These are the priorities of United Methodist Women for the next four years.
Criminalization of Communities of Color:
Interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline
“In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community.“
–Social Principles, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, ¶164
There is an increase in mass incarceration in the United States that disproportionately impacts people of color due to institutionalized racism, racial profiling, and mandatory sentencing. The concept of criminalization refers to the growing number of government policies and practices based on fear that apply punitive laws for largely nonviolent offenses in racially selective ways on whole communities.
Each year more than three million students are suspended from school — often for vague and subjective infractions such as “willful defiance” and “disrespect” — amounting to countless hours of lost instructional time. Girls represent a high proportion of those who are confined for low-level crimes such as status offenses and technical violations, behaviors that would not be considered illegal if committed by an adult (such as skipping school or running away). Girls who are suspended face a significantly greater likelihood of dropping out of school and are more likely to have contact with the juvenile justice system.
An estimated 200,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States and many begin their journey into the criminal justice system in school. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline. Black and Latinx youth are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison, while white youth are more likely to be sentenced to probation.
Black students are disproportionately suspended from class, starting as early as preschool, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education collected from all public school districts during the 2013–2014 school year. An estimated 40 percent of all students that are expelled from U.S. schools are Black. This leaves Black students over three times more likely to face suspension than their white peers. When you add in Latinx numbers, 70 percent of all in-school arrests are Black or Latinx students. Multi-racial boys and Native American boys also had higher rates of expulsion. Students with disabilities who are served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions, and 67 percent of them underwent restraint and seclusion.
In 2013, just more than 1 million cases in U.S. juvenile courts involved charges of a delinquency offense—approximately 2,900 delinquency cases per day. Yet, since peaking in 1997, the number of delinquency cases has declined by 44%.
United Methodist Women will actively work to dismantle current policies that depict children of color, particularly girls of color, as criminals and that respond with mass profiling, arrest and incarceration.
Adopt legislation in states/localities that builds the base for a living wage
“We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.”
–Social Principles, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, ¶163
Growing income and wealth inequality in the United States particularly impacts women and communities of color. While real incomes for the top 1 percent have grown 185 percent over the past 35 years, incomes for the rest of the population have increased an average of only 13 percent. Despite signs of “recovery,” millions have lost homes, pensions and jobs and are less financially secure. This did not just happen on its own. Our current economic insecurity is the result of specific policy choices that have shifted wealth and income to the top: cuts in taxes for the wealthy and corporate tax cuts, cuts in public services, employer cuts to pensions and health benefits, predatory mortgage lending, stagnant wages alongside rising costs of living, work speedups and shifts from the public to the private sector in everything from schools to roads to the military to prisons, eliminating many unionized public sector jobs.
Today at the federal level we face potential efforts to further erode healthcare coverage for millions while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. There are some state-led efforts to increase the minimum wage while other states seek to cut wage protections, core health benefits (such as Medicaid) as well as social services. United Methodist Women members can act at the state level to begin to bridge the inequality gap by advocating for legislation that advances a living wage for all.
Reduce carbon footprint emissions of corporations and individuals
“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.”
–Social Principles, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016, ¶160
While climate change affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally. The poorest people in industrialized and developing nations suffer the worst effects of the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Women and children comprise an estimated 70 percent of the world’s poor. United Methodist Women calls for sound stewardship of the earth and sound relationships within and between communities, whether local, state, national, or international work. We work to provide practical, theologically sound tools to guide and inspire your work, to create a healthier environment locally, nationally and globally .
Fundamental to a cleaner planet is to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our own habits and the greatest causes of greenhouse gas emissions. UMW will continue to live into the 13 Steps to Sustainability that provides concrete ways to counter climate injustice through our own event planning and daily habits. Recognizing that individual acts are not enough, United Methodist Women has set an ambitious goal to fulfill God’s call to be stewards of God’s creation. This can only be achieved when we mobilize together – in our towns, cities, states and beyond – and engage with the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next several years, UMW will press upon these leading emitters to reduce their carbon footprint by 25%. One mechanism will be by engaging in shareholder campaigns to incentivize corporations to redirect resources away from contesting permits to innovation and compliance by 2024.
Maternal and Child Health:
Decrease maternal mortality; develop a network of women’s health advocates for access to health care and education
“Health care is a basic human right.”
–Social Principles, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016, ¶162
Today, United Methodist Women continues to support the health and family needs of women and children around the globe. Women are still dying in childbirth, children continue to die from preventable diseases and many communities have no access to health care. United Methodist Women works with women worldwide to address access to health care and to educational opportunities in medical fields, reproductive health—including family planning, cancer screening and healthy childbirth. United Methodist Women advocates for equity in law and services for women and children and supports workshops for teens at risk, lactating mothers who are HIV-positive and all mothers. Working with our partner agencies, we intend to build a network of advocacy and support to enhance access to quality sexual and reproductive health care as well as comprehensive sex education. In addition to UM agencies and our regional missionaries, Curamericas and Days for Girls have become partners in this endeavor.
In the United States, United Methodist Women works to address the rising maternal mortality rate at a grass roots level by building an advocacy network ready to respond to opportunities to both raise awareness and hold elected officials accountable when women’s health issues are on the table. We are building this network through outreach to our members and partnering with Healthy Families, Healthy Planet (GBCS). One tactic in reducing maternal mortality is the development of Maternal Mortality Review Boards, something we hope to accomplish in every state by 2020. As we work on this, we hope to find other partners in the work, including Wesley Foundations, local coalitions and current partners such as National Mission Institutions. Several United Methodist Women national mission institutions provide maternal health services to improve access to care for underserved populations. Services include prenatal and postpartum care, baby supplies, parenting support, shelter and legal services, and health care. In addition, many deaconesses and home missioners live their calling to ministries of love, justice and service by working as health care professionals.
United Methodist Women is committed to promoting abundant health for women and children in our local, national and global communities. We also believe that woman themselves are their own best advocates. We continue to train UMW members, young women at United Methodist schools, and women in communities around the world to advocate for themselves and their sisters with the goal of helping women to have healthy pregnancies and healthy outcomes of those pregnancies along with full access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care in their local setting.