Right Sharing of World Resources

by Mary Eagleson
Scarsdale Meeting


Two aspects of Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) are the “why” and the “how.” The “why” is expressed in the organization’s mission statement: “God calls us to the right sharing of world resources, from the burdens of materialism and poverty into the abundance of God’s love to work for equity through partnerships with our sisters and brothers throughout the world.” The emphasis is on “God calls.”


We who live in North America are the beneficiaries of an extremely lopsided world economic system which gives us about 25% of the world’s economic resources for about 4% of its population. Even though wealth within the United States is also distributed very unequally, all of us benefit from the wealth available for public works such as hospitals and highways, as well as to us as individuals.


Friends have been uneasy with this situation for years. We recognize the injustice of the system, and we also realize that we are entangled in our personal lives with burdens imposed by the consumerist economy in which we live. Like addicts, we understand that the “rat race” is harmful to us, yet few of us are able to free ourselves from its constraints. Many of us are not even aware that we are harmed by our addiction to “things” and status. This unease, this dis-ease, is part of the “why” of RSWR’s work.


RSWR offers us the chance to look at the system from the other side of the economic divide. We see how, by working in partnership with people in poor countries, mainly women, we can begin to redress some of the wrongs imposed by economic exploitation of natural resources and cheap labor in India and Africa. This brings us to the “how,” at least in the sense of how RSWR seeks to empower women in poor countries. Given start-up funds for small businesses, they are able to feed themselves and their children, send their children to school, and, eventually, put non-leaky roofs over their heads.


By working with other women in self-help groups, women discover their power to act as independent agents in strongly patriarchal cultures. RSWR makes grants to self-help groups, who then use the money to set up revolving loan funds for their members. The women borrow money to capitalize their small businesses and repay the loans to their group’s own revolving funds. In the process, they are motivated to learn essential business skills, such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and simple accounting. Because the money belongs to the group, husbands cannot easily appropriate it. Many men oppose the groups at first, though once they see the value of a second source of income in the family, most come around to supporting their wives’ activities.


What do we donors gain, in addition to the satisfaction of helping people? For one thing, we help mitigate climate change. Project Drawdown has estimated that the two most effective mitigation strategies are empowering women and educating girls. RSWR empowers women, who then educate their daughters. Another, perhaps more important reward comes from the exercise of examining our own lives to see where we have surplus income that might best be used to make our human world more sustainable. In that way, we begin to experience our own power and to free ourselves from the “rat race.”