;
Whereas according to a Nike Foundation report, only 2 cents out of every international aid dollar is directed toward programs for girls;
Whereas investing in international aid programs specifically directed to empowering women and girls has been shown to increase the levels of education, decrease rates of child marriage and teen birth, and to dramatically improve sexual and reproductive health including reduction of HIV and AIDS and violence against women; and
Whereas in those countries where investments have been made in such programs, women have become powerful forces in economic, cultural, and political change.
Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly and its members work to encourage the United States government, United States Congress and other governments where members of the RA reside:
- To ensure that funding and programming by the United States and other countries, especially their international aid programs, specifically engage and reach out to adolescent girls and women, including those who are further marginalized in their society;
- To support monitoring and evaluation strategies to collect data linking women and girls’ empowerment programs to positive health, economic, social, and legal outcomes, and use this data as evidence for continued and increased investments in girl-centered programming;
- To target specifically women and girls with the full range of comprehensive sexual reproductive health rights and resources, alongside HIV and AIDS education, information, services, and technologies;
- To cultivate girl-centered and girl-led development programs by partnering with grassroots organizations that are specifically girl-centered and girl-led, and that employ female role models who are known and trusted in the community;
- To protect human rights defenders and organizations that may be at risk for persecution due to their legal or political support of girls’ human rights; and
- To work toward ending child marriage and to support girls’ right to choose when and whom they marry.
Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, June, 2013