Australia should share vaccines with poorer countries to reduce the impact of a “two-track pandemic”, according to women leaders from Australian church denominations and organisations.
The Micah Women Leaders Delegation – a group of 40 women – joined together in Canberra recently to meet with senior ministers and members of parliament.
Melissa Lipsett, chief operating officer at Baptist World Aid Australia and one of the delegates, said the meeting went well.
“The vast majority of politicians that we were able to meet with were open to hearing our experience and what it was that we had to share,” Ms Lipsett told Hope 103.2.
“There was respect for the level of knowledge that we had and there was certainly an interest to learn more.”
The delegation was lobbying for continued and increasing generosity to Australia’s neighbours, particularly regarding vaccine sharing; an immediate contribution of $150 million towards famine prevention and a permanent increase of $4.5 billion dollars annually to Australia’s foreign aid budget.
Ministers and members of parliament were asked to write to the prime minister, treasurer and foreign minister to put forth these requests, along with a post on social media to inform their own constituents. A number of them agreed to do so.
“The point we’ve been trying to make all of these last 18 months is that it’s not over until it’s over for everybody.” – Melissa Lipsett, Baptist World Aid Australia
Although wealthy countries are now coming out of the pandemic and returning to life, low and middle-income countries are struggling, according to Ms Lipsett.
“As people are pushed further back into poverty, the major two groups of people who really bear the brunt of that are women and children in those lower income countries,” she said.
“So, you end up with a two-track pandemic; one around the gap widening between wealthy countries and poor countries but also that pandemic against women and children.”
Women and children are dealing with poverty and domestic and other types of violence against women and young children, she said.
“It’s beholden on those of us who live in great privilege to exercise responsibility… and to see ourselves as being able to be participants in wealth and resource sharing.”– Melissa Lipsett, Baptist World Aid Australia
There is also great self-interest in Australia providing vaccines to poorer countries, according to Ms Lipsett.
“Even though Australia’s borders are closed, we are bringing people back from overseas from these countries,” she said.
“They will continue to bring COVID variants with them while those countries remain unvaccinated.
“The point we’ve been trying to make all of these last 18 months is that it’s not over until it’s over for everybody.”
The delegation will continue to advocate within its own spheres of influence. Ms Lipsett will work with Baptist World Aid Australia to reach out to Baptist churches to encourage them and their members to think and read deeply about these issues and talk to local members of parliament.
“I believe very firmly that the Bible says that every single person is made equally in the image of God and that includes equality of provision,” Ms Lipsett said.
“I believe very firmly that the Bible says that every single person is made equally in the image of God and that includes equality of provision,” – Melissa Lipsett, Baptist World Aid Australia
“We know that’s not the case, we know we live in a broken world, so it’s beholden on those of us who live in great privilege to exercise responsibility around that and to see ourselves as being able to be participants in wealth and resource sharing.”