Motherhood and the Feminization of Poverty

American Mothers will host be hosting a Parallel Event on Tuesday, March 11th at 8:30 am in V-Hall of the Armenian Convention Center (630 2nd Avenue, New York).

The panel will focus on Motherhood and the Feminization of Poverty.

The feminization of poverty is a phrase that has become well known as the articulation of the current realization that women represent a significant percentage of the world’s poor. According to UNIFEM, “women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty. Statistics indicate that women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.” In fact, it has been estimated that women make up 70% of those suffering in poverty.

A serious contributing factor to this staggering number is motherhood. Single mothers vastly outnumber single fathers and the number of single mothers continues to rise around the world.  With female-headed households on the rise, so is poverty.  While poverty is generally recognized as having material effects and leaving mothers in a position unable to make ends meet in general; poverty also has many social, cultural, and structural dimensions.   It creates powerlessness and oppression leaving women in general, and mothers in particular, destitute and unable to care for themselves or their children.

Mothers living in poverty are often left without access to crucial resources and their labor goes unrecognized and uncompensated. In addition, health care, nutrition, and education are among those rights denied to mothers who are living in poverty.  They are generally excluded from decision making in the home and in the greater community.   Without access to necessary resources to improve their lived situations, mothers are relegated to a cycle of poverty.

This panel will explore the feminization of poverty in multiple cultural contexts.  The dimensions of poverty and their correlation with motherhood will be given particular attention. In addition, the panel will make recommendations for addressing the feminization of poverty as it relates to motherhood.

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Featured Panelists

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and National Chair of Education for American Mothers, Inc.  She earned her Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in Women’s Studies and Religion and has more than two decades of experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  She is committed to exploring women’s issues related to social justice in a global context and continues to be active in movements supporting women’s rights.  Gina blogs on a regular basis and has published multiple books and articles.  She is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences, and in the national news circuit about matters impacting women around the world.   Connect with Gina on her website at, Twitter @FemTheologian, or on Facebook at Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D.

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a Doctoral Candidate at Durham University, co-founder of the Gender Justice Dialogue Project, and lecturer at Ursuline College.  She is a scholar, activist, and author with her voice reaching persons in 181 countries as a contributor to the international project Feminism and Religion. Michele is dedicated to exploring issues related to women and injustice on a global level through research, writing, and activism.

Elizabeth Hepburn Walker was raised in Ottawa, Ontario Canada, where she studied at Carleton University. While raising their four children, she and her husband of thirty-two years, Jeffrey N. Walker, formed a private foundation focused on raising literacy in third world countries. Through the Walkburn Foundation they have directed the construction of elementary schools in the Mekong and Quang Tri Deltas in Vietnam. Working with the constitutionally established Women’s Union, Buddhist nuns and local village leaders, these schools become the center of the community and serve as safe houses during the monsoon seasons that annually threaten these regions. These efforts have expanded to include microcredit work with provincial and local women’s groups and support of various orphanages in Hue, DaNang and Saigon. While acknowledging that the needs in these remote places can be overwhelming, they live by the their foundations motto: “You cannot boil the ocean., but you can boil a cup of water “ Her experience as a mother and grandmother to 6 gives her a unique and powerful connection with the women in Vietnam she has come to love.

This Panel will be moderated by Dianne Callister, President of the Singer Foundation and Chair of the Women’s Studies Council in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Dianne believes strongly in giving back to her community and improving lives through improving opportunity.  This belief stretches back to her early childhood, having been abandoned as a baby at a Salvation Army hospital.  In adulthood, she has acted on her beliefs and has served on numerous boards and consulted with schools, organizations and government leaders across the nation. She founded Project Give, a student-driven service project for middle schools across the country empowering students to become actively involved in identifying and solving problems in their local communities. In addition, she was honored as the 75th National Mother of the Year ® in 2010 by American Mothers, Inc. and currently serves as the 1st Vice President and UN Representative for the organization.