Women are still at greater risk of economic hardship than men and have heightened experience of poverty and discrimination, according to social policy expert Baroness Ruth Lister.
Baroness Lister, Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University, was addressing a Forum on Poverty and Diversity at the House of Commons this week, convened by the Board’s Women’s Group and Social Action group. She said: “Historically women have acted as the ‘shock absorbers’ for poverty and it is predominantly women who have to balance and manage that hardship, drawing on personal resilience and skill to overcome it”. She added that women had the capacity to help drive change through their own unique and often heightened experiences of poverty and discrimination.
The over-subscribed event was hosted and chaired by Board Deputy Louise Ellman MP. Guest speakers also included Julie Siddiqi, consultant and activist on women’s issues and former CEO of the Islamic Society of Britain, and Bharti Tailor, executive director to the Hindu Forum of Europe.
The event was designed as a coming together of faiths in response to the realities of poverty, an issue still live, pertinent and often more acute for faith groups across the country. Ms Siddiqi commended the Board on bringing together the elements of interfaith, social action and diversity in one forum. She noted that “looking after others” was, similar to Judaism, at the very heart of Muslim teachings. Noting that “faith in action” is an important part of Islam, Siddiqi praised the work of organisations such as Mitzvah Day for their efforts in making that premise a reality.
Looking at Hindu attitudes to poverty and gender, Ms Tailor noted that attitudes still needed to change but that there were good projects and initiatives which all could learn from.
Stephanie Brada, Noemi Zell, Amanda Bowman and Jackie Naftalin of the Board’s Women’s Group and Social Action Group said: “The event was a tremendous success, it was humbling to see so many in our community deeply concerned and moved by the current challenges posed to our society and faith groups by poverty and diversity. We are certain that everyone who attended our joint forum will have left the event with not just a new perspective on the issues which we were discussing but with a renewed sense of wanting to help solve it.”
Laura Marks, senior vice president of the Board said: “It was an honour to be able to host such high profile speakers at the joint forum. Whenever we come together with other faiths in this way it is hard to not learn something new and gain a better appreciation of the efforts of those who work to help offset the impact of everyday realities of poverty and continued gender imbalance. It was an inspirational evening and I am sure that everyone who attended would agree.”
Photo: (From left) Julie Siddiqi, Ruth Lister, Louise Ellman and Bharti Tailor