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Wednesday 21 June
Women in poverty

Read Ruth 1:1–5
The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.         (verse 2)

Moab was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the time of the Judges, and there was constant hostility between the two nations. Friendly relations with the Moabites were discouraged. Yet due to a famine in Judah, Elimelek, Naomi and their family moved to Moab and lived what seem peaceable lives. Their sons even married Moabite women, which was strictly  forbidden by Jewish Law.

The time came when all three women lost their husbands to death. Suddenly they were all widows. There was nothing worse than being a widow in ancient Israel. You were poor, taken advantage of and ignored, especially if you had no sons. Women had no rights as property was passed down from father to son – this left women in financial ruin. Women belonged to men, whether to a father or husband.

Today there still remain gender disparities in poverty. Women tend to be disproportionately poor. According to the United Nations, in many countries, women continue to be economically dependent on their spouses. In developing countries, statutory and customary laws continue to restrict women’s access to land and other assets, and women’s control over household economic resources is limited. Naomi leaves Bethlehem to escape the famine, yet she ends up in a bigger famine than she started with. She now has no husband or sons and is left with two other women with no access to land or food. Left with nothing, her only answer was to go back to Bethlehem (which she heard now had food) and try her luck.

  Gracious God, help us to remember those in poverty, especially the women who have no access to land or other assets. May we help in any way possible. Amen